Viewing Distance

The distance from your television to where you will be sitting is a matter of several factors: the size of your room, where the rest of the furniture is arranged, and what is comfortable to your eyes. However, for those of you who like formulas, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommends that the screen should be of a size that you will see 30 degrees of viewing angle side to side from where you are sitting. If you really want to adhere to this, it means calculating either the size of the TV if you know how far away you will be sitting, or calculating the viewing distance if you know how big your TV screen is. The mathematics are easy. If we say that the horizontal (not diagonal) measurement of your television is "X", and the distance from your television to your seat is "Y", then the following formulas can be used to calculate the proper dimension for either one of these measurements: X = Y/1.8664 and Y = 1.8664 X. So, for example, if you are purchasing a television, and the distance from your seat to where you will be placing the TV is 6 feet, then you solve the equation for X. X = 6/1.8664 = 3.21 feet or 38.6 inches. Take a ruler with you to the electronics store and measure the horizontal width of the sets you are choosing from. If you have already purchased a television, then you need to calculate the proper viewing distance. If, for example, you have a television that is 4 feet wide, then you solve the equation for Y. Y = 1.8664 times 4 = 7.5 feet. In practice, using the above formula results in a viewing distance that may be too close for many viewers. A more reasonable number can be calculated using the principle of sitting back about 3 - 5 times the width of the TV. If that does not satisfy you, then just sit where you darn well please.

When you shop for the television, each set is marked with its diagonal size (the diagonal measurement is always larger than the horizontal, so using this number is more impressive). Actually, you don't need to be so exact. Comfort level is the rule, not mathematical formulas, but the formulas are there if you want to use them. If you have never owned a big screen TV, you may think that the ones you shop for are too large. However, you will be surprised at how fast you adapt to the large picture once you have it at home for a few days. When watching letterboxed movies in particular, larger screens are necessary for the best visual effect. Therefore, you will probably be more satisfied in the long run if you purchase the largest set you can fit into your viewing room.