How to calculate the best screen size, guaranteed - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews

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Old 08-10-2013, 01:31 AM - Thread Starter
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This is an often-asked, frequently-answered question, and sadly, no answer is ever correct.

What?

Here is the answer, in one simple statement:
Only you (and your family) can determine, with your own eyeballs, what the "best" screen size is.

http://goglen.com/post/theater/

Everybody has a "rule of thumb", etc. That is irrelevant. Just like pizza, what one person likes, does not matter to another, nor should the first person (if they respect themselves) try to justify their personal opinion.

2001:
I had a 50" RPTV, small living room. Got some big speakers, etc, thought I had a "home theater".

>>learned so much from avsforums<<

2003:
New-ish wife and I signed on a new house. This floorplan allowed for a dedicated "home theater" (a new concept for both of us, despite my 3 years on AVS Forums by now). We installed speaker wires during construction; the theater (2nd floor) was basically set in stone due to physics. Had the upstairs great room wired with 2 x 20-amp circuits.

2004, July: new house, firstborn. Still planned theater.

2004 (end): The equipment I wanted was released: Panasonic AE700U, Emotiva "Big Dogs" 7-channel pre/pro - I was a beta tester, had 7.0 Rocket speakers.

2005 (early): ordered 3 Berkline 099's. Designed theater around them. Reviewed pundit posts about "what size screen" - most said 1.5x screen witdth. Note, this is DVD & 720p projector era.

2005 (early): got projector, seats. Set up in open great room. Ignored everybody, projected onto white "blackout cloth" taped to wall. Spent several weeks tweaking (experimenting) with every size & distance from floor.
http://goglen.com/post/theater/

2005 (early): Decision! We never measured, until we decided what we wanted. Shock, horror! My wife and I decided that we liked to sit 131" (11 feet) from a 133" screen.

>>> This is against every "rule of thumb", etc. Nope, it does not matter what YOU want, only what I/WE want. I promise, if you can, project onto a blank wall, and experiment. Ignore all "rules". My screen is "low" (wow, how I hate peeps who put a TV above a fireplace!), and big - but it is what my wife and I decided we both liked without ever measuring. At first, she spent half of her time on the back row, but never in the last years. She's had "girl's movie night" events - 14 crammed in there (I'm still not sure how!), and all love it.

Conclusion:
Please do not use a "calculator", or ask for a "recommendation", and after you build your own theater, please do not "recommend" a size to anybody else. Please.
http://goglen.com/post/theater/

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Old 08-10-2013, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glen Graham View Post

This is an often-asked, frequently-answered question, and sadly, no answer is ever correct.

What?

Here is the answer, in one simple statement:
Only you (and your family) can determine, with your own eyeballs, what the "best" screen size is.

http://goglen.com/post/theater/

Everybody has a "rule of thumb", etc. That is irrelevant. Just like pizza, what one person likes, does not matter to another, nor should the first person (if they respect themselves) try to justify their personal opinion.

2001:
I had a 50" RPTV, small living room. Got some big speakers, etc, thought I had a "home theater".

>>learned so much from avsforums<<

2003:
New-ish wife and I signed on a new house. This floorplan allowed for a dedicated "home theater" (a new concept for both of us, despite my 3 years on AVS Forums by now). We installed speaker wires during construction; the theater (2nd floor) was basically set in stone due to physics. Had the upstairs great room wired with 2 x 20-amp circuits.

2004, July: new house, firstborn. Still planned theater.

2004 (end): The equipment I wanted was released: Panasonic AE700U, Emotiva "Big Dogs" 7-channel pre/pro - I was a beta tester, had 7.0 Rocket speakers.

2005 (early): ordered 3 Berkline 099's. Designed theater around them. Reviewed pundit posts about "what size screen" - most said 1.5x screen witdth. Note, this is DVD & 720p projector era.

2005 (early): got projector, seats. Set up in open great room. Ignored everybody, projected onto white "blackout cloth" taped to wall. Spent several weeks tweaking (experimenting) with every size & distance from floor.
http://goglen.com/post/theater/

2005 (early): Decision! We never measured, until we decided what we wanted. Shock, horror! My wife and I decided that we liked to sit 131" (11 feet) from a 133" screen.

>>> This is against every "rule of thumb", etc. Nope, it does not matter what YOU want, only what I/WE want. I promise, if you can, project onto a blank wall, and experiment. Ignore all "rules". My screen is "low" (wow, how I hate peeps who put a TV above a fireplace!), and big - but it is what my wife and I decided we both liked without ever measuring. At first, she spent half of her time on the back row, but never in the last years. She's had "girl's movie night" events - 14 crammed in there (I'm still not sure how!), and all love it.

Conclusion:
Please do not use a "calculator", or ask for a "recommendation", and after you build your own theater, please do not "recommend" a size to anybody else. Please.
http://goglen.com/post/theater/

Excellent advice. Certainly the route I also took.
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Old 08-10-2013, 12:52 PM
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There are extremes that you know will or will not work. For instance you know that almost no projectors talked about in this subforum could fill a 300" diagonal screen and the same could be said about one being too bright for something like a 50" screen size.

You also have to take into consideration things like seating distance and even the size of the screen (for non obvious reasons). Typically as the screen size gets larger your eyes see the same amount of light as brighter than it actually is. So a 130" screen getting 12 foot lamberts normally looks brighter than a 92" screen with 12 foot lamberts. Room design can also play tricks on your eyes. If you have a blacked out pit of a room less light looks brighter than the same image being shown in a room that has white walls.

I definitely agree there is no way to suggest a "perfect" screen size, but with enough information about the environment, screen material, seating distance, and brightness of the projector we can make a fairly educated guess as to what size you should look into.

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Old 08-10-2013, 01:30 PM
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You would be surprised at how many first time projector buyers, when putting a system together will consider a 100" screen. Even if they will be viewing from as far away as 15'. Those people certainly need help with recommendations. other wise they will be wanting to replace their screen with a larger screen in 6 months or less.
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:33 AM
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My response to this question has always been buy the projector FIRST and project onto a wall until you get used to determine what screen size you prefer. However, some people just want to buy the screen right away (and that is ok too), and in that case I will generally tell them go for a seating distance of 1.2x screen width if when you go to the movies you prefer the rows between the front and the middle (maybe 1.3x to 1.5x if near exact middle, not sure exactly), 1.0x if you like to sit near the front (but not all the way at the front), and otherwise 1.4x to 1.8x if you love the rows a bit behind the middle (but not all the way at the back).

Though that is not perfect either since different theaters have different perspectives and the actual viewing angle affects how large you see the screen as well, but it gives a general idea.

I do think the safest most comfortable range for new users is 1.2x to 1.4x, or 1.0x to 1.2x for veterans. If people think 1.2x to 1.4x SW is too close, then I suggest they give it 3 weeks until they get used to it, because it really isn't once you get used to it (though some people never do).

Remember, every recommendation anyone makes to another person (in almost anything in life) always will have a margin of error. Like when a friend asked me if she thought she should have kids before 30, I said well probably 26.4 would be the optimal age (only kidding). The point is no answer we give will ever be perfect in any circumstance, as there are rarely absolutes with this stuff, but I do agree just using a single number without a range is bad.

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Old 08-11-2013, 09:11 AM
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Very well said, coderguy; I heartily concur.
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Old 08-12-2013, 06:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glen Graham View Post

Conclusion:
Please do not use a "calculator", or ask for a "recommendation", and after you build your own theater, please do not "recommend" a size to anybody else. Please.
http://goglen.com/post/theater/

No offense, but this is completely unhelpful to people new to the topic with no idea what to look for.

Now that said, let me back up a bit and say that I absolutely agree with you the the final screen size one chooses should be 100% up to them and what they like, without any regard to what anyone else says. The only important opinion is the owners.

However I disagree with the assertion that there is no value in rules of thumb, I think they have great value, but that value is as a starting point. Rules of thumb are great for creating reasonable boundaries and starting points. Perhaps the greatest value in the guidlines and rules of thumb is to help break people of the thought process of thinking about screen size in absolute terms. We've been unintentionally trained to think of TV size in absolute terms "I'm getting a 55 inch TV". When you move into projection you have to be broken of the thought process of "I want a 100 inch screen", and you need to start thinking about relative size.

The recommendations/rules of thumb will help someone new realize that they probably want a larger screen if they sit far away, or maybe that they want to sit closer if their screen size is fixed (room limitations, etc).

The other benefit is they help place realistic boundaries/constraints on the system. Shooting onto a wall/sheet is a great idea once you have some idea what you want, but if you don't have that idea you can run into problems, like having already purchased a projector, only to find out you like a wall filling screen that necessitates it be acoustically transparent and you now already own a projector that's not bright enough. Where as maybe if they'd looked at the rules of thumb/recommendations they'd have realized that they were likely to need an AT screen and a higher light output from the beginning.

I guess what I'm saying is I think the first step is to look at the rules of thumb/guidelines/recommendations, get an idea of the ballpark size of screen for your desired seating distance, maybe "minimum" and "maximum" (FWIW 1x screen width isn't outside any minimum seating distance I recall seeing) so you can get an idea if say a relatively dim JVC (with IRIS closed all the way) will work or if you need a light canon. Then once you have a projector you know can light your screen, pick it up and follow the advice in this thread of shooting it on to something temporary and fine tune the size, then order your permanent screen.
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:55 PM
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I guess what I'm saying is I think the first step is to look at the rules of thumb/guidelines/recommendations, get an idea of the ballpark size of screen for your desired seating distance, maybe "minimum" and "maximum" (FWIW 1x screen width isn't outside any minimum seating distance I recall seeing) so you can get an idea if say a relatively dim JVC (with IRIS closed all the way) will work or if you need a light canon. Then once you have a projector you know can light your screen, pick it up and follow the advice in this thread of shooting it on to something temporary and fine tune the size, then order your permanent screen.

+1. One needs to also figure out if the projector they are using will be able to light up the screen properly. I can state for the record that trying to use a JVC RS1 on a 193" diagonal HD Pro .6 gain screen won't work......no matter how much you want it to !
Screen fabric selection is probably more important than actual size in most cases. Nothing worse than a gloriously big screen with lots of annoying screen texture and sparklies driving you bonkers..............

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Old 08-15-2013, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

However I disagree with the assertion that there is no value in rules of thumb, I think they have great value, but that value is as a starting point. Rules of thumb are great for creating reasonable boundaries and starting points. Perhaps the greatest value in the guidlines and rules of thumb is to help break people of the thought process of thinking about screen size in absolute terms. We've been unintentionally trained to think of TV size in absolute terms "I'm getting a 55 inch TV". When you move into projection you have to be broken of the thought process of "I want a 100 inch screen", and you need to start thinking about relative size.

Definitely true - but unfortunately, most people present the "rule of thumb" as "This is exactly what you need".

In other words, the newbie generally takes that as concrete and runs... whereas the critical missing part is "you need to play around with your seating and sizing to determine what you like best." When I was starting, everybody insisted 1.3-1.5 was what I had to get. Luckily, I hadn't built my theater yet, so I could play with the projector on a blank wall. Even after I built it, I had people (on the internet) insisting the screen was too big and I wasted money. Nope.

Even with our main TV (downstairs), the first thing I did was chop the height of the stand in half - we found that we like our TV's lower to the ground than many, and sit fairly close to a 67" screen (biggest we could fit in the gap we had).

So, my main point, is when a new-potential-projector owner asks, and gets a "definite" answer, they rarely question it; they run with it, and that's unfortunate.

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Old 08-15-2013, 02:48 PM
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I never give a one size / screen / material is perfect for all situations. Too many variables. And I prefer my customers engage in a little self education, even getting screen material samples sent to them. That way they pick the screen size and style that suits them best. But in many situations, the room / wall size or budget will limit screen size. And if I tried to install a bigger screen in my theater, my wife would kill me ( she likes 1.26 screen widths from our 2.35:1 screen and 1.36:1 screen widths from our 16:9 screen ).

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Old 10-17-2016, 07:57 PM
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First of all, forgive the thread necromancy.

Second, thanks for the wise advice on screen sizes. It hardly makes sense to drop the money on a screen until you decide what the "right" size is. I looked up the white "blackout cloth", but it seems like a 110x150" sheet is ~$100 - admittedly not terribly expensive, but it seems wasteful if it's only going to be used as a temporary solution. I'd project directly onto the wall, but I think the paint is a bit dark:


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Old 10-18-2016, 12:05 PM
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The takeaway to me is buy the screen last


I just got the RS500 -- I knew that throw distance (to close) would be an issue and I knew that I would in this HT be 3 feet closer than in my old HT

So I put the projector as far back as possible and then projected on the wall. I think I want slightly larger screen than I can get so no real issue but my wife thought for awhile that she would have wanted a smaller screen.

Project it on a wall, hang a white sheet. It won't be fantastic but it gives you a good feeling for what is the right size. Go as big as possible then start turning it down from there.


The picture above - I would totally project on the wall.
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