The holidays are here again, and our Projector Experts have been busy delivering answers to your questions. To keep with our tradition, we have dedicated our Tech News to fielding some of your most common home theater inquiries.
Where can I learn more about projectors for home theater?
If you are new to projectors, our Tutorials area is full of information to get you up to speed. We suggest you start with our Home Theater Buyers Guide to learn the basics. There you will find information like brightness recommendations, lamp life expectations, letterboxing, and more. Or, if you prefer more in-depth information, try taking our Home Theater Crash Course where you will learn more about resolution and video, and about how projectors interpret formats.
Can projectors display both 16:9 and 4:3 video?
Yes! In fact the vast majority of projectors can easily do just that. However, you will see black bars at either the top and bottom or the sides of your image when you are not displaying content that has the same native aspect ratio as your projector.
In some cases, even with a widescreen projector, you will still see black bars on your image. That is because some movies were filmed in formats wider than 16:9. See our FAQ page for more.
Remember that this question is also relevant to your choice of screen. Generally speaking, you should select a screen which matches the native format of the projector.
Check out our Guide to Aspect Ratios to learn more about whether 4:3 or 16:9 format is best for you.
Are there differences between home theater and business projectors?
Yes. There are a number of similarities between projectors designed for business and those designed for home theater. However there are also distinct variations that will create night and day performance differences.
Those ultra-bright business machines may seem like a great choice for home theater, but remember that projector lumen ratings are usually measured in their native modes. A 4:3 projector will be brighter in 4:3 mode than in its widescreen mode. 16:9 native projectors are typically measured in widescreen, so their lumen specifications should be more comparable to actual use. It’s also usually the case that brightness in home theater specific projectors is measured in video mode, while a business projector’s brightness is measured in the much brighter data mode. That’s worth considering if you are planning to watch primarily video content in 16:9 mode, like HDTV.
Video processors are also typically better in home theater projectors, making for fewer artifacts and noise in the image. Home theater projectors will also be more likely to have the popular HDMI connection, while business machines will often have the DVI-D connections which are more common on computers.
Do I need a DVI or HDMI connection to get a high-definition image?
DVI and HDMI are some of the latest high-bandwidth digital connection types on the market. HDMI and DVI both carry high-definition signals, and are becoming increasingly more common connectivity options. Standard component video cables can also carry analog high-definition signals, also common.
These days home theater projectors and other consumer electronic devices seem to be standardizing on the HDMI format. Business displays, on the other hand, are more likely to include a DVI input to match outputs from computer sources. The biggest difference between component video and HDMI or DVI cables is that HDMI and DVI cables carry a digital signal. A component cable runs HD content in an analog signal. When analog signals are interfered with, they can suffer from static or ghosting. With a digital connection the signal is either on or off. When the signal is interrupted the screen turns ‘blue’, otherwise the image is (theoretically) perfect.
See our Deciphering Cables and Connections guide to learn more about the best cable choices for your money.
What kind of equipment will I need to create a complete home theater?
There is more to a complete home theater than just a projector. See a Typical Home Theater Scenario to learn what others often include in their home theaters. Roll over the items you see in the image, and read the information listed down the right hand side to learn about each item.
Realistically, how large an image can I expect to achieve with a projector?
Most manufacturers will specify the image size they recommend for best results. That number usually ranges between 30 to 300 inches.
But, a projector is not a fixed-resolution display, so you can actually make an image significantly larger, can be a lot of fun for get-togethers. Backyard movie theaters or football parties (see image to right) have become more common, and because projectors are so portable, setting up your projector for special occasions isn’t a major trial.
However, in dedicated home theaters, following the manufacturers recommendations will provide you with optimum image quality. Images larger than specified may create visible pixel structure, and will magnify any flaws in the video signal.
For a quick look at how the most common video sources will display on a projector, check out our Display Sources guide.
Does my projector need to have a lot of inputs?
If you purchase a projector as a part of a complete home theater system, it is a good idea to invest in a receiver, switcher, or video scaler. Video projectors may have more than one DVI, HDMI, or component input. But in a dedicated home theater space, the projector will be installed several feet back from your screen and potentially far away from your components (DVD player, VCR, gaming console, etc.). You can use a single cable to connect to your projector, and can connect all other sources (with shorter and cheaper cables) through the receiver, scaler, or switcher. It will also be easier to add an additional component should you invest in an upgraded or new source.
Why should I wait to purchase a projector screen?
Projector People recommends that you buy the projector before purchasing a screen. Why? Because with even the best-laid plans, stuff happens, and in most cases returning a screen is a serious pain, if it can be returned at all.
Install your projector first, start it up, and use it as you would with the screen installed. Pay attention to details: Is the projector blocking the view from any seat? Will your door block your screen? Is the image too large or too small for the space? Is my image too dark? Too bright? Does it need richer colors or deeper blacks? Once you know your concerns, we can direct you to a screen that fits your needs.
Quick Tip: If you have painted your wall a dark color, as is suggested in dedicated home theaters, get ahold of a white sheet, painters drop cloth, or tape a bunch of white sheets of paper together to create a lighter surface.
Check out our fast and easy Screen Selection Guide for more tips.
Did It Themselves – Home Theaters
Ever wonder what other people’s home theaters look like? Visit our Customer Home Theater Showroom to see the passionate work of some our most industrious home theater enthusiasts. From dedicated home theater spaces to modified living rooms, Projector People customers have created some of the most fabulous home theaters in modern times, and the majority did it all themselves.
How do I get the best prices on my home theater equipment?
If you have decided to purchase your home theater equipment from Projector People, may we just say “excellent choice.” So how do you get your best price on your projector and accessories? You already subscribe to our newsletter, which provides weekly price reductions and special offers directly to your mailbox, but here are a few more suggestions:
- Check our Demo Deals for reduced prices on demo projectors.
- Watch for Rebates and Promotions from manufacturers.
- Check out our Bundle Pricing on complete packages.
- Make your own package with our Custom Package Builder.
- Call a Projector Expert for custom packages and the days lowest price.
Still have questions? Call a Projector Expert today for the best advice and the best price on today’s best home theater projectors and accessories.