Any Home Screen

Of course you know that not all home theater screens are created equal. But did you know that there are some things that will level the playing field? Let’s get started!

Getting Started with Home Theater

There is an entire industry dedicated to making sure the screen you choose for your custom home theater delivers the best quality viewing experience. Manufacturers and designers take a number of factors into consideration when recommending and building the appropriate home theater screens, including size of the space, type of projection system, ambient light issues, and aspect ratios. So, let’s talk a little about logistics!

So let’s get started — below is everything you need to know about picking a screen!

How big is your home theater space?

Before you go shopping for a screen or anything else, you should measure your proposed theater area. Let’s say you have a seating area about 13 feet (4 meters) from the screen. You want an immersive experience. After all, you want to get your money’s worth, right? So, the first question is how big is your space? Big home theater screens need a room that can accommodate the technical requirements of their size.

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommends a minimum viewing angle of 30º for an immersive viewing experience, a standard adopted by manufacturers, installers, and industry veterans. This gives you a viewing area that includes your peripheral vision. What does that mean for the custom home theater design process?

That means that the closest seating should be no less than 13 feet away (4 meters) to maintain that 30º viewing angle. The designer will calculate the most ideal screen size—smaller or larger—based on the room size and the space available for your custom home theater seating to preserve that ideal immersive viewing angle.

In a room that cannot accommodate home theatre screens with a diagonal of 100 inches or more, the best bet is to go with a high-end TV rather than a designated film screen and projector setup. This helps you narrow your scope when it comes to screens.

What kind of screen do I need?

This depends on your space. The primary types of home theater screens are retractable, fixed frame, and rigid glass or acrylic. (There are also portable rollable screens that come with stands, ideal for when you need a theater on the go, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on built-in home theater screens.)

To take this a step further, you can decide how you want the screen mounted: above ceiling (recessed mount into the ceiling), below ceiling (mounted to the ceiling itself), wall mounted, floor mounted, or aperture mounted. The options for customization are practically limitless.

What is an aspect ratio and why does it matter for a movie screen?

You’ve probably heard these numbers tossed about but maybe weren’t sure what they meant. An aspect ratio is the size of the projected image. The standard sizes are 16:9 (common in most modern TVs) and 4:3. HD (high def), UHD (ultra-high def), and 1080p projectors are most commonly 16:9; this ratio produces a more rectangular image. The 4:3 display produces a more square image; this is the original size of film when filmmakers were making movies on actual film and not via digital technology (with that said, some still prefer to shoot on film).

To add more numbers to the pile, hardcore movie buffs prefer 2.35:1, more commonly referred to as “letterbox”. The 2.35:1 aspect is very wide and very cinematic-looking, which means your screen will need to be able to handle the image size. This is definitely something to talk over with your designer before choosing the right screen material for your home theater. The more real estate an image takes up, the bigger (and heavier) the screen will be.

What type of projection system are you going to use?

Once you know that your theater can accommodate a bigger screen (i.e., over 100”), the next step is to decide what kind of projector you want: DLP, LCoS, 3LCD, laser, short throw, ultra-short throw, or rear or front projection. The projector will then determine the kind of screen you need.

Manufacturers offer a huge array of fabrics and configurations that align with the projector technology available on the market today. And the magic of quality home theater screens is in their reflective properties—when you project a movie onto a given surface, the projector is casting light onto the screen material. To get the best quality image, the screen should reflect as much of that light as possible back to your eyes. That’s why throwing an image on a sheet or white wall looks terrible. Engineered screen material will accurately reflect your projector’s light back, maintaining the clearest picture and brightest colors possible, while also rejecting the ambient light that can ruin an image.

We will explore these and many more questions on this website. Home theater is burgeoning as people work, live and home-school their kids at home. Turning your home into a haven has become a priority for many and it’s not like you can walk into the stores to see examples. We will deliver the best info we can for you.

With so many moving parts in creating the ideal custom home theater, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with your choices. Understanding your options will help you make an informed decision so when it comes time for movie night, all you have left to do is pop the corn, put your feet up, and enjoy!