Projector Screens - All You Need to Know About Sizes, Types, and Setup Process
Projection screens are much better when compared to walls because of their optical coatings that improve projector screen’s reflective qualities, which in turn gives clearer projections when all is said and done, as though you’re looking at an HDTV monitor that is unusually large. The main task of a screen is to reflect the projection light to make sure a sharper and clear image instead of a faded one.
White walls lack this much needed reflective property. Sure, you can use a wall for your needs & end up with a watchable projection - but, you’ll lose details and nuance when you adopt the white wall route. It’s similar to using a wrench tool instead of a hammer to strike a nail down. You can surely do it but the hammer is made to do hammering better.
Ordinary or normal wall paint isn’t enough to properly showcase the important projections or projector images at the best brightness & quality. Different types of projector Screens are available in the market to fulfill the different requirements of the viewer. Today we’ll discuss each and everything about projector screens – their sizes, their types and their accessories etc.
So let’s get started.
What Projector Screen Size You Should Buy?
When it comes to LEDs or TVs, we usually suggest going with the largest screen available that will fit your space & budget. For projector screens – you need to consider several factors.
First, if you already have a projector or know which one you would like to purchase you need to check its parameters and mainly the throw ratio which basically determines the size of the picture your projector can create based on the distance between it and the screen. Usually, there will be some kind of guide that came with your projector, or you can easily search for an online calculator to help you out. No need to buy a 150” screen if your projector can only make 100” picture at a given distance in your room
Ideally, you would leave at least a foot of space between the top of the projector screen & your ceiling so you don’t have to crane your head and neck to see.
But, even when you have a lot of room space, installing bigger isn't always a better idea. In a room or space having eight foot high ceiling – a normal 100-inch projector screen would leave about with a one foot margin at the top, and three foot margin at the bottom.
So, its better to ensure the appropriate size of the projector screen you are going to buy should fall safely within minimum range listed in your projector screen’s buying specs.
Projecting too big a picture can produce an image with less than its minimum brightness or produce an image with noticeable pixel structure.
Your projector screen should be installed at least 1 to 2 feet above the ground or floor to allow for a natural screen viewing angle free from any sort of furniture obstructions.
The size of your projector screen will determine how far away you and your colleagues should sit for optimum viewing. If you have got a 4K Ultra HD projector, you can sit as close as one times the projector screen diagonal. That's much closer than most users are used to, but when you sit closer to screen, you are better able to see 4K's finer image detail & depth.
To find our actual size of the screen based on the diagonal you can use a screen size calculator
Different Types of Projector Screens By Their Screen Type
Below are the different types of projector screens by their screen type.
Here are some common types of permanent projector screens.
Fixed Frame Screens
This type of wall screen is exactly what it sounds like. It is fixed in place & is attached to the wall – something like a wall mounted TV except flatter & bigger. Fixed frame screens come in many different sizes, with several different widths and colored borders so you can make sure the screen fits its space.
These kinds of projector screens are actually fixed, they often last way longer than other normal or traditional projector screens as you aren’t fiddling with them, & the picture quality tends to be a much better.
Fixed wall screens can be great for spaces that’ll be used specifically for viewing - think home theaters, family rooms, living rooms etc. They can serve as the focal point of any room, & the rest of the screen design can work around it.
These projector screens are similar to the maps in your elementary school classrooms - the ones that snap up & spin around if you pull them too hard - except better image quality. Manual projector screens can be easily attached to your home’s ceiling or wall and allow the projector screen to be hidden when you’re not using it.
Manual projector screens are some of the least expensive screens available in the market and also come in a variety of different screen sizes and screen types. Because of the constant up & down, these screen types often need to be replaced sooner than other kinds of permanent screens.
These screen types are same as manual projector screens, but you don’t have to do any work! Most motorized projector screens come with a remote control.
Motorized projector screens can be effortlessly attached to your wall or ceiling - or if you want to buy something fancy – this screen can also easily be inserted into your ceiling or can easily be hidden in a piece of furniture. They tend to be significantly more costly than other kinds of projector screens.
Tensioned Electric Screens
Tensioned or Tab-Tensioned projector screens try to provide the benefits of both fixed and motorized screens. They look and work like normal motorized screens allowing you to remove the screen in the casing when not needed. But they also use a string tension system on the sides of the screen that allows to adjust the stretching of the canvas and achieve a more flat surface.
Due to the extra mechanism and more expensive material for the screen canvas these screens usually cost more, but should be a better solution if a fixed frame screen is not possible.
Here are some common types of portable projector screens.
Floor or pull-up projector screens retract into a base slightly wider than the screen, making them extremely portable. They are much heavier than other kinds of portable screens but are more solid & are very easy & quick to set up. Most projector screens are manual though there’re some electric options available in the market.
Like its name suggest, this is a retractable projector screen on top of a tripod. The tripod itself can be folded down & the projector screen is in a base similar to a normal floor screen. They come in variety of sizes, but not quite as many as other kinds of screens.
Folding projector screens are the most portable pick as the frame fold into itself & the screen isn’t attached to it’s frame. They are quite similar to tripod screens except they’ve two legs instead of single tripod. They’re often more expensive than normal tripod screens and a bit harder to set up, but they are more flexible & allow you to switch out the projector screen fabrics easily or offer both front and rear projectoion options.
These screens are typically used outdoors as they are inflatable and often waterproof. They are easy to set up – most of them inflate and deflate themselves without a manual pump – and are easy to store. They also come in extremely large sizes and are usually pretty affordable. The picture quality isn’t quite as good as with other screens, but they do the trick, especially for outdoor movie nights!
There are a few other types of screens on the market, but these are the ones with the most options that are most frequently used for home entertainment purposes.
After selecting the type of screen that’s best for you, there are a couple of other things you need to know/decide before reading specific reviews.
First, what’s the aspect ratio of your projector and do you want it to match the aspect ratio of the screen? If they aren’t the same, your image will either be too large for the screen or smaller than the screen.
You should also think about how much ambient light will be reflecting onto your projector. Some screens do better than others in dealing with ambient lights.
Combing through the options can be daunting, but narrowing down your choices and making a few decisions beforehand will ensure you end up with the right screen for you.
How To Choose The Right Screen Material?
You should select a material that's well-suited to your projector screen and room. The screen material aspects we'll focus on are gain, color, and texture.
What is Screen Gain?
The amount of light that a projector reflects back at viewers is referred to as "gain." Different screen coatings applied to the base vinyl screen material are used to achieve different gain values.
High-gain screens reflect back more light, which can help provide a brighter, less washed-out image in bright rooms or with lower-lumen projectors.
One down side to higher-gain screens is that they can suffer from "hot-spotting," where part of the screen looks noticeably brighter. This is because they reflect the light back in a narrower, more focused band. The picture will look best to viewers who sit directly in front of the screen rather than off to the sides.
If you have a wide seating area, you might want to consider a screen with standard gain as it will reflect the light evenly in all directions. This is also called neutral gain, or it may be listed numerically as a gain of 1.0.
Some screens have extra reflective capabilities that creates much brighter and more vivid image. Example would be glass bead fabrics that have small beads of glass on the surface for additional reflection. The downside to such screens is in some cases the image maybe too bright and details of the picture can be lost.
Screens with negative gain also offer wide viewing angles. They were designed to deliver deeper blacks by absorbing some of the projector’s light. Since they reduce all the reflected light (not just the projector's light), they can also help mitigate issues with ambient light in the room. These screens are often used with high-lumen projectors to compensate for the amount of light they absorb.
Which Screen Color Should You Choose?
The color of your screen fabric mainly affects the contrast of the projected image. White projector screens are the industry standard due to their brightness and ability to display vivid colors. If you have total control over the light levels in your room, like in a dedicated home theater, a white screen is an excellent choice.
Gray projector screens became popular several years ago when projectors had poorer contrast capabilities than they do today. They were referred to as "high contrast" screens thanks to their ability to deliver deeper black levels.
But they - along with the more recently available black screen options - are still a great option for rooms with a lot of ambient light. However, they may require more powerful projectors to compensate for their darker whites and light colors.
You can find more information on individiual properties of diffferent fabrics used for projector screen in our post - Comparing Different Fabric Types for Projector Screens
Different Projector Screen Sizes
Once you've decided on the type of screen you are using and the type of fabric you want to use, selecting the size or aspect ratio of your screen should be next on the list of decisions to make. There are numerous screen standard formats available, including the following:
HDTV 16:9 FORMAT
HDTV format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 16:9. HDTV screens are the optimal format for home theater, offering the best matched fit for widescreen viewing and is the international standard format of HDTV.
This HDTV 16:9 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution, 1080p HD (1920 x 1080) resolution and 720p HD (1280 x 720) resolution. Wider options include Letterbox and Widescreen; not all but a few of our screens are available in these sizes.
WIDESCREEN PC 16:10 FORMAT
This format has grown increasingly common in recent years with the rise of widescreen PCs. The aspect ratio for these PCs is usually around 16:10, with some variation. This 16:10 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution, WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) resolution and WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution.
If you expect to only use a Widescreen PC viewing format for your presentations or if you expect to use this format more often than others, this could be a good choice for you.
SQUARE 1:1 FORMAT
Square format projector screens have a width to height ratio that is generally 1:1, with some variation. Square screens are usually used for data presentations and overhead projectors. One benefit of a Square 1:1 format is that depending on the screen height that's exposed, multiple aspect ratios can be achieved.
CINEMA 2.35:1 FORMAT
If you're looking more for a movie screen experience, the 2.35:1 widescreen cinema standard or anamorphic format aspect ratio is for you. Commonly used throughout cinema as a full field-of-view format, the cinema ratio is the best choice if you are looking to create a home theater or cinema business.
VIDEO 4:3 FORMAT
Video format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 4:3. The 4:3 ratio for standard television has been in use since television's origins and many computer monitors use the same aspect ratio. This 4:3 aspect ratio matches up with projectors that offer a native XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, SXGA+ (1400 x 1050) resolution, UXGA (1600x1200) resolution and QXGA (2048 x 1536) resolution. Video Format screens are the best option if you'll be switching equally between fullscreen and widescreen viewing.
Note that a 100” screen will have significantly different height and width in 1:1 4:3 16:9 ratios. Use an online screen size calculator to quickly convert from one ration to another.
How Much Does A Projector Screen Cost?
The cost of a projector screen can run from £50 for a cheap projector screen to £4000 for a premium home theater screen to tens of thousands of dollars for very large screens that you would find in a commercial movie theater.
When it comes to quality items that are worth getting, most home cinema screens cost between £100 and £500.
The projection screen price is determined by a number of factors like the size of the screen, the type of screen it is, the type of surface it is and the special features.
Why do Premium Projector Screens Cost So Much?
While you can find a cheap projector screen for under £50, these screens are little better than a bed sheet or a white wall.
A premium cinema screen on the other hand is a scientifically engineered piece of technology. They’re made of longer lasting material. They give you significantly better picture quality. They bring out the best in your projector.
What Types Of Screen Accessories Are Available In The Market?
The accoutrements of a well-dressed screen can help protect the projection surface, make the screen more aesthetically appealing in its integration with the room, absorb sound and light or, in the case of a portable screen, make it easier to transport. Accessories mostly fall into two categories: hardware and woven-ware.
Mounting hardware (brackets and screws) will be included for almost any screen meant for installation on a wall or ceiling. The motor and a remote control will almost always be included, too, for a screen capable of lowering itself. More complex setups may require additional mounting hardware. In the case of a screen used in training, or educational settings, you may want to opt for a laser pointer.
The softer side of screen accessories encompasses drapery, skirts, and wings. Drapes or curtains can be used to hide a screen fixed to a wall when the projector is idle. Winged drapes flank the screen to focus the audience’s attention during a presentation. A skirt is mounted below the screen. A zippered carrying case can be used to transport a portable screen.
Is a Projector Screen Worth It?
Yes projector screens are worth it! While there might be some initial sticker shock, when you see the image projected on a 120” 4K projector screen you instantly know that your screen was one of the best purchases you’ve ever made.
We’ve tried to make this projector screen guide both clear and comprehensive, but if you have any additional questions or are confused about any of the considerations mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.