Features

A Home Theater Build Project - Part I

ARTICLE INDEX

The Screen and Equipment

There are two basic considerations to make when looking at a screen: the material its made of and the size. The factors that go into this decision can be intricately dissected – there are three parts to the video in a front projection setup different from a standard TV: the room, the projector and the screen and each of these variable interact with one another.

The size of a screen, like many things, starts with preference. Do you like to sit in the front of the theater or the back? If you like the front, then you’ll be looking for a generally bigger screen; back, smaller. If you want some more guidance, there are a few places to start. First, try firing up the projector on a sheet or piece of blackout cloth (available from most fabric stores) or even the wall. Play with different sizes and see what you’re comfortable with over the course of a couple of days or weeks, then measure where you settled in on. Additionally, THX has made recommendations on what they feel is the optimal viewing angle – maximizing the immersive quality of movies, but not making the screen so big that you can’t see all of the action. Their recommendation is a 360 viewing angle (180 off axis).

A handy calculator to you can be found at:

http://myhometheater.homestead.com/viewingdistancecalculator.html

This will give you a ballpark of where to start.

The size of an image isn’t just dictated by the ideals, but also the room and your projector. The projector needs to not only be able to zoom to the correct size, but also be able to produce adequate light to fill the screen. In addition, the screen material that actually reflects the light coming from the projector has variables that will also play a role in the overall picture quality of the image.

I don’t want to make this overly complicated – I’ll freely admit that I was ignorant of many if not all of the variable that go into these choices when I was undertaking my project. My room was small (12 feet x 12 feet) and my projector selection and placement options were limited, so many of the potential variables had to be ignored. I opted to let THX be my guide. With the couch along the back wall, my viewing distance was about 11 feet, yielding an optimum THX screen size of 92” diagonal (16:9 aspect ratio).

If you do have the flexibility on placement of the projector, some simple analysis can allow you to maximize the performance of the video that you’ll have in your room. Again, I enthusiastically refer you again to Bob Sorels post at the AVS Forum. Before you choose a projector, where it’ll be placed, the screen size and screen material, it will serve you well to walk through some of the basic calculations to make sure that you will achieving the best image that you can and that your projector and screen pair well.

In terms of my specific decision: When I undertook this project, we were at the beginning of the Internet direct phenomenon with high quality gear being marketed directly to the consumer. Screens were one of the areas that benefited from this trend. Home theater screen were traditionally fairly expensive - however new companies, like Carada, began offering well built screens direct to consumers at substantially discounted prices versus the more traditional names.

I opted for one of these and have been extremely happy with the product - the build quality is exceptional. Now, there are literally dozens of screen manufacturers out there marketing very nice screens at fractions of the cost of the more traditional Stewarts, Da-lits, and Drapers. Home theater projectors at this time were significantly lacking in their ability to produce blacks and I chose a screen material that was designed to try and compensate for these problems. You can read about Carada’s approach to this problem on their website - http://carada.com/Projection-Screen-Surface-Material.aspx - other companies had taken different approaches to address mediocre black levels. This is far less of a concern now as projector manufacturers have made enormous strides in black level performance.

At the end of this process, my room consisted of the following equipment:

  • DVD Player: Denon DVD-1600
  • Receiver: Denon AVR-3802
  • Projector: Sanyo PLV-Z2
  • Screen: Carada Precision Series 92” High Contrast Grey
  • Speakers: PSB Stratus Silveri (R/L), PSB Stratus C5i (C), PSB Image 1B (SL/SR)
  • Interconnects: Blue Jeans Cable