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A Home Theater Build Project - Part III

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Room Lighting, Carpet and Ceiling

One of the first things that I talked about in this series was ambient light and its impact on front projection systems. As I have stated previously: ambient light is the enemy of front projection. No matter how good the space-aged screen technologies created to deal with this problem are, prevention the issue in the first place will always yield a more pleasing experience than whatever these materials achieve.

In order to address this, we must focus attention not only on light entering the room, but also on the light that we are creating...meaning the light coming from our projector. Why? To illustrate you can go into a dark room, take a flash light and shine it on a wall. Can you see anything else in the room besides the spot of light? Can you see yourself? May be walls around you? The entire purpose of a projector screen is to reflect light back to our eyes - but the screen is unbiased - the light can go anywhere in the room - and once that light has illuminated something other than our eyes, that light is free to go back onto the screen and ruin our black levels in the same way that a light in coming through a window can. I don't know many people who have a black ceiling or carpet - which would minimize this reflected light - and my room was no exception. The ceiling and floor directly in front of my screen were both light colored. In addition, the door leading into the room was white. When watching a movie, these surfaces lit up and reflected light back onto my screen. I tackled the floor first by simply buying a small black carpet that would sit in front of the screen, between the speakers, that extended out about 4 feet out into the room.

The ceiling was a little trickier. Panting was out - I didn't want to risk ruining the pop corned ceiling, nor did I want to have to worry about repainting the ceiling back when we moved out. Instead, I took a trip to my local Wal-Mart and picked up some felt. Using very thin carpet tacks, I tacked this felt to the ceiling extending out, again, about three feet (a trial run showed that this would come down really easily with very minimal damage to the actual ceiling). Lastly, I addressed the white door that sat to the left of my screen and shone brightly when closed during a movie. Instead of panting, I opted to hang some basic window dressings. A curtain rod and floor to ceiling black curtain would allow me to move the curtain into place easily when watching a movie, completely obscuring the white door, yet fold away when the theater was not in use for easy access. The results of all of these additions had a significant effect on the picture that I was getting - all for about less than a few hundred dollars in supplies.