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Get the Perfect Screen/Projector Combo

Have you ever worked with a projector in any capacity? Sometimes we get the perfect setup, but other times we have to go buy new equipment to get better results. In our Google+ community, we are asked almost every week some kind of question about projector and screen combinations.

We want to help you out with this process by getting the best solution for you.

First, you will need to decide the following:

  • What resolution do you want to project in?
  • What will be your signal source coming into the projector?
  • Where is it coming from and how is it getting there?

Additional questions to consider to help narrow down your choices:

  • How much ambient light is present?
  • Does the screen pick up any light from windows or stage lighting fixtures?
  • What shape is the room?
  • Is it long and fairly narrow or is it wider and shallow?
  • Will you be mounting the projector on a ceiling?
  • Are you planning on front projection or rear projection?
  • Do you want a permanent wall-mounted screen or an electric screen?
  • How large of an image do you want?
  • Are you wanting 16:9 widescreen, 16:10 widescreen or 4:3 square?
  • Do you have a current projector that just isn’t bright enough?
  • What are the specs for that projector (so you know what your baseline is that is not working so you can look for something with higher firepower (lumens) and better contrast ratio)?

Being able to understand how a screen material will likely react to the environment you will be placing it in will greatly aid you in selecting the screen material, size, placement and projection style (front or rear). It will also help you decide if you need a higher lumen projector or can get by with something less powerful.

The basics of current screens are this: high gain models, including dnp Supernova and Screen Innovations Black Diamond, rely on a “louvered filter system” that will reject ambient lighting coming from the vertical axis (think overhead fluorescent lighting) and reflect high amounts of the projector’s light. This works really well when placed in a long and narrow room so most of the viewers are seated fairly close to the angle the projector is shooting from. Complaints of these high gain screens losing clarity and brightness when viewed from greater than 45 degrees off-axis are common and not ideal for wide and shallow spaces, though I know dnp Supernova has made great breakthroughs to allow fairly good side viewing.

The downside to these high gain screens is the cost—they are much more expensive than their white-screen cousins. Of course, the lower gain screens have a much higher viewing angle (though check with the manufacturers for exact statistics) with lower brightness and contrast ratio.

The trick is finding the right solution for your space, and I highly encourage you to try to arrange projector AND screen shootouts in your space. You have a pretty good chance of getting one setup if you live in a large metropolitan area; however, if you are in a rural location, you will likely have to either take a chance on a combination or hire an expert to come look at your space and make recommendations.

As with all church tech, you really have to choose where you make your investment. Most viewers will not be able to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p resolution images at a typical viewing distance, particularly in high ambient light situations. And you can save quite a bit of money if extremely high resolution is not necessary. Just do your research, find out which brands to stay away from and which ones are good quality, and get the answers to the questions above, and you’ll be well on your way to making a more informed decision.

What questions did we miss that need answered?  

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I've been working in the trenches of church tech since I was a teenager recording audio for my church. I've served in every position and am familiar with every aspect of tech and aspire to be a resource to all media ministries. There is no excuse for low quality tech and I am on a mission to inspire others to give their best for God in their service!