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.

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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