One of Projector People’s most frequently asked questions is, “Do I really need a screen?” Our answer to that is usually: “That depends on you.”
Some projector owners are perfectly satisfied by an image projected onto a white wall, but those who want the best looking image for their home theater will opt for a screen. In this increasingly HD driven market, recent giant price reductions on HD products are driving record sales, and leaving buyers some additional dollars to make that HD image look it’s best. So not choosing a screen seems like a bit of a waste when you’ve upgraded to HD. But how do you know how much to budget for a screen and how much better do projected images look with a screen anyway?
“What are the benefits of a Screen?
Back in the old days, pre-millennium, screens were used to help boost the appearance of brightness from your projector. Shiny glass beaded surfaces actually reflected more light than the projector could generate on its own, and helped to create brighter looking images from those old 400 lumen business projectors.
Today, projectors less than 1000 lumens are no longer being developed for business purposes, and are also less common in home theater products as well. In business settings, matte white screens have become more popular, keeping a bright, true picture to accompany high brightness business machines.
Gray screens are very popular in home theater applications because they improve contrast ratios, for deeper blacks, and richer colors. This is particularly true in home theaters with some ambient light, since the gray material will reflect less light glare. Gray screens also reduce the visible pixel structure in LCD and DLP projectors. Spaces between pixels on LCD and DLP projectors are black, and they virtually disappear when projected onto a gray screen.
There isn’t a significant price difference between a gray screen and a matte white screen in most instances. Ask a Projector Expert when searching for the best price. They can help you determine which screen size will work best based on your room configuration, select the best material for your space, and they may be able to quote you a lower price than we advertise.
The Velvet Border
Fixed frame screens often come with a velvet border. A border does more than add a finished look to the screen. It also helps absorb light that ‘leaks’ off the side of the screen. In a movie theater, the drapes perform a similar function. Fixed frame screens (most common in a dedicated home theater space) do not all include a velvet border, but they are a very nice feature to have. One low-priced fixed frame screen option is the Optoma GrayWolf II screen. Starting at just $499, the Optoma screens are priced very competitively, and include a velvet border.
How Much Should I Budget for my Screen?
Here is a general price breakdown for a few of the most popular screen options.
- Gallon of Matte White Paint: $20
- Screen Material (DIY screens): $12 per square foot ($300 for a 92-inch screen)
- Low cost Fixed or Pull Down Screen: $149 – $799
- Fixed Screen with Border: $549 – $2,199
- Electric Screen: $799 and up.
Quick Tip: What’s a Foot Lambert (Ft.L)
The light reflected off of a screen is measured in a value known as foot-lamberts. The foot-lambert value is a good way to determine overall brightness because it factors in the screen gain, as it is combined with your projectors brightness, and the location of the projector. Foot-lamberts = Projector lumen rating / square feet of your screen x screen gain.
For questions about rear vs. front projection, screen size recommendations, mounting suggestions, and more, consult our Screen Guide