6 Questions to ask before buying a Projection Screen

March 23, 2016
6 Questions to ask before buying a Projection Screen
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6 Questions to ask before buying a Projection Screen

Everyone always talks about buying the right projector for your home theater system. However, they forget the projection screen that you need to buy to complete your system. While reams have been written about what to look for when buying a projector, not much has been said about what to look for when buying a projection screen. This guide will talk about just that...So, here goes...

Points to keep in mind before buying a projection screen

You need to keep these questions and points in mind before you choose a projection screen.

1) What is your venue that is going to be served by a projection screen?

You need to know the venue where you intend to install your projection screen. Conference rooms, boardrooms, classrooms, auditoriums and movie theaters are the most likely spaces to sport a permanent screen. However, one of the leading locales is a room in a private home used as a home theater. With projection screens available in a wide range of sizes and prices, your venue will decide which projection screen you should buy.

2) What is aspect ratio?

Aspect ratio in screens is just like aspect ratio in TVs and computer screens. Two common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 4:3. This is simply the ratio of the width of the screen to its height. In the instance of a 16:9-ratio screen, that is 16 feet wide and the height will be 9 feet. You should choose a screen that matches the native aspect ratio of your projector.

In order to recreate the movie-theater experience, you have the option for variable aspect ratio screens. These are typically fixed-frame wall-mounting screens that include a motorized masking system that adjusts to fit the content you are viewing.

3) How big a screen do you want?

In the home theater environment, 100" or larger is generally considered the threshold above which a screen becomes worthwhile over a flat panel. A great deal will depend on the throw ratio of your projector. Throw ratio is distance relative to the width of the screen.

You will also need to consider screen placement. It is recommended to elevate the bottom of the screen at least four feet from the floor. This could be a little less in a small setting such as a living room.

4) Is tension a good thing for a screen?

Many wall or ceiling-mounted screens will be available with or without tensioning. Tensioned models keep the fabric flat and immobile, while non-tensioned models have the screen fabric hanging freely from their support structure and are likely to move if there is a breeze from air conditioning or people milling about.

Tensioned screens are also tauter, providing a flatter viewing surface. The flatter the surface is, the better focused the image will be. While tensioning is a good thing, you may be able to live without it, depending on the application.

5) What screen surface should I choose?

The options for a screen surface include gray, matte white, high contrast, glass bead...the list goes on. These days, plain matte white is probably the best bet, as it is the most versatile. Other types of screen surfaces yield good results under certain conditions, but there will always be trade-offs. For example, high-contrast screens can help projectors with weaker contrast ratios produce better-looking shadows, but as a side effect, will have a lower gain, making the image less bright.

6) What is screen gain?

The material that a screen is made of determines the amount of its reflectivity. High gain (more than 2.0) screens are useful when the projector isn't very bright or in rooms where there's more ambient light. A medium gain (1.1 to 2.0) screen can compensate for a less-than-robust projector. Low gain (1.0) screens reflect light uniformly without the tendency of a high-gain screen to gather its reflective output toward the center of the viewing area. A low-gain screen will afford about the same brightness, regardless of where the audience members are sitting.

So, while there is a lot written about what you should look for when buying a projector screen, these are the main points. Do keep these in mind and shop around before buying a projection screen. Here's to projecting bright and beautiful images at home and everywhere...always!


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