You know the setup; you’ve got your home theatre system, with an excellent receiver and some killer speakers. Maybe even a Blu-ray player to show off what high definition is capable of. You have the HDTV, of course, maybe wall-mounted or on an entertainment stand. And then there’s the projector, mounted from above so that it projects straight onto the screen. But, have you considered the different types of projector screens that could be an ideal match for your set-up?
The question that most folks ask when they see this setup is, “well, wouldn’t just having the projector show directly onto the wall be a cheaper alternative? Why do you need the best-motorized projector screen in the middle of it all?” The answer is simple: because it’s worth it.
For many different reasons, but these are the three main ones.
1. For Better Image Quality
First, a projector screen provides you with better image quality. Now, let’s get this part out of the way right now: some folks don’t care about image quality that much. That is to say, they have eyes like cameras and can see pixelation and other possible artifacts from cheaper projectors and projectors that aren’t correctly calibrated.
But most folks don’t care about how many pixels are on the screen if the focus is adequate and the colors come out looking good, with no border around the image or blank space showing up in areas of dark color against a light background.
The truth of it is, even if you’re not looking at the picture with a discerning eye when you have a projector mounted above and projecting straight down onto a screen, it gives you an image that’s much brighter than simply having it project directly onto the bare wall. It is essential for rooms like basements where light control is more limited, and brilliant overhead lights need to be dimmed or pushed back.
2. To Control Angle of Projection
Another advantage of the projector screen is that you can control the angle of projection. Do you notice in a lot of stores how they have overhead projectors mounted at an angle? If you go to a car dealership or something like that and look closely above where people are looking at cars, you’ll see a projector beam angled down slightly so it doesn’t shine directly into people’s eyes. You can also get a ceiling mount for projectors at home to angle one down slightly, as well. Not only does this make the picture easier on the eyes, but because it’s angled downward, it gives you a larger image size.
3. Special Ambient Light Reflecting Screen for Darker rooms
The last benefit that I’ll discuss here is that most people probably aren’t aware of it, and it helps out a lot with watching movies in the dark. A screen allows you to have a much more even image across the entire picture, even if your projector is set up at an angle. I’ve been in projection setups where half the screen is considerably brighter than the other because sunlight is shining in from the side, or there’s an overhead light on that side of the room. It also can lead to unwanted shadows on your image when you’re sitting at certain angles, so really, it’s just not an excellent choice to go with wall mounting your projector without some screen helping to diffuse it.
So now that you know the reasons why you should have a screen for your projector, where do you go from here?
First off, if there’s one thing that I’d avoid, it would be trying to make your screen. It is an easy way to turn what could have been a nice home theater setup into something that looks like an amateur night at the local community theater.
A ubiquitous screen you’ll see people trying to make themselves are ‘tapestries’ or other large pieces of cloth material, like a canvas or something like that. The problem with this is they don’t reflect light well at all.
Think about it: when you go to a drive-in movie in the middle of summer, the screen is white or black because that’s the most reflective and most accessible to see in a brightly lit environment. If you make your tapestry, though, it’ll just act like a big mirror for your projector and turn everything into a sunburned mess. You also won’t get any contrast, and it will be hard to watch for long periods.
The next thing that seems like a good idea to the uninformed projector owner is buying cheap colored sheets and hanging them on the wall. We all know about those color-changing LED lights: they’re great for parties, but not so much if you’re trying to project a movie onto them in the dark. They don’t work well, and they cause a lot of color bleeding, making the picture hard to watch.
Another option you’ll be offered is a projector screen made from a large piece of heavy-duty vinyl or similar material. It does not play back well with video at all! The problem is that when light hits it, it’s going to bounce off at a peculiar angle, and your image is going to be distorted. And again, there’s that painful color bleeding going on.
The way you want to go is by buying the closest thing you can get to an actual movie theater screen. You’ll often see these being marketed as ‘theatrical screens’ or something like that. What you’re looking for is what’s called a 2.35 or 16:9 aspect ratio. The 16:9 comes from the old Widescreen standard that most theaters adopted, so any screen with a width of between 26 and 32 inches will be in this range and will work perfectly with your home theater projectors.