What size screen/what projector?

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Christopher_Ham, Oct 17, 2003.

  1. Christopher_Ham

    Christopher_Ham Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 18, 2003
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    I am finishing up my HT now and the last piece I need is a projector and screen. I am really interested in the Sony Cineza hs10 because of all the good reviews and it is to supposed to have a great line doulber/interlacer internally. I am going to build my own screen but I need to know what size will provide the best experience. My projector has to be mounted 227 inches away from the screen due to logistics and the seats are 170 inches away from the screens location. I want a 106 inch screen but you guys tell me the best size for those dimensions. Also, I was curious to see how some of you are building masks for different anamophoric aspect ratios. My screen will be a basic 16 X 9.
  2. jimmy~e

    jimmy~e Agent

    Mar 19, 2003
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    From the Projectorcentral.com website:

    Your Screen: How big should it be?
    Evan Powell, August 20, 2003

    If you are setting up a home theater, you need to make some basic decisions right up front. First on the list is choosing the ideal aspect ratio for your theater. Should the screen be 4:3 or 16:9? If you have not thought about the advantages of each,
    read this before continuing.

    After you have determined the aspect ratio that is right for you, the next obvious questions are how big should the screen be, and what is the ideal viewing distance? We get a lot of email asking precisely these questions. And the answer is always the same: this is a personal preference. There is no right answer. However we will provide some general guidelines below.

    On a personal note, last night I had the misfortune of getting suckered into seeing Tomb Raider 2. If you have not seen it, this is a superbly effective two-hour demon-stration of just how tedious computerized special effects can be. I had thankfully missed the first Tomb Raider. But I had no such luck with the sequel. I hold Roger Ebert personally responsible.

    At any rate, before the movie started a couple came in and promptly climbed the steps to the uppermost seats that were farthest from the screen. Another group arrived and chose seats about a third of the way back. I was about two-thirds the way back. Two boys took the front row, apparently hoping to get an extra close look at Angelina Jolie. Another dozen people filed in and took places randomly throughout the theater. The rest of the population of Las Vegas got lucky and didn't show up.

    But I digress. The point is that everyone has his or her own preferences for seating in a movie theater. Some like a bigger picture with a wider angle of view; others, while enjoying the big screen experience, prefer a less overwhelming presentation more in the center of their field of vision. The beauty of designing your own home theater with a front projection system is that you can set it up exactly as big as you want it. There are no formulaic "ideals." In essence, when you construct your home theater you choose the row you want to sit in.

    Now. Having said that, there are two things to be aware of. Both have to do with over-doing it. Since we have total freedom to go as big as we want, many folks err on the side of going too big and sitting too close, on the theory that if big is good, bigger must be better. And while it is true that size counts when it comes to home theater, it can be overdone to the point where it is not enjoyable.

    So as you plan your theater's layout, be aware that watching a very big screen from a close distance is physically demanding. Have you ever tried to watch a tennis match from side court in the first row? Your head is moving constantly and your eyes go buggy. It is not a pleasant experience. If you go too big with your screen, you will have the same effect. The huge image might have awesome impact for the first 30 minutes of viewing, but it will be a chore to watch it for long periods of time.

    Before you choose your projector and screen combo, one practical exercise is to mark out on your wall the size screen you think you might want. You can use black electrician's tape to define the corners of your future screen. Place your seating at the distance you prefer, sit down, and look at the marked out screen area for a while. Imagine action happening in the screen space and get a sense of how much work your eyes need to do to view the image. Work with the image size and viewing distance until you feel it is a comfortable solution for you and anyone else in your household who might be a regular viewer.

    Meanwhile, as you experiment with your ideal screen size, there is a second thing to be aware of. The more you enlarge a projector's image and the closer you sit to the screen, the more visible various artifacts become. The same is true of television by the way. If you view a 2-foot wide television screen from a distance of 2 feet, you will see a blinding mass of scanlines and artifacts. But that same picture viewed from ten feet away looks great. There's nothing different about a projector except the scale.

    As a rule of thumb with XGA or WXGA resolution projectors, a viewing distance of less than 1.5 times the screen width will get you into the trouble zone where pixelation and artifacts become more visibly intrusive. While it is true you have a very BIG image in front of you, these distractions can compromise viewing satisfaction.

    On the other hand a viewing distance of 2.0 times the screen width or greater gives you beautiful image integration in which pixelation is invisible, artifacts are minimized, and the picture appears as a solid unified video image.

    The range in between these two, that is a viewing distance of between 1.5 to 2.0 times the screen width, is the area where the trade-off happens—the closer you sit, the bigger the screen looks obviously, but the more you begin to see the flaws in the image also. In my personal experience, with XGA or WXGA projectors, a viewing distance of 2.0 times the screen width is the perfect solution, yielding large screen drama with just enough distance to cause the image to be fully integrated and resolved visually. But that is just me. Your preferences may be different than mine. You may want to sit a bit closer and live with a bit more pixelation or artifact noise than I would. Or you may find that an image that is 2.0 times the screen width is still too large for your tastes.

    Now these are just rules of thumb. Clearly the projector you choose will have some impact upon ideal viewing ranges. Very high resolution projectors will allow for larger screens and closer viewing distances without compromising image integrity. Alternatively, if you go with a lower resolution SVGA projector, you will need to sit back a bit further to eliminate visible pixelation, scanline artifacts, etc., than you would with a higher resolution machine.


    The bottom line is that two factors need to be considered in your ultimate decision on screen size. One is your personal aesthetic preference, and the other is the technical limitations of your projector to produce a fully resolved image at any given viewing distance.

    Choosing the right screen size and the right aspect ratio will have a huge impact on your long term enjoyment of your theater. So give these matters serious thought. When it comes to a successful home theater design, these factors are more important than the projector you choose.
  3. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

    Jan 16, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Neil Joseph
    First off, 227" (18ft+) is a fairly long distance to mount a projector. You will need a fairly long throw projector to achieve a screensize that is not overly large. The HS10 just happens to be a long throw projector meaning it will throw a fairly small screensize from a long distance away as opposed to a projector like mine that is a short throw projector (From 18' my sony would throw an image of around 130" or so).

    I would personally design for around a 110" 16x9 screen considering the seating location. Too large and the image loses its brightness.

    Also, expand your projector considerations to include the newer Sony HS20 which has a brighter image, greater contrast ratio, and micro lens array (mla) reducing the pixel structure that can be seen.

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