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Where is my 4K?

                 Admittedly, 4K hasn’t gained ground as quickly in projectors as TV and computer monitors. With most LCD and DLP chips being produced for the A/V rather than consumer market, likely the pressure for pushing the bounds of resolution just isn’t there. You still have options to view 4K content without much compromise. The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB, for example, features a “pixel-shifting” technique that boosts its apparent resolution beyond the 1920 x 1080 pixels of each of its three LCD chips.

Projection Technologies

There are two technologies used in the majority of all projectors: 1-chip DLP and 3-chip 3LCD.

                       All Epson projectors use 3-chip 3LCD technology because they offer power-efficient projection that delivers bright, true-to-life images. 3LCD projectors have high color brightness as well as high white brightness. 1-chip DLP technology uses a spinning color wheel to render color which produces a lower color light output than 3LCD technology. 3LCD engines have no color wheel, and therefore, so there are no tradeoffs between white and color brightness.

MORE INFORMATION ON 3LCD ►

DLP

DLP stands for Digital Light Processing. There are two types: single chip and three chip. Single-chip DLP is the most common, and uses a combination of a color wheel and micro-mirrors to generate an image. Its historic advantage over LCD is that it can produce better color and contrast since the wheel can—in theory—be dyed to reproduce any color value or tonal value it wants. In addition, there is less space between pixels, thanks to advances in micro-mirror design, so you are less likely to perceive the so-called “screen-door effect.” The drawback to DLP compared to LCD is an artifact known as “rainbow effect.” However, recent DLP projectors spin the color wheel so fast, the rainbow effect is all but impossible to perceive.

Three-chip DLP is rare, and forgoes the color-wheel in favor of three arrays of micro-mirrors, one for each primary color. In some ways, three-chip DLP is the best of both worlds: eliminating the rainbow effect while keeping the pixel spacing reasonable. However, the technology is generally regarded as cost prohibitive and not often used.

Edge Blending

Edge blending allows the images from two or more projectors to be seamlessly merged to produce a single, larger image. Edge blending is the projection equivalent of a video wall, and can be useful for creative applications, allowing the creating of non-standard aspect ratios. Edge blending may be a built-in feature, or a third-party video processor may be used. In either case, the projectors must be of the same model and they must be carefully calibrated to ensure the images match.

DLP versus LCD: Which is better?

There are three imaging systems used in most projectors today: DLP, LCD, and one you might not have heard of—3LCD reflective. Between the DLP and LCD, it is really a toss-up these days. LCD has no “rainbow effect;” DLP a little less “screen-door” effect and better contrast. Apart from that, LCD has a slight reliability edge in that there are no moving parts in the imaging system, whereas single-chip DLP uses a spinning color wheel and micro mirrors. LCD panels can still fail, but more often it is a case of dead pixels rather than a catastrophic failure as when a DLP color wheel stops working. If you are using the projector in a remote setting where it can’t readily be replaced or served, then go LCD. Otherwise, LCD versus DLP doesn’t need to be a deciding factor.

Sample of screen-door effect

In some ways the underdog, 3LCD Reflective—found in LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), LCoQ (Liquid Crystal on Quartz), and SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) variants—offers the best of both worlds. Some of you may vaguely recall HD projection TVs that had LCoS. 3LCD Reflective is a reflective technology like DLP but, in this case, the light is reflected from a silicone- or quartz-backed LCD panel rather than micro mirrors. This system currently claims to produce the least screen-door effect and, because it is LCD, is free from the rainbow effect and other color-wheel-related motion artifacts.

Is 3D still “a thing?”

                  Consumer electronics manufacturers openly admit they’ve given up on 3D. You might still want 3D. If so, you’ll probably need to look for a home theater projector. Many multimedia projectors purport to be “3D-ready”—in most cases, this means the feature “DLP Link,” a 3D technology that only works with select computer graphics cards and software. Home theater projectors are more likely to offer what you really need, HDMI 3D support so you can use them with Blu-ray players. When spec’ing for 3D, keep in mind that you are effectively cutting the brightness in half. As an alternative to buying a 3D-ready projector, you can also use a combination of two-projector “stacking” and polarizing filters. In this case, a special processor is required to demux the left- and right-eye streams from the HDMI signal.

Now we come to implementing the three pieces of information mentioned earlier.

How much brightness do I need?

                    While throw ratio is very important, brightness is the most important specification to get right. And this is where the third piece of information I mentioned—amount of ambient light—fits in. If the image isn’t bright enough to be seen clearly, all other considerations fly out the window. Getting enough light out of a projector is often the biggest challenge, but 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 brighter… good luck!

 

Ambient light competes with the projector’s output, causing the image to become washed out.
                   In the ideal world in which we don’t live, projectors would always be used in total darkness. The more ambient light you add, the more you lower contrast and wash out the image. Even getting a brighter projector only solves the problem partially, since ambient light is mixing with the darker parts of the image, making them cloudy. If you must use a projector in ambient light, you will never get a perfect image, but it is possible to at least get a viewable image.

                   Projector brightness is measured in ANSI lumens (lumens for short). Calculating how many lumens you need requires knowing the throw distance, image width, how much ambient light is present in the room, and the content that will be shown. The simplest way to figure this out is to use a projection calculator, a software tool that crunches the number for you. Many projector manufacturers provide calculators on their websites. If not, Projector Central is a great resource, and offers projection calculators for nearly every projector model made.

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: at least 3000 lumens
  • A lecture hall, church, or other larger venue, or an environment with high ambient light: at least 4500 lumens
  • A movie theater or stadium: 20,000 lumens or more

 

How it will look if your projector isn’t bright enough

After looking at the calculator, you may have noticed brightness is measured in foot-candles. Without a light meter, how is one supposed to know how many foot-candles of light a room has? Here, a bit of judgment and common sense come into play. Would you consider it “well lit” (50 foot-candles), moderately lit (20 foot-candles), or dimly lit (less than 5 foot-candles)? Or is there bright sunlight blazing in? If the installation is for critical viewing, then I would recommend getting a light meter, and carefully measuring. But for most practical everyday uses, a rough guesstimate erring on the side of too bright should suffice.

The content should also be factored in. Are you projecting white song lyrics text over a solid, dark 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.

If you legitimately don’t know where the projector will be used, then get the brightest you can afford that you can transport comfortably. However, chances are, with a bit of thought you can come up with a reasonable estimate of the setting. For example, if you are a traveling product rep conducting trainings with groups of up to 20 people at various companies, 3000 lumens may be enough if you don’t encounter windows without blinds. If you do have a room without blinds, or are trying to project outdoors in daylight, be aware: no projector may be bright enough. You’re asking the projector to do something it simply wasn’t made to do.

Finally, if the projector is being used for any kind of critical viewing, then it is imperative that ambient light be eliminated from the setting. If this isn’t possible, then TVs or monitors (perhaps arranged as a “video wall”) should be used as an alternative. Ambient light not only degrades the image but also alters it, potentially undoing any careful calibration of the projector or color-correction work on the image itself. Projectors probably aren’t ideal for critical viewing to begin with, but especially not when there is light in the room.

Color Brightness?

Unless otherwise noted, brightness specs are probably derived from measuring the “white brightness” of the output (ANSI lumens). This can be misleading, because the way imaging systems render color images can reduce the effective brightness. To provide a more realistic value, some projectors will offer an additional “color brightness” spec.

Now that you know the throw ratio and brightness, you can consider secondary factors, such as resolution and contrast ratio.

What resolution do I need?

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. A few entry-level models are still SVGA (800 x 600), and pocket projectors sometimes have funky, low native resolutions that the manufacturers are coy about admitting. Because of high-definition video, increasingly widescreen formats starting at WXGA (1280 x 800) and 720p are supplanting the legacy 4:3 standards.

Personally, I would not recommend going lower than XGA. At SVGA and lower resolutions, pixilation in the image will be very apparent. Also, many computer programs require at least XGA resolution even to run. You can cheat and set the computer’s projector output to XGA, and let the projector scale the image down to its native resolution; however, the image will look blurry and smaller text will be unreadable.

In home theater setups, the screen-size-to-viewer distance ratio is a lot smaller than for other applications—here a higher-res image pays off. Otherwise, XGA is probably fine as a baseline, though going higher never hurts. Ideally, I would recommend starting at WXGA and going up from there. Even if you are PowerPoint user, bumping up to 16:10 won’t hurt, plus, you’ll be ready if you want to screen HD video down the road. For special applications, such as exhibiting photos, you will want higher resolution: at least 1600 x 1200 (UXGA) for 4:3 or 1920 x 1200 for 16:10 (WUXGA), if not better. In the case of home theater, it’s really a question of whether to invest in 4K or not, since nearly all home theater projectors are at least Full HD (1920 x 1080), anyway.

If you really want to be scientific about resolution, a quick Internet search will turn up many resolution calculators into which you can plug a screen size and viewing distance and the calculator will spit back a resolution. These are great but, as with brightness, the content really needs to be factored in, and a calculator can’t do that. A highly compressed YouTube video may look like hot garbage no matter what you try to show it on. On the other hand, if you are putting together a screening room for a production company, 4K may barely cut it.

Should I care about contrast ratio?

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. Dynamic contrast means comparing the deepest black with the brightness turned all the way down for image A to the brightest white with the brightness turned all the way up for image B. Unlike TVs, the screen surface plays an import role in contrast. Some screens boast high-contrast finishes at the expense of reduced viewing angles. Furthermore, any ambient light will reduce the effective contrast ratio down into the double digits. Under optimal view conditions, high contrast (10,000 or more) is a boon. But with more than a trivial amount of ambient light, a 500:1 contrast ratio and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio won’t yield a visible difference.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio is the difference between light and dark on a screen expressed by a number. If you take the brightest white on a screen and the darkest black and compare the luminosity, you will get the contrast ratio. For example, a 1000:1 contrast ratio means that the brightest white is 1000x brighter than the darkest black.

Therefore, a high contrast ratio means the projected image will have incredibly rich, crystal-clear detail. Contrast is especially important for the home theater, where ambient light might otherwise prove it to be challenging to see rich cinematic content if there is not a significant enough difference between whites and blacks.

Epson’s exclusive Vertical Alignment (VA) LCD technology provides an opaque black to be the natural state, allowing a projector to achieve astounding blacks with a contrast ratio up to 200,000:1.

 

Resolution

Resolution is the number of dots or pixels used to display an image. Higher resolutions mean that more pixels are used to create the image resulting in a crisper, cleaner image. High resolution is important for projecting detailed charts and graphs, text, and high-definition video. The resolution is indicated by a number combination such as 1920 x 1200. This indicates that there are 1920 dots horizontally across the display by 1200 lines of dots vertically, equaling 2,304,000 total dots that make up the image seen on the screen.

Projector Resolution

Business Projector Resolutions:

SVGA (800×600 pixels, 4:3 aspect ratio): SVGA projectors are low-resolution projectors that are more affordable and suitable for projecting simple data, charts, and video clips.

XGA (1024×768 pixels, 4:3 aspect ratio): XGA is widely used. Most computers use XGA as their native resolution, so pairing computers to XGA projectors is common.

WXGA (1280×800 pixels, 16:10 aspect ratio): WXGA is the widescreen version of XGA — delivering the same vertical resolution but providing 20% more horizontal resolution. This has become a common resolution for notebook computers and smartphone.

WUXGA (1920×1200 pixels, 16:10 aspect ratio): WUXGA is becoming the standard for higher-end notebooks and workstation computers. In addition, WUXGA is used for installation projectors and large-venues that require bright, high-definition content.

Home Theater Projector Resolutions:

720p (1280×720 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio): This format is most commonly used for economical movie projection. It matches the 720p HDTV standard.

1080p (1920×1080 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio): This is now the standard format for home theater. It matches the 1080i/1080p HDTV broadcast and Blu-ray formats.

Ease of Use

For hassle-free projection, you’ll want to look for some features that enable a quick setup — so you can project right away. These include:

  • HDMI — instant and easy digital connection to high-definition devices and allows digital audio through the same cable
  • Wireless capability — allows for projecting content without a cable and is available from many kinds of devices
  • Vertical and horizontal image correction — allows you to quickly align a skewed image on the screen which is key to setting up in a hurry
  • Instant on/off — means no extra waiting for a projector to warm up or cool down

More information on these features can be seen in the Connections, Wireless & Wired Projection and Image Position and Alignment sections below.

WATCH VIDEO: EASE OF USE ►

Wireless & Wired Projection

From your computer, there are various ways to project content without needing to use a wire:

    • Select a wireless-ENABLED projector . This means the projector comes with built-in wireless LAN (802.11 b/g/n). Once you plug the included LAN module into the projector, it will project wirelessly.
    • Select a wireless-OPTIONAL projector, and purchase the wireless LAN module that is needed to enable the wireless function. Simply plug the purchased LAN module into the projector, and it will project wirelessly.

Once your projector is configured to project wirelessly, use one of the following methods to start projecting your content without cables:

 

  • Install the free EasyMP software onto a computer to wirelessly project content from that computer to any network-capable Epson projector.
  • Use the Quick Wireless Connect USB Key (purchased separately) for quick and convenient pairing to a network without the need to install software. Simply plug the USB key into the wireless-enabled projector and then the computer for easy and instant wireless pairing.
  • Use the free iProjection App for iOS and Android to project content from a smart device to the big screen. Simply install the app onto your compatible smart device and connect the device to the wireless-enabled projector.

MORE INFORMATION ON IPROJECTION FROM SMART DEVICES ►

Connections

There are many types of projector connections such as USB, VGA, Component, HDMI, and Display Port. Many connection types are cross or backward compatible using an adapter.

USB Plug ‘n Play

Epson’s USB Plug ‘n Play technology projects images in seconds using just a USB connection, and it eliminates bulky VGA cables and computer function keys to toggle.

PC-free slideshows

PC-free slideshows allow you to project slides and photos without a computer by plugging a USB thumb drive or digital camera directly into the projector. Compatible with JPG, BMP, GIF and PNG file formats, simply plug your own drive into the USB port, and you are ready to display your images or create a slideshow.

USB

Universal Serial Bus (USB) may be connected and disconnected while devices are in operation (hot swapping). USB devices are self identifying, and USB is Plug-and-Play compliant which means installation and configuration of USB devices should be relatively easy.

HDMI

HDMI digital connectivity is compatible with the latest laptops, Blu-ray and other media players, and allows you to project high-definition video and audio with just one cable.

DisplayPort

Display Port connectivity is a simple, high-bandwidth interface that allows you to easily transmit audio and video through one small connection. It’s designed to work on most devices — from computers, monitors, and televisions to cameras, DVD players and more. Display Port also works with older technology; and with adapters, it can also be backward compatibility with VGA, DVI and HDMI.

 

WATCH VIDEO: HOW TO USE WIRED CONNECTION FOR AN EPSON PROJECTOR ►

Epson’s interactive projectors make a table or almost any wall interactive. The projector and pen combination give you interactive functionality in one package without the constraints or expense of a separate interactive whiteboard. Interactive projectors have either short-throw or ultra-short throw distances allowing you to project without glare or shadow. Interactive functions allow you to display and annotate content from a variety of sources and create large or small interactive areas using interactive pens to navigate, click, and draw.

Interactive Projectors

Throw Distance and Positioning

The projector position and the size of the image will depend upon your room configuration. Therefore, you will need to consider the throw distance and the projector features that will give you placement flexibility.

Throw Distance Image

A projector’s throw distance is the distance between the projector and the image on the screen (i.e., the distance that the image is “thrown”).

A few common throw distances are:

Long Throw: Providing very large images, this type of throw is usually from projectors that are installed in the center of the ceiling in a large room.

Short Throw: Providing large images while reducing shadows and eye glare, this type of throw is usually seen from projectors either installed on the wall or the ceiling closer to the wall — anywhere that is close to where the image will be projected. Short-throw projection generally refers to a distance between 3 to 8 feet away from projector to screen.

Ultra-Short Throw: Virtually eliminates shadows and eye glare, this type of throw is seen from projectors installed on the wall, the ceiling nearer to a wall, or a table projecting downwards. Ultra-short throw projection refers to a distance between 0 to 4 feet away from projector to screen.

Throw Distance Image

 

STANDARD THROW DISTANCE CALCULATOR ►

LARGE VENUE THROW DISTANCE CALCULATOR ►

Image Position and Adjustment

A projector that gives you simple control of image alignment makes using your projector effortless.

Manual adjustment should require only a few steps. Having a physical adjustment button or slider on the projector keeps you from having to go into the menu to change your settings. Automatic adjustment is an even greater benefit, allowing instant alignment with no need for user control of any kind. Most projectors have some degree of adjustability, but some are more advanced than others. Here are some methods of positioning your projected image:

Horizontal and Vertical Keystone Correction

When a projector is not centered directly in front of the screen but tilted or angled toward it, the resulting image will be distorted into a trapezoidal shape. However, keystone correction will correct this so the picture will be perfectly rectangular. This can be done manually or automatically.

With automatic keystone correction, the projector will automatically detect and correct the distorted image, with the touch of a button. A vertical keystone correction aligns the distortion on the top or bottom of the image, and a horizontal keystone correction aligns the distortion on the left or right side.

Horizontal and Vertical Correction

Lens Shift

Lens shift allows the lens to move vertically and/or horizontally within the projector to provide a perfect, straight-edged image with uniform focus. This allows for more flexible installation and placement options for the projector, with no loss of resolution. A vertical lens shift allows the projector to move the image up and down, and a horizontal lens shift allows a lens to move from side to side.

Like keystone correction, lens shift corrects the distortion of the image. However, lens shift has no loss in the quality of the image, since there is a physical movement of the lens to account for the adjustment rather than an alteration of the image itself for the correction.

Screen Fit

Screen Fit is a quick-setup function with an auto-sensing feature that intuitively sets up the correct screen size, keystone and focus — all at the touch of a button. Screen Fit uses a sensor that is on the front of the projector, to automatically correct the shape and position of images to fit properly on the screen.

Quick Corner®

Epson’s innovative Quick Corner feature helps you move any of the four corners of an image independently using the remote control, to help achieve a perfect, rectangular image.

Quick Corner Image Correction

Zoom

Optical zoom is a function of the lens allowing you to increase the image optically without distortion or loss of image quality, while digital zoom, which simulates optical zoom, is a function of the projector allowing you to enlarge a portion of an image.

Optional Lenses

Some projectors have lenses that can be changed. if a projector allows for optional lenses, you have greater flexibility on where you can position the projector in relation to the screen. Lens options allow users to choose the motorized lens most suited for their environment, and a quick-release lever allows for easy lens exchange. Using optional lenses, projectors can handle projection distances near and far.

Horizontal Easy-Slide Image Correction

To make quick horizontal image adjustments, the easy-slide control bar is a manual toggle on the top of many Epson projectors that easily corrects the projected image.

Networking

Projection Through a Network

Content can be delivered from a computer to a projector over a network, for meetings, presentations and digital signage applications. Using Easy MP Network Projector software, you can:

  • Send a single image or multiple, different images to multiple projectors from one computer
  • Share the projector with other presenters without changing cables
  • Connect up to sixteen computers to one projector

 

 

WATCH VIDEO: PROJECTION THROUGH A NETWORK ►

Message Broadcasting

This feature enables you to broadcast customized announcements, real-time messages, and alerts to Epson projectors connected to a network. Messages can be sent to over a thousand projectors simultaneously and will take control of the current screen content if the projector is being used, unless this function is disabled. For educators and large institutions, this feature can be a useful tool to send campus-wide or company-wide messages, announcements and instructions.

 

WATCH VIDEO: MESSAGE BROADCASTING ►

WATCH VIDEO: BENEFITS OF MESSAGE BROADCASTING ►

Monitor & Control

Epson’s monitor and control capability helps make projector maintenance convenient and easy. Benefits of using this feature include having remote access and management of Epson-networked projectors, saving you valuable time and money.

Installation Projector Advanced Features

Stacked 3D Solutions

Epson’s stacked solution, using two projectors, creates an impressive viewing experience with twice the brightness. Polarized filters, in combination with low-cost glasses, make it easy to enjoy a theater experience.

Stacked 3D Solutions

Split Screen

Great for collaborative meetings, classes and video conferencing, split screen allows you to display content of multiple formats from two to four images simultaneously on a single screen.

Split Screen

DICOM

Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine (DICOM) allows for superb and accurate tonal reproduction, for improved medical imagery such as X-rays.

Edge Blending

Use multiple projectors to overlap images with no bright spots where the overlap occurs. Projectors with this feature are ideal for art galleries, digital signage, video walls, command centers and stages.

Edge Blending

DCDi

DCDi (Directional Correlation Deinterlacing) is a video chipset that improves movie reproduction by de-interlacing video content, reducing noise caused by decompression and enhancing sharpness.

360-Degree Projection

With 360-degree projection you can project from any angle, by installing the projector from any position within a 360-degree radius.

split 360 Degree Projection

More Information on Installation Projector Advanced Features: Lamp Maintenance

Reliability and the cost to operate your projector depend on one main factor— lamp maintenance.

Filters are an important part of lamp maintenance. They protect the lamp and engine of your projector from dust buildup, keep it running reliably and make maintenance easy. Some projectors claim to be “filter free.” Though these projectors have no filters to replace, they also do not have a method to protect the lamp from outside environmental elements such as dust and humidity, which greatly impacts the life of the lamp. Look for a projector with a long lamp life—at least 3,000 hours is preferred, and about 5,000 hours is typical.

Finally, if something goes wrong with your projector, you want to make sure you can get it fixed quickly. Be sure to look at the service and support available for the projector you are considering. You should be able to get a support representative on the phone or replace your machine quickly if something malfunctions. Service and support, especially in mission-critical situations, puts projector cost comparisons in a whole new light.

 

Why do screen size and throw distance matter? Or: What is throw ratio?

Projectors have a very important specification called “throw ratio.” Throw ratio is a specification that is determined by the first two pieces of information in the equation:

  • How far is the projector is from the screen (throw distance)?
  • How wide is the screen?

For example:

  • Screen Width: 10 feet
  • Projector-to-Screen Distance: 15 feet
  • Required Throw Ratio: 1.5:1

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. Of course, you may have flexibility. Maybe your space allows you to mount the projector anywhere you want on the ceiling. In this case, while you might technically be able to choose any projector you want, you should consider mounting the projector as close to the screen as you comfortably can. Light is subject to the Inverse Square Law, meaning light intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. In layman’s terms, the closer you can mount it, the fewer lumens you will need to project a crisp image. At the other extreme is a case where you have an existing mount installed on the ceiling that you want to reuse. In this case, you will need to find a projector that features the exact throw ratio dictated by the position of the mount relative to the width of the screen.

Screen Size

Projector screens merit a whole buying guide of their own. However, at this point, many of you will be understandably wondering, “If I’m starting from scratch, how should I know what screen size to get?” A quick, and very rough, rule of thumb is to multiply the distance of the “least-favored viewer”—i.e., the person farthest from the screen—by 1/5. So, if your LFV will be sitting 50 feet away, you’ll need a screen that is 10 feet high.

But what if you don’t know? Or what if the projector is being used on the go? Every effort should be made to find out, since there is no “standard” throw ratio, nor is there a standard screen size. On paper, multimedia projectors with built-in lenses don’t appear to vary much. They mostly range from somewhere between 1.3:1 to 3:1, whereas a fixed installation projector with interchangeable lenses might have lens options ranging from 0.8:1 up to 15:1. You might have decided, since they’re all about the same, to risk it. This might work, but remember that even exceeding by only a foot on a 10-foot screen can lead to a critical part of the presentation being cut off.

If you really can’t find out, you have two options: spring for a model with more zoom—which will cost more—or err on the side of shorter throw. Not true short throw, mind you—those don’t have zoom and they keystone excessively if not carefully positioned. But something closer to the 1.3:1 end of the spectrum. Why? Because often, getting the projector closer to the screen will be less of a problem than getting it farther away.

Finally, keep in mind, throw is based on native aspect ratio. If, for some reason, you are setting the projector to a narrower aspect ratio than native, the projector will effectively have a longer throw.

Where does a projector’s light originate?

Projectors mainly use two lamp technologies: LED and metal halide. LED is still uncommon outside the realm of pocket projectors. Almost all the rest use metal halide, a form of tungsten lamp typically enjoying a lifespan of 2,000 to 5,000 hours if used with the default brightness setting. A handful of systems use hybrid technologies that augment LED with a laser light source.

Emerging Technology: HDR

In the context of home theater displays, HDR (High Dynamic Range) aims to be a dynamic contrast that works, and is bolstered by a high-gamut color space to make images really pop. At the moment, there is a bit of a format war, with HDR10 and Dolby Vision as alternative standards. On paper each offers:

StandardHDR10Dolby Vision
Minimum Resolution3840×21603840×2160
Brightness (Peak)1,000 nits / 4,000 nits Supported4,000 nits / 10,000 nits Supported
Color Depth10-bit / 12-bit Supported12-bit
Color Space90% of DCI-P390% of DCI-P3 (Rec. 2020 Proposed)

Dolby has a slight performance edge, while HR10 benefits from being an open standard that may gain wider adoption. Of course, there is nothing stopping devices from supporting both. It should be noted that devices claiming support for either of these standards may not offer full support. The 4,000 nits peak brightness target, for example, applies to backlit displays, but cannot be translated into the projector realm for reasons discussed in the “How Much Brightness Do I Need?” section of this article. Also, some devices fudge on color space and color depth. So, be sure to review all of the specs, not just the supported standards, to ensure full compliance.

To fully appreciate the HDR, one will need a complete HDR chain. The Blu-ray player, set-top box, or streaming device, the projector itself, and the content being played will all need to support the same HDR standard. Currently, the non-proprietary HRD10 is more prolific, though if format wars of the past are any indication, things are still up in the air. An Example projector that supports HDR10 is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema Full HD 3LCD Projector

What are keystone corrections and lens shift?

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 limitation of 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. If 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 stacking or edge blending) you will seriously want to consider picking a projector with lens shift. Lens shift serves the same purpose and then some, letting you “reposition” the image 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.

Original Image
Vertical Keystone
Horizontal Keystone

What connectivity do I need?

HDMI or HDMI-adaptable connection is the de facto standard these days. Many existing A/V installations are wired for VGA, so there is still a use case for this legacy analog technology. Besides VGA, multimedia projectors continue to offer SD analog connections like S-video and composite video in case you need them. Home theater projectors, targeting the latest consumer gadgets, may only feature HDMI (plus other “smart” connectivity). In large venue projectors, SDI—the standard video transport used in broadcast television—is common because it offers simpler cabling, is easier to route and switch, and supports longer cable runs than HDMI.

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. If you need to send HDMI farther, you can use baluns, special converter boxes that modify the signal so it can travel over a balanced (i.e., interference-resistant) type of cable, most often Ethernet.

MHL

Many consumer market projectors, like the Epson PowerLite 1264, now feature MHL support. MHL isn’t a connector as such, but a standard for intelligently connecting a variety of devices—especially mobile devices—to displays. The display-side connector is usually HDMI, while the device-side terminal will vary. Micro-USB or USB Type-C the norm for compatible smartphones and tablets. The full MHL spec admits features like 8K video at 120 frames per second, multi-channel audio, device control via a single remote, arbitrary USB data I/O, and more. Of course, devices that boast MHL will not necessarily implement these features. However, the most practically relevant today—HDMI output for mobile devices and the ability to control your device’s media player with a TV/universal remote—are standard.

Epson PowerLite 1264 3200-Lumen WXGA 3LCD Multimedia Projector

USB, Networking, and IoT

As technologies converge, projectors get smarter and become more connected. Besides MHL, projectors can be networked or otherwise linked to computers in a variety of ways. The classic mechanism is RS-232, and old serial standard that enables central control, most often using a system like Crestron. More recently Ethernet was added, again mostly to enable remote operation, but over a local network (LAN) rather than dedicated RS-232 wiring. These days, projectors feature USB, Wi-Fi, integrated media players, and more. This means not only can they be controlled remotely (even off site), but support presentation directly from other computers/devices on the network or within range. For small boardroom setups, you may even be able to “ad hoc” link a computer or mobile device directly to the projector without a supporting network. You may even be able to plug a USB storage drive directly in and present images, PowerPoints, and other content without a computer. The Epson PowerLite 1781W offers many of these features in a slim form factor, ideal for users on the go.

Epson PowerLite 1781W 3200-Lumen WXGA 3LCD Projector

Wireless Video

Wireless video is one of the most asked-for inputs. Some projectors have it, usually in the form of an optional USB dongle. But, because the video generally must be compressed and, due to the presence of so many competing wireless devices—especially wireless routers—the wireless interface on many projectors is recommended only for PowerPoint, photos, or showing relatively static computer graphics, not for full-frame-rate video. In addition, the range of projector wireless dongles is usually limited to about a 30-foot line of sight. If you really need to send video wirelessly, there are third-party options that can do it, and some are even uncompressed. The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040Ube comes paired with a wireless HDMI transmitter/receiver set, making it great choice where your home theater setup precludes HDMI wiring.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema Full HD 3LCD Projector with Wireless Adapter

Can I rely on a projector’s built-in speakers?

Projectors, much like TVs, aren’t built to deliver great sound; often limited to 1-watt or 3-watt speakers, which won’t cut it in most situations. In general, investment in a separate sound system—even portable computer speakers—is recommended. If you do need the convenience of an all-in-one solution, opt for a project that has at least a 10-watt speaker, such as the Epson Home Cinema 3700.

Epson Home Cinema Full HD 3LCD Home Theater Projector

Conclusion: Where does image quality come from?

Chances are, you want the best picture quality for your money and it probably seems like we’ve been avoiding the question, speaking instead about boring, if important, practicalities like throw ratio and lumens. To this complaint, there are two arguments.

  1. If the projector you choose isn’t bright enough, the image quality will suffer, regardless. If it throws an image the wrong size, the viewing experience will suffer.
  2. Image quality is difficult to measure to the extent it can be measured objectively at all. And a lot of “image quality” is just plain subjective.

Regarding argument 1, I’m sure you’ll agree I’ve said enough already. Addressing number 2, if you know what brightness and throw ratio you need, I would suggest to you that two projectors with comparable specs at a similar price will perform almost the same. Flipping a coin may not sound like the sanest way to make a purchasing decision, but once you’ve determined what features are mandatory, and settled on a price, you’ve already done everything you can to make a smart choice. Whether the preceding steps have narrowed your options down to one model or ten, rest assured, whatever you pick from those that remain will be the best choice for you.

The Takeaway

  • 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.
  • Considering 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 away 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 or mobile device.

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.

Glossary

Brightness (lumens)

Projector brightness is measured in ANSI lumens (lumens, for short). Since the lumens rating is often measured by taking a reflected reading from a screen rather than directly from the light emanating from the lens, there is a fair amount of room for number fudging. This is because different screen surfaces have different reflectivity characteristics, and you can probably guess which surfaces projector makers prefer when rating their own products. On top of that, the image center is brighter than the edges by some factor, so manufacturers will measure from the center (in some cases they are honest enough to admit they are taking a center reading, but this is typically on professional models that the companies know will get more carefully scrutinized by the end user).

Multimedia projectors start around 2500 lumens, going up to around 4500 lumens or so, though the line gets blurry between multimedia and fixed installation. So, you may see what is advertised as a multimedia projector having up to 6500 lumens. Home theater projectors used to hover around the 2000-lumen mark, but in recent years more and more high-brightness models haves started to emerge. As of this writing, pico (pocket) projectors, because they rely on LED lamps, are rated at 1000 lumens or less; some as low as 10 lumens, or about the brightness of a Maglite. At the other end of the spectrum, if you want to build a typical movie theater, you’re looking at 20,000 lumens or more.

 

Hybrid (LED/Laser) Projector Lamp

To produce higher brightness than is currently possible using an LED lamp exclusively, while retaining an acceptable CRI (Color Rendering Index), some projectors use “hybrid” lamps that combine an LED with an array of green lasers, combined using a reversed beam splitter. The benefit of this technology is a light source that does not burn out and offers lower energy consumption compared to traditional metal-halide lamps of the same brightness. The drawback is that the CRI obtained remains lower than what metal halide lamps can produce. Therefore, this technology is deployed in “presentation”-oriented projectors—that is, for giving PowerPoint presentations and similar applications. A projector optimized for video playback, showing photos, or anything else where good color reproduction is required will use one or more metal-halide lamps.

Keystone Correction

Keystone correction is a digital process that counteracts the keystone effect to a specified percentage. Most projectors have vertical keystone correction only, some have horizontal and vertical. The “keystone effect” (or “keystoning”) causes the projected image to appear wider at the top when the projector is too low, or wider on one side when the projector is horizontally off-center. Vertical keystone correction fixes keystoning when the projector is too low or too high, but requires horizontal centering. Horizontal correction compensates if the projector is horizontally off-center. Some projectors require manual adjustment, and some calculate the required correction automatically.

The drawback to keystone correction is that because it is a digital effect, the more correction applied, the more resolution will be reduced, a bit like digital zoom on a video camera. To avoid quality loss, lens shift should be used.

LED Projector Lamp

LED (Light Emitting Diode) is the most energy-efficient means of projector illumination. Additionally, LED lamps do not burn out in the ordinary sense. As with any circuit, they can fail, but they have a life expectancy on the order of 20,000 hours, compared to less than 5,000 for a typical metal-halide lamp. Currently, LEDs face two primary limitations to wider adoption in projectors: lower brightness and a lower CRI (Color Rendering Index) compared to the metal-halide counterparts. As of this writing, many LED-only projectors emit less than 1000 lumens and belong almost exclusively to the pico (pocket projector) category.

There is a very small minority of multimedia projectors that use a hybrid technology that combines LED with a green laser.

LCD

Three-LCD (often styled “3LCD”) is the most common imaging system used in multimedia projectors. In its most common implementation, three-LCD uses a beam splitter (prism) to break light into its RGB primaries, sending each color through a dedicated monochrome liquid crystal panel. Compared to DLP, LCDs do not tend to produce perceptible motion artifacts since they render the image line-by-line like a TV or computer monitor, and there are no moving parts in the imaging system. The drawbacks are lower contrast ratio than DLP, and more space between pixels, making the “screen-door effect” more apparent at a given resolution.

LCoS

LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicone) is also called SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) on Sony products. It is a reflective technology like three-chip DLP, but in this case, the light is reflected from three silicone-backed LCD panels rather than micro-mirror arrays. This system currently claims to produce the least screen-door effect and, because it is LCD, is free from the “rainbow effect” and other color-wheel-related artifacts associated with single-chip DLP. It is used in multimedia projectors targeting critical viewing applications and some high-end home theater projectors.

Low Voltage Control (LVC)

LVC (Low Voltage Control) is an output found on many projectors that allows the projector to trigger another component of the A/V or home theater installation. For example, connecting a projector to a motorized screen that has LVC support allows the projector to automatically trigger the screen to lower when the projector is turned on and raise when it is turned off. The LVC output may be connected directly to the screen, or it may be connected to an automation system which, in turn, controls the screen and possibly performs other actions, such as dimming the house lights.

Lens Shift

Projectors with lens shift have a movable lens-projector interface that allows the angle of the lens to be adjusted slightly (“shifted”) with respect to the image plane. Like keystone correction, lens shift can be used to correct for keystoning, but unlike the former does not result in resolution loss. In addition, it can be used to reposition the image slightly to aid in the installation of the projector or to help align two or more images when using stacking or edge blending. Lens shift has to be adjusted manually on some projectors, and is motorized—operable by remote—on some models. Large-venue projectors with interchangeable lenses typically have motorized shift.

Metal-Halide Projector Lamp

Despite advances in LED technology, metal-halide lamps remain the most common because they are bright and have high CRI (Color Rendering Index). The drawbacks: they burn out after several thousand hours (2,000 to 5,000 hours), force projectors to use noisy cooling systems, and are notoriously expensive. On typical multimedia and home theater projectors, only a single lamp is used, and it will be encased in a housing. Typically, the entire housing assembly will be replaced, not just the lamp itself. The old lamp should be allowed to cool fully before attempting to remove it, and care should be taken not to touch the lens. Oils on your fingers can degrade the lens coating and potentially cause the lamp to explode when it is turned on. There is minimal risk of physical harm since the lamp will be sealed inside the projector; however, it will mean buying a new lamp.

Dual Lamp

Some projectors use two (or more) lamps as a cost-effective way of increasing the total brightness. Dual-lamp design also provides a degree of redundancy—assuming only a single lamp fails, you could continue to use the projector, albeit at half the original output. On some models, it also means you could switch off one lamp to conserve lamp life and energy in situations where the full output is superfluous. This may not be ideal from the perspective of maintenance, however, since it means the lamps must be replaced at different times, and the sort of projectors that use dual (or multi-lamp) tend to be installed in places where they are not readily accessible.

Native Resolution

Native resolution is the resolution, measure in pixel dimensions, of a projector’s imaging system, and should not be conflated with its maximum supported resolution, which is often higher. Resolutions can either be SD or HD “video” formats, such as: 480i (NTSC), 576i (PAL), 720p, 1080i, UltraHD 4K (3840 x 2160), or DCI 4K (4096 x 2160), or computer VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) formats, such as: VGA (640 x 480), SVGA (800 x 600), XGA (1024 x 768), WXGA (1280 x 800), UXGA (1600 x 1200), or WUXGA (1920 x 1200).

Ideally, the connected device should be set to match the projector’s native resolution. Otherwise the projector will scale the image, resulting in image degradation.

Rainbow Effect

Rainbow effect is an artifact observed on many single-chip DLP-based projectors and is principally caused by the color wheel putting out different colors at different times. The effect is perceived as a rainbow trail in the corner of your peripheral vision as you move your eyes across image. As DLP technology has matured, faster-spinning wheels have significantly reduced this effect to the point people hardly notice it today.

Screen-Door Effect

The screen-door effect is an artifact produced to varying degrees by all imaging systems digital projector’s use: DLP, 3LCD, and LCoS. It can be described as a grid pattern, and is caused by the physical space between the individual pixels. At a given resolution, LCD projectors tend to exhibit the most screen door effect and LCoS projectors the least. Apart from choice of imaging system, higher-resolution projectors typically produce less screen-door effect than lower-resolution models at a given image size.

Stacking

Stacking doesn’t mean physically stacking projectors on top of each other (though stackable projectors usually support this arrangement). Rather, it means identical images from two or several projectors are projected over the same area of the screen, hence, the images are what is “stacked.” Stacking becomes a way of increasing brightness beyond what a single projector in the system is capable of, and may be more cost effective that buying a single projector of the same brightness. Projectors must be the same model, and calibration is required to ensure the stacked images match. Stacking is built in on many fixed-installation projectors that have lens shift. Additionally, third-party processors are available that allow images from projectors that do not have built-in stacking to be merged.

Throw Ratio

Throw ratio describes the relationship between the width of the screen and the distance between the projector and screen, with the first number representing the throw distance and the second the screen width. It is styled “throw distance:screen width”, e.g.: “1.3:1”. So, for example, a lens with a 1:1 throw ratio will produce a 4-foot-wide image at 4 feet from the screen. A “short throw” (or wide angle) lens with a 0.5:1 throw ratio will produce a 4-foot-wide image at 2 feet from the screen. And, finally, a long throw (or telephoto) lens with a 3:1 throw ratio will produce a 4-foot-wide image at 12 feet from the screen. Projectors with zoom lenses will specify throw ratio as a range, e.g., “1.3:1 to 1.7:1”. Unless otherwise noted, throw ratio is based on the native aspect ratio of the projector.

Multimedia and home theater projectors generally have throw ratios of 0.3:1 or more at their widest setting and of 3:1 or less at their most telephoto. Special short-throw projectors will have a ratio of 0.5:1 or less. Interchangeable-lens projectors will offer an assortment of lenses, covering ratios from 0.8:1 to 10:1 or more. In some cases, add-on lenses can be purchased to increase or decrease the throw ratio of the stock lens. As with converter lenses for video cameras, distortion and other forms of image-quality reduction may result.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio compares the darkest value the projector can produce to the brightest, can range anywhere from 500:1 to 100,000:1, and tends to be higher on DLP-based projectors. It is important to note, in many cases, the manufacturer-specified contrast ratio is dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast varies the lamp brightness between images (or scenes), basing the ratio on the brightest possible white the projector can make when the brightness is maxed out, versus the darkest possible black when the lamp is at its darkest setting (or completely off for some technologies). This means the advertised contrast ratio will only be perceived if a dark image immediately follows a bright image or vice-versa.

Apart from dynamic contrast, determining projector contrast ratio is problematic because the type of screen fabric (other projection surface) and the presence of ambient light significantly affect contrast ratio. In the case of ambient light, the more ambient light there is the worse the effective contrast ratio will be. And any amount of ambient light beyond trivial will bring the ratio down significantly, making comparisons based on contrast ratio meaningless anytime ambient light will be encountered.

                         A projector or image projector is an optical device that projects an image (or moving images) onto a surface, commonly a projection screen. 

                          Most projectors create an image by shining a light through a small transparent lens, but some newer types of projectors can project the image directly, by using lasers. 

                        A  virtual retinal display, or retinal projector, is a projector that projects an image directly on the retina instead of using an external projection screen.

                        The most common type of projector used today is called a video projector. Video projectors are digital replacements for earlier types of projectors such as slide projectors and overhead projectors. 

                        These earlier types of projectors were mostly replaced with digital video projectors throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, but old analog projectors are still used at some places.

                         The newest types of projectors are handheld projectors  that use lasers or LEDs to project images. Their projections are hard to see if there is too much ambient light.

                          Movie theaters used a type of projector called a movie projector, nowadays mostly replaced with digital cinema video projectors.

1.Real-time

  • Camera obscura
  • Concave mirror
  • Opaque projector
  • Overhead projector
  • Document camera

2.Still images

  • slide projector
  • magic lantern
  • magic mirror
  • steganographic mirror 
  • enlarger (not for direct viewing, but for the production of photographic prints)

3.Moving images

  • movie projector
  • video projector
  • handheld projector
  • virtual retinal display
  • trotting horse lamp 

                 

                       A movie projector is an opto-mechanical device for displaying motion picture film by projecting it onto a screen.

                       Most of the optical and mechanical elements, except for the illumination and sound devices, are present in movie cameras

                       A video projector is an image projector that receives a video signal and projects the corresponding image on a projection screen using a lens system. 

                        Video projectors use a very bright ultra high pressure mercury lamp, Xenon arc lamp, LED or solid state blue, RB, RGB or remote fiber optic RGB lasers to provide the illumination required to project the image, and most modern ones can correct any curves, blurriness, and other inconsistencies through manual settings. 

                      If a blue laser is used, a phosphor wheel is used to turn blue light into white light, which is also the case with white LEDs. (White LEDs do not use lasers.) 

                       A wheel is used in order to prolong the lifespan of the phosphor, as it is degraded by the heat generated by the laser diode. Remote fiber optic RGB laser racks can be placed far away from the projector, and several racks can be housed in a single, central room. 

                        Each projector can use up to 2 racks, and several monochrome lasers are mounted on each rack, the light of which is mixed and transmitted to the projector booth using optical fibers. Projectors using RB lasers use a blue laser with a phosphor wheel in conjuntion with a conventional solid state red laser.

handheld projector (also known as a pocket projectormobile projectorpico projector or mini beamer) is an image projector in a handheld device. It was developed to as a computer display device for compact portable devices such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants, and digital cameras, which have sufficient storage capacity to handle presentation materials but are too small to accommodate a display screen that an audience can see easily. Handheld projectors involve miniaturized hardware, and software that can project digital images onto a nearby viewing surface.

The system comprises five main parts: the battery, the electronics, the laser or LED light sources, the combiner optic, and in some cases, scanning micromirror devices. First, the electronics system turns the image into an electronic signal. Next, the electronic signals drive laser or LED light sources with different colors and intensities down different paths. In the combiner optic, the different light paths are combined into one path, defining a palette of colors. An important design characteristic of a handheld projector is the ability to project a clear image on various viewing surfaces.

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