Increase my projector brightness or buy higher-gain screen? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 03-19-2013, 02:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

I am hoping to tap into your experience for guidance about a projector screen purchase. I am building a dedicated home theater in my basement, which should be a near-completely light controlled environment (walls painted dark burgundy, furniture and fixtures all dark burgundy/black, and only 1 window with a black-out shade.)

I own a Panasonic PT-AE8000U projector, which will be ceiling mounted 15 feet from a 119” diagonal screen. Based on real-world performance reviews, I think this projector will generate about 620 lumens on its “best” mode: Rec-709. I think this should create an image brightness of about 14.8 ft-Lamberts on a 1.0 gain screen in my darkened theater.

I am concerned that 14.8 ft-Lamberts does not provide much wiggle room for adding in ambient light (I would prefer to have side sconces dimly lit while watching some movies), or in case of projector lamp fading over time.
My goals are like everybody else, I guess: to have an acceptably bright image with good color saturation and the deepest blacks possible.

My question is: in order to increase the image brightness a bit, would it be better to use a matte white screen with a brighter picture mode on my projector, or to purchase a higher-gain screen from the beginning, such as a 1.3 – 1.4 gain screen. I have at least 2 brighter modes to choose from on my projector (up to around 1800 lumens on “dynamic” mode,) but my understanding is that increasing projector brightness will lead to more washed out blacks and inaccurate colors as well. I have already experienced the “dynamic” mode projected onto sample screen swatches, and the blacks were definitely washed out in a pitch-black basement.

Would using a higher gain screen allow more wiggle room for image brightness while maintaining deep blacks, or does increasing screen gain lead to washed out blacks as well? My seating will be in a relatively narrow viewing cone, so I think the narrower viewing angle of a higher-gain screen would not be a problem.

My frustration with this screen selection process is that I have no local dealers to demo various screen types, and of course demos would not apply directly in my particular room, but I don’t want to make a bad decision about a screen. I’m hoping you all can use your real-world experience to guide me.

Of course, it also occurred to me that maybe any of the above options would look excellent for a non-videophile movie lover such as me, and maybe I’m overthinking this.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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post #2 of 3 Old 03-20-2013, 12:23 PM
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One key is that you already own the projector. I suggest you hold off on replacing it until you have some data.

First, try projecting onto a white wall from the final location. The white wall will give somewhat less than 1.0 gain, probably around 0.8. Add a small amount of ambient and see what happens. I run an Epson at about 17' from a 120" vinyl screen. I can tolerate a small amount of light as long as it isn't shining toward the screen.

A big chunk of the difference can be found in wall and ceiling treatments. After I lived with the setup for awhile, I painted the screen wall and ceiling a deep indigo and the side walls a medium-dark dusty blue. That made a world of difference in image quality in dark conditions, and also allowed the theater to tolerate a small amount of light in the form of a spot over the seating area and an area light near the equipment.

My issue with higher gain screens is two fold. First, they tend to hot spot, making it more difficult to position the projector. Worse, they tighten the viewing area. You might find you see brightness dropoff in even a three seat row, much less the 4 seat/row setup I use.
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post #3 of 3 Old 03-21-2013, 04:00 AM - Thread Starter
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thanks for the advice, jayn_j! I don't have a white wall to project onto in my basement, but I suppose I could be patient and wait until my theater build is complete before projecting against swatches on the wall. So far, it's difficult to get a real sense of it from those 12-inch swatches, though.

Does anybody else have any experience about whether deep blacks are preserved better by using a brighter projector mode or increasing screen gain?
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