Projector and Screen Selection
Having looked at projectors for many, many years, by the time the theater plans were ready, I had already narrowed the choice down to one of the JVC models. The elapsed time between start and finish meant, though, that new models were released in the meantime, so what was originally going to be an RS25 turned into a JVC RS50. I chose that model (and JVC in general) for the excellent black levels, the built-in scaler and trigger to support an anamorphic lens, and of course the overall quality. Now, in hindsight, I probably could have used the RS40, as the differences between the models didn't turn out to justify the cost delta. That said I am happy with the projector.
Edited by jautor - 6/6/12 at 5:38pm
But all of that said the most important part of projector selection is to not buy it until you're ready. Too many times I've seen folks buy a projector before they start on the room, only to find they're a model year (or two!) behind by the time they can actually hang and use it. Projectors should be labeled "Keep refrigerated" these days, as the march of technology is very apparent.
However, anamorphic lenses don't suffer from that 12-month product cycle, which allowed me to jump on an AVS special deal on an OEM'ed Panamorph U480 lens and motorized sled - something I knew I wanted - but was not looking forward to writing the check! I did actually double-check with Panamorph (since the special deal came out just a few weeks before CES) that they weren't about to announce new models at CES.
As for the screen, I had all along planned on a CIH screen with an automated masking system. While there were some promising low-cost products in development, they unfortunately didn't pan out. The only product even remotely in the price range I would consider was the Carada Masquerade CIH.
But what screen size? The Masquerade comes in a good range of sizes, and while I wanted the biggest screen I could reasonably fit, I had been concerned throughout the build process about the front row screen distance (10'). I didn't want the front row to become a no-man's land, especially after buying recliners for it. I had pushed this decision off, knowing at least I was looking at something in around the 100" 16:9 size give or take. I used the screen size calculators and charts, which still don't really tell you for sure what the "perfect" size is for your space.
My advice is to follow what I did (based on advice from other AVS'ers):
1) Wait until the room is complete before actually buying the projector
2) Wait until you have the projector before finalizing the screen size
3) Test screen size in the real space before hitting the "Buy" button...
So with Step #1 accomplished, I ordered the JVC RS50 projector, from AV Science, of course. In early 2011, the RS50 was still backordered, so the projector didn't arrive until mid-March. During that time, I talked to Carada to see what the lead time on a Masquerade system - trying to put an end date on all of this. To my surprise, the Masquerade is only about a 2-week lead time (plus delivery). Carada also sent me some screen material samples to test as well.
Long before construction began, I had tested screen sizes using a business projector, shining an image onto the unfinished wall. It was a good enough test to at least let me that a 100"+ image was a possibility - meaning it wasn't obviously "too big" at the front row. Now with the room completed, I could perform a real test. Reading advice here, I ordered a roll of Photographer's Backdrop Paper. At 53" wide, a roll can emulate a 108" 16:9 screen, or a 136" CIH 2.35:1, which is the largest Masquerade masking system, anyway.
These rolls are readily available, in "Super White":
So once the projector arrived (step #2, check!), I set it up in the back of the room (using my pub table to get it close to the final mounting location), cut some paper off the roll, and got to testing. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this process, but I was surprised at how good the image looked on the backdrop paper. Placing the Carada "Brilliant White" sample over the backdrop, it was almost an exact match.
Now to testing. I measured out several screen sizes: 120", 128" and 136" (2.35:1), or 96", 102", and 108" (16x9). And again, it was time to get a second pair of eyes, so fellow AVS'er Alan stopped by to compare them as well. The conclusion after quite a bit of back-and-forth zoom adjusting was that from the front row, the image was big, period. But not so big that you had to move your head to see the screen. And more importantly, even the 120" screen felt big - but the 136" didn't feel that much bigger.
From the second (primary) row, though, things are noticable. The largest, 136" 2.35 screen looks great, but cutting it down to 120" makes it feel dinky . So after some final testing of the 136" from the front row, that's the size I decided on. And now, almost a year later, I'm very glad I went as big as I could. I've watched films from just about every seat, and while the primary second row is my favorite (as it should be), I'm happy with any of the locations. More importantly, when I have a bunch of friends over, no one complains about having to sit in the front row (nor do they rush in and call dibs on the second row, which I'm sure would be the more likely behavior). Folks in the front row do tend to recline, but then again, almost everyone does that.
So before I ordered the screen, one last thing to check. The door and hallway to the theater is on the side of the room, which turns into the theater. A rigid screen frame with an 11.5' length has to get into the room! I tested this first trying a tape measure, but found a much more accurate test method by grabbing a 10' piece of PVC pipe to see if I could navigate it into the room. Answer was yes, but certainly a two-man job and will require angling the pieces up/down to clear the archway.
Next up, Front Speaker Placement...