The right screen for movie magic...
July 11, 2010 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Shopping for projector screens: What are the gotchas and other details to look out for?

I am searching for a 106" (diagonal) 9:16 projector screen.

I would like a motorized screen, but would go with pull-down if the downsides aren't true. I worry about the screen not staying flat when pulled down, for example. The power cable needs to be able to hang from the left side of the screen, without using an extension cord — is this going to be an issue for most motorized units?

Ideally, the screen surface will have a black matte bar of two-to-three feet of height from the ceiling, before the actual screen starts. Is there a special term for this bar, or do all 9:16 screens have this matte at the top of the screen?

My budget is about $500-ish, but it could be more if the screen has features that make it really worth the extra expense, in the long-term (5+ years of use).

With that budget I realize that Da-Lite is out of my league. Are there other brands you would recommend, which you have personal experience with?

What are other gotchas with projector screen purchases that I should know about when deciding one model from another?

I can Google, so I appreciate input from people who have used projector screens and have experience they can share about their purchase. Thanks for your advice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Home & Garden (1 answer total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Gain is the most important specification for viewing pleasure. If your viewing room is narrow or people generally sit in the middle of the room you can go with a higher gain screen. More gain = better contrast, because more of the light is reflected specularly (in general, back at the audience). Lower gain = better viewing angles, because more light is reflected diffusely. Generally cheaper screens have lower gain, but this is not always true.

A wide viewing room needs low gain so everyone gets a comparable amount of contrast. Also, very high gain screens can suffer from a "tunnel" effect if both you and the projector are quite close to the screen. (Geometry: subtended angle too large.) Ideally, you'll preview several screen in a comparable viewing room; generally this never happens.

Everything else you've asked for is product differentiation; you just need to find a screen that meets your needs. Black bars are common especially in ceiling mount. Smooth hanging is generally not an issue as the bottom bar is weighted.

But the most important things to make a projected viewing experience pleasurable are two things you can't buy in a screen: projector black level & ambient light level. Projector black level should be as low as possible -- but if you've already got your PJ there's nothing you can do here until you upgrade. However, ambient light can be fixed: if you don't have blackout curtains, you'll want them if there are any windows or archways in your room.

We prefer projection to huge flat screens as being much more theatre-like, less expensive, less bulky, and "something one must put away" when the viewing is over, so we don't just sit around and watch whatever-whatever is on next. So: enjoy!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:36 AM on July 12, 2010

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