To Serve and Project
Choosing a Projector!
For some people, “big” means REALLY BIG. I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m one of those people. I like my monsters big. I like my explosions big. My favorite natural phenomena are stars, oceans, and mountains, in that order. My ideal pizza is one the delivery guy can’t fit through the door.
I refer to the Giant Squid as “Medium Squid”.
It turns out, I’m not alone. Lots of home theater owners aren’t willing to settle for the mere largeness of a plasma screen. For these, my comrades in bigness, I submit the following guide to the biggest thing in any home theater: projectors!
Know Your Projector Types
There’s three types of home theater projector: LCD, DLP, and 3LCD.
LCD (liquid crystal display) projectors work a bit like an LCD TV screen, passing light through an LCD chip, creating a vibrant, sharp image. Since it’s really creating a composite from three differently colored beams, this image is subject to color breakup (the “rainbow effect”) around the edges, as well as the “screen door effect” of seeing individual, separated pixels at times. These are best suited to dimly-lit rooms, auditoriums, and boardrooms.
DLP projectors (short for Digital Light Processing) use a single digital chip, effectively projecting a digital screen through a single beam. Great for HD video, with high contrast ratios, and not much pixellation. These are ideal for home theaters.
3LCD projectors function similarly to LCD projectors. It shines a single beam of light through three LCD panels, and the light is then recombined through a prism into a single beam, which comes out of a single lens. Because the colors are recombined and projected as a single, bright image (they call this “accurate color registration”), you get the vibrancy of LCD without the rainbow effect.
There’s a few qualities you’ll see in projector specs that it’s good to pay attention to.
Projector Resolution: This is the sharpness and clarity of the picture. It’s measured by the number of pixels, and is often expressed as the number of vertical pixels used (720p = 1280 x 720 pixels, 1080i = 1920 x 1080, etc). More pixels, more resolution, sharper image!
Throw Distance: This is how big an image a projector can create from any given distance. Most manufacturer websites have throw distance calculators, which are very useful to anyone setting up a home theater and shopping for a screen.
Keystone Correction: This is a feature that lets you adjust the image to account for the angle between the projector and the screen. It “skews” the image accordingly, resulting in a perfect projection image from an odd angle.
Contrast Ratio: The difference between the lightest white and the darkest black the projector can manage. A higher contrast ratio is always a good thing.
Lumens: The measure of a projector’s illumination. This is an official measurement established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). More lumens mean a brighter image. Who doesn’t want a brighter image?
So Which One?
There’s a lot of projectors out there, all with different stats and prices. Choosing the right one, as usual, comes down to your own situation, depending on how much you care to spend and the room it’s intended for. You might care more about keystone correction than resolution, or be more concerned with cost than lumens. Hopefully, this little breakdown will be of some help!
Plasma vs. LCD: FIGHT!
If you’re shopping for a big screen TV, there’s advice all over the place on which to get. My blog is no exception! This is coming purely from a home theater point of view. If you don’t care about colors, viewing angles, or size (say, if you plan to use it to watch Bloomberg Television), my conclusions might not be what you’re looking for. However, if you want to watch Lord of the Rings and have your eyeballs melt… then read on!
What are LCD and Plasma Screens?
An LCD screen is made up of liquid crystal pixels pushed between glass plates. Current goes through the pixels, and a controlled picture is created. This is how a digital wristwatch works, basically, only with more colors and smaller pixels. It’s important to note that the pixels are backlit-they don’t light up on their own.
A plasma screen, on the other hand, uses millions of little cells filled with neon and xenon gas. When electricity zaps these cells, the gas turns into a plasma (hence the name). Each cell is coated in phosphors (red, green or blue), which fluoresces when the plasma gets charged. Think of a plasma screen as a sheet with millions of tiny, tiny fluorescent light bulbs, because that’s basically what it is.
Plasma: None More Black
One big difference a lot of people find between LCD and plasma is the deepness of blacks. Plasma screens get a deep, true black, because it’s made up of tiny lights. Turn the lights off, and you get the absence of light, which is as black as it gets! LCD screens have a constant backlight, however; LCD blackness is thus achieved by setting the pixel to block as much light as possible. There’s always a little leakage, though, so you never get true black, especially at certain angles.
This viewing angle is another big issue with LCD screens. If you’re looking at it from the wrong angle, the colors distort and the black gets even lighter. This has to do with the polarity-shifting mechanism of LCD technology. I’m told they’re getting better at this, but it’s still annoying, in my opinion. My new laptop is LCD, and while it’s bright and crisp, the top and bottom of the screen are usually a little discolored compared to the middle, because I’m viewing the top and bottom at the wrong angle. I can turn the screen to fix this, but then the middle’s at the wrong angle.
Plasma TVs are also usually bigger. Most LCDs top out at about 50″, barring a couple new (and costly) 70-inch models, whereas larger plasmas are easy to find.
LCD: More Pixels, Less Juice
Why would anyone go with LCD TVs? Well, for one thing, they’re cheaper than similarly-sized plasma models most of the time, and they’re getting even cheaper by the day. LCDs also usually have a much higher resolution. More pixels can be better!
There’s also the issue of burn-in. The phosphors used in plasma screens wear out over time (a long time- 30k to 60k hours). Ever seen an old arcade machine, where the title screen was still visible even when the picture changed? Same deal. It’s usually not that bad these days, of course, since most pictures move around more than a Galaga high-score list, but any plasma screen’s days are numbered. LCD screens die, too, but usually much later on in their lives, and there’s no risk of ugly, mucky burn-in. If you care about power consumption, and you should, it’s worth noting that LCD uses far less power (as much as 30 percent less than plasma). That adds up to a lot of clams.
So, which one should I get?
If you’re talking about a TV screen, and not a computer monitor, I’d suggest plasma. The viewing angle issue alone should seal the deal to anyone who plans to put the TV in a family’s living room, and the lack of true black is, in my experience, not very cool. LCDs tend to be lighter and cheaper, though, and are fine for a lot of smaller applications like computers. Cheaper does go a long way, too; that’s extra money to spend on speakers, DVDs, or a whole lotta beer. Not to mention the lower power draw, which (in this age of utility bills gone mad) is a gift that keeps on giving!
Ten Ways to Recreate the Genuine Moviegoing Experience at Home
You’ve got the curtains, the projector screen, the seats… yet it’s not quite the same as a night out at the movies. Your home theater is better than going out to see a movie, sure, but is it an accurate reproduction of the genuine moviegoing experience? Well, having worked in a movie theater for years, I’ve come up with the following list of ideas to help you get the true multiplex experience in the comfort of your own home:
10. Turn on the hallway lights, and prop open the door to the home theater room.
9. Tune a radio to the most annoying talk radio station you can find. Use it to prop open the aforementioned door.
8. Invite a friend over to watch the movie with, and tell him the radio in step 9 is an advanced new radio that actually turns itself off if shushed at loudly, pointedly, and frequently.
7. Leave your soda, candy, and some wadded-up tissues in the cupholders after the movie. If you can still conceivably fit an actual cup in there, add more tissues.
6. Drizzle a fine squiggle of maple syrup on the floor, and sprinkle lightly with a garnish of stale popcorn. Don’t worry about attracting bugs; realism is the goal here, people!
5. Set your ringtone to “My Humps,” order a wakeup call for twenty minutes from now, gently toss your phone over your shoulder, and let the movie magic begin.
4. Buy the brightest emergency exit sign you can. Two or three, if possible. As a bonus, this might also help you find your phone in the dark after following step 5. Let’s be honest, there’s only so much My Humps a person can take.
3. Don’t waste water cleaning those old gym socks. Wedge ’em between the seats, right next to your head. Save the environment and smell the ambiance!
2. Watching a noisy horror flick? Babies love those. Give mom the night off!
1. Four words: Fart in a Can.
The Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt
There’s a new contest over at HTmarket.com! Here’s the press release:
CHICAGO, Illinois, May 5, 2008— The leading online home theater marketplace, HTmarket.com, is pleased to announce the first-ever Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt. Starting on May 5th, brave home theater hunters can go to HTmarket.com, follow the clues, find the codes, and win great prizes to take back to their own Man Cave!
Since the dawn of time, mankind has hunted to equip his cave with the essentials of caveman comfort. It wasn’t long before the most sought after prey of all became those of the genus Home-Theaterus Equippus, which included such beasts as home theater seating, projector screens, home theater speakers,and even elusive popcorn machines. It was held that the greatest of Man Caves should contain a home theater replete with many trophies of these hunts, so that a caveman could relax comfortable after a busy day of cave-painting and fire-questing!
Now you, too, can embark upon The Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt and equip your Man Cave with everything a home theater requires! To play, quest over to HTmarket.com and search the product listings for cave paintings. Click on any cave painting you find, and you’ll be given a clue. Following this clue will lead you to the page where the Man Cave Code is hidden. Enter this code, and you’ll win a gift certificate valued from $25 to $500!
You can read more about the Great Man Cave Home Theater Hunt at the official contest page. Each Man Cave Code can only be used once, so be the first to follow the clues, find the code and win!
Since going online in August of 2000, HTmarket.com has emerged as the premiere online home theater marketplace. Offering the finest home theater products and accessories available, from popcorn machines and home theater seating to projector screens and HD-DVD players, HTmarket.com specializes in bringing the compete theater experience into homes across the globe. With a steadily growing catalog featuring over 6,000 products and unsurpassed customer service, HTmarket.com has been given a Top Rated Yahoo Store score of 4.5 stars by their own customers.
HTmarket.com is located at 5100 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Suite 100,
Chicago, IL 60640. For direct orders, call 1-888-764-9273, fax 773-728-8162, or email sales1@HTmarket.com.