Researching A/V Equipment for SVPB - Projectors
This article is part of multipart series: Researching A/V Equipment for the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast (SVPB).
After extensive research, I found that the following projector equipment will provide the most bang-for-your-buck in durability, capability, versatility, and production quality:
|1||Projector: Optoma EH416||$863.02||2||$1,726.04||1920x1080 16:9 20,000:1 DLP (1) 4200 Lumens|
|2||Projector Screen: Da-Lite Da-Mat 92 x 144” Front Projection Fast-Fold Deluxe||$895.95||2||$1,791.9||167.52” diagonal 16:10 aspect ratio, front projection, 1.0 Gain, Folding Frame / Truss|
|3||HDMI Cable AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable - 6 Feet||$6.99||3||$20.97||Male to A Male Cable; 1x backup cable|
|4||SDI to HDMI Blackmagic Design Micro Converter||$85||3||$255||Converts long-relay SDI signal to short-relay HDMIp 1x backup converter|
|5||Portable Power Bank Battery Pack RAVPower 22000mAh||$39.99||3||$119.97||Power supply for Blackmagic SDI to HDMI converter; 1x backup converter|
If you’re looking for enterprise multimedia services, please contact us at email@example.com. If you’re looking for personal, family, and wedding multimedia services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
B&H Photo Video
See B&H’s Buying Guide to Projectors:
Is a projector the right choice? If you need to achieve a larger screen size and/or if portability is key, then yes.
When not to use a projector: Projectors are for screening. They should not be used for color correction work or critical evaluation. Additionally, they work best in low light. If you have bright, uncontrollable ambient light, especially sunlight, then consider an alternative.
Once you know the screen size, determine the throw ratio based on the screen width and the distance between the projector and the screen.
If the screen size isn’t known in advance, opt for a projector with more zoom or one that has a shorter throw. In most cases, getting closer is easier than getting farther back.
Taking into account the screen size, throw distance, and the amount of ambient light in the room, use a projection calculator to determine the necessary minimum brightness in lumens.
If you cannot calculate the brightness you need, consider the brightest projector you can get, within reason.
Factoring in the content you will be showing and the distance of your average audience member, determine the minimum resolution you need. WXGA is usually safe for multimedia, though going up to 1080p and beyond certainly isn’t going to hurt (except maybe your pocket book). For home theater, you will always want 1080p; and may even want to consider 4K.
Consider any secondary features you may need, such as the ability to show a presentation from a USB flash drive.
Don’t sweat it if, after the above process of elimination, your search turns up too many choices—chances are any will work fine for you.
Fixed installation and large venue projectors are often [classified as] multimedia projectors (4500-20,000+ lumens).
In most cases, they feature interchangeable-lens systems, making them the most adaptable in terms of throw distance. They are normally used in lecture halls, movie theaters, houses of worship, stadiums, and other similar settings that require screening for large groups.
The first step in choosing a projector, therefore, is pinning down how wide the screen is and how far the projector can be placed from the screen—once you’ve done this, your choices will narrow considerably.
Throw ratio … For example, if your screen is 10 feet wide and the projector is 15 feet away, you will need a lens that covers a throw ratio of 1.5:1.
[Y]ou should consider mounting the projector as close to the screen as you comfortably can. Light is subject to the Inverse Square Law, meaning brightness drops logarithmically with increased distance, so the closer you can mount it, the fewer lumens you will need.
Because more often than not, getting the projector closer to the screen will be less of a problem than getting it farther away.
While throw ratio is very important, brightness is the most important specification to get right. Ambient light competes with the projector’s output, causing the image to get washed out.
If the image isn’t bright enough to be seen clearly, all other considerations fly out the window… remember, it is nearly impossible to get a projector that is too bright. If a projector is ever “too bright” you can always just turn the brightness down. But making a projector that is too dim… good luck!
In the ideal world in which we don’t live, projectors would always be used in total darkness. The more light you add, the more you lower contrast and wash out the image…. If you have to use a projector in ambient light, you will never get a perfect image, but it is possible to at least get a viewable image.
Here are some examples of numbers of lumens you should anticipate needing:
- A living room where the lights can be turned off completely: 1500 to 2000 lumens
- A school classroom or boardroom where the lights can be dimmed, if not fully extinguished: 3000 lumens
- A lecture hall or small church requiring a 10-foot-wide screen, and has a moderate amount of light: 5000 lumens
- A movie theater: 20,000 lumens or more
The content should also be factored in. Are you projecting white song lyrics over a solid background? Or are you showing photographs in an art gallery? In the former case, the contrast of the image is so high you can get away with a much weaker projector. In the latter case, you probably want to preserve every tonal nuance you can and, so, will need more lumens.
Resolution matters, but perhaps less than you might think. Most projectors these days are least XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, a 4:3 aspect ratio format that has been the longtime staple for giving PowerPoint presentations… Because of high-definition video, increasingly widescreen formats, starting at WXGA (1280 x 800), are supplanting the legacy 4:3 standards.
Personally, I would not recommend going lower than XGA. At SVGA and lower resolutions, pixelation in the image will be very apparent. Also, many computer programs require at least XGA resolution even to run.
Even if you are PowerPoint user, bumping up to 16:10 won’t really hurt, plus, you’ll be ready if you want to screen HD video down the road.
Certainly 4K in a projector makes more sense than 4K in a TV, since you can achieve a larger image size.
Contrast ratio is probably the most meaningless spec you’ll find. Like HDTVs, projectors rely on so-called “dynamic contrast” to boost their on-paper performance. Also, the screen surface plays an import role in contrast. Finally, any ambient light will bring contrast ratio down into the double digits. Unless you have optimal viewing conditions (i.e., virtually no light and a good screen), a 500:1 contrast ratio and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio on paper probably won’t render a visible difference.
Lens Shift and Keystone Correction
Most projectors will have at least vertical, if not horizontal keystone correction; some even offer lens shift. Of course, we are all familiar with the trapezoidal “keystone effect”—the image appears wider at the top when the projector is too low, or wider on one side when the projector is horizontally off center. Keystone correction remedies this, up to a certain specified percentage. The problem with keystone correction is that it is achieved digitally, like digital zoom on a camcorder. The more you apply, the more the image will be degraded. As long as you mount or place the projector so that the lens is not below the bottom of the screen or above the top of the screen (assuming a right angle relative to the screen) you should be okay. If you start getting outside of a normal mounting situation, or are staking or edge blending, you will seriously want to consider picking a projector with lens shift. Lens shift serves the same purpose, and then some, and achieves it optically with no loss in image quality. To get lens shift you are probably looking at a high-end home theater or fixed installation projector.
One tip for installations: do not run HDMI more than 25 feet. There are HDMI cables that are longer, but the longer you go, the more the cable acts as an antenna, picking up RF signals. For whatever reason, 25 feet seems to be where reliability dives off the cliff.
Also see eBay’s Everything You Need to Know about Movie Projector Resolutions.
Types of Resolutions
The resolution you need for your projector depends on your use case - usually one of these two:
- Home theater - Projecting high definition movies, or
- Live event - Projecting simple, low definition things like computer screens with powerpoint slides or live video feeds from a camera.
At live events, such as a business conference, people usually aren’t sitting right next to the projector, and the farther a person sits from the projection, the less they will notice the pixelation of lower resolutions.
Projectors have two resolutions that you need to look out for - input and output:
- Maximum Resolution / Data Mode (input): This should be called the “source resolution” because it is the maximum input resolution from a laptop, camera, etc. transmitted over some cable like HDMI or SDI that the projector will even accept, scale, and then project out in its Native Resolution.
- Native Resolution (output): The maximum output capability of the projector.
Note: The projector may scale the input resolution up or down depending on if the input is a higher or lower resolution than the projector’s native output resolution.
SVGA: 800x600 or WVGA: 854x480 (widescreen)
This small size is generally useful, especially when it comes to projecting basic images, such as simple graphics and textual presentations. However, SVGA is less than ideal for larger screens because it would not be able to display sharp images. SVGA has been the standard 4:3 aspect ratio resolution used in the past decades, but now newer computers, cameras, and software tend to be tailored for the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio so its quickly becoming - or has already become - the mainstream choice for modern A/V setups.
XGA: 1024 x 768 or WSVGA: 1024x576 (widescreen)
XGA resolution do the most justice to high-resolution movies and graphics with finer details.
This is also a mainstream resolution size perfect for displaying large text, such as bible verses or song lyrics in a church setting.
SXGA: 1280x1024 or WXGA: 1280x720 (widescreen)
SXGA is such a high resolution that it tends to be overkill for typical presentations and video viewings, especially given the price of the SXGA projectors.
UXGA: 1600 x 1200 or WUXGA: 1920x1080 (widescreen)
The huge size of UXGA resolutions is only practically useful for very large venues like in a large hotel conference hall.
Lumens of Brightness
Perhaps the most important aspect of a projector is its “power output” - its lumens of brightness - because if you can’t see what the projector is projecting, it won’t be very useful to you at all.
The appropriate lumens for your projector is extremely important due to the fact that projectors with lower Lumens require a dimmer environment. Less lumens generally means that the projector will also need to be closer to the screen.
The point is that the best level of brightness depends on the amount of ambient light in your environment, the size of the image you’re trying to project, and even the material in the projection screen you’re using. If you need a versatile projector, then a brighter one would fare better in the average lighting environment.
Perception of brightness is non-linear, which means you need far more than twice as many lumens for a projector to appear twice as bright.
For business projectors, the actual lumen output may be lower when in video mode, due to the lower luminance output from video signals.
Projectors for home theaters typically offer better video scaling and contrast ratios than business projectors.
B&H recommends 5000+ lumens for a lecture hall or small church requiring a 10-foot-wide screen, and has a moderate amount of light. (The hotel conference room has the lights on.)
[F]or bigger meeting rooms with 12 or more people we would recommend a projector with over 4000 lumens. If you have room in the budget and have a large meeting room you should absolutely be over 4500 and preferably 5000+ lumens. Use caution when comparing specifications on projectors. The specs are not necessarily 100% accurate. Two projectors with the same specs will not necessarily give you the same results. That’s where a trusted AV vendor’s input can be very helpful. We have often observed this with our own eyes. On paper numbers do not always equate with on the job performance or appearance of two products.
Lamp / Light Bulbs
The part of the projector that produces light is the lamp, which has a bulb.
There are different types of bulbs including UHP, UHE, halogen, and metal halide. The bulb is extremely important to the overall image’s brightness.
The actual amount of light (lumens) that a bulb produces will naturally decline over time. For instance, lamps that are rated for 4,000 hours of use can lose 50% of their brightness by the 2,000 hour mark.
Lamps that are UHP or UHE can retain around 80% of their brightness during their entire lifetime.
Lumens for Venue Type
|Ambient Light||Projector’s Brightness (lumens)||Venues|
|Very Dark||Under 1,000||Home theater, small meeting room|
|Dim||1,000 - 3,000||Classrooms, medium-size meeting rooms|
|Normal||3,000 - 6,000||Large conferences (hotels, auditoriums, churches)|
|Bright||Over 6,000||Large, bright auditoriums with over 500 people|
Lumens in the Wild
|Lumens||Item in the Wild|
|400||most fluorescent lighting in offices|
|1,000||lighting on a movie set|
|100,000||brightest point on a sunny day|
|500 - 3500||typical consumer projectors|
|3000 - 7000||typical business projectors|
Input Connection Sources
Analog inputs can experience jittering pixels caused by poor signal synchronization so digital inputs are preferred.
For video sources, the preferred connection choice is HDMI. However, HDMI signals degrade over a relatively short distance so a balanced SDI cable is the preferred routing method for relaying a signal over ~25 feet.
One tip for installations: do not run HDMI more than 25 feet. There are HDMI cables that are longer, but the longer you go, the more the cable acts as an antenna, picking up RF signals. For whatever reason, 25 feet seems to be where reliability dives off the cliff.
Projection Technology (LCD/DLP)
Today’s projectors are based on one of four imaging technologies: DLP, LCD, LCOS, and laser raster.
Most inexpensive DLP projectors project their primary colors sequentially rather than all at once. This can lead to the rainbow effect, where light areas on the screen break up into little rainbows for some people when they shift their gaze or something moves on the screen. Those who are sensitive to this effect can find it annoying, especially when viewing for a long time.
LCD projectors don’t suffer for this problem, but tend to be bigger and heavier for the comparable DLP projector.
The general consensus is that standard-size LCOS projectors offer the best-quality images, but they tend to be bigger and heavier than DLP or LCD projectors, and far more expensive.
How far does your projector have to sit relative to the projection screen?
Most projectors are only able to throw a limited range of image sizes from any given throw distance.
Normal projector lenses can project an approximately 6-foot-wide image 12 to 15 feet away, short throw lenses can be projected 3 to 6 feet away, ultra-short-throw only requires inches to project, and long-throw lenses can be used for large conference rooms and small auditoriums.
|Projector Lens||Projection Distance|
|Short||3 to 6 feet|
|Normal||12 to 15 feet|
Although most multimedia projectors have a built-in zoom lens, an important subcategory is short throw and ultra-short throw. Generally, a throw ratio of less than 1:1 is considered short throw. The most common throw ratios are 0.5:1 and 0.3:1, with the latter fulfilling the distinction of being “ultra-short throw.” … and are designed to be installed very close to the screen: 18 inches to 2 feet
In the overall event design, you shouldn’t have viewers sitting any closer than 1 times the screen width.
According to ProAVSchool.com: A nice rule of thumb for maximum comfortable video viewing distance for general video is 8 times the display’s image height. So for a 55″ Monitor (26.94″ high), you wouldn’t want anyone further than 215.52″ (17.96 feet). This isn’t a published specification but we have found it to be a reasonable approximation.
You can assume a factor of 6 times the image height for detailed viewing and Powerpoint presentations. A factor of 4 times is needed for close inspection viewing of complex information.
While the screen multiplier calculation can get you close, sometimes we like to use a more detailed method based on the size of the fonts being used. This will require us to make some approximated guesses (the customer will typically not have this information)
Excel: Assume 11 points (Excel font size can be changed by clicking the “ribbon” button and choosing “Excel Options”)
Powerpoint: Assume 32 points. (In reality this size can vary widely)
Note: Font size in points is not exactly equal to pixel height. For 11 Points, our text will be 15 pixels hight, while 32 points will be 42 pixels. (The abbreviation for pixels is ppx) There is a good reference chart on point to pixel conversion if you are interested in where we got those numbers.
The computer resolution will also be needed, this could be XGA (1024×768), 1080p (1920×1080) or a wide variety of others. For the distance calculation we will be using the height of the image in pixels.
A recommended maximum distance for comfortable viewing of text is 150 times the text height. While you don’t have to stay in this range it will provide the most viewable content if the environment permits.
Hs = (DPimg)/(150Ptxt)
Where Hs = Minimum recommended screen height D = Distance to farthest viewer Pimg = Height of image in pixels (vertical resolution) Ptxt = Height of text in pixels
See Amazon Projectors, Amazon: Video Projectors : Business & Education : 3000 Lumens & Above : HDMI : 16:9 or 16:10 : 1920x1080 , Projector Database Search: 4000-7000 lumens, 16:9-10, Large Venue .
Our target is a 16:9 1920 widescreen 1080p/30-60 HDMI 1.4 projector over 5,000 lumens.
We choose widescreen because modern video/computer outputs are typically outputting 1280-1920 16:9 widescreen.
|Projector||Released||Brightness (lumens)||Resolution (output/input)||Contrast Ratio||Technology||Lamp Life (full/eco hrs)||Aspect Ratio||Throw Dist||Image Size||Zoom Lens||MHL||Lamp||Price|
|ViewSonic PJD5255||Feb 2015||3300||1024x768 / 1600x1200||15,000:1||0.6” DLP||5,000 - 10,000||4:3||4.0’ - 37.2’||29.4” - 300.0”||1.10:1||No||RLC-092 ($229.87)||$369.99|
|ViewSonic PJD7720HD||Jul 2016||3200||1920x1080 / 1920x1080||22,000:1||0.7” DLP||4,000 - 10,000||16:9||3.6’ - 32.5’||30.1” - 300.0”||1.10:1||Yes||RLC-100 ($276.70)||$549.99|
|Optoma HD142X||Jul 2016||3,000||1920x1080 / 1920x1200||23,000:1||0.7” DLP (1)||5,000 - 8,000||16:9||3.2’ - 32.8’||27.2” - 305.1”||1.10:1||Yes||BL-FU195C ($167.50)||$549.00|
|Epson EX9200 (best in EX line)||Sep 2015||3,200||1920x1200 / 1920x1200||15,000:1||3 LCD||5,000 - 10,000||16:10||3.6’ - 29.3’||30.3” - 300.5”||1.20:1||Yes||ELPLP88 ($64.61)||$789.86|
|Optoma EH416||Apr 2016||4200||1920x1080 / 1920x1080||20,000:1||0.7” DLP (1)||3,000 - 7,000||16:9||4.3’ - 30.8’||26.4” - 303.1”||1.60:1||Yes||BL-FU260C ($232.54)||$863.02|
|Optoma EH500||Oct 2013||4,700||1920x1080 / 1920x1200||10,000:1||0.7” DLP (1)||2,500 - 3,000||16:9||3.2’ - 34.6’||23.1” - 299.6”||1.20:1||No||BL-FU310B ($204.36)||$1,097.98|
|Panasonic PT-DZ6700U||Apr 2009||6,000||1920x1200 / 1920x1200||2,000:1||0.7” DLP (1)||2,000 - 3,000||16:10||8.4’ - 77.5’||50.0” - 600.0”||1.36:1||No (and no HDMI)||ET-LAD60A ($35.85)||$3,007.99|
See projectorpeople.com Lumens Guide for charts of Screen Size vs. Brightness in Lumens.
The following shortlist contains two categories of projector screen products:
- Business - Draper and Da-Lite are the old-school heavyweights, however:
- Consumer - Silver Ticket Productions and Elite Screens appear to be modern-day low-cost champions, primarily targeting consumers, but also advertising their products for business usage.
The quality of the screens appear to be comparable, however, price-per-inch is higher for the old timers, Draper and Da-Lite. Perhaps they’re using outdated infrastructure and are not as agile as the new comers.
|#||Projector Screen||Diagonal||Width||Height||Aspect Ratio||Gain||Front/Rear Projection||Price|
|1||STR-16992 Silver Ticket 4K Ultra HD 110”||110” (9.17’)||96” (8’)||54” (4.5’)||16:9||1.1||Front||$229.98|
|2||DRAPER 215024||109” (9.1’)||92” (7.7’)||58” (4.8’)||16:10||1.0||Front||$380.69|
|3||STR-169175 Silver Ticket 4K Ultra HD 175”||175” (14.6’)||152.5” (12.71’)||85.75” (7.15’)||16:9||1.1||Front||$599.98|
|4||STR-169200 Silver Ticket 4K Ultra HD 200”||200” (16.67’)||174.375” (14.53’)||98” (8.17’)||16:9||1.1||Front||$768.98|
|5||Da-Lite Da-Mat 92 x 144” Front Projection Fast-Fold Deluxe||167.52” (13.96’)||140” (11.67’)||92” (7.67’)||16:10||1.0||Front||$895.95|
|6||Elite Screens Aeon AR180WH2 180”||180” (15’)||156.9” (13.075’)||88.3” (7.36’)||16:9||1.1||Front||$899.00|
|6||Elite Screens Aeon AR200WH2 200”||200” (16.67’)||174.4” (14.53’)||98” (8.17’)||16:9||1.1||Front||$1,035.75|
|7||Da-Lite 88703 Fast-Fold Deluxe Screen System (Corporate A/V)||180” (15’)||104” (8.7’)||140” (11.7’)||4:3||?||Front/Rear||$1,330.40|
|8||DA-LITE FAST-FOLD NXT NSCW96X166||190” (15.8’)||166” (13.8’)||96” (8’)||16:9||1.0||Front||$1,544.00|
Though screen quality may be close to identical across the Business and Consumer lines, I think where the difference lies is potentially in the durability, versatility, and portability of the screens.
The business-tailored products of Draper and Da-Lite provide floor-mountable products with quick-release and fast-fold frame technologies for easy transport and quick setup/teardown, whereas the consumer products tend to be specifically tailored for permanent mounting to the wall or ceiling.
A screen with a 110” diagonal display is cheap - only $229.98 - but it’s too small for our purposes and it doesn’t have a tripod to stand alone on the floor:
Considering the overall cost savings, it could be a viable option to choose a lower-cost consumer “home theater” projector screen and build a custom PVC frame with legs (truss/tripod) to stand on the floor.
Search B&H: Da-Lite Fast-Fold Deluxe Systems, 16:9 165” - 184”.
Durability and ruggedness: constant transporting and setting up and tearing down, or in a rental situation
Consider your usage - viewing presentations, PDF files and other data files, or videos.
Smaller screen would make it more difficult to see the content (like text), while video is more forgiving to see what’s going on.
Screen gain is a technical term that describes how the material of a projection screen affects the apparent brightness of images projected onto it. A projection screen can be made of materials that make images appear brighter or less bright than the images that come from the projector.
Screen Height based on Seating Distance
Draper Inc., has this to say about screen height. “Screen height should be at least 1/4 the distance from the screen to the furthest seat for charts and data in a conference room”. ref
Calculate seating distance based on screen height vs the distance from the screen to the farthest seat (16:9 aspect ratio):
|Company||Screen-Distance Multiplier||Min height from 15’ (WxHxD)||from 75’||from 80.78’|
|Draper||1/4||3.75’ (80”x45”x92”)||18.75’ (400”x225”x459”)||20.2’ (430.6”x242.2”x494”)|
|B&H||1/5||3’ (64”x36”x74”)||15’ (320”x180”x367”)||16.16’ (344.7”x193.92”x395.5”)|
See Draper Inc.’s Projection Screen Size Selection and screen-size.info.
Compare these figures with the size of the screen used by the previous contractors for the same venue:
108"x144"x180" ($1,279.20), which is ideal for a maximum of around 45’ (midway in our 80’ diagonal viewing venue)
A middle-ground would be a diagonal screen size of around 270” (22.5’), which is
180" + 1/2 367" (the B&H 1/5 recommendation at 75’).
My ChromaPop green screen is 12’ wide, for reference.
Reference photo: 192”x108”x237” (WxHxD):
Here are screen-size-to-seating-distance recommendations based on an 16:9 aspect ratio projection using ProjectorScreenStore.com’s Viewing Distance Calculator:
|Location||Distance||Screen Diagonal (SMPTE*, 30º)||Screen Diagonal (THX, 36-40º)|
|Front||15’||110.7” (9.2’)||134.2” (11.2’)|
|Middle||45’||332” (27.7’)||402.6” (33.6’)|
|Back||75’||553.4” (46.1’)||671” (55.9’)|
*SMPTE = Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers
Your guests should be viewing the screen within these angles:
|45º from the center||30º up from viewer|
The 4:3 format isn’t much of a factor any longer as almost all new AV Installations are going to use wide-screens.
4:3 used to be the standard for Pro AV and that is why XGA (1024×768) is still very commonplace in the industry. It seems that the aspect ratio is really driven by what the computer manufacturers are doing. Several years ago, we started seeing computer monitors start to emulate widescreen TVs and come with wider resolutions, such as 1366×768 or 1280×800. The Pro AV industry followed suit with widescreen projectors and screens. For optimum viewing, your display device should be capable of displaying PC content in the native resolution and aspect ratio – otherwise content will appear stretched and/or blurry from being scaled. The most common wide screen aspect ratios are 16:9 and 16:10.
We personally prefer a 16:10 format for business when used to present data from a computer. The 16:10 format allows two document pages to be viewed in Word, full sized and side by side. Recently many of the new laptops have gone to a 16:9 format because it matches the consumer HDTV format for television. Most modern projectors can usually handle either format but we prefer to keep everything with native resolutions when possible. For a business environment we usually spec and prefer 16:10 screens and projectors.
Also see Optoma: Aspect Ratios and Native Resolutions.
3 chip projector to produce an infinite number of colors. Single chip DLP uses a color wheel to selectively choose the color of light to pass to each pixel on the chip. This is a much more affordable technology, but comes with the disadvantage of having a finite number of colors that it is capable of producing.