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Those in the know will break down projector screen purchase into four components: size, shape, style and screen material. We’ll take a look at each in turn and then recommend some screens to consider.
There are two styles to consider, the fixed and the retractable screen. A fixed screen stays on your wall all the time, it will likely be some kind of material stretched over a frame and fixed in place. A retractable screen raises and lowers into a case via a rolling mechanism. When you are deciding what to buy, this will be the first decision you have to make.
Fixed screens have an advantage in that they don’t have to be rolled up and down so can maintain a super tight surface. If you have the luxury of creating your own home cinema space then this is going to be an advantage, it’s just there waiting and ready to go. Whilst it is tempting to go frameless, consider getting a screen with a black frame, this can help the perceived contrast and helps if there is over spill with the projected image.
You might be tempted to project against a painted wall but there are some pitfalls to this solution. What colour paint will you use? How will you get a smooth surface? And note that projector screens are specifically designed to reflect light back at you to get good clear images. Paint is not. Well, not usually, there are providers who aim to deliver a projector ready paint.
The size of your room is going to be a limiting factor here, along with the practical reality of having an enormous projection. There comes a point when the images are too big! A typical size for a home system might be around 100-120 inches, at this point you’ll start to feel like you are in a cinema. You’ll also want to think about whether everyone will be able to see the screen, particularly the bottom. For example, if you have more than one row of seats you might want to make sure the screen sits higher on the wall so that everyone can see the whole image.
A further consideration is how far away from the screen viewers will be positioned. Ideally you don’t want to be having to move your neck around to follow the action, this will lead to fatigue, and you don’t want to be able to see individual pixels up close. You ‘ll be wanting to sit at least ten to fifteen feet away from a 100 inch screen.
And all this will ultimately depend on the projector that you buy. The manufacturer will have a recommended maximum size beyond which the image is not going to look its best. The device will only be able to put out so much light and this may narrow down your options.
Here we’re talking about the screen ratio. Widescreen movies will be in the 2.40:1 aspect so if this is your preferred use then you’ll want to go for this shape. However, note that the widescreen you’re familiar with on TVs and computer monitors is 16:9, so if your primary use is TV, video games and sport, you might want to go for this option instead.
There are two concepts to be aware of here, colour, and gain. Colour is normally straight forward enough, you’ll want white. However there are circumstances where other options may be appropriate, normally when you have to cope with a bright room.
If you are watching in a living room in day light with windows and ineffective curtains then a black screen may be appropriate for you. For example, as made by Black Diamond .
However, in most cases, where you can control the light entering your room, you should go with white and most experts will setup their systems as such.
Gain is the amount of light a screen reflects compared to a reference uniform surface (a Lambertian surface). A projector screen should be designed to reflect light back to the viewer. In a dark room a lower gain would be better, for example 1.0 to 1.3. Higher gain screens might be useful in narrow rooms, or when using a low powered projector to make a large image. But for the most part, ultra high gain surfaces are not going to be appropriate for the average home enthusiast.