Projectors vs. Fixed Displays – Resolution and Viewing Distance

In the days before remote controls were commonplace, circa 1980, children sat within arms length of the TV so that they could quickly change the channel by hand upon the command of their caregivers and older siblings. During this time, a generation of American’s learned that being 6-inches away from the TV was an appropriate viewing distance. After the remote became ubiquitous, however, parents began telling their children they were sitting too close to the TV – and thusly – the concept of viewing distance was invented.

Ok, that’s not exactly true. But back when a “big screen TV” was 16-inches with 525 lines of interlaced resolution, you could be as close to your TV as you wanted and still have a pretty fuzzy image. In fact, getting too close allowed viewers to see more flaws.

Today, however, there is a wide range of affordable big fixed-screen HD (1080p) and UHD (4K) displays and video projectors. One criticism of these new UHD displays – if too good is a criticism – is that as resolutions have climbed from 1080p to 4k (with 8k on the horizon) the picture improvements are hardly noticeable.

For example, if you’re choosing between a 1080p and a 4K 55-inch display for your space, you won’t notice the added detail of 4K unless you’re within five feet of the image. Check out the chart below from (an independent tech guy) to see what we’re talking about.

display resolution and seating distance

“…What the chart shows is that, for a 84-inch screen, 4k resolution isn’t fully apparent until you are at least 5.5 feet or closer to the screen. For a “tiny” 55-inch screen, you’ll need to be 3.5 feet or closer… research by Bernard Lechner (former VP of RCA Laboratories) found the average viewing distance of American TV viewers is 9 feet. This is substantially farther than the 5.5 ft. distance required to fully resolve normal-sized 4k screens.”

As Carlton Bale points out, most people prefer not to sit within five feet of their TV, just as they don’t typically choose to sit in the first row at an IMAX theater. What’s the worst that can happen if you sit too close? Well, depending on what you’re viewing you might suffer bit of motion sickness, headaches, neck cramps, or other general discomfort. These are coincidentally the same things my mom complains about when I take her to a 3D movie

So, you can go one of two ways with this information:

  1. Save money – Don’t buy a display or projector with a resolution higher than you need for your space.
  2. Go big – Get the size image you need to enjoy UHD resolution – immerse yourself in awesome images.

The choice is yours to make.


As resolutions keep climbing, the best way to enjoy them is with an image large enough to show them off. If you’d rather wait to take full advantage of UHD we understand. If want to have the best available today, we understand that too. But from our point of view, if you want to get the best and truly enjoy it, you should seriously consider a 4k projector.

Quick Tip: Make sure you have access to true 4K content to get the best quality. Streaming content won’t typically stream to 4K without a premium added to the service. Remember we had a similar situation with 1080p content just a few years ago and the industry quickly caught up with that. Expect the same kind of progress in the coming years for 4k. And keep expecting improvements until we finally have our holodecks.

For example these are viewing range recommendations from two different sources:

Screen Size Recommended Range
35″ 3.5′ – 5.0′ (1.0 – 1.5 m)
40″ 4.0′ – 6.0′ (1.2 – 1.8 m)
50″ 5′ – 7.5′ (1.5 – 2.2 m)
60″ 6.0′ – 9.0′ (1.8 – 2.7 m)
Screen Size Recommended Range
40″ 4.0’ – 6.3’ (1.22 – 1.92 m)
42″ 4.2’ – 6.7’ (1.28 – 2.04 m)
50″ 5.0’ – 7.9’ (1.52 – 2.41)
60″ 6.5′ – 10.3′ (1.98 – 3.14 m)

We thought it made sense to share a bit more about emerging new standards for “viewing distance” so that you can be sure you’re watching screens from a ‘science-y’ smart distance. So let’s talk a little about what the AV community recommends for the distance between you and your screen these days. We won’t get into all the different theories on specifically why the viewing distances are suggested (you can read more on that here). We’ll just share the key points so you can make a wise buying decision when purchasing a display for a particular space.

Halloween, Projectors and AtmosFX – What You Need To Know

Halloween is almost upon us and all your neighbors are doing the same old decorating they do every year – some fake cobwebs, a silly black cat in the front yard and the obligatory carved pumpkin on the porch. You want to do something really different and cool, but you don’t want to spend a ton of money or wind up with giant spiders and witches with no where to put them after the holiday is over.

Well, we have just the solution for you. All you need is a projector, some AtmosFX DVDs and some inexpensive material to project on. We’re going to tell you everything you need to make your Halloween home the talk of the neighborhood this year.

 What is AtmosFX and why should I care?


You know in those scary movies, how you’ll see a silhouette of some crazy axe murderer walking past the window, or a terrifying image of a ghost looking down on you from some run-down asylum? Well, the folks over at AtmosFX have dedicated themselves to recreating all of those scary Hollywood scenes and bundling them together in video sets specifically meant for projecting onto surfaces like your windows, your walls, mesh material hanging in open spaces, and even uncarved pumpkins. The results are nothing short of amazing and must be seen to be believed.

 What kind of projector do I need?

The type of projector you need depends on a few things, which I’ve listed out for you below:

  • Lighting conditions – the darker the environment the better, indoors and out. If you’re next to a streetlight, your best bet is to use on a window farthest away from the light or stick to indoor projection effects.
  • Indoor or outdoor projection – if you’re planning on projecting these Halloween effects on outdoor pumpkins or more advanced hanging mesh displays, you’ll probably want to stick to something more portable, and consider how you’re going to protect it from the elements (or naughty tricksters who might want to grab it on the go)
  • Will you need a zoom feature? depending on what you’re projecting onto, placement of the projector should be considered. Most projectors come with at least some zoom functionality so you can dial a smaller or larger image, but knowing how big an image you need will help you make sure you don’t get a projector that won’t work for you. (tip: use the projector calculator on our product pages for an accurate measure of each projectors throw range and zoom)
  • Resolution – we recommend going for a projector with HD resolution (1920 x 1080), though you probably can get away with one that is lower resolution than that if your projected image is far enough away from the viewer. We choose HD simply because we’ll be using the projector for watching movies and sports well after Halloween is over.

For projector lumens, it does depend a lot on your environmental lighting conditions. If you have total control over lighting and can make things dark or at least dim, you can get away with a projector with less than 1500 lumens. If there will be some ambient lighting around, choose a projector with a bit more power. There is probably no need to get a projector with more than 2500 lumens however, unless you plan on projecting very large images. Of course, if you have any questions, give our projector experts a call at 1-888-248-0675. They live for this stuff.

How to create an intense window projection effect

zombie-windowFor some of the AtmosFX window projection videos, a more relaxed setup can actually create a more realistic effect (see the Axe guy in the picture above?). Loosely draping a semi-transparent screen material, like the AtmosFX window projection material, creates a great surface for silhouettes and less detailed images. From outside, it really looks like there are creatures lurking around inside your home.

If you want a more shocking and in-your-face effect, then stretch the material tighter across the areas you’re projecting onto. This will create a great canvas for more detailed projections, like witches, ghosts and zombies to pop up and scare the candy out any trick or treaters who dare enter your domain.

 Projectors in space? Well, kind of…

By now, you’re probably super-psyched to get this gear and try it out for yourself. But if you’re still on the fence about it and are thinking there’s nothing that revolutionary about projecting onto a window or a wall, then consider projecting ghostly apparitions in the middle of your hallway, or out in your yard. Simply drape some holusion mesh material between a doorway, turn off the hallway lights and then project ultra-creepy videos on life-like spectres.  It’s guaranteed to make even the most manly man scream and jump back in fright.