Do You Think Home Theater Projectors Suck?
“I just don’t like the way projection looks, it sucks!”
I hear people say this all the time. But if I ask them, “Do you like going to the movies?” the answer is almost always yes. That’s projection! That’s what movie theaters are… giant, public projection theater rooms that you share with a hundred strangers.
So, I know that you don’t really think projection sucks, you’ve just had some bad experiences with it especially in smaller venues or home-made home theater settings. I’ve walked into sports bars, ordered a beer and looked up at the screen only to see an image so washed out it’s not even worth watching whatever is on. That’s doing the technology a disservice.
Projection doesn’t have to look washed out. It can be bright and vibrant! The light and white colors can be blinding against truly deep, dark blacks.
It can be complicated though. You don’t just throw up a screen and a projector. Professionals like me know that there are a lot of factors that play into a quality projector screen image and a great home theater projector system:
- Ambient lighting
- Screen size
- Projection throw distance
- Projector light output
- Native resolution
- Screen gain, and more.
All of these concerns can be addressed and an amazing image can be produced. Even in a bright room.
(Email me right now if you’ve got a washed out projection screen in your home or business. I’ll tell you exactly how we can fix it.)
Projector Problem: Ambient Light
Most experiences with poor video projection is likely due to ambient light. We have a few way to address this issue and still allow the image to pop.
Reduce the ambient light in the room.
This may seem really straight forward, and it is. Shut the lights off and close the blinds. Now most of the light should be gone from the room and we can enjoy a bright crisp image on the screen. This isn’t always feasible and during the day it is not likely that the ambient light can be completely removed, unless of course we are in a dedicated theater room.
Use a brighter projector.
This comes with a few caveats though. The image will likely have a lower contrast ratio. By that I mean, the difference between black and white on the screen will be less than a higher contrast. And black colors on the screen can only get as dark as the screen itself. So if a dark movie, like Dark Knight is on, it’ll probably look like crap. But other things, like all those National Geographic shows will look amazing.
Leverage new projector screen technology.
To address both of the issues mentioned above screen manufactures have made some pretty innovative developments. In the last five years screen technology has improved dramatically with ambient light technology. There are now screen that will reject 80% or more of the ambient on the screen. This means that the can lights in the ceiling could stay on while watching a film and there will be very little difference in image quality if you turned the lights off.
In reality, no single one of these solutions will work on its own. Adding an ambient light rejecting screen may require a slightly brighter projector, but not such a bright one that the contrast ratio drops to an unreasonable amount. Maybe we can avoid the expense of ambient light rejection if the light in the room is reduced and a slightly brighter projector is used. But there’s always a solution for almost any environment – nothing is impossible. Call me at
Now that we’ve addressed how projection doesn’t really have to suck, let me talk about the next two biggest misconceptions.
“Projection is way too expensive.”
In general the price per square inch for projection is actually lower than an LED TV!
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers. Keep in mind I’m not going to use a $200 projector, or a $600 65″ TV in this comparison. We’re only talking quality products, because as is true with most things, you get what you pay for.
Video quality from displays is no different. Generally if projection is part of the video discussion we are looking at a big display. So lets use a 90″ screen as our starting point. Up to this point, it will typically be more cost effective to purchase an LED TV.
Currently, Sharp is the only TV manufacturer producing an affordable 90″ display. Yes, Samsung, LG, and Sony all have larger than 80″ displays, but an 88″ Samsung for $20,000?? Unreasonable. So back to our Sharp. For just under $7,000 you can go home with a brand new 90″ 4K TV and enjoy the game. The Super Bowl party will be one for the ages!
But if that feels like a big investment, how much is a home theater projector set up? Using the Sharp 90″ TV as a starting point, let’s compare.
There are a few different approaches to 4K in projection: native 4K and 4K enhancement. There’s a technical difference, but when we see them with our own eyes, it’s minimal. The Epson 4040 is a 4K enhancement projector that comes with an additional lamp and a mount for $2,700. We could then add in a Screen Innovations 5 Series ambient light rejecting screen for $1870.
Final cost for projection? $4,570 for a 90″ screen.
That’s a dramatic savings of $2,400 by using projection!
This only gets better we move into larger screens.
Vizio makes a 120″ LED TV, and it looks amazing. But comes with a price tag of only $129,999! Sony produces a 100″ for a small price tag of $59,999. Comparing these with projection we can already start to imagine how the cost will be significantly lower. (Put the money you save toward a Kaleidescape home theater movie server). Even using flagship projector systems (that I believe will give us a better image than these TV’s) we can beat these prices. Call me if you want to find out more about installation time and prices.
“There will be a big ugly projector on the ceiling.”
It is true that most of what we’ve discussed so far is using front projection. And most front projection systems do use a ceiling mounted projector. This concern mainly arises if we are installing a projector in a family room, living room, or some other space not dedicated for video.
Projectors are typically only available in black or white, which may or may not be “ugly” with your decor. There are a few companies out there, like Sim2 that make models in colors from orange to green.
If that doesn’t work for you there are other solutions as well.
Hide the projector.
We can do this motorized lifts. The projector can be hidden in the ceiling, the whole covered with sheet rock, textured and painted to look just like the rest of the ceiling. Then when you turn the system on, the projector can lower silently from above to reveal itself to display a beautiful image. After you finish watching and turn the system off, the projector will raise back up into its hideout and stay concealed until you’re ready to use it again.
If that won’t work, or a lift just doesn’t fit the budget we can come at it from a different approach. Short throw projectors. These can sit right on the entertainment console below the screen, only a few inches from the wall. They broadcast the image almost straight up to fill a huge screen. If you’d prefer not to see the projector at all, then there are projectors that can be built into the entertainment console. There are even some, like Sony’s LSPX-W1S that is a cabinet as well as a projector, all as single piece of furniture.