Increase my projector brightness or use higher-gain screen?

Discussion in 'Projectors & Screens' started by Aesclepius, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. Aesclepius Audiophyte

    Mar 24, 2013
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    Hello all,

    I am hoping to tap into your experience for guidance about a projector screen purchase. I am building a dedicated home theater in my basement, which should be a near-completely light controlled environment (walls painted dark burgundy, furniture and fixtures all dark burgundy/black, and only 1 window with a black-out shade.)

    I own a Panasonic PT-AE8000U projector, which will be ceiling mounted 15 feet from a 119” diagonal screen. Based on real-world performance reviews, I think this projector will generate about 620 lumens on its “best” mode: Rec-709. I think this should create an image brightness of about 14.8 ft-Lamberts on a 1.0 gain screen in my darkened theater.

    I am concerned that 14.8 ft-Lamberts does not provide much wiggle room for adding in ambient light (I would prefer to have side sconces dimly lit while watching some movies), or in case of projector lamp fading over time.
    My goals are like everybody else, I guess: to have an acceptably bright image with good color saturation and the deepest blacks possible.

    My question is: in order to increase the image brightness a bit, would it be better to use a matte white screen with a brighter picture mode on my projector, or to purchase a higher-gain screen from the beginning, such as a 1.3 – 1.4 gain screen. I have at least 2 brighter modes to choose from on my projector (up to around 1800 lumens on “dynamic” mode,) but my understanding is that increasing projector brightness will lead to more washed out blacks and inaccurate colors as well. I have already experienced the “dynamic” mode projected onto sample screen swatches, and the blacks were definitely washed out in a pitch-black basement.

    Would using a higher gain screen allow more wiggle room for image brightness while maintaining deep blacks, or does increasing screen gain lead to washed out blacks as well? My seating will be in a relatively narrow viewing cone, so I think the narrower viewing angle of a higher-gain screen would not be a problem.

    My frustration with this screen selection process is that I have no local dealers to demo various screen types, and of course demos would not apply directly in my particular room, but I don’t want to make a bad decision about a screen. I’m hoping you all can use your real-world experience to guide me.

    Of course, it also occurred to me that maybe any of the above options would look excellent for a non-videophile movie lover such as me, and maybe I’m overthinking this.

    Thanks in advance for your help!
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  2. BMXTRIX Audioholic Spartan

    Sep 16, 2004
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    Chantilly, VA
    I always recommend a minimal gain white screen in a properly treated home theater then be damn careful about your lighting.

    All lighting must be well away from your screen and during critical viewing such as movies, you will want the lights OFF for best results. A single lamp on can reduce contrast to under 50:1 very easily. So, light control truly is the golden word with home theater.

    People think that the 50:1 number is a joke, but I'm not joking, in the least. 50:1 is still a very usable contrast level, but it is that added light which destroys black levels and putting .25 lumens on screen with a screen that only has 15 lumens to begin with means your contrast ratio is, at most, 60:1. So, any lights you turn on must be over seating areas only (not near the screen ever!) and must be dimmable. That won't make them not create an impact, but it won't be as great.

    I have some demo photos of this impact at AV Integrated - Custom Audio Visual Integration In Washington DC Metropolitan Area

    In your situation, if using a fixed screen, I would get the Carada Criterion in Brilliant White and you will be very happy.
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