There are two misunderstandings about projection-based home theaters. The first one is that they are only appropriate for dark, dedicated rooms. The second one is that all home theater screens are substantially the same. This year’s CEDIA Expo proved both of those ideas are sincerely flawed.
The reason why is because home theater screen manufacturers now have a wide assortment of new materials and applications that make projection video systems possible for nearly anywhere.
When Home Theater projection screens are installed correctly and matched with the right components, they are better than flat panel TVs in almost every way. They’re bigger (with a few exclusions flat panel TVs max out at 90 inches.), are easier to disguise, can present a better picture, take no wires (unless they are motorized) and can be less expensive per square inch than good flat panel TVs. They also supply a much greater emotional encounter and immersion for the viewer.
But if you want to watch a video in a non-dark room, there are ambient light rejecting home theater screens for just that. If you want to watch a video outside, weather-proof and wind-proof home theater screens are available. You can also get an acoustically transparent home theater screen and put the speakers behind it if you do not want the speakers to stand out in the room. If you want to hide your home theater screen, there are retractable screens with different price options.
This means that picking a screen for your home theater or media room is a lot more complex than it used to be years ago. A few years ago you either went with a matte white screen or a gray screen. White screens were used in dark caves and gray screens helped a little with ambient light and helped boost contrast on weaker projectors.
Then there were different variations of gray in different gains, which is the amount of light the screen reflects back and better acoustically transparent materials, which are used for hiding the speakers behind the home theater screen. There were also angular reflection screens that reject light coming from anywhere except from the direction of the projector.
All those differences are designed mostly for matching the projector’s capabilities to the home theater screen and the room lighting conditions. Once that’s decided you need to contemplate the installation and aesthetic needs of the home theater room. Fixed, wall-mounted screens are still the most typical in dedicated home theaters, but dedicated home theater rooms are now being dominated by multipurpose media rooms. For situations where watching a big picture isn’t the only, or even the primary, purpose of the room, motorized screens that lower from the ceiling or raise from a cabinet are now typical for hiding a home theater screen when it’s not in use.
But, fixed screens that look more like flat panel TVs are the present rage. Now most major screen companies offer a minimal bezel around the edge.