Choosing the right Screen size (Bigger isn’t always better)

May 26, 2004

screenCalm down, I’m talking about screens. Screen size is an important consideration when designing your home theater. So important in fact I consider it one of the top three mistakes home theater enthusiasts make. Americans like big cars, big houses, and big screens. Heck the term “big screen” became synonymous with home theater in the 90’s. I’ve seen enough poorly lit, washed out 100″ and 110″ screens to make a blimp with.

It’s all about light and resolution. Light from the projector is a finite resource. What ever you have, 1000 lumens or 1500 lumens, there’s only so much to go around. The bigger the screen is, the less light to divide among the surface area. After you go beyond the area that the projector can effectively handle, you wind up with a dim washed out image. Resolution follows in kind, the bigger the screen, the more the image is blown up thereby increasing visible artifacts.

Another important factor to consider is the room size, and seating position to screen size ratio. Go too large and you get what could be compared to a fish tank effect. Looking out not in, moving your head to follow action on the screen is a dead giveaway of this.

You should never have to physically move to follow action. This can become very fatiguing and over time, you may not be able to put your finger on it, but movies just won’t be as enjoyable as they once were, and you’ll feel like watching them less and less.

Ok, enough about what to look out for. How about what I recommend. My firm obviously makes more money with larger screens, but the owners enjoyment and word of mouth referrals is infinitely more valuable than a few hundred extra dollars and a unhappy customer. Oh yeah, back to recommendations. I find that for the average size dedicated theater with a 16:9 native projector, a 92″ diagonal screen provides bright crisp sharp images.

Alternatively in a slightly larger room with multiple rows of seating and a bright projector, say in the 1500 lumens plus range, a 100″ diagonal screen is perfectly acceptable.

I do have customers ask for a 110″ or larger screen from time to time. If someone has their heart set on a mondo screen size, far be it for me to sway them somewhere else. However it’s imperative they understand the choice of projector will become critical in such an application.

So in closing, be realistic. That sub 1k 800 lumen presentation grade projector from Costco or Sam’s just isn’t going to do a 110″ screen justice.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Projection Screen's