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Projector Screen Buying Guide

How to Select a Projector Screen

Below you will find the basics for making an informed screen purchase. Our projection screens are manufactured by the leading names in the industry, and each manufacturer has a wealth of resources available for you to choose from. To make it easier, we've put together a guide to each material from each manufacturer, with important info such as gain and viewing angle. Although these recommendations will work in most situations, each must be looked at not as a strict rule, but rather as a guideline for determining your actual needs based on your own situation.

For additional help in selecting materials, or projector screens in general, feel free to give us a call toll-free at 1-800-637-3181.

The Different Projector Screens

Pick the right type of Projector Screen that best suits your particular needs or application. For example, a quick and easy way to narrow your search is by choosing the mounting option that best fits your needs. Are you looking for a Wall or Ceiling Mountable projector screen or a Portable projector screen? Another simple way to narrow your choices, is by the type of functionality you'd like your screen to have. You can choose from motorized operation Electric projector screens, Manual pull-down projector screens, Fixed Frame projector screens and Folding Frame Projector screens.

Generally, if you would like a permanent installation, then Electric, Fixed or Manual wall and ceiling mounted screens are your best choice. If you find that your needs require a more portable solution, then a Tripod, Floor Rising, Folding Frame or a Tabletop projector screen is a better alternative. Below are brief descriptions of each screen type:

Electric Projector Screens

Electric projector screens can be Wall Mounted, Ceiling Mounted, Floor Mounted, or Ceiling Recessed(for a concealed in-the-ceiling installation). Electric projector screens are operated by an electric motor that raises and lowers the screen via remote control or wall switch. Some Electric projector screens have a simple plug-and-play design, while others like a ceiling recessed screen, require significant installtion and most likely the assistance of an electrician.

Electric Projector Screen Sizes

Electric projector screens are often large in size, therefore perfect for use in auditoriums, conference rooms, classrooms and in home theaters. The motorized operation of an Electric screen provides the user with a sleek, modern and flexible projection solution that doesn't hinder the decor or usability of a room.

Electric projector screens are also available in a Tensioned or Non-Tensioned screen surface. Non-Tensioned is the standard screen surface, which hangs freely from the casing support structure. Non-Tensioned screen surfaces are slightly more prone to creases, waviness or possible imperfections. Tensioned screen surfaces, on the other hand, provide a flatter more uniform screen surface with less possibility of imperfections. Typically, Tensioned screens are viewed as the highest performing screens, that maximize resolution and light reflectivity.

Manual Projector Screens

Manual projector screens are less expensive than Electric projector screens and are generally smaller in size, easier to use and install. Operating just like a standard windowshade, a manual projector screen is revealed by simply pulling the screen down by hand. Since "Manual" simply refers to the mechanism, there are many different forms of manual projector screens to choose from. The most common are wall or ceiling mounted, Tripods, Floor Rising, Folding Frame and Tabletop projector screens.

Manual Projector Screen Sizes

Manual projector screens are generally a less expensive solution, smaller in size than electrics and designed to be more portable. Perfect for classrooms, conference rooms, simple home theaters and situations where a portable screen is necessary. Certain manual projector screens like Tripods, Floor Rising, Folding Frame and Tabletop screens are perfect for on-the-go presentations and can easily fold up for convenient transportation. Non wall/ceiling installed screens like these are perfect for any circumstance where a permanent fixture is not ideal, whether there's a space constriction or a simple style preference.

Another convenient feature of many manual projector screens is a "controlled screen return" or CSR. Which, like many roll-down windowshades, stops the projector screen from rolling back into it's case too quickly. Thereby by preventing potential damage to the screen surface or the roller mechanism, extending the overall life of the projector screen.

Manual projector screens, just like Electrics, are also available in a Tensioned screen surface or with a Ceiling Recessed casing. Non-Tensioned is the standard screen surface, which hangs freely from the casing support structure and is slightly more prone to creases, waviness or possible imperfections. Tensioned screen surfaces, on the other hand, provide a flatter more uniform screen surface with less possibility of imperfections. Typically, tensioned screens are viewed as the highest performance screens, maximizing resolution and light reflectivity.

*Note - Manual ceiling recessed screens typically come with a hand crank mechanism for lowering the screen, because the casing conceals itself.

Fixed Frame Projector Screens

Fixed Frame screens are among the most popular projector screens, especially for Home Theaters, Auditoriums and in any situation where a permanent wall-mounted solution is required. Fixed Frame Projector screens generally require more assembly than other screens, however they are more easily wall-mounted, requiring less installation and no electrical connectivity. Fixed Frame screens are installed similary to picture frames, simply hanging off anchors on your wall, easily moved or uninstalled, if necessary.

Curved Fixed Frame projector screens add a flare of style and ambiance to any Home Theater. Creating the effect of enveloping the audience with its curved corners, the screen wraps the viewer in a full panaoramic experience. The Curved Frame projector screen design enhances the aesthetic appeal while also optimizing light reflectivity towards the audience.

Fixed Frame screens are also all designed with a Tensioned screen fabric, which creates the ideal projection surface. The perfectly flat tensioned surface maximizes the resoultion capabilities and light reflectivity of your projector, optimizing performance and creating the best possible picture quality. Many projection screen brands now manufacture HD Screen Fabrics specifically for Fixed Frames that provide the ultimate resolution, brightness and an amazing overall picture.

Portable Projector Screens

Portable projector screens are offered in a great range of sizes and styles. Portable screens, like Tripods usually use a pull-up screen on a free tripod stand. Historically popular in schools, because of mobility and relatively little expense, tripods are also widely used in business for traveling presentations. Floor Rising projector screens come in Electric and Manual operation. Electrically raised or manually pulled from a weighted base/case, floor rising screens make the perfect travel companion and can remain unobtrusive when not in use. A terrific alternative to a sometimes bulkier tripod screen the lightweight floor rising projector screen requires almost zero assembly. Floor rising screens are also available with carpeted cases, to enhance or match the decor of its location. These can be used when it is impossible or impractical to mount the screen to a wall or a ceiling.

Another lightweight portable option is the Tabletop projector screen. Generally maxing out at a 50" Diagonal size, these small ultra-portable screens are the most convenient when a large picture is either not feasible or just unecessary. The operation of Tabletop screens varies on the manufacturer; some pull up like a floor rising screen from a case, while others pull apart length ways and have stabilizing feet. Either way, this screen is ideal for any small presentation purpose!

Folding Frame projector screens are much larger in size than other portable screens, as they are usually intended for auditoriums, trade shows, stages or the outdoors. Typically snapped or screwed together from multiple aluminum frame pieces with a tensioned screen surface, these screens are strong and durable.

Outdoor projection screens have become very popular recently. Whether its for neighborhood block parties or just family movie night, the party's been moved outdoors! With outdoor projection screens ranging from large to huge....there's a size for every application. Some outdoor projection screens are electric, manual, folding frames, fixed frames or even inflatable.

Projector Screen Paint

Projector Screen Paint is an extremely easy to use product and is designed to be applied just like any other interior paint. The screen can be used immediately after application. Care should be taken to ensure a smooth screen surface. The smoother the wall, free of defects, provides the sharpest image. Most screen paints will take 24 hours to cure to perfection but can be used immediately. Unlike other projections screens, Screen paint can be used for literally any application; auditoriums, classrooms, boardrooms, home theaters, game rooms or even outdoor venues.

The Different Projector Screens Fabric

Selecting the right projector screen fabric can seem very complicated, however the better you understand the purpose of a screen fabric, the easier it will be to decide what's right for you. Different screen fabrics are designed to handle different applications depending on the resolution of the media being used, the lighting conditions, the viewing angle of the audience and the sound distribution within the environment.

The most important place to start when selecting a screen fabric, are with the Gain and Viewing Angle of the fabric. There is a lot to know about each and how they affect each other (as gain increases viewing angle usually decreases). Having a basic understanding of these features prior to making your choice of a projector screen fabric, is the only way to ensure that you will make the most out of your equipment within the constraints of your environment.

Understanding Gain

Gain, is a measurement of a screen fabrics light reflectivity from the projection device, when the measurement is taken for light targeted and reflected perpendicular to the screen. A typical screen Gain of 1.0, means that all the light being directed at the screen is being reflecting back with the same brightness. Gain is however, directly affected by ambient light in the environment of the projected image. The brighter it is in a room(whether natural light from windows, or artificial light from bulbs), the greater the light being reflected will dissipate and wash out the image. Conversely, the less ambient light, the truer the image brightness will remain.

Gain greater than 1.0 - Means that the projection screen fabric is increasing the brightness of the projected image back to the audience.

Application - Higher Gain screen fabrics are typically used in environements with higher ambient light, where the light cannot be adequately dimmed or controlled. For example: large auditoriums, convention centers or office building with windows. They are also used when a projector is not powerful enough to create the adequate amount of brightness for the evironment.

Pros and Cons? - Since an images brightness is a very subjective opinion, increased brightness may or may not be positive or negative. That all depends on the personal preferences of each individual. Too much brightness, however does eventually lead to the negative effect of "hot spotting". Projector screen fabrics with higher Gain exhibit mirror-like properties, namely a bright "hot spot" in the screen an enlarged (and greatly blurred) reflection of the projector's lens.

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle is a measurement of the distance from the center of the screen at which you can still see the same quality image as from the viewing axis. For example, some projection screens reflect more light perpendicular to the screen and less light to the sides, making the screen appear much darker (and sometimes colors distorted) if the viewer is not in the "sweet spot" or in the optimal viewing angle of the screen.

The difference between a narrow viewing and versus a wider viewing angle.

Grey Fabrics? Acoustic Transparency?

While white screens are the industry standard because of brightness, another important screen fabric decision involves the contrast of your projected image. A Grey screen is generally more capable of handling darker tones than its white counterpart. Contemporary grey screens are designed to have a gain factor similar to those of matte white screens, but a darker appearance with blacker black coloring. A darker Grey screen reflects less light, of course â€" both light from the projector and ambient light. This decreases the luminance (brightness) of both the projected image and ambient light, so while the light areas of the projected image are dimmer, the dark areas are darker; white is less bright, but intended black is closer to actual black. Many screen manufacturers thus appropriately call their grey screens "high-contrast" models.

Grey screens are designed to rely on powerful projectors that are able to produce adequate levels of luminosity so that the white areas of the image still appear as white, taking advantage of the non-linear perception of brightness in the human eye. A grey screen may thus succeed almost as well in delivering a bright-looking image, as a white screen would.

Another popular projection screen fabric feature is acoustic transparency, using perforated screen fabrics. Standard and microscopic perforations are available, which allow sound to pass through the screen with relatively little interference. The perforations in the screen fabric, thus create an acoustically transparent surface that does not compromise audio quality when speakers are palced behind the screen. The perforations are generally very small and barely noticeable at a distance. This acoustically transparent screen solution is ideal for many types of stage, cinema and home theater installations.

Projector Screen Sizes

Screens are sized in a few standard formats: square, video format and HDTV are some of the most popular.


Square format projector screens have a width to height ratio that is generally 1:1, with some variation. Square screens are usually used for data presentations and overhead projectors.

Video Format

Video format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 4:3.The 4:3 ratio for standard television has been in use since television's origins and many computer monitors use the same aspect ratio. Video Format screens are the best option if you'll be switching equally between fullscreen and widescreen viewing.


HDTV format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 16:9. HDTV screens the optimal format for home theater, offering the best matched fit for widescreen viewing and is the international standard format of HDTV. Wider options include Letterbox and Widescreen; not all but a few of our screens are available in these sizes.

Can't Come To A Decision?

Chat us now! We can help! Can't come to a decision about which size or format screen you want?
We carry a huge assortment of screens with masking systems that modify the format or size of your screen.

Selecting the right Screen Accessories

Do you need mounting brackets, projector mounts, cables or a remote?

We have a wide range assortment of speaker mounts and screen accessories for finishing your projection needs.

Once you have followed our selection steps, you should be able to identify what you need. We carry screens from the finest screen manufacturers on the market: Da-Lite, Draper, Buhl Industries, Elite Screens. If you have any questions, please give us a call.

Our projection specialists are ready to help you (toll-free 1-800-637-3181), 9 AM to 5 PM EST, Monday through Friday.

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