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How to choose
a projection screen
The most important specifications
vs. rear screens. For most purposes, a front projection
screen is the obvious choice, simply because it can fit into
any room without the need to build a projection booth. Still,
a rear screen has advantages. It will permit the use of visuals
in near normal room lighting, allowing your audience to take
notes and your speaker to maintain eye contact with audience
members. No matter what your lighting levels, the effects of
ambient light will be reduced, producing images of better contrast.
Speakers may walk in front of a rear screen without casting
shadows. Finally, the noise and distraction of equipment is
eliminated by moving it to a separate room.
surface. You’ll need to choose a surface with your projection
source and lighting conditions in mind. It will determine
the sharpness and brightness of your projected image.
projection, matte white surfaces (by far the most popular)
offer excellent definition for finely-detailed images, such
as computer text, while providing very good images from color
slides and overheads. Smooth silver or white pearlescent surfaces
provide particularly bright images best for video or computer
projection, but are too prone to hotspotting for overheads.
Glass beaded surfaces offer a brighter image with some sacrifice
of sharpness. They are intended for general video, slide and
film projection use, but are not recommended for computer
data. Lenticular surfaces are designed for video and slide
projection (not for overheads) and for rooms with side light
from windows. They work by focusing projected light that would
otherwise be disbursed on the vertical axis onto the horizontal
where it can be viewed. In the same way, ambient side light
that would otherwise mix with the projected image is reflected
projection situations, there are a variety of coatings and
screen materials designed for specific situations. Most standard
surfaces are best for rooms with a relatively narrow seating
cone and good lighting control, with specialty surfaces available
when viewing angles will be wide or lighting high. Your United
account representative can help you choose the best for your
measures the ability of a screen to gather light from a projector
and direct it to a certain location. A high gain screen can
be very important in situations where you want to keep room
lights high for note taking or discussion, particularly if
you can’t keep those lights from washing onto the screen surface.
is a trade-off between gain and viewing angles. There’s only
so much projected light to go around. A high-gain screen will
focus that light toward an audience seated tightly around
the horizontal and vertical projection axes; a wide-angle
screen will distribute it more evenly, thus providing less
light for viewers at the center. No matter how wide the stated
viewing angle, gain values will fall as you measure brightness
farther from the center axis. How dim an image can appear
and still be useable is something of a judgement call, and
for this reason the maximum viewing angles given here are
with screen surface. Most matte white screens are rated at
a gain of about 1.0, and most glass beaded provide a gain
of about 2.5. Lenticular surfaces are rated from 1.5 up to
about 3.0, and rear screens offer gains up to 5.0.
can supply a number of special high-gain surfaces when the
need arises, including some from Stewart Filmscreen which
are not described in this catalog. Please call your United
account representative if you have such a need.
angles. You should be aware that, no matter what a screen’s
stated viewing angle, seating an audience outside of a 90°
cone has inherent problems that no screen will overcome. At
angles greater than 45° from a line perpendicular to the center
of your screen, images will appear distorted, with objects
looking taller and thinner than they should. Thus most screens
are designed to focus projected light back to an audience
within that 90° cone, and images viewed from beyond that will
appear quite dim.
there are situations where wider viewing angles are needed,
and United can supply a number of surfaces for wide-angle
flatness of the projection surface
is very important if you plan to project computer text, since
most projectors have a very narrow plane of focus and will
not provide a consistently sharp image on a rippled screen.
Obviously, this will not be a problem with a rigid rear screen
or even with a fast-fold, but it is a big factor in a wall
screen. Tensioning systems physically pull a flexible material
straight to greatly improve the image focus.
correction on a tripod or wall screen tilts the top of the
screen forward to minimize rectangular distortion caused by
the projector being positioned lower than the center of the
screen. Tilting the screen will not always be necessary, as
many video projectors have their own correction built in.
It’s important, however, with slide, overhead and many LCD
borders can be very helpful. They provide a crisp edge for
any picture, eliminating any wash onto the wall behind your
screen and masking any unevenness due to out-of-level projectors.
By their contrast with the projected image, they also fool
the eye into perceiving the image as brighter and more colorful
than it would otherwise be.
material is important in larger screens. Many of the larger
screens in this catalog will carry a horizontal seem, though
United can supply very large seamless screens (and seamless
material up to 40’ x 90’). Please call before ordering if
this is a consideration.
is a key factor, particularly in motorized screens, since
a balky screen can stop a presentation. Too, screen repairs
can be expensive.
time is also important, as most rear screens, motorized screens
and certain tripod and wall screens will be made to order,
rather than kept in stock, by the manufacturer. If your schedule
is tight, you’ll want to order early.
typically recommends screens by Da-Lite, Draper and Bretford
out of the many brands available, because we’ve had good experiences
with delivery, reliability and after-sale support. If you’re
considering another brand, be sure to ask about these issues.
Remember, the real cost of a poor screen choice is loss of
the use of your meeting space while you’re waiting for a repair