Our customers like to say that you don't watch front projection, you experience front projection.

Home Theater Projectors - Derek Burns - Projector Point

Derek Burns | Projector Point

HomeToys Interview - Home Theater Projectors

Derek Burns - Projector Point

Front projection systems have three distinct advantages over other formats.  First, they easily provide the largest possible viewing surface.  Most people don't realize that a 100" diagonal front projection screen has nearly four times the viewing surface of a 50" diagonal plasma or lcd screen.  Second, front projection systems don't take up a lot of space.  People like the fact that they can have huge screen that rolls up into a case hidden in the ceiling when it's not in use.  They don't want another huge, clunky box that takes up half the room.  Last, the most difficult advantage to quantify, front projection provides a totally different viewing experience than watching a flat panel or rear projection tv.  The reality is that no matter how big your tv is, you're still watching a tv box.  Our customers like to say that you don't watch front projection, you experience front projection.

1. Why go with front projection?

Front projection systems have three distinct advantages over other formats.  First, they easily provide the largest possible viewing surface.  Most people don't realize that a 100" diagonal front projection screen has nearly four times the viewing surface of a 50" diagonal plasma or lcd screen.  Second, front projection systems don't take up a lot of space.  People like the fact that they can have huge screen that rolls up into a case hidden in the ceiling when it's not in use.  They don't want another huge, clunky box that takes up half the room.  Last, the most difficult advantage to quantify, front projection provides a totally different viewing experience than watching a flat panel or rear projection tv.  The reality is that no matter how big your tv is, you're still watching a tv box.  Our customers like to say that you don't watch front projection, you experience front projection.

 

2. Do I need a totally dark room to use a projector?

The short answer is, "not any more."  This is the single most common misconception about front projection systems.  Years ago when most projectors provided 100-600 lumens of brightness you did need almost total light control to see a good image.  Fortunately the manufacturers have responded and now home theater projectors with 1200-2000 lumens of brightness are common.  In fact, a huge portion of customers purchasing front projection system today are putting them in rooms that have pool tables, video game machines and other stuff that requires significant lighting. 

 

3. Which front projector technology is better, LCD or DLP?

*laughs* If there were a correct answer to this question my job would be a lot easier.  Without getting into detail on the technical differences I'll say that LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) generally provides better color accuracy and color saturation while DLP (Digital Light Processing) generally provides better contrast and a better (darker) black level.  The result is that each technology provides an image with it's own look and feel.  The best advice I can give is to go out and view both lcd and dlp front projection.  The chances are you'll naturally gravitate towards the look of one over the other. 

 

4. Do I need a screen? I heard you can use a painted wall.

Every other week there seems to be another new magical paint that is supposed to work just as well as a screen.  Our experience has been that even the best of these paints pale in comparison to the most basic screen.  With the right color and wall surface paints can produce an image with decent color accuracy and sharpness.  Unfortunately our testing has shown time and again that paints can only produce an image that's about 60-70% as bright as that of a screen.  So in short, you can use a painted wall but the image might end up looking dim and lifeless. 

 

5. How big can my screen be? Is it limited by the size of the room?

The majority of home theater projectors today can fill the biggest wall in your house without a problem.  However, that doesn't mean you'll want or need to have an image that big.  Ideally you'll want an image that is big enough to recreate the feel of a theater but not so big that your head must pan back and forth to keep up with the images on the screen.  You can search the internet and find 1,000 different opinions on the ideal size and viewing distance of a front projection system but we've found that a seating distance that is 1.5x the width of your screen is a good rule of thumb.  

 

6. What other equipment do I need (video only) to build a projector based home theater?

Screen, Cables, Source (dvd player, cable box, etc.) and a mounting bracket if you want to ceiling mount the projector.

 

7. Is front projection less expensive than LCD or Plasma screen systems for the same size of display?

Prices of front projection systems can vary depending on the components but right now a 100" diagonal front projection system that includes projector, screen and mount costs about the same as a 50-58" plasma or 47-52" LCD flat panel. 

 

8. Does HDTV via projector produce a better image than Flat Screen Displays?

It can.  The technology used in home theater projectors is not that different from the technology used in flat screen displays.  The contrast, sharpness, black levels, color saturation and color accuracy is right in line with the plasma, lcd and dlp tv's that you see in the big box stores.  Although you do need a bit more light control with front projection you don't have the glare issues of plasma, the viewing angle issues of lcd flat panels or the space issues of rear projection dlp tvs.

 

9. What is the future of HT projectors? What's next?

I think cinemascope (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio) front projection setups will gain some momentum.  Right now you can turn 16x9 aspect ratio home theater projectors into ultra widescreen projectors with a separate anamorphic lens.  Then you can view all of those cinemascope movies (Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars) in their native aspect ratio without those black bars at the top and bottom.  This is something that cannot be done with flat panels, rear projection, or conventional tube tvs.  The next step would be a native 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio projector, which would eliminate the need for the separate anamorphic lens.

Projector manufacturers are also working on implementing LED technology into projectors.  It may take a while until LED based projectors are bright enough yet affordable, but when that happens we could see significant improvements in contrast, color accuracy and color saturation.


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