8 Tips for buying a home theater projection screen…
1. Start with a White wall.
See how your projected image looks without a screen. Any issues? Could it be brighter? Is the size big enough? Is the location good?
2. How close can you sit to the screen?
For complete movie immersion, you need a 30-degree vision range.
Here is a quote from AVS Forum…
“A 30 degree field of vision would not only excite the central portion of the human visual system, but the peripheral vision as well. That gives a much heightened experience of reality to the viewer.“
To achieve this 30-degree field of vision, you should be 1.87 times the screen width (1.63 times the diagonal length of a 16:9 display).
3. A bigger screen is better!
The bigger the screen, the further away from the screen you need to sit. You can sit closer to a big screen if the display technology you are using to project the image has a dense pixel structure. For example, D-ILA or DLP. If you are using an LCD with ‘800×600’ resolution or less, then you will want to sit further away so that you minimize the LCD pixels structure. This will require a larger room. In addition, if you are watching DVDs on a lower resolution projector, then you will need to compensate for the reduced resolution by sitting further away from the screen.
4. Choose the correct Screen Material for your projector.
Forget the marketing and error on the side of safety. So much of a screens performance is hype. It won’t turn a lifeless picture into life-like film. If the white wall showed an enjoyable and watchable picture, than don’t go too far away from those specs.
5. Gain Control.
Each screen will have a gain spec… Matte white will have a gain of 1 while the High Power screen will have a gain of 2.8. Higher gains do exist, but mostly not for home use. The higher the gain, the brighter the picture will appear. However, too much gain and hot-spots will appear in the image. Some screens have gains less than 1.0 that means it will not reflect back all of the images brightness. This can be useful if your image is very bright and you want to increase the effective contrast and shadow detail.
6. Buy a test screen.
If you are thinking of spending thousands on a screen (which you can easily do when purchasing a Stewart screen or other high-end screens), buy an inexpensive pull down screen from a manufacturer for about $100 first and see how you like that image. Choose a screen that comes close to the screen you will purchase. Same size, same gain, and watch it for a month. Also, some fabric shops sell screen material (usually of the standard matte white variety) which can be used as a very inexpensive method to mount a screen temporarily on the wall. This is all in an effort to know what you like or dislike about the standard image and what needs to be improved. Alternatively, maybe you will even learn that you don’t need to spend thousands.
7. Screen format.
If your projector is 4×3 (square, like a standard television) and not 16×9 (like a movie theater screen – wider than it is tall) then you will need to buy a screen that is 4×3 to match the image.
For a home theater projector (’16×9′ projector), you really only have one (maybe if you are lucky two) choice of screen format: 16×9.
If you are one of the few home theater owners that want to use a fixed height or width 2.35:1 screen with an anamorphic lens, then you should consult a professional installer. This is the latest holy grail of home theater. It requires the use of masking the image when not showing a 2.35:1 image and removing the masking when you are. It also allows for the ’16×9′ projector to use full resolution to display the 2.35:1 image. Without the anamorphic lens and a ‘Scale Adjuster’ to scale the image across the full panel, you would see black bars when displaying a 2.35:1 image.
8. Rear projection screen.
A rear projection screen can look terrific – very custom and finished. This usually requires a mirror to fit the projector into a small space and still allow the focal length to remain the same.
If you are thinking of a very widescreen – 10 feet or more – you may want to consider a curved screen. With a very widescreen, the differences between the distance from the lens to the outer edges of the screen and the distance from the lens to the center creates a difference in picture brightness and can distort the image. By curving the screen, the distance to the outer edges and the distance to the middle of the screen are nearly the same and remove the distortion and differences in brightness.