AVS Forum Special Member
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Albuquerque, NM USA
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Welcome to the forum James. I think you're having the same confusion on rear vs. front projection that a lot of people have. When the light from the projector hits the back of the screen and shines through, that's rear projection (like the Mits). If the projector is firing at the viewing side of the screen, it's front projection.
If you have good light control, front projection is the way to go in my opinion. It's the only to get a theater size image. You can easily get a 7- or 8-foot wide screen, which would work good from your distance. I found that getting the front of the room opened up by removing the TV and associated furniture really improved the sound too.
From your seating postion, the screen should take up about 30 degrees of your field of vision. The size of the screen is also limited by the projector you choose. CRT projectors do not have enough light output to drive really big screens, and they need total light control. Digital projectors will drive a larger screen, and still put out an enjoyable picture with some ambient light.
Cost is all over the map. I'm out of touch with the latest in projectors since I bought my Sony VPL-VW10-HT a year ago. I think digital projectors run from about three grand up to about $15,000. CRT's go from two or three grand to $35- or $40,000. The experts on the projector forums are the ones to ask. I love my Sony. I paid about $6,000 for it, although I think they're less expensive now. The screen will range from $100 for a home-made one to $1500 for a top-of-the-line fixed, and up from there for motorized screens.
Dark colored walls and ceiling will enhance the picture quality. My living room has off-white finishes, and it does reduce the contrast somewhat.
Good luck with your project. You'll find tons of great information here.