Tech News: How Bright Is Just Right?

Tech News: How Bright Is Just Right?

Our most frequently asked question here at ProjectorPeople.com is “How bright does my projector need to be?” There is good reason for this, since brightness is uniquely relevant to projection technology. So, how bright is just right for your space? Check out our recommendations.

For Starters

800 lumen projector in living room environment Brightness for home theater projectors is measured in ANSI lumens. For home theater projectors, brightness typically ranges from 800 – 1500 lumens. There are brighter home theater models available, but they are often ‘cross-over’ or multi-purpose projectors that are used for presentations as well as home theater. There are also brighter digital projectors that are designed for movie theaters or home theaters with large (30 plus) seating capacities. They cost significantly ($25,000 or so) more than the projectors installed in homes of DIY enthusiasts today. Quick Tip: Manufacturers rate projector lumen values differently. Business projectors are rated in data mode, while home theater projectors are measured running video. Since lumen output for video is typically not as high as data, home theater projectors may seem to be less bright than business machines. In reality, a business projector may lose as much as half its brightness in video mode. For help determining which projector is right for your viewing environment, contact one of our sales professionals. Our Projector Experts have personally seen most units perform in video mode.

Brightness by Space

As you probably already know, there are two primary kinds of home theater spaces: dedicated home theaters with controlled lighting, and converted living rooms. The space you are working with will play a role in determining the brightness you need. What you watch and when you watch it will also impact the apparent brightness of your image.
Living Room (1000 lumens or better) If you are planning to turn your living room into a home theater, the time of day as well as the content you watch will factor in to the appearance of brightness on your screen. Sporting events and cartoons will ‘pop’ off the screen, even in daylight hours, because the content itself is bright and colorful. A dark movie like Star Wars or Batman will look better at night, with more detail in the dark portions of the image. Dedicated Space (800 lumens or better) Dedicated home theaters (rooms with controlled lighting and no ambient light) will not require as much brightness as a space with ambient light from windows or other household lighting. In fact, with too much brightness images can lose detail in darker scenes.
Quick Tip: Although it would be ideal to have 1000 lumens or better, many people have had success with 700 and 800 lumen models in living room environments. Click here to see an image of an 800 lumen projector (projecting in eco mode) in a well lit living room space.

Screen Size and Brightness

Shoppers who purchase regular CRT television sets never ask the question, “How bright do I need my 42-inch TV to be?” But when buying a projector, you should have an idea of the screen size you are trying to attain. As you might expect, the larger you want your screen, the more lumens you will need to create a bright image.
Lumens by Screen Size
80-100 inch screen 800 lumens 100-120 inch screen 1000 lumens 120 + inch screen 1300 or more lumens Recommendations are for screen sizes in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Why aren’t home theater projectors brighter?

In short, because they don’t really need to be, at least not for a small, dedicated home theater. Most manufacturers have concentrated on video quality and image details in their home theater lines. And customers are paying more money for high-contrast projectors. With the lights on, you will lose some of the rich blacks and saturated colors, and are compromising the immersive ‘home theater’ experience. Brighter projectors typically have lower contrast ratios as well, as the lighter colors overpower the subtlties in the dark portions of the image.

What about all those 2000-3000 lumen projectors on the market

As we mentioned above, many of these units are measured for their brightness in computer mode rather than video. They are also typically 4:3 versus 16:9 products. They still might be a good choice for you, but they will be lacking some of the more desirable home theater features. For example, some may not be HD resolution, they may have fewer video inputs, and they might have a louder fan. And for those sacrifices, you still may only see 1500-1800 lumens when the projector is displaying video. For business presenters who want a multi-purpose option, a projector like the Mitsubishi XD460 is an ideal combination of brightness, video quality, and flexibility.

A Short Story

A couple years ago a friend of mine, an architect in San Diego, purchased a new Mitsubishi LVP-X50U – a 750 lumen projector. He asked me if I felt brightness or resolution should be his biggest concern since there was a brighter SVGA projector available. I suggested he worry more about resolution since he had a newer laptop and wanted to display large and detailed images to potential customers. As it turned out, he now rarely uses his projector for business, but rather uses it for movie nights with family and friends. His only complaint so far has been that, in small spaces (like his local coffee shop), it’s too bright.
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