Why do many high-budget theaters often have "small" screens? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 06-21-2013, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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This is something I stumble upon again and again, and it bothers the $*&^#t out of me every time -- examples of theaters in expensive homes (some with the theater itself having a 6 or 7 digit price tag), that look like the screen size is way too small for the room, and rather underwhelming.

It always makes me wonder ....WHY?!?!?!? Usually these rooms are fairly large, and if someone has so much money to spend, why don't they have a screen that is proportional to the room? Is it a choice of the homeowner, or do they leave it entirely up to "theater installers" to install "whatever" and that's what they end up with? I'm certainly not calling a 120"-or-so screen "small" by any means, in a normal-sized (non-mansion) room it's great. But in these huge rooms something around that size just looks lost and doesn't give me that "wow" big-screen feeling at all.

I've supplied some examples below of what I'm talking about. The first one is from the Theo Kalomirakis website, someone who is very respected in the theater industry and knows what he's doing in theater design. But as you can see his theaters are certainly not immune from what I'm describing. I know there are technical limitations, and room design elements may sometimes be limiting factors, but I refuse to believe a bigger screen couldn't be done in most cases. If projector brightness is a concern, what's a $50-100k Barco that throws tons of lumens to someone with a huge budget?

Note: I also realize wide-angle camera lenses can make a room look longer than it really is and objects in the room (like the screen) look smaller than they really are, but again I don't think that's the problem in these particular pictures.


Can anyone shed some light? Please explain to me if there is a reason, I keep seeing this over and over.


homepage.jpg




4222769_12.jpg




4162962_23.jpg




l18767842-m16o.jpeg



To show what I mean with what I consider screen size done "right", here is a quick selection from the completed theater thread, "Damelon's" theater. In my opinion this screen is perfectly sized to the room.

DSC03999.jpg
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post #2 of 52 Old 06-21-2013, 06:29 PM
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I am in full agreement. It would seem that those beautiful theaters would have larger screens. Each room is actually very large.
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post #3 of 52 Old 06-21-2013, 06:38 PM
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Is there a ratio of screen size to room width or height ?

I assume length is less important right ?

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post #4 of 52 Old 06-21-2013, 09:18 PM
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Form over function? The third picture is really funny. The side seats' best view is of the speaker grills and twelve of the eighteen seats in that theater are side seats.
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post #5 of 52 Old 06-22-2013, 10:18 AM
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Yep, definitely "style" over substance for a lot of the ones we've seen over the years in publications, and the CEDIA contests. I noticed the same thing looking through the design books over the years. Why build it if you're not going to have a "big" screen - and I mean a proper ratio as a commercial cinema, not "big big", as in overkill or wall-to-wall...

In the past there were real technical limitations - the projectors just couldn't throw enough light to fill a really big screen, and I'm sure the installer's worst nightmare was one of these high-end customer complaining about a 'dim' image... Yes, there have always been super-expensive projectors that could do the job, but I suspect that the aesthetics of the space probably impact both choice and placement, too. And it's a shame, as when you see the equipment lists for many of these rooms, they've spend megabucks on amps and automation equipment - so it's not like "budget" was a concern.

I did a pie chart for my build showing the percentages of room finishing vs. equipment - I'll bet the "room finish" percentages on many of those shown are very, very skewed in comparison...


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post #6 of 52 Old 06-22-2013, 11:07 AM
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All of the theaters I've built have been 3-4 seat front row wide. That translates to a 130-140 wide screen.

Now looking at one picture I count 7 seats in the front row. The availability of a projector capable of shining a bright enough image for a proportionally bigger screen is pretty limited and very expensive.

JEFF PARKINSON


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post #7 of 52 Old 06-22-2013, 04:52 PM
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I've seen some of these watching HGTV and the sort, there are huge rooms with budgets of $5-600 thousand, and then there is a little tiny screen up front. I do system design for Best Buy yea yea I know, but it never amazes me people will be willing to spend $10, 000 on seats and $4000 on a cabinet but don't want to spend $3k on a projector and screen. Probably the same thing you see going on with these rooms with just some more zero's on the end.
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post #8 of 52 Old 06-22-2013, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

All of the theaters I've built have been 3-4 seat front row wide. That translates to a 130-140 wide screen.

Now looking at one picture I count 7 seats in the front row. The availability of a projector capable of shining a bright enough image for a proportionally bigger screen is pretty limited and very expensive.

Big,

Of course we have all perused your builds, and gleamed much inspiration from them. I was thinking about this issue when contemplating the size of the theater I will have when we build our home. I believe it was Art (screenname?) who had 3 rows and looked like 15 total seats. I was thinking that would be about the size I would want to go. The issue as I was thinking about the room is how to mount the projector taking into consideration the back row viewing angles?
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post #9 of 52 Old 06-22-2013, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Quickett View Post

Big,

Of course we have all perused your builds, and gleamed much inspiration from them. I was thinking about this issue when contemplating the size of the theater I will have when we build our home. I believe it was Art (screenname?) who had 3 rows and looked like 15 total seats. I was thinking that would be about the size I would want to go. The issue as I was thinking about the room is how to mount the projector taking into consideration the back row viewing angles?

As long as you have enough ceiling height and do the risers "reasonably", the projector can hang overhead without being in the sight lines... Mine hangs over my bar (3rd row) and even standing behind it is still out of the way.

Jeff


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post #10 of 52 Old 06-23-2013, 06:17 AM
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I would think making a DIY fixed screen that is 150" and then masks down to different formats and sizes all the way down to 110" would be ideal for many. Am I wrong in thinking that ? Anyone that has done that ?

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post #11 of 52 Old 06-23-2013, 07:28 AM
 
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I have many, more important things that bother me, than someone elses choice of screen size... rolleyes.gif
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post #12 of 52 Old 06-23-2013, 07:43 AM
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Respected designers or not, those first four theaters are truly awful, IMHO. Undersized screens are the least of the problems. Gaudy Las Vegas ambiance if I've ever seen it.

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post #13 of 52 Old 06-23-2013, 08:14 AM
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I've always wondered this myself when browsing through magazines. There have even been a few "high budget theater rooms" with plasma displays and theater seating. I myself did the opposite. Small room, small budget, big screen. biggrin.gif


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post #14 of 52 Old 06-23-2013, 09:18 AM
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While we are theater bashing, whats up with those loose weave curtains over the windows in this space? Must be a theater for show not for actual use. The more I look at this picture I suspect they are using a rear projection set-up to deal with the ambient light issue.


JEFF PARKINSON


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post #15 of 52 Old 06-24-2013, 04:58 AM
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Those high end theaters always look way overdone for my taste. I like high performance simplicity.

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post #16 of 52 Old 06-24-2013, 02:39 PM
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Yes I've always noticed the too-small-screen syndrome as well. Though we do have to make allowance for the effect of wide angle lenses to be sure.

I'm perhaps even more often amazed at the decor choices made in high budget home theaters, or those created by professionals in general. I'm talking about the contrast-ruining
choices of brighter wall, carpet and furniture colors.

I was even reading a DIY home theater article in Home Cinema Choice magazine. They did a make-over of a room into a home theater/av room, naturally mentioning how enthusiasts want reference-quality picture and sound. The magazine did the reno for one of their own writer/reviewers for Home Cinema Magazine. And look at the friggin' result:

http://www.homecinemachoice.com/news/article/diy-install-room-with-a-view-part-4/12885

So...let's set up a projector-based home theater in a small room. But lets make sure the ceiling and walls are BRIGHT WHITE! And don't forget the carpet - make sure it's a bright cream color! Oh, and the sofa? Bright white! Wait, we haven't done enough to absolutely ensure we destroy our contrast, so let's choose a WHITE SCREEN instead of a specialty gray screen that would have any hope in that room.

It would be one thing if some clueless interior designer were behind all those performance-destroying decor choices, but these choices are from a magazine purportedly advising it's readers each month on maximizing the performance of their set ups.

The mind boggles.

Rich H


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post #17 of 52 Old 06-24-2013, 10:31 PM
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Wow Rich. Hard to find much right with that example - white walls, in ceiling surrounds (well if you have to), ... this one cracked me up though:

Composite: 15m @ £39.99 p/3m

Edit: I agree on the ridiculously ornate decor choices - not my cup of tea, maybe a generational thing (trying to recreate the look of that really ugly theater the owner loved as a child).


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post #18 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 05:08 AM
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I think it's age related. I'm guessing these over the top decor theaters are owned by older folks with larger wallets and less acute vision and hearing.

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post #19 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 10:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DL4567 View Post

This is something I stumble upon again and again, and it bothers the $*&^#t out of me every time -- examples of theaters in expensive homes (some with the theater itself having a 6 or 7 digit price tag), that look like the screen size is way too small for the room, and rather underwhelming.....

Can anyone shed some light? Please explain to me if there is a reason, I keep seeing this over and over.
The answer is painfully simple and embarrassingly fundamental. If the system design goal is reference-grade imaging performance, the limitations of HD video reproduction and human vision will require a smaller viewing angle than uninformed consumers typically expect. This can change with the availability of 4K/UHDTV/2160p displays and content. Higher resolution allows for wider viewing angles without deleterious consequences to image integrity.

If reference performance of the system is top priority, the size of the room has no relation whatsoever to how large the screen should be. The determining factor for image size is how far from the screen the primary seating location will be. In most home cinemas it will be the owners who spend the most time with the system. Where they sit dictates screen size. A 1920 x 1080 image should generally occupy a 30 degree viewing angle for average 20/20 vision. That's a seating distance of approximately 3.3 times the screen height, or 1.5 times the screen diagonal for a 1.78:1 screen aspect ratio. There can be slight variations to this recommendation when factoring in the differences in actual visual acuity of non-average viewers.

Some consumers are willing to sacrifice image quality for bigger picture size. They can tolerate a pixelated image, or one that is softened, for the sake of a larger field of view.

Best regards and beautiful pictures,
G. Alan Brown, President
CinemaQuest, Inc.
A Lion AV Consultants affiliate

"Advancing the art and science of electronic imaging"
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post #20 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 11:42 AM
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In my one experience with one of those "theater installers," they definitely sized the screen smaller than I would've thought. I was curious to see what a "pro" company would come up with so I took my dimensions and some photos to a local place. For my 14x23 room, the recommended screen size was only 92" 16x9. When I asked about a scope screen he immediately poo-poo'd the idea saying that with my dimensions the room couldn't support it. I politely thanked him and told him I wanted to shop my project around to other installers. About a week later he came back with some really gaudy drawings and said he could bump the screen up to 100". (How generous! lol) In the end, my screen is 141" scope (110" 16x9) and I couldn't be happier.

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post #21 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blipszyc View Post

In my one experience with one of those "theater installers," they definitely sized the screen smaller than I would've thought. I was curious to see what a "pro" company would come up with so I took my dimensions and some photos to a local place. For my 14x23 room, the recommended screen size was only 92" 16x9. When I asked about a scope screen he immediately poo-poo'd the idea saying that with my dimensions the room couldn't support it. I politely thanked him and told him I wanted to shop my project around to other installers. About a week later he came back with some really gaudy drawings and said he could bump the screen up to 100". (How generous! lol) In the end, my screen is 141" scope (110" 16x9) and I couldn't be happier.
What is your primary seating distance?
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post #22 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 01:29 PM
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The relationship between source quality, image size and picture quality is one reason why I decided on a Variable Size Image system.

Our viewing distance is about 10 feet from the screen. The screen (using 4 way masking) goes from 16:9/1:85:1 images of 89" diagonal (or smaller) which can look as punchy as a giant plasma, and up to around 11 ft diagonal for 1:85:1 images. Or up to 10.5 feet wide for widescreen movies. (I use a JVC projector with E-shift and also a Panamorph Anamorphic lens when I choose, so pixels are never visible at any size).

I just vary the image size either to taste (how immersed I want to be in the image) and/or to the source quality - DVD, broadcast HD or variations among Blu-Ray transfers. Varying the image size all the time as I do makes me very aware of the relationship of image size to picture quality, and I don't like to sacrifice image quality so I often don't display images at the largest image sizes.

That said, it's amazing to see the difference between how some Blu-Ray sources handle being projected larger vs others. With a good number of titles I can see gradual softening occur as it reaches the largest sizes, so I pull back on the size. But there are also quite a number of amazing transfers that just seem to hold on to that sense of sharpness, smoothness and detail even as they enlarge to my largest possible image sizes. "Beyond reference angle" as it were smile.gif. Examples like Prometheus, Star Trek, the Mission Impossible movies, Skyfall, Lawrence Of Arabia etc. all hold excellent sharpness, smoothness and detail at the very largest images sizes I can manage.

Before I decided to go with a flexible system like this I had decided on a somewhat smaller fixed screen size than what I can achieve now, essentially to ensure most movies would look as good as possible, vs erring on the too large size. But at this point I'm incredibly happy to have this flexibility, probably even more so once 4K truly arrives at which point I expect to watch at the larger image sizes. (And, this image flexibility didn't have the blood-curdling costs you pay when asking for pro companies to provide similar systems).

Rich H


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post #23 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeAB View Post

A 1920 x 1080 image should generally occupy a 30 degree viewing angle for average 20/20 vision. That's a seating distance of approximately 3.3 times the screen height, or 1.5 times the screen diagonal for a 1.78:1 screen aspect ratio. There can be slight variations to this recommendation when factoring in the differences in actual visual acuity of non-average viewers.

I've always read the minimum should be twice the screen height, or 1.3 times the width.

I think many of us on the forum sit closer than your recommendations. I have an 8 foot diagonal screen in an 10x12 room, and sit 11 feet away, and closer for 3D viewing. My vision is fine, and I experience no pixelation. The room is entirely black velvet lined, so it feels much larger while viewing.

In the end, it is all personal preference.
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post #24 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 01:45 PM
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So, first of all... WOO! Thank you for using me as your "Thumbs up" example. Haha.

That aside, I have to agree completely. Watching a movie in a theater is all about the immersion factor. You know it when you see it. The moment you are in a theater and the curtains widen to a bigger size... you are like, that's more like it!! Or the first time you are at a real IMAX screen and see that countdown intro... Hell, I've even often wondered if I should have put in a screen 10" wider... just because I've started to get used to what I have! From the front row of seating though, I think my screen size is perfect. From the back row I sometimes want it just a smidge (Technical term) wider.

I also hate the "Vegas" style theaters. Gaudy is the word I would use. But it is funny when you put those pictures together one after another... how plain it makes mine look!

I have also noticed a lot of home theater magazines or magazines with high end homes that show pictures of their theaters as an ad, and the theaters used don't look good at all. Many times it is what you would see when a builder puts a theater room into their model home. Maybe you get a riser, you get some nice chairs, sometimes a really cool door (With a porthole!) Add a bunch of sconces and movie posters everywhere and it is a theater! But you know, for a lot of people, that's still a huge upgrade! My neighbor is the perfect example. He has a beautiful home, with a theater room that the builder put in. It's a great size, has a riser, some nice rope lighting in a tray ceiling.... and a big hole in the front wall for a 50" plasma. Not to mention GLASS double-doors to enter. A lot of times I don't think the architects have any audio/visual knowledge at all. They just know how to make a room and fill it from stuff from an affiliated dealer.


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post #25 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeAB View Post

If the system design goal is reference-grade imaging performance, the limitations of HD video reproduction and human vision will require a smaller viewing angle than uninformed consumers typically expect.

But in many cases that isn't the goal.


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post #26 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 03:41 PM
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George,

While your input can be informative, sometimes condescension can taint your message. Starting with this response to DL4567:
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeAB View Post

The answer is painfully simple and embarrassingly fundamental.

Which projects the attitude: "you painfully obtuse person who hasn't grasped the simple answer, you should be embarrassed to ask this question." (After all, why reply with the words "painful" if it doesn't portray your disdain for the question, and "embarrassingly" if you are not implying someone ought to be embarrassed by asking such a question?).

DL4567's question was fair enough. This forum is filled with enthusiasts, many quite informed and/or who are familiar with issues involved in their goal to attain excellent picture quality. And yet many are using image sizes and viewing angles that are closer than the ones you describe as "reference." That includes some reviewers, calibrators as well, as I remember (especially those employing CIH systems).

You mention this reference parameter: "A 1920 x 1080 image should generally occupy a 30 degree viewing angle for average 20/20 vision." But many here have noted, upon experimenting with image sizes, that excellent 1920 x 1080 is certainly not limited to that size. As I mentioned, I can watch numerous Blu-Ray sources that remain spectacularly sharp, detailed and clean at much larger viewing angles (and being able to compare the image directly with the smaller viewing angle you describe). And with no pixelation. This has been the experience of many others as well.

Yes, you may wish to point out "Well then, anyone doing this departs from the reference criteria numbers I have supplied, and I'm only talking about IF someone wants to achieve that goal." Ok, but the point is that it's not necessarily the general experience here that such viewing angles ARE always or ought to be the goal. Hence that goal itself is not obvious. So it CAN seem a bit weird to see super expensive theaters offering less immersive viewing experiences. Even though certain pro standards exist, it's not obvious that everyone would be, or want to be, abiding strictly to those standards, especially given the success (as owners see it) of not being tied to the viewing ratios you suggest.

Further, it's also not obvious that the professional theaters DL4567 and I are talking about ARE totally concerned with replicating a reference experience. All too often the decor choices are total head-scratchers in this regard. Be it ill-advisedly light decor choices (which as I said I see so often in many professionally-designed set ups), reflective or distracting surfaces near the screen etc. Little of which you'd ever get in any professional "reference" setting. When I've asked why these types of compromises seem to appear in so many professional installations I've sometimes been told "We would have done X or Y differently, but that's what the customer wanted." Which is understandable...but the point is that, nonetheless, a good number of professional installs I see do not actually SUGGEST they are so intensely concerned with a reference image experience. And so the assumption "the screens are of a smaller size since the goal is obviously a reference experience" isn't so "painfully" and "embarrassingly" obvious. We can't usually know from pictures precisely what the viewing angle is on the theater so the screen may look small because it was made to reference viewing angles...or it may be small as one of any number of compromises that occurred in the design process.

So, again, all this considered I think DL4567's question could have been met with language that did not strongly imply the answer is obvious and someone asking that question on this forum ought to be embarrassed.
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post #27 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 04:49 PM
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Lost me at 30 degree viewing angle, My clients seem to prefer 45, sometimes wishing for more. The often used graphic:

allscope.jpg

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post #28 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 06:33 PM
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A good amount of the money goes into decorating and +1 I think that's just distracting and money that should only go toward better electronics. I'd be more interested in lining up the center channel with your seat, having your seat right in the middle of the screen ta hell with everyone else! tongue.gif (doing this at a local theater means sitting in the back row, sucky)
And of course half the fun is in building it yourself (hopefully one day!) smile.gif

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post #29 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

Lost me at 30 degree viewing angle, My clients seem to prefer 45, sometimes wishing for more.
I think a good bit of the difference here is that your clients are generally well-informed about what they like, and what is possible, without regard for what may be the highest fidelity. To be fair though, the angles George is recommending are based on a 1.78 screen, not the 2.39 screen in that graphic. 3.3xHeight is closer to 40 at 2.39.


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post #30 of 52 Old 06-25-2013, 09:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R Harkness View Post

George,

While your input can be informative, sometimes condescension can taint your message.

Thanks Rich

I was going to post something along these lines, but with much less eloquence.

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