Front projection refers to any display setup where a projector and a separate projection screen is used. A front projection home theater is any room -be it a dedicated or communal space -where a front projector and projection screen is used to enjoy your favorite movies or television programming.
Aspect ratio refers to -in a nutshell – the shape of the screen regardless if that screen is a projection screen or flat panel display. The shape is communicated numerically as a ratio of width to height.
Common Aspect Ratios Include:
- 4:3 – A more square shape that was very common prior to the arrival of HD on the scene. Your old TV (likely) had a 4:3 aspect ratio screen.
- 16:9 – The most common aspect ratio for television and movies today. Most projection screens and flat panel displays come as standard in the 16:9 aspect ratio.
- 2.35:1/2.40:1 – A common aspect ratio found in many of today’s Hollywood blockbuster films. It is wider than 16:9, resulting in black bars being visible top and bottom of the screen when viewed on a 16:9 projection screen or flat panel display.
Resolution refers to the number of total pixels a projector or flat panel display can showcase, though it is most commonly communicated as a ratio of width to height, similar to aspect ratio.
- High Definition/HD – High definition is often written as 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels (1,920×1,080), which means that an HD projector or display possesses roughly 2 million total pixels. HD is the current standard among projectors and flat panel displays.
- UltraHD/4K – UltraHD or 4K is often written as 3,840 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels tall (3,840 x 2,160), which means than an UltraHD/4K projector or display possesses a little over 8 million total pixels. UltraHD/4K is the emerging standard for projectors and flat panel displays. In the coming months to years, UltraHD/4K will surpass HD as the most common resolution offered by projectors and flat panel displays. If you’re concerned about “future proofing” your next projector purchase, you would be advised to buy one that is UltraHD/4K capable with respect to its native resolution.
It should be noted that a projection screen on its own has no resolution. A projection screen can showcase an HD, UltraHD/4K and even 8K resolution signal regardless of its price, makeup or design. It is your projector or display that is responsible for resolution, not the projection screen.
ANSI Lumens or Lumens refers to the light output of your projector. The higher the ANSI Lumen rating or number, the brighter the projector’s output or picture. It is possible to make a brighter projector less bright, but it is (virtually) impossible to make a dim projector appear brighter, so it is always a good idea to buy the brightest projector you can afford.
In a nutshell, contrast refers to the total difference between absolute black and absolute white. While contrast numbers can and are often inflated by projector manufacturers, a good rule of thumb, much like ANSI Lumens, is to buy a projector with the highest contrast rating you can afford -just to be safe.
Gain, as it relates to front projection home theaters and media rooms, is the measurement of light amplification, or lack thereof, for a projection screen. It is usually listed as a numeric value, for example; a screen with a 1.0 gain rating means that the amount of light you project upon the screen will be reflected back with no loss of light. Most white screens have a reported gain of 1.0.
If your projector has a lower ANSI Lumen rating (for example less than 1,200 ANSI Lumens or less) then you may want to consider a positive gain screen with a rating of 1.3 or higher, as a positive gain screen will subtly boost brightness and perceived color saturation and vibrancy.
It is possible for a screen to have negative gain. These screens are often grey in color (opposed to white) and have a reported gain of 0.7 to 0.9. Negative gain screens can enhance perceived contrast and black level detail, which may be suitable for some projectors and personal tastes.