Why Choose Projection Screen Technology?
In this day of large LCD and LED-backlit flat panel displays, flat panel video walls with shrinking bezels, and now the emerging LED video walls with shrinking pixel pitch (the distance between the LED pixels), why would there still be conversations about projection and projection screen technology? Especially since the cost of flat panel displays has come down over the years. The two main reasons to consider projection vs. a direct-view display are the required size of the image and budget.
Determining the correct size of a display image requires consideration of many different factors. First, we must decide how far away the furthest viewer will be from the image. Next, we get the viewing angle of the viewers most distant from the center line of the image.
While a wall mounted 70″ display will provide the needed image size for a conference room, it will not work for an auditorium or large meeting hall. There are several ways we create a larger display for these spaces. Creating a video wall of multiple flat panel displays or a LED video wall are two options, but for many customers, those solutions are out of their budget. For many clients, projection technology is still the best fit.
Challenges AV Integrators Face When Projection Screen Technology is Considered
1. Ambient Light
Ambient light can be natural light coming in through a window, skylights, and doorways. It can also be lighting created within the room.
As AV integrators, we do our best to control the amount of ambient light in a room using projection. We recommend window treatments to reduce the amount of sunlight coming in. A well-planned light dimming system will keep direct light off of the projection screen surface and control the entire room lighting to maximize the appearance of the projected image. However, on many occasions, these steps to curb the amount of ambient light are above the customer’s budget.
2. Viewing Angles
Viewing angles, particularly in large, wide rooms can be challenging. A simple solution is to install two projectors and screens displaying the same image, but again this can be outside of the available budget.
3. Space Availability
In many higher-end boardrooms or conference rooms, the trend for projection has been to build a space for rear projection where the projector is behind a rigid screen, projecting the image into the room, as opposed to bouncing the image off a front projection screen. This technique eliminates the inherent noise of the projector in the room; the projector is hidden (important to the interior designer), and typically provides a brighter image.
Another aspect of space that comes into play is clearance above the ceiling for a recessed ceiling screen. There may or may not be ample space where the screen needs to go.
4. 4K Resolution Requirements
The emergence of 4K resolution projectors has added another consideration. With projectors capable of much higher resolutions, the materials and coatings of projections screens must be able to reflect accurately the ever shrinking pixel of the displayed image.
Of course, there’s always the budget to keep in mind.
The good news is that projection screen manufacturers are doing an excellent job of addressing these issues, as well as coming up with other innovations.
New Projection Screen Technology
Screen Surface Material
The biggest new technology in projection screens is the development of materials and coatings that reduce the impact of ambient light onto the image. Ambient Light Rejecting, or ALR, is the new buzzword when it comes to projection screens. This new technology reduces the amount of wash-out from ambient light coming from outside or inside the room. ALR makes the images appear brighter, and in some cases can reduce the ANSI lumens requirements of the projector. The screen material is darker than the typical projection screen which helps with the contrast of the image, making blacks look richer. In some cases with these ALR screens, the viewing angles provide better off axis viewing as well.
When budget or lack of space will not allow a ceiling recessed screen, there are options for wall hung, fixed screens with thin bezels that are designed to look like a flat panel display. Used with an ALR fabric, when the projector is not on, it mimics the appearance of a flat panel display.
For collaborative classrooms and meeting rooms where projection is a good fit, there are many dry erase boards designed for projection that reduce the amount of high glare or hot-spotting on the image. These are typically for use with short throw projectors, even those with interactive touch sensors.
For users that have small to medium-sized rooms that use projection, but also want to utilize cloud-based soft codecs with their laptops, there are even screens that have a USB camera built into the bottom of the screen. Placing the camera within the frame helps to align the camera at the proper height to capture room participants. The screen comes with a USB Cat5 extender system that plugs into the user’s laptop to transport the video signal into the user’s laptop to connect to the soft codec.
Projection Screen Storage Options
For very large spaces with high ceilings such as large churches, school gymnasiums, and college auditoriums there often isn’t a good place to mount a screen. Many times the appearance of the screen case hanging from the ceiling of a large house of worship is considered ugly. One solution is a screen we mount on a motorized, operable arm. When not in use, the screen will retract in the case, and the case will fold nearly flat, parallel to the wall. When activated, the boom arm swings the screen case 90 degrees into the room; then the screen lowers for use. Another solution provides a winch system that can hold the case up near the high ceiling. When the projection screen is needed, the whole assembly lowers into position to the proper viewing height.
Projection Lives On
While some in the AV industry are suggesting the demise of the projection screen, there are situations where projectors and projection screens are the right fit. Manufacturers are developing new technologies to improve the performance of projection screens that keep them as a very viable solution.
Contact a Unified Technology Systems specialist today to select the proper screen to match your requirements.