A splat of all my blathering.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Choosing a home theater projector screen: Part 1 Configuration and Material  

If you have been following my posts then you know that I am completely new to the world of home theater and therefore have and had a lot of learning to do. I sat down at my computer to figure out which screen I wanted to buy for my home theater. I had no idea....

Manual or electric, permantent tension or rolled, the list goes on. I spent two nights online doing research and then decided to go to some local stores to ask for help. As I found out with the projector earlier no one seems to know much about this stuff. Or maybe I just didn't ask the right people. At any rate I was determined to learn.

Once again, my choices were limited by my fictitious budget. That and the fact that no way am I so lazy that I cannot get off my *ss and pull the screen down myself. ;)

I also decided that I didn't want the screen to be permanently visable. My room is quite small already and having an entire wall with a huge white canvas covering it was probably not a good idea. Besides, permanently tensioned screens are considerably more money.

As usual, I started with a google search but quickly found myself at DaLite.com. At this site I found a wealth of knowledge on screens. I think they deserve a lot of credit for making it easier for people like me to get up-to-speed and understanding the technology. Good job, DaLite.

The one thing that was quickly becoming apparent to me though was that there are a lot of screens out there. However, DaLite offers a page that guides you through the process of finding a screen that's right for you. Well, to be more exact they guide you through finding a screen material. However, this turns out to be one of the most important criteria and probably the one that most people like me wouldn't have a clue about. It all has to do with something called the "gain" factor of the screen. Some materials can make the picture look brighter than others. To accomplish this they need to use certain materials like glass beads or polymers. These materials come at a price though and this mostly manifests itself in the viewing angle. For instance, if you have a high-gain screen you may not be able to place your audience at wide angles to the screen.

Why would you need a high-gain screen? Well, that depends upon a few of factors:

1. What is your projector's output in lumens?
2. How many square feet will your projected image be?
3. How much control do you have over ambient light conditions in your home theater?

Determining your foot-lumens is pretty simple. The lumens output should be obvious from your projector's documentation. For the X1, it's about 1100 max or about 700 after tuning for watching DVDs. The ambient light question should also be obvious after taking a quick review of your room. DaLite.com's helpful pages will guide you through this process nicely.

It turns out that since my theater is in my former garage and I have completely walled off the room from any windows I have complete control over the ambient light situation. It also turns out that my X1 setup was about 27 foot-lumens. This meant that I could go for a 1.0 gain screen. That's great because that meant I could buy the relatively inexpensive Matte White material for my screen.

So now that I've decided on Matte White and a manual pull-down screen I could narrow my choices of screens considerably. DaLite offers the Model C screen for a very reasonable price. They also offer most of their screens with something called Control Screen Return (CSR). I thought about getting this option for awhile but in the end I felt that I could trust myself to return the screen carefully and save my money for more important things.

Posted at 4/08/2004 02:20:00 PM |
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