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

There’s three types of home theater projector: LCD, DLP, and

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. 

Projector Qualities

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!

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