Screen Buying Guide
Projector Screen Buying Guide
How to Select a Projector Screen
Whether you're looking to build a presentation area for conference room or a full-scale cinema, a high-quality projector screen is a key part of your toolkit. But what exactly should you be looking for in a projector screen?
At Projector Screen Store, we offer hundreds of projector screens, coming from the leading names in the projection screen industry. However, we also know how difficult it can be to navigate all of those names, numbers and options. Understanding those options is the first step to choosing the right screen for the job, which is why we've created a projector screen guide. To make it easier, we've put together this Projector Screen Buying Guide to help you step by step, in understanding the different types of screens, fabrics and formats available - in order to choose the right solution for your needs.
For additional help in selecting materials, or projector screens in general, feel free to give us a call toll-free at 800.637.3181.
Step 1: Projector Screen Type
The first step to choosing the right Projector Screen that best suits your particular needs or application, is to choose the type of screen you wish to use. From the mounting style to the method of the screens retraction, you'll want to take everything into consideration when choosing your screen type. The permanency of your screen type is also an important thing to look at. Are you wanting to add a permanent Wall or Ceiling mountable fixture to a conference room, classroom or home theater, or do you want something smaller and more Portable for occasional use?
Another simple way to narrow your choices, is by the type of functionality or retraction method you'd like your screen to have. You can choose from motorized Electric projector screens, which descend and retract with the push of a button. Manual pull-down projector screens extend and retract by a simple pull of the screens handle, much like a standard window shade. Fixed Frame projector screens are commonly used for solutions requiring a permanent wall-mounted solution, such as a deidicated home theater or auditorium.
Generally, if you would like a permanent installation, then the Electric, Fixed or Manual wall and ceiling mounted projection screens are your best choice. If you find that your needs require a more portable solution, then a Tripod, Floor Rising, Folding Frame or a Tabletop projector screen may be a better alternative. Ideal for on-the-go sales presentations, trade shows, or multi-classroom use.Below are brief descriptions and examples of each screen type:
Electric projector screens can be Wall Mounted, Ceiling Mounted, Floor Mounted, or Ceiling Recessed(for a concealed in-the-ceiling installation). Electric projector screens are operated by an electric motor that raises and lowers the screen via remote control or wall switch. Some Electric projector screens have a simple plug-and-play design, while others like a ceiling recessed screen, require significant installtion and most likely the assistance of an electrician.
Electric projector screens tend to be larger, making them more suitable for use in auditoriums, conference rooms, classrooms and home theaters. This is due to the motorized operation of the screen handling a greater screen weight than a manual roller option. The motorized operation of an electric screen provides the user with a sleek, modern and flexible projection solution that doesn't hinder the decor or usability of a room.
Electric projector screens are also available in a Tensioned or Non-Tensioned(standard) screen surfaces. Non-Tensioned is the standard screen surface, which hangs freely from the casing support structure. Non-Tensioned screen surfaces are slightly more prone to creases, waviness or imperfections. Tensioned screen surfaces, on the other hand, provide a flatter more uniform screen surface that is consistently stretched, resulting in less possibility of imperfections. This tensioning is usually created by a cable and tab system on electric screens that pullsTypically, tensioned screens are viewed as the highest performing screens, that maximize resolution and light reflectivity.
Manual projector screens are smaller and less expensive than Electric projector screens. Much like a standard window shade in operation, these models tend to be relatively easy to use and install. Instead of a switch or remote control, manual projector screens extend and retract manually, with the user simply pulling the screen down by hand, locking it in it's desired height. To retract the screen, pull down the handleto release the rolling mechanism to lift the screen back into the casing.
One particularly convenient feature of many manual projector screens is a "controlled screen return" or CSR. This feature stops the projector screen from retracting into its case too quickly, preventing potential damage to the screen surface or the roller mechanism. This extends the overall life of the projector screen. Additionally, Manual projector screens, like electrics, are also available in a Tensioned screen surface or with a Ceiling Recessed casing. Recessed manual projector screens typically come with a hand crank mechanism to lower the screen instead of a pull-down method, since the casing hides the screen in the ceiling.
*Note - Manual ceiling recessed screens typically come with a hand crank mechanism for lowering the screen, because the casing conceals itself.
Manual projector screens are generally an inexpensive solution, smaller in size than electrics and designed for simple installation. The reduced cost and size makes manual projector screens perfect for Classrooms, Conference Rooms, and simple Home Theaters where budgets may be more restrictive.
Since "Manual" simply refers to the mechanism, there are many different forms of manual projector screens to choose from. Certain manual projector screens like Tripods, Floor Rising and Tabletop screens are perfect for on-the-go presentations or trade shows, because they can easily fold up for convenient transportation. Portable projector screens like these are perfect for any circumstance where a permanent fixture is not ideal, whether there's a space constriction, multi-room usage needed or a simple style preference.
Fixed Frame screens are among the most popular modelson the market, most commonly used for Home Theaters, Auditoriums and in any situation where a permanent wall-mounted solution is required. Fixed Frame Projector screens typically need more assembly time than others, installed in a similar manner to picture frames by hanging the screen off an anchor or bracket on the wall. This means the screen mounts on the wall more easily and with less installation and electrical work.
While flat frames are more common, Curved Fixed Frame projector screens are growing in popularity, due to the recent push in curved Televisions. These curved frames add a flare of style and ambiance to any Home Theater. The curve itself, creates the effect of enveloping the audience with its corners, wrapping the viewer in a full panoramic experience. The Curved Frame design however, offers more than just aesthetic appeal, it also optimizes light reflectivity back towards the audience.
Fixed Frame screens are also all designed with a Tensioned screen fabric, which creates the ideal flat projection surface. The perfectly flat tensioned surface maximizes the resoultion capabilities and light reflectivity of your projector, optimizing performance and creating the best possible picture quality. Many projection screen brands now manufacture HD Screen Fabrics specifically for Fixed Frames that provide the ultimate resolution, brightness and an amazing overall picture.
If your screen is likely to be moved on a regular basis every few days, weeks or months, a Portable Screen is your best option. Portable projector screens are offered in a great range of sizes and styles. Portable screens, like Tripods usually use a pull-up screen on a free tripod stand. Historically popular in schools, because of mobility and relatively little expense, tripods are also widely used in business for traveling presentations. Floor Rising projector screens come in Electric and Manual operation. Electrically raised or manually pulled from a weighted base/case, floor rising screens make the perfect travel companion and can remain unobtrusive when not in use. A terrific alternative to a sometimes bulkier tripod screen the lightweight floor rising projector screen requires almost zero assembly. Floor rising screens are even available with carpeted cases, designed to help the case blend in with the decor of its location.
Another lightweight portable option is the Tabletop projector screen. Generally maxing out at a 50" Diagonal size, these small ultra-portable screens are the most convenient when a large picture is either not feasible or just unecessary. The operation of Tabletop screens varies on the manufacturer; some pull up like a floor rising screen from a case, while others pull apart length ways and have stabilizing feet. Either way, this screen is ideal for any small presentation purpose!
Folding Frame projector screens are the best option for larger-scale applications, like auditoriums, trade shows, stages or the outdoors. These folding screens are much larger than the other portable options, and typically consist of multiple aluminum frame pieces with a tensioned screen surface. Frames of this type need to be snapped or screwed together, meaning they take more assembly time and effort but are very durable and stable.
In recent years, the popularity of Outdoor projection screens has skyrocketed. Neighborhood block parties and family movie nights now take place in the great outdoors with large screens in a variety of types and sizes. How these outdoor screens work varies depending on the manufacturer as well as the needs of the family - some are electric or manually retractable, terrific for mounting to patios, garages or sheds. While other options are more portable, like folding frames or even large inflatable outdoor projector screens for homes and large venue events!
Easy to use and apply, Projector Screen Paint applies to surfaces just like any other interior paint. While this projector screen type requires extreme care to create a smooth screen surface, the result is a clear and sharp image that can be used in literally any application. Most screen paints require a minimum of 24 hours to cure properly, but if need be the new screen can be used immediately after application. Due to the nature of this option, painted screens are permanent fixtures and can only be removed if the wall is repainted or removed. Unlike other projections screens, Screen paint can be used for literally any application; auditoriums, classrooms, boardrooms, home theaters, game rooms or even outdoor venues.
Step 2: Projector Screen Fabric
After you've decided on the type and mechanism of your ideal screen, you'll need to select the best projector screen fabric for the job. Different screen fabrics handle different applications and environments, their effectiveness depending on several factors, including the resolution of the media used, the lighting and acoustic conditions and the viewing angle of the audience. While this may seem like a complicated topic, understanding the purpose of screen fabric and the types available makes it easier to choose the optimal fabric for your application.
The most important place to start when selecting a screen fabric, are with the Gain(Screen Brightness) and Viewing Angle of the fabric. There is a lot to know about each and how they affect each other (as gain increases viewing angle usually decreases). Having a basic understanding of these features prior to making your choice of a projector screen fabric, is the only way to ensure that you will make the most out of your equipment within the constraints of your environment.
Gain: is a measurement describing the light reflectivity of a fabric, when the measurement is taken for light targeted and reflected perpendicular to the screen. For example a screen gain of 1.0 means all the light directed at the screen reflects back with the same brightness. A gain greater than 1.0 means the projection screen fabric increases the brightness of the projected image, while a gain less than 1.0 means the image produced is not as bright.
Numerous factors affect the quality of the reflected image. One of the most prominent factors is the amount of ambient light in the immediate environment of the projected image. The brighter the room, the more the reflected light will dissipate, resulting in a washed-out image. This is common for larger auditoriums, convention centers and office buildings with numerous windows, where the light cannot be adequately dimmed or controlled. In such environments, a high gain screen fabric can make up the difference by increasing the brightness and clarity of the projected image.
The strength of the Projector (see Projector Buying Guide for more info) is also a factor in the final image quality. Cheaper projectors or older projectors may not be powerful to create a bright image in every environment, especially ones with a great deal of ambient light. To make up for this, a high gain projection screen can increase the brightness of the image reflected back at the audience.
Gain is not a fix-all solution, however. Unnecessarily high gain can result in an effect called "hot spotting". This occurs when a fabric has such a high gain that it begins to exhibit mirror-like properties. The result is a bright "hot spot" in the screen, which is effectively an enlarged and blurred reflection of the projector's lens.
Viewing angle: is a measurement describing the maximum angle from the center of the screen at which you can still see a quality image. Some projection screens reflect most of the light perpendicularly to the screen, sending much less to the sides. This makes the screen appear much darker and more distorted if the viewers are not in the optimal viewing angle of the screen. Unfortunately, high-gain fabrics tend to have a lower viewing angle.
These two features are the most important to consider when looking at projection screen fabric options. For most screens, finding the appropriate balance of these two factors is your primary concern. However, these are not the only factors to consider for your screen fabric. Other aspects you may wish to look at include:
The color of your screen fabric greatly influences the contrast of your final projected image. White screens are the industry standard due to brightness, while gray screens are better at handling darker tones. Contemporary grey screens, also referred to as "high contrast" screen models, often come with gain factors around 1.0, a similar rating as a matte white screen, but create darker colors and blacker blacks. Gray screens also tend to be better than white screens at controlling the effect of ambient light, as gray screens reflect less light overall. However, gray screens do rely on more powerful projectors to make up for the darker whites and light colors.
Grey screens are designed to rely on powerful projectors that are able to produce adequate levels of luminosity so that the white areas of the image still appear as white, taking advantage of the non-linear perception of brightness in the human eye. A grey screen may thus succeed almost as well in delivering a bright-looking image, as a white screen would.
Another popular feature of projection screen fabrics is acoustic transparency. Acoustic transparency is the ability of the screen to allow sound to pass through with little interference. This is especially important in setups where speakers are placed behind the screen, such as cinemas, home theaters and auditoriums. Manufacturers accomplish this by perforating the fabric with small holes that are barely noticeable at a distance.
Today, more screens are coming out that allow for high resolution viewing, such as the HD Progressive screens from Da-Lite, which offer excellent contrast, color fidelity and definition suitable for the highest quality video projectors. Other types of high definition fabric may combine this incredible quality with ambient light control, eliminating the effects of nearby light fixtures, sunlight and other light sources that may otherwise reduce picture quality. Just one of these incredible HD fabrics Da-Lite offers is Parallax, a screen fabric designed to control ambient light in order to produce the best picture quality possible. Additionally, CineGrey 3D and 5D screens from Elite Screens offer similar ambient light control while improving contrast levels and gain.
Step 3: Projector Screen Size
Once you've decided on the type of screen you are using and the type of fabric you want to use, selecting the size or aspect ratio of your screen should be next on the list of decisions to make. There are numerous standard formats available, including the following:
HDTV format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 16:9. HDTV screens are the optimal format for home theater, offering the best matched fit for widescreen viewing and is the international standard format of HDTV. This HDTV 16:9 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution, 1080p HD (1920 x 1080) resolution and 720p HD (1280 x 720) resolution. Wider options include Letterbox and Widescreen; not all but a few of our screens are available in these sizes.
This format has grown increasingly common in recent years with the rise of widescreen PCs. The aspect ratio for these PCs is usually around 16:10, with some variation. This 16:10 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution, WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) resolution and WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution. If you expect to only use a Widescreen PC viewing format for your presentations or if you expect to use this format more often than others, this could be a good choice for you.
If you're looking more for a movie screen experience, the 2.35:1 widescreen cinema standard or anamorphic format aspect ratio is for you. Commonly used throughout cinema as a full field-of-view format, the cinema ratio is the best choice if you are looking to create a home theater or cinema business.
Video format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 4:3. The 4:3 ratio for standard television has been in use since television's origins and many computer monitors use the same aspect ratio. This 4:3 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, SXGA+ (1400 x 1050) resolution, UXGA (1600x1200) resolution and QXGA (2048 x 1536) resolution. Video Format screens are the best option if you'll be switching equally between fullscreen and widescreen viewing.
Square format projector screens have a width to height ratio that is generally 1:1, with some variation. Square screens are usually used for data presentations and overhead projectors. One benefit of a Square 1:1 format is that depending on the screen height that's exposed, multiple aspect ratios can be achieved.
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Step 4: Screen Accessories
Once you've figured out the type, mechanism, fabric and size of your projector screen, all that's left is to decide on the accessories to go with your new screen. Mounting brackets, projector mounts, cables and remotes are just a few of the things you may need to purchase to complete your projection set up. Talk to a representative to learn more about the best accessories to go with your chosen screen!
Once you have followed these basic steps, you should be able to understand and identify what you need in a projection screen. However, this guideline is simply a recommendation, a guideline to help you navigate the screen buying process. These steps will work well in most situations, but never be afraid to deviate from your path. It's always more important to consider your personal needs based on your situation.
If you're ready to get started ordering your new projection screen, take a look at what Projector Screen Store has to offer. We have one of the best online projector screen stores in the market, carrying screens from the finest screen manufacturers available. Whether you are looking for products from Da-Lite, Draper, Alltec Screens, or Elite Screens, we have you covered.
Our projection specialists are ready to help you (toll-free 1-800-637-3181), 9 AM to 5 PM EST, Monday through Friday.