Don’t forget, a projector is only part of the equation – the screen can sometimes make all the difference in creating a brilliant image that pops.

How to Select a Projection Screen

Dave Rogers | Elite Screens, Inc.

How to Select a Projection Screen

Author: Dave Rogers, Elite Screens, Inc.

Don’t forget, a projector is only part of the equation – the screen can sometimes make all the difference in creating a brilliant image that pops.  Here are some important questions to consider when you’re buying a screen:  How much should you spend?  How big should it be?  Should I mount it or use a portable one?  What kind of material should it be made of?  And what’s all that about aspect ratio? 

Projection screens start at around $100 and go up from there.  A good rule of thumb is to spend approximately 15% - 30% of your projector cost on a screen. This is a typical industry guideline, since few can justify paying the same amount for a projection surface that you spent on the projector itself.

A fixed frame screen is best for a dedicated spot where installing a retractable screen is not practical.   It stays in place and provides a perfectly flat surface with superb image clarity.  Retractable and fixed frame mobile screens are also available for presentations where an installed screen is impractical.  Portable screens give you the option of having a 200” diagonal presentation surface that can be up one moment and gone the next.

So you’ve decided on buying a projector for your home or office.  Congratulations on joining the big screen league!  But don’t forget, a projector is only half of the equation; you need a screen to get the best image possible.  It has long been known that untreated fabric or drywall is a poor substitute for professionally-treated material when you want to create a brilliant image that pops, so here are some important questions to consider when you’re buying a screen:  How big should it be?  Should it be manual, automatic; mounted or portable?  How much should you spend?  What kind of material is best for my room?  And what’s all this about aspect ratio?

 

Is Bigger Always Better?

Bigger is not always better!  The size of the screen depends on a few factors: size of the worship room, chapel or classroom; the size of your audience; and the amount of ambient light you’ll have in the room.  Using a huge 200” diagonal screen in a small congregation hall could be overwhelming to some, like sitting in the font row of a movie theater.  The idea is to have a comfortable vantage point from all seats.  Getting the right size, format and style for your installation is crucial.

 

Manual or Automatic?

Manual pull down screens are typically the least expensive, often called “entry level”. They are simple, reliable, and affordable. They present a straightforward, flat projection surface that can be rolled up when not in use.  Often seen in classrooms, a manual pull down is perfect for a sanctuary or large meeting hall.

You can add a little pizzazz to your presentation by buying an electric screen that can be wall, ceiling or in-ceiling mounted.  The added aesthetic appeal of an impressive large drop-down screen enhances the “wow” factor with its automatic operation, and provides a simple “one touch” operation so you reach your congregation without missing a beat.

 

Fixed or Portable?

A fixed frame screen is best for a dedicated spot where installing a retractable screen is not practical.   It stays in place and provides a perfectly flat surface with superb image clarity.  Retractable and fixed frame mobile screens are also available for presentations where an installed screen is impractical.  Portable screens give you the option of having a 200” diagonal presentation surface that can be up one moment and gone the next.

 

How Much Is Too Much?

Projection screens start at around $100 and go up from there.  A good rule of thumb is to spend approximately 15% - 30% of your projector cost on a screen. This is a typical industry guideline, since few can justify paying the same amount for a projection surface that you spent on the projector itself. Elite Screens is known for making both standard and custom models to accommodate today’s consumer friendly projector prices, and they are found in retail stores, online or through your local audio/visual installation professional. Fortunately, as projectors come down in price, so have projection screens, and a total presentation system can be purchased for just about $1000.

 

Material Matters

Projection screen material is made in a variety of shades and textures to accommodate your lighting environment and the output qualities of various DLP™ and LCD projectors available on the market today.  There are many types of screen material, and some are even acoustically transparent so you can mount speakers behind the screen.  There are two colors to consider:

  • Matte White is the most versatile screen color; it distributes light evenly over a wide viewing area and colors are brilliant and lifelike. This means that a good projection image will be just as visible to people sitting near the wall as it is to those directly in front of it. This material is best for presentations with high contrast ratio projectors often found using DLP™ technology.
  • High Contrast Gray screens are best used with LCD projectors and lower contrast/high brightness projectors.  It is often the best choice for home theater applications, so if you’re showing a lot of video, you should consider this option.  The gray color enhances black levels while maintaining color and white consistency.

Also, look for a screen that has black backing on the reverse side to eliminate light penetration and maximize the amount of light reflected back to your audience.  Elite projection screens also have a four-sided black masking border that gives a professional look to projected images.

 

Why is Aspect Ratio Important?

Essentially, the aspect ratio is the actual shape of the projection surface, and can vary from square to rectangular. There four aspect ratios primarily used for different projection scenarios:  1:1 (overhead presentation); 4:3 (NTSC used in television or PowerPoint presentations); 16:9 (HDTV or widescreen); and 2.35:1 (Cinemascope).  Some aspect ratios allow more versatility for multi-purpose applications while other are specialized, so be sure to determine what your projector will be used for (PowerPoint? DVDs? Photos?) and then buy the format the best serves your needs.  Here’s a general overview of aspect ratios:

  • 1:1 - This ratio provides a perfectly squared screen profile for overhead projectors and is commonly used in educational forums.
  • 4:3 (NTSC) - Like the screen you see on regular television or personal computers, this ratio works well for television, letterboxed images, PowerPoint presentations and photos.
  • 16:9 (HDTV) - This is the common widescreen ratio for new HD televisions and video formats.  It is the most universal home theater aspect ratio.
  • 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) - This is the aspect ratio for Cinemascope and similar widescreen formats.  If you’ll show epic films like Ben Hur, The Passion of the Christ or the Ten Commandments, consider this option.

Now you know what to look for when you’re ready to buy a projection screen.  Do your research, visit online resources, ask questions of your AV professional and friends, and make an informed decision.  A little forethought will get a big screen experience you and your audience will enjoy for years to come.

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(DLP is a trademark of Texas Instruments)

 


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