What size screen should I get for my projector? That depends on what size your room is and how big the people in it want their images to be.
For a long time, the suggestion was to have your projector screen as close to your audience as possible. This is because projector screens were made with a large surface area and they worked best when they were close up. Newer technology has changed all this, however. With today’s projectors having much better resolutions than before and better light output, you can now get away with projecting from further away without sacrificing picture quality or causing too many issues.
The distance you need to project from depends entirely on the distance between your audience and your screen. For most people, an ideal distance is somewhere between 2 to 6 feet in front of the screen. This allows you to get the best view quality while not being too far away to cause any issues.
There are two ways of calculating this: you can either use a beam width or you can measure the distance from the projector to the screen. Luckily, only one of them is necessary, so choose whichever works best for you! Let’s start with beam width.
Your beam width should be twice as wide as your desired image size in inches (or if using metric units, half its height). So let’s say that your desired image size is 32″ wide and 16″ high; then your beam width would be 64″. If you’re using a screen material that has a gain of 1.0, then you’d want to go with either a 106″ wide or 64″ tall screen. If you have a 1.3 gain screen (like most Draper screens), then it would be closer to a 128″ wide or 80″ tall screen. You get the idea; just plug in your numbers for desired image size and beam width, and it’ll tell you which size screens will work best for your setup!
Now let’s talk about measuring the distance from the projector to the screen. This is necessary if you’re using flat-panel displays like LCD TVs or projectors (as opposed to front or rear projection). The distance from the screen surface to the middle of the lens is your throw distance. This will be different for every projector and screen combination, so you’ll just need to find out what it is by measuring. In most cases, if you go with a screen size that’s listed as being between two sizes (example: 98″ to 108″ wide), then you’re probably going to be okay. The correct size should still work, but your image won’t be as bright.
How do I know what brightness I’ll get for my projector/screen?
Most projectors will have a brightness specification in their manual regarding the distance between screen and lens. This tells you how bright the projector will be for a given screen size and throw distance combination. There are many factors that affect how bright your projector can be, so that’s why this spec isn’t always accurate; but it’s a good guide in most cases. In general, if you’re using screens larger than about 5 feet wide, then you’re not going to get very bright images; the larger the screen size, the lower the brightness is going to be.
Okay, now we know what size screen we need…but what if our room won’t work with one of those sizes? We’ll have to use an anamorphic lens! These lenses stretch or squeeze your image to fit on whatever size screen you have. There are two types of anamorphics: proportional and magnifying. Proportional lenses stretch the image equally on all sides, while magnifying lenses stretch some parts of the image more than others. The result is that a screen that’s bigger than your projector can actually display smaller images, and a screen smaller than your projector can display larger images. Let’s say we want to get an image that’s 32″ wide and 16″ high on a 100″ tall screen; the projector we have can only project images up to 26″ wide and 14″ high. So we’d need to use a magnifying lens to stretch it to a larger screen size than our projector can reach.
Most anamorphic lenses are proportional, but some of the ones you can find at home theaters are magnifying. If you use one of these, then you’ll need to make sure that your screen is big enough for your image.
So what’s the difference between these types of anamorphic lenses?
Magnifying lenses have small optical parts inside that allow them to increase or decrease the size of things as they move from side-to-side or up and down; compared with proportional lenses, which are able to change only the width and height of an image. Magnifying lenses are designed to keep the image’s center of focus from moving anywhere but the center. Proportional lenses, on the other hand, can move an image’s center of focus around; this means that it can be used with front and rear projection systems, where the image is shifted to the side.
Most people would probably feel a lot more comfortable with proportional lenses over magnifying ones just because they don’t have moving pieces inside; but just remember that you’ll need a larger screen if you’re going to use these.
Okay, so we know what size screen we need and how to make our room work with it…now what? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your big screen:
Avoid projecting behind people. If you’re projecting into a walkway or other area that people will be walking through, then don’t do it. Your objects will look smaller and won’t be as sharp. And if you need to, project light through the front of the screen instead of behind it.
If you’re projecting into a walkway or other area that people will be walking through, then don’t do it. Your objects will look smaller and won’t be as sharp. And if you need to, project light through the front of the screen instead of behind it. Use your screen area. A big screen can cover a lot of space, so take advantage of it! Try to put your speakers and other things surrounding the screen in different locations to minimize the volume you have to play with.
A big screen can cover a lot of space, so take advantage of it! Try to put your speakers and other things surrounding the screen in different locations to minimize the volume you have to play with. Don’t use a focal point. Projectors don’t exactly follow an image’s edges; instead, they’re slightly blurred and “out of focus”, which makes them appear bigger than they really are. So when you place things against a screen, don’t use a focal point. Place them several feet away and avoid corners. This will make your footage look “less grainy”, especially when you have a large screen.
Projectors don’t exactly follow an image’s edges; instead, they’re slightly blurred and “out of focus”, which makes them appear bigger than they really are. So when you place things against a screen, don’t use a focal point. Place them several feet away and avoid corners. This will make your footage look “less grainy”, especially when you have a large screen. Your camera is king (unless it doesn’t work). If you’re shooting with a camcorder or other video camera, then you don’t need to worry about making sure your screen is big enough, because its sensor is smaller than a film frame. Instead, you’ll just need to make sure your camera’s resolution setting is high enough to record the image you want.
Don’t be fooled by how big a screen looks. It really doesn’t matter how big it looks inside the room; what counts is how the image fills up your entire field of view. If you’re worried about the size of your screen, then just make sure that it’s large enough to fill up every part of whatever room you’re in.
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