In most home theatre applications, a permanent screen solution is used. Manual pull-and-release screens will protect the screen from being damaged by crayon-toting children, pets, and over-refreshed guests. This type of solution will allow the screen to be lowered to the desired height and locked into place. Manual wall and ceiling screens can be neatly rolled out of the way when not in use. And they are the most cost-effective solution.
How about an electric screen that disappears into the ceiling at the touch of a button? They certainly require less effort to open and close than manual screens. They also give your home theatre a cleaner look. But the extra convenience does come with an added cost. Electric screens are available in ceiling-recessed, external ceiling hung, wall-mounted, or ascending floor models. However, because they require a power source, electric screens require more thought, planning, and care to install.
Or perhaps you envision a fixed-frame screen, beautifully framed and permanently mounted on your home theatre wall? Screen fabric is then stretched and installed on-site.
Maybe you don’t want a screen at all; you’re going to have a section of a wall specially painted so it will act like a screen. A stealth screen, if you will. Special paint is available for this purpose.
For best results, the screen size should occupy a minimum of a 30 degree field-of-view for the audience. The rule of thumb is to use a screen width that is approximately one-half the distance from the screen to the viewing position.
Once you’ve selected a preferred type of screen, you’ll have to consider the screen gain specification. Screen gain is a measure of how reflective the screen material is, or in other words, how much light the screen reflects back into the room and to your eyes. Most home theatre screens offer a gain of 0.8, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3. Higher gain screens also exist. Generally, a higher gain screen should appear brighter than a lower gain screen (at least from the same manufacturer). If you’ll be watching your projector in a dark room, a lower gain screen is the best choice. Lower gain screens typically have less off-axis viewing irregularities and simply produce a better looking picture. Screens with a gain of 1.0 or 1.1 tend to be popular choices for home theatre enthusiasts. A higher gain screen is necessary only if you’ll be watching the projector with some ambient light in the room.
Acoustically transparent screens are available if you choose to place your speakers behind the screen.
Some screens are also available with black masking borders that enhance the perceived brightness of an image on a screen. The image appears to have more contrast and a sharper picture with brighter colors when framed by a black border.
Regardless of your choice, select your projector before you buy the screen. Set it up and make sure the image is projecting what you like, where you want it. After you’ve tinkered, tweaked, and twiddled, then buy your screen.