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Integration Guide to Projection Screens – Big Screens for Big Scenes

Tips on finding the right projection screen for the room for both traditional and ultra-short-throw projectors.

With dedicated home theaters once again in the spotlight, and up-and-coming ultra-short-throw projectors in the mix, your clients are looking to you for that commercial theater experience in their homes. Determining the best screen for your client’s space is a good place to start.

Draper Screen Installation
A Draper screen installation from Total Home Technologies.

“We take a special approach to ensure optimal performance of our clients’ video systems,” says Zach Geringer, owner, Dreamedia in N.J. “During an initial personal consultation with our specialist, we look at the space, focusing on two factors first: ambient light and viewing distance. Based on our findings, we choose either an ALR (Ambient Light Rejecting) screen or standard cinema screen. We then determine the proper screen size for the space to ensure a pleasurable viewing experience.”

Related: Integration Guide to Selling Projectors – Bigger Is Better

Next, the screen is tailored to suit the personal preference of the client: motorized cassette or fixed frame, thin bezel or traditional home theater frame, hide the speakers behind an acoustically transparent screen fabric or keep them visible. “Rather than overwhelm our clients with the myriad options, we come to them with a specific recommendation that fits their budget, design of the space, and, most importantly, makes the projected image look stunning,” he adds. “Fortunately, as a Screen Innovations dealer, we have access to a wide variety of projection screens to meet every objective from a manufacturer that builds solutions that simplify and streamline our workflow.”

First and foremost, listen to your clients. “During our consultations with customers, we encourage them to show us around the house or room and share their vision for the space,” says Geringer. “It’s crucial to us that the customers’ dreams come to life. Consumers have a vision of what they want, but typically have no idea about all the options available. It’s our responsibility to educate them on various technologies and to make the proper recommendations to maximize the potential of their systems. Every situation is different, and that’s why customers call us. We have years of experience overcoming obstacles while keeping the customer’s vision on track. Once the customer feels confident that they are making an educated buying decision, it’s a done deal!”

Screen Innovations projector screen in a home theater
Screen Innovations dealer Dreamedia home theater installation.

At Total Home Technologies, an Austin, Texas-based Draper dealer, CEO Keith Harrison likes to employ what he calls the “scientific method” in recommending the ideal screen for the project. “This is definitely more science than guesswork. There’s a good amount of data to collect, including room size and shape, number and location of seats, light level, color, reflectivity of the room for both light and sound, and more.”

Also consider projector specs and location relative to the screen and aspect ratio, he adds. “With this information, our home theater math narrows down what will actually work before we discuss options with our client. Then we ask them if they prefer to sit very close to the screen, if they watch with lights on or off, if they want speakers behind or to the sides of the screen, and if they want the projector to be flush in the ceiling or fixed on the wall. And, of course, budget. I’m always surprised when clients have done massive amounts of homework on products but have not considered some basic questions such as how they will use the room.”

The importance of determing how the room will be used is echoed by Aaron White, home theater and pro AV sales lead, Severtson Corp. “Will the client typically be watching movies or TV, or using the space for gaming? When you have amassed that information and the key data, you will be in a position to best determine the appropriate aspect ratio, size, and type of material that would suit that particular room.”

Short-Throw Options

The Dreamedia team knows ultra-short-throw projection (UST) very well. “Unlike a standard-throw projector that sits at the rear of the room, a UST projector occupies the front, which offers a few advantages,” says Geringer. “Because seating can be placed behind a UST projector, viewers never block the projected image as they enter and leave the room. UST projectors are also very bright and easy to set up. Although a UST projector can simply be placed on a table, we recommend quality cabinetry designed and manufactured to house a projector, receiver, amplifiers, speakers, sources, and other equipment. For example, Salamander Designs offers custom entertainment cabinets for Samsung, Epson, LG, and Sony UST 4K projectors that conceal all but the lens of the projector and maintain a cool temperature for optimal equipment performance and longevity. These cabinets come in a variety of different finishes to fit the room design and style.”

UST projectors are also great for gamers due to their low input lag, he adds. “By mounting the unit to the wall or ceiling directly above the screen and placing the equipment rack in a closet, we free up valuable floor space for high-intensity, active gaming. Whether a UST projector will be used for home cinema or gaming applications, we recommend pairing it with a UST and ALR (ambient light rejecting) screen so the image stays clear, vivid, and bright even when the room lights are on and the window shades open.”

A Severtson Screens home theater installation.
A Severtson Screens home theater installation.

Short-throw projection has become a very exciting part of our market, Harrison notes. “In some scenarios, they can deliver the ‘Holy Grail’ viewing experience, meaning you can have a 140-inch ‘television’ that is invisible (projector and screen), and the installation potentially doesn’t require any cutting or modifying the room. This is very compelling. The variables and formulas are different with short-throw, but, like traditional projection, the same home theater math should be used.”

There are some limitations on the types of frame and materials that can be used with UST projectors, White says. “Due to those limitations, we use a thin bezel or narrow frame to avoid a shadow line at the bottom of the viewing area. The great thing about these thinner bezels is that the screen will have a very clean and contemporary look. The material used is based on the light control in the room and whether or not speakers will be placed behind the screen.

Related: Xgimi Aura 4K Ultra-Short-Throw Laser Projector Review

“Currently, the most popular screens we are selling are 16:9 aspect ratio ranging between 120 and 165 inches diagonal in both our 3/8-inch thin bezel and 3.15-inch wide Legacy/Impressions frames,” he notes. “Materials are CW-Cinema White, CWMP-Cinema White Microperf, and our SAT4K, Severtson’s Acoustically Transparent Woven Material. Many people are opting for an acoustically transparent screen so that their front and center speakers are hidden behind the screen to give the room a cleaner look and to create a sound in sync with content.”

Many of Dreamedia’s projects are in new construction and can take years to complete, Geringer says. “Therefore, we strive to stay ahead of the curve so that, when the home is complete, it has the best, most current technology. In 2023, the models that stand out are definitely the ultra-short-throw. This has been a game-changer for the projector market and we feel that UST is only going to get better. Working with key manufacturers such as Screen Innovations plays a big part in our success. They work with the projector manufacturers during product development to build in the features we love today such as ALR (Ambient Light Rejecting), UST (Ultra Short Throw), and AT (Acoustically Transparent). Technology is continually progressing, and we are committed to learning as much as we can about the groundbreaking technologies as they become available so we can deliver the absolute best experiences to our customers.”