Now that you’ve determined what aspect ratio and what size projection screen will work for you, it’s finally time to start thinking about what type of projector you plan on using. There are several items to keep in mind when projector shopping, as the list of available devices seems to get bigger and bigger each and every year.

2D or not 2D?

That is the question that seems to take the cake in this year’s search for the perfect projector. That’s right – Just like those 3D projectors you see in your local electronics store, many projectors now come in this flavor as well.

Pricing is very reasonable, and as an added bonus, most 3D capable projectors look even better in the standard two-dimensional mode. Keep in mind that if you choose a 3D capable projector, you’ll also have to invest in 3D glasses that can easily run an additional $100 or more per person.

Remember that aspect ratio you picked for your screen? Well, today’s projectors have a native aspect ratio as well. What does this mean? The native aspect ratio is what the projector was designed for and the ratio where it will most likely perform the best.

If you opted for a 4:3 screen, then be sure to keep this in mind when projector shopping. For everyone that opted for 1.78 or 1.85, projectors with a native aspect ratio of 16:9 are what you should be looking for.

If you opted for a scope screen however, you’ll quickly find that you’ll have trouble locating a projector with this native aspect ratio. No worries – anyone you see online with a scope screen is using a 16:9 projector with a zoom feature or something called an anamorphic lens. We’ll discuss both of these items in future posts. For now, just know that a 16:9 projector will serve you well here.

Throw Distance 

As similar as it sounds, this is not a test of arm strength or how tight you can keep a spiral when going deep. Throw distance refers to how far back a projector needs to be in order to project, or throw, an image of a particular size.

To fully understand how this works, all you need is a dark room and a flashlight.

  • Start by standing a foot or two away from the wall and turning on the flashlight. Notice how small the light circle is that’s being projected on the wall.
  • Now back up to about 8 or 10 feet. The light on the wall is now much larger, perhaps as wide as 3 feet or more. In the projector world, we would say that this flashlight has a image size of 3 feet at a throw distance of 8 feet.

Easy enough, right?

Why is this important to you? Well, let’s say that you’ve determined that you want a 100-inch screen. After doing some research on projectors, you have your heart set on the latest and greatest projector from Company XYZ. You purchase this projector sight unseen and then attempt to mount it in the back of your room, which happens to be VERY shallow. Once you get everything connected, you power up the projector but just can’t seem to get the image to fit on the screen.

Are the gods of projection cursing you right now?

No. However, you could have saved yourself the headache by first looking to see if your shiny new projector could throw a 100-inch image from the back  of your very shallow theater. This, and this alone, is why throw distance is extremely important.

Fortunately, there are several calculators available online to help you determine if the projector you have in mind will work for you room. My favorite is one that was put together by the folks over at Projectorcentral.com:

Feel free to take a little time playing with the throws of various projectors to see how they affect image size,  as well as the benefits and limitations of having a shallow or deep theater space. Jot down the names of the ones you’re considering. In the next post, we’ll talk more about the different players in projection technology and which one may work the best for you.

(photo credit blmurch)

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