Projection Screen Buying GuideProjection Screens
A good projector screen is absolutely necessary for the best viewing experience. The four basic options available are:
Portable Projector Screens:
The most common portable screens are called tripod projection screens. These are often an inexpensive choice. Portable projector screens are great if you plan on taking your projector on a business trip, to a friendís house, or just move it from room to room in your house. Tripod projector screens are a type of portable screen which are easy to transport and are cheap. There are also floor-style portable screens. These screens rest (on the floor) with "feet" that rotate to be perpendicular to the screen case to balance the screen and keep it from falling over. They are typically lighter weight than tripod screens and have a shorter setup time.
Manual Pull Down Projector Screens:
These are the most economical choice. Pull-down screen require the screen to be manually pulled to display the viewing surface. They use a spring-loaded roller, much like a window shade, to allow the screen to move up and down as well as lock at certain positions.
Home Theater Screen:
When you shine an image onto this framed-style screen, this projection screen looks the most like a flat-panel television of all them all. It's lightweight and can be mounted on almost any flat wall with the provided wall brackets. Fixed-frame projection screens are highly recommended for dedicated home theater rooms. A fixed-frame projector screen is permanently tensioned and gives a flat viewing surface installed in a fixed location. The flat viewing surface is the most important feature of fixed-frame screen as it has a major impact on your image quality and viewing experience.
Electric Projection Screens:
Electric screens are the most elegant and expensive style of screen. They are extremely popular because they can be out of sight and hidden when not in use. This makes them very popular in "living room" home theaters - rooms that are not dedicated to being a home theater only. They can also be used with an infrared remote control to raise and lower the screen or be integrated into a whole-house control system/ universal remote . A custom casing can conceal the projector screen inside the ceiling as well. With this type of screen, a small opening will exist for the screen to drop through or a door will swing open when the screen is unrolling.
What is a Projection Screen?
A Projection screen is basically a blank canvas that can be coupled
with a digital projector to display an image proper for the dedicated viewing
space. Projection screens come in various sizes, materials, formats and sizes.
How do they work?
Most projection screens come in one of two types. Front projection
screens reflect light back towards the source (projector). Rear projection screens
diffuse light through the surface out towards the audience of the other side.
For the best results, you want a screen that is free from staining or discoloration
and is uniform in reflectivity.
Style: Portable, Electric, Manual, or Fixed
If your projection application is permanent, then hanging wall and ceiling screens
is usually your best choice. However, if you need to move the screen to different
locations, a portable screen is a better choice. If you are on a budget, a manual
Portable screens are able to move from location to location readily. Here are
a variety of portable screens that you can choose from to best fit your needs.
- Floor mounted screens- available in manual and electric
models. The manual screen is stored in the base, and extends upwards using
a number of different possible manual mechanisms. The electric screens are
also stored in the base, but extend upwards using a spring system.
- Folding or Frame screens- are supported on both sides by
vertical T-legs. They are usually break down into a polyethylene case for
storage and transport and require one or two people for set up.
- Inflatable screens- are an innovative new design perfect
for the outdoors. Easily assembled and stored.
- Tripod screens- are supported by a tripod base and are
extremely mobile and easily stored.
- Ultra-portable- are smaller formats and are ideal for table-top
Electric screens are high-end projection screens that add elegance to their
mounted location. Electric screens can be tensioned so that they have the smoothest
possible image surface. These screens descend and ascend back into the casing
with the flick of a switch or via remote control. Electric screens may be externally
mounted to the ceiling, or recessed into the ceiling (additional construction
may be required). They may also be mounted to the wall, both the wall and ceiling,
or ascend up from the floor.
Manual screens are an economical choice for projector screens that stay in one
location all or most of the time. The most common application is in the classroom
or small office location. These screens are raised and lowered by hand, sometimes
using a pull string or rod to reach screens mounted in high locations. They
are available in ceiling, recessed-ceiling, wall,and floor mounted models.
A fixed or “permanent wall” screen consists of a vinyl screen surface
that is stretched and attached to an assembled frame Most fixed screens have
the same viewing surface options. The price is usually driven by the style and
look of the frame that surrounds and supports the screen surface. Fixed screens
are most often used in Home Theater applications as well as conference rooms
due to their elegant look and perfectly flat viewing surface.
Mounting: Wall, Ceiling or Both
Wall mounted screens are easily affixed to your wall using provided or optional
brackets. Many may be placed flush to the wall, or extended out a bit to allow
for some space behind the screen to accommodate things such as a chalkboard,
whiteboard, fireplace etc. Wall mounted screens may be manual, electric, or
Ceiling mounted screens are easily affixed to your ceiling using a bracket system
or hooks. A second option of recessed (hidden) installation is available for
some models. Both manual and electric screens provide models perfect for this
method of installation.
Some screens may be affixed to either the ceiling or the wall depending on your
needs. These screens typically use “L-shaped” brackets that allow
them to be flush mounted to the ceiling or wall. This option is available in
electric and manual screens.
Screen format refers to the aspect ratio, or the proportion of the width to
the height of a particular screen. There are several types of standard formats,
and you should choose the format based on the (native) format of the projector
you use as well as the types of material you will display the most. Some common
aspect ratios are HDTV 16:9, NTSC Video 4:3, Slide 1.25:1, and Square Format
1:1(popular for overhead slide projectors).
- 16:9- 16:9 (generally named as: "Sixteen-Nine",
"Sixteen-by-Nine" or "Sixteen-to-Nine") is the international
standard format of HDTV as used in Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea,
and the United States, as well as in Europe on HDTV and non-HD widescreen
television (EDTV) PALplus.
- 4:3- Originated in 35 mm silent film, commonly known in
TV and video as 4:3. It is also the standard ratio for MPEG-2 video compression.
This is the used format for standard definition television screens and NTSC
computer monitors. This format is slowly being phased out in favor of widescreen
and HDTV formats.
- 1.25:1- These screens are ideal for slide presentations.
- 1.1- This is a square screen which may be partially descended
to change the aspect ratio. In this case, it could be useful for more widescreen
applications, but are ideal for presentations and use with overhead projectors.
Two other formats are the multi-format and the widescreen/cinemascope screens.
The multi-format can be adjusted using masking devises. These are multi-purpose,
easily adaptable for presentations or video viewing. The widescreen/cinemascope
format is used for most movie theater screens.
Masking borders can be added (and potentially removed) as a way to eliminate
the bars you see on the top and bottom of the screen when using your projector
in its non-native format (ie 4:3 projector displaying in 16:9). They also increase
the perceived brightness of an image on a projector screen to give it a top-notch
look. The human eye perceives the image to have more contrast, a sharper picture,
and brighter colors when masking borders are used.
The highlight of the two-piece projection system is the ability to create a
large screen size. When choosing your screen size it is important to note that
while it is true that size counts when it comes to home theater, it can be overdone
to the point where it is not enjoyable. In a commercial setting size becomes
less important for the “wow” factor and more important for efficiency
of delivery to the audience. A good rule of thumb is dividing the distance of
your furthest viewer by 8 to get your recommended screen height.
Commercial and Educational Applications
Screen height should be approximately equal to 1/8 the distance from the screen
to the last row of seats. This is so that text can be read and the details
of the presentation can be seen clearly. Ideally, the first row of seats should
be approximately two screen heights away. The bottom of the screen should
be a minimum of 4 feet above the audience floor. This allows those seated
toward the rear of the audience to see the entire screen.
Home Theater Applications
In home theater settings a good rule of thumb is to place your seating at
a distance that is equal to 1.5 x the screen width for 720p projectors. With
1080 resolution projectors the rule can be modified to 1.2. The bottom of
the screen should be a minimum of 2 feet above the audience floor. This may
require additional screen "drop" for ceiling hung screens.
To maximize the quality of the image you are projecting, an important factor
is screen fabric. The two most important qualities of a specific fabric are
its gain and viewing angle. Gain is the measurement of reflected light on a
screen. The viewing angle is the maximum angle at which a display can be viewed
with acceptable visual performance. Usually, the higher the gain, the narrower
the viewing angle of the surface.
Be sure to choose the screen surface that best suits your projection and viewing
requirements. Your choice will largely depend on your projector, seating arrangements,
and how much you can control the ambient light in the room. There are several
types of screen surfaces with different attributes designed to accentuate the
projected image. But, for the majority of users matte white or high contrast
matte white will be the two surfaces from which they choose. Matte white screens
are the most popular because they provide the most accurate color representation
and largest viewing angles. High contrast screens are popular when used in home
theaters because the material increases overall contrast by dimming the image.
Most screens will have the matte white type surface. It has a normal gain
and has a wide viewing angle. It provides true color representation, so it
will better suit your business needs. Many home theater applications are now
choosing Matte White due to the quality and high contrast ratio available
with the latest projectors.
There are no real negatives to choosing a Matte White surface. The only reason
to choose something other than Matte White would be if you need to make some
adjustments to your image like added reflectivity or higher contrast.
High Contrast Matte White
Gray surfaces add to the images perceived contrast, making blacks and shadows
Gray screens typically has a lower gain and tighter viewing angle than a Matte
Regardless of whether your screen is for a home theater, office or organization,
the price is always a very important factor. For many, the price is the single
most important factor in choosing a screen. Screen prices will vary depending
on the intended application. But, generally screens start at a few hundred dollars
and can go up into the thousands, depending on size, material, and other factors.
Some small portable screens have been known to retail for less than $100, whereas
installed manual screens start in the $120 range. Electric and permanent wall
mounts generally start between $400-$500. For larger formats and extra features
you can attain one of the more popular electric or permanent wall mount models