There's nothing quite like enjoying a true cinematic experience at home. A good home theatre setup can replicate the excitement of the theatres with the added comfort of being home, but there's one element of this setup that is often overlooked: The projector screen.
The right screen goes a long way to make the most out of your projector, and while the material and colour matter a lot that doesn't mean we should ignore the size either. No one has ever gone bigger and returned their TV or screen for a smaller size. So, its recommended you get the biggest possible screen size that you can for your space. Having the screen fill up as much of your field of vision as possible will give you the fully immersive experience you get when you go to a movie theater.
Now, keep in mind, some people prefer to sit in the front row and some people prefer to sit close to the back of the theater. Individual preference plays a part in screen size as well.
When planning your own home theater setup, you consider this, your room dimensions and shape, the type of screen and setup you are considering, what the experts say, and your own personal preference.
Study Your Room Dimensions
The height of your ceiling, the height and width of your screen wall, the depth of your room, and the number of seats you want greatly affect what size screen you go with.
If you're going with a projector, determine where the projector might go first, and then make sure it’s not going to be in an area where someone might bump their head (the last thing you want to do in a dark room).
To figure out where the projector will go to calculate a throw distance you need to know the width of the screen that you will be using to determine the minimum and maximum depths that it can go.
To determine throw distance for a projector, you would need to multiply the screen width by Throw ratio of the projector, which will be in their spec sheet.
When we’re discussing how to layout a room or the size of your screen, it will generally start with how many rows of seats you’re going to have in your space, and then try to determine things around that. So, knowing where you’re sitting will help decide where the projector might be, which will also help determine how big the screen will be.
For example, if you have two rows of seating, you could design for the projector to be behind the second row. The last thing you want to do is lay back and look up and see a projector above your head. The only thing you should see is the movie. In fact, ideally, the projector should be behind the last row of seating. Keep in mind, the larger the room you have, the more powerful a projector you will want to reach a certain level of performance to accommodate a longer throw distance and bigger screen.
Is There an Ideal Shape or Layout for A Home Theater?
Rectangles are better than squares. And, the less parallel walls there are, the better.
The long answer requires some rudimentary math skills with ratios created by audio engineers and such. But don't be turned off, there are a few ways to achieve a great room for listening and watching without too much complexity.
The "Golden Trapagon" is the ideal shape of a home theater. Think about how a commercial movie theater is set up. Envision a room with a smaller and skinnier front wall and a taller and wider rear wall. The room progresses to a larger rectangle from the front wall to the back of the room by Golden Ratio in area. The Golden Trapagon eliminates parallel walls which eliminates the standing waves and surface echoes caused by parallel walls. To achieve a room of this shape usually requires architectural freedom and flexibility, which is why you don't see this shape in many homes. The Golden Ratio here is 1:1.618 and it takes more math than what most people want to do to determine their ideal theater room.
A far easier room to achieve is the “The Golden Cuboid”, which leaves the wall height the same throughout the room - far more common - but gives you a good distance calculation for width and length.
For example, if you have a 10-foot ceiling and are trying to achieve “The Golden Cuboid” you’d end up with a 16 feet wide and 26 feet deep room.
Ultimately, if you don’t want to worry about sweating the details yourself, there's always time to call in a professional home theater designer and installer.
What Type of Display and Screen is Best for a Home Theater?
Home theaters can range in size, scale, budget, style, you name it. It comes down to your space, your budget, and your preferences. All of that will also help determine what type of screen and display is best for your home theater and you have a few different options: projector, flat panel TV, laser TV, or ultra-short throw projector.
A flat panel TV, like an LED/LCD/OLED TV has a fixed-sized image and can be a great solution for smaller rooms and also rooms with ambient light.
On the other hand, a home theater centred around a good 4K HD projector allows for a larger screen (100-inch plus) and, like a trip to the movies, an overall more immersive experience. Plus, you can hide away a projector screen when not in use - something that you can't do with a laser TV. A projector also provides flexibility around the projected image size, audio system plus expansion and upgrades, additional channels, connectivity, screen choices, etc. But you'll need to make sure you have a large enough space (unless you're looking at an ultra-short-throw projector option), a dark enough room (hello shades), and, for the big suckers, we recommend professional installation. Without proper installation, you could be seriously missing out on proper calibration, throw distance, and amongst other things, simply not getting the most out of what you paid for.
Other Considerations When Finding a Screen
If you're set on a projector and projector screen combo, there are a number of screen materials to choose from when determining what you’ll need for your room, where your speakers will be, and what will work well with your projector.
You need to look at many different aspects of what your area will be like to match the correct screen material for your application:
Are you able to control the light in the room?
Are you putting speakers behind the screen?
Are you putting your projector on the ceiling, on the floor, or behind the screen?
YES, you had to worry about all of this, when you could just point the projector at a screen.
Deciding on which aspect ratios you want?
16:9 and 2.35:1 is the two most popular format. 16:9 aspect ratio is the standard for most movies today. It can also fit 2.35:1 content when needed. But for the dedicated movie enthusiast, a 2.35:1 widescreen format would be best.
There are a ton of options for screen materials, because that is where how you are preparing your room, the type of projector you have and the throw distance all come into play.
Screens aren’t one size fits all for every application. You want to pick the screen that will work with your application.
Know about the importance of materials, finding the right gain, how throw distance is taken into consideration, and how the light in your room is taken into consideration.
Are larger screens always better?
Everything is relative when it comes to screen size. Very few people regret going larger after seeing a screen that goes wall to wall and a bright, beautiful image.
Conversely, the larger the screen you have the more you will be able to see inconsistencies in images, especially if what you’re watching isn’t of the highest quality or resolution.
When you blow up an image, you’ll start to be able to pick apart quality very quickly.
It also starts to pick apart lower encoded video from streaming sources. Your Apple TV may be able to make a 4K resolution, but that doesn’t mean the service you’re watching made sure they used a high bit rate video encoder.
The bigger you go, the better your other equipment must be, because there will be no place to hide.
What is the best viewing distance from the screen?
There will be a lot of articles you can find that will tell you scientifically where you will most want to sit in a room based on the angles, room depth, and distance from the screen.
One popular equation is taking your room depth and divide it by 2 and that’s the size of the diagonal length of your screen. For example, a 20-foot-deep room should have a 10-foot diagonal screen (or what people would call a 120” 16x9 screen).
THX has a calculation that says to measure the distance from your screen to your seating position in inches and then multiply that number by .835 to determine your screen size. So, if you’re 120” away you’ll need a screen size of 100” (although they do note that in 4K setups you can be closer or go bigger).
Another rule of thumb is the Rule of 10 which is, for every 1 foot away to have 10 inches of screen. Which means if you’re 10 feet away you would want a 100-inch screen.
There are a lot of different ways to determine what is the best, and the examples that we gave so far say 10 feet away, you can have a 120” screen, or a 100” screen depending whose math you’re using.
When you can pick the perfect seat in an empty theater, where is it, that is usually the best way you can figure out what is best for you. This is a HOME THEATER, not a public space. Build it to what is best for you.
If you want to make the most out of your projector and your movie experiences, you'll need the right screen to go with them. The size of your screen will completely change the way the image is perceived and which ratios you can properly screen, so keep in mind to pick a screen that is just perfect for you.
These considerations are important when it comes to creating your own home theater, but each one may mean something different to you. You owe it to yourself to pay close attention to your room dimensions and shape, the type of screen and setup you are considering, what the experts say, and your own personal preferences. Once you’ve evaluated those characteristics, you’ll be in an excellent position to weigh any trade-offs and pick the perfect fit for your home. Watch the movies and shows you love and choose what makes you happy.