Anyone have experiences using a digital projector for movies at home?
October 15, 2004 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone here besides kk (although of course he can respond too) taken the data-projector approach to home entertainment? I'd be interested in hearing your opinions, especially relative to where you fall on the videophile axis.
posted by blueshammer to Technology (15 answers total)
A friend shelled out about 4K for a home theater projector, he loves it. This past weekend he brought a portable projector from his office to my house and we played games, watched movies.

I (medium on the videophile scale) thought the picture quality was more than acceptable, and even he (high on the videophile scale) was pleasantly surprised. We were projecting onto a white sheet, so if we had had a real screen it would have been even better.

I don't remember what model/brand it was, but it was a basic, sub-$1500 model designed for presentations.
posted by o2b at 11:50 AM on October 15, 2004

I agree with kk's assessment. My friends have done it - they mounted the projector high up on the wall using speaker brackets and projected on a white wall - no screen.

It was fantastic for watching TV, DVDs, and playing games (including hooking up an old NES system). We even connected it to the network to play videos (and in one weak moment, solitare).

I'm not very high on the videophile spectrum - my own TV is almost as old as I am. I watch DVDs on my computer, mainly. But the projector resolution was pretty damned good, IMO. If I had the wall space, I'd go that route instead of a large screen or plasma TV. Be aware that novelty factor is high on my list, though. Surround sound is a must with this setup, which makes the total cost prohibitive for me.

The big problem was that it was a total bitch to have the light burn out - they are expensive. In fact, I believe my friends sold the projector (which was used to begin with) because of the bulb issue. So check those hour ratings and do a little math, first.

While some screen/projector combos are good enough to watch with regular light, you really only get the true effect in the dark. This could be an issue if the projector replaces your TV and you like to do other tasks while watching. Also if you have large windows in your watching area.

As a minor nit, most projectors require a warm-up time before showing the image. They will usually have a little bootup screen. It's generally pretty short, but if you're trying to get to the news in a hurry, it can be an annoyance.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2004

I was thinking about this too, for special DVD viewings and games, but I was thinking of just getting a nice presentation projector instead of a dedicated movie projector.

I was also thinking of having backyard summer movie parties, by projecting it onto the side of my house with some decent speakers.

Any high quality $1500 projector should do, right?
posted by mathowie at 12:34 PM on October 15, 2004

I was going to have a cleverness attack and point out that you should get a projector based on replacement bulb cost, but I can't find any for les s than $250. If they have a 1000 hour life (guess) then you can watch 500 dvds, or .50 per viewing. Hmmm...
posted by mecran01 at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2004

mathowie, I had the thought this summer to do the same thing. The only problem I can see is that unless you can elevate that projector so it has a horizontal sightline to the screen part of the wall you're projecting onto, the picture will be distorted. Anyone else do the outdoor movie party thing?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2004

Projector Central is a good online resource.

SSFlanders, that isn't a problem. Most projectors are equipped with keystone correction to project at an angle other than perpendicular to the screen.
posted by euphorb at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2004

The only problem I can see is that unless you can elevate that projector so it has a horizontal sightline
You can solve that problem by mounting the projector upside down, near the ceiling. (There will be a menu option to flip the picture vertically).

On preview, yeah keystone correction can help too, but if you mount the projector with the lens at the same height as the top of the screen, you usually won't need it.
posted by llamateur at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2004

My father owns one, so I can’t relay any technical instruction, but only aesthetic considerations. Unfortunately, ours is haphazardly set-up, and projects onto our living room wall, which is painted the color of sand (we have yet to purchase a screen), so the overall quality of the image is really washed-out. Also, if you project it onto your wall, you need to make sure there are no objects hanging in the way. We have a lamp that is below the area of the projection, but the projector still casts its shadow on the wall, which is really distracting. I guess the point to all this is that you really need to anticipate the area you want to set it up in before you purchase it. If you don't have a good area to accommodate the projection, it's a foolish purchase. On preview: seeing how it falters on a wall painted slightly off-color, I can't imagine it doing very well on a textured surface.

The good thing about the projector is that it really gets my family and friends together, and much more excited to watch dvds. It’s a much more communal way to watch media.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:20 PM on October 15, 2004

The one thing not being discussed in this thread is the audio. Projectors have loud fans, so those considering this (including me) will want to take into account that it may be an issue.

My wife is an audio engineer and she can't stand to hear the fan on our PS2 when we use it for DVDs. We switched to a "real" DVD player and that issue went away, however, our media room is small and so any projector system would 1) make for a small image with so little room to move back, and 2) would be tough to overcome the sound of the projector's fan.

Thanks for the idea and the link.
posted by terrapin at 1:23 PM on October 15, 2004

We show movies in our backyard about once a month to a big group of friends using an Epson projector. Works great. This one was about $1700 new but you can get one today, similar brightness, for about $900. Never used it with TV but DVDs look awesome.
posted by luriete at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2004

I definitely want to get one but haven't yet. For those who have them but no screen yet, you might find this Goo interesting. It's probably the route I would go.
posted by dobbs at 2:11 PM on October 15, 2004

Most presentation style projectors have a floor projection mode that compensates for the keystoning you get with different projector mounts.

We have a couple dozen of them at work bought over the last 6 years, mostly NEC. Even a class room with 30 odd monitors on is still dark enough for the screen to be readable when the image is 2-3 metres wide. The projectors we use suffer from low refresh when displaying fast action. Our projectors are C$2000-3000 depending on floor or ceiling mount (ceiling mounts 12' high require power focus and zoom).

We don't replace the bulb untill it gets too dim to make out in a half lit room. This is almost always longer than the rated life. I can only remember 1 going pop.
posted by Mitheral at 2:16 PM on October 15, 2004

My neighbors had one set up, an old cheap NEC one and it worked great until the bulb went, now they are not sure it's worth buying another 200. bulb. We did opt for the screen goo wall upgrade and it helped a lot (from matte white walls). I'm a videophile but they are not, and they set it up fine without any help.
posted by milovoo at 2:52 PM on October 15, 2004

>Also, is it cool to play games on these? Is there any chance for burn-in or other issues?

Yes. Unless you happen to have an old CRT projector (in which case you wouldn't be toting it about) it's either LCD or DLP. LCDs are definately tough to screen burn, and DLP is just mirrors mounted on piezo-electric mounts (or so I recall). They are perfectly safe technologies for people worrying about screen burn. You will burn in a standard TV first. Besides, these are DATA projectors. As in, hooked up to computer displaying "START" in the left hand corner 23 hours a day. :^)

I doubt there's such a thing as a plasma projector, but should there ever be, these are EXTREMELY susceptible to screen burn. Don't play games on them at all.

Myself, I think I'm going to splurge and just get myself an HMD, instead. I'm selfish that way.
posted by shepd at 3:07 AM on October 16, 2004

it's either LCD or DLP

It might also be LCOS/D-ILA.

IIRC, you can play games and such with an LCOS projector. You might see temporary ghosting or something that looks like burn-in when you're done, but it will quickly fade. Something to do with pixels retaining a magnetic charge for a while or similar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2004

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