Projector screens from 3M, Da-Lite, Draper, Medium, Optoma and Projecta

 

 

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A quick guide to buying projector screens



We need to start with screen shapes and then we can get straight into helping you choose a projector screen.  There are 4 basic shapes:

Screenlabs 127 x 127 tripod screen Sapphire RapidFold 203  x 114  fast fold screen Medium 171 x 128 fixed frame rear screen 1.7m Medium 171 x 128 fixed frame rear screen 1.7m
Square (1:1 aspect ratio) Normal (4:3 aspect ratio) Widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) Widescreen (16:10 aspect ratio)

You need to first decide on a shape of screen which is going to be determined by the type of your projector.  For example, the square projector screens are the traditional ones used with overhead projectors which project a square shaped image onto the screen.  Projector screen  use the term 'aspect ratio' to describe the shape.  A 1:1 aspect ratio just means the proportions between the width and height of the screen.  So if you have a 1:1 screen with a width of 1 meter, then the height will be 1m as well to form a square.  The normal 4:3 shape is used by non-widescreen TV's, computer monitors, and non-widescreen projectors.  Again, the 4:3 is just the proportions between width and height, so a 4ft wide screen will have a height of 3ft.

So why are there two widescreen shapes, you may be wondering?  Computer screen manufacturers started producing widescreen monitors that were 16:10  widescreen shaped.  Then HD video came along which was 16:9.  The large manuacturers, that make both LCD TV's and LCD monitors, decided it was cheaper to produce screens the same shape from a mass production point of view, so most new screens, and projectors are now 16:9.

If you are just using the screen with a single projector then you just need to know whether this is projecting widescreen or non-widescreen images.  If widescreen, then go for a widescreen shaped screen but double check whether the number of pixels make this a 16:9 or 16:10 projector.  Most will be 16:9.   It's that simple.  You can still project a widescreen image onto a normal or square screen but you will not fill the entire screen and see a top and bottom border.   Matching the screen to the projectors that use it just gives a neater finish.

Now onto the types of screens.  If you are buying a projector screen usually you will have one of three uses in mind.  Either:

1.  The projector screen will be for use in a single room, whether a meeting room, conference room, class room or lecture theatre, and you want the projector screen permanently attached the wall or ceiling. 
2.  For use in a single room but you don't want to install it and want be able able to store away the projector screen after use
3.  You need a portable screen to take to other places. 

So this splits things nicely down to fixed installed projector screens or portable projector screens.  We will look at the different types of both:


Portable projector screens


Let's look at the different types of portable screen:


Tripod screens

We would be surprised if you hadn't seen one of these as they have been used in schools for decades:

Medium 125 x 125 tripod screen
They are called tripod screens as they have 3 legs that fold out to form a tripod shape.  They are made up of a long thin hard case with the projector screen fabric inside on a roll which automatically retracts back into the case.:



These are the cheapest type of portable screen and are sized from 125x125cm up to 240x240cm and cost from around £55+VAT upwards.  A 240x240cm screen is huge and will allow you to show presentations to large groups of people.  Just a side note.  Make sure you projector has a brightness of at least 2000 ANSI lumens if you are projecting onto a large screen.  You can check the brightness and specifications of your projector by just googling the model to find the manufacturer's PDF datasheet if you are not sure.

See: Tripod projector screens for a full comparison chart of our current models.


Table top / desk top projector screens

These are very small screens, usually no more that 1 metre wide that come in small, hard cases and just pull out to form the screen which can then be placed on a table along with your projector:

Screenlabs 81 x 61 tabletop screen

These are designed for travelling sales people so that they can do presentations to small audiences of upto around 6 people.  You can now buy very small portable projectors which are ideal for use with these so that you can take as little as possible with you when you do a presentation, i.e. a notebook computer, a small projector and once of these screens.  

These are usually around the £100+VAT price mark.  See Table top projector screens for comparisons.


Pull up projector screens

These come in a long hard carry case, which you place on the floor, unlock the catches and just pull up the screen.  The picture below shows a widescreen projector screen on the left and a rear shot to the right showing the back of the screen:
Sapphire SFL122 122 x 91 mobile screen

Compared to the tripod screen, these are much nicer looking and you have the advantage of being able to put them directly next to a wall.  With tripod screens, because of the 3 sprayed out legs, they tend to take up a lot more room.  The slight downside is they are double the cost of the same sized tripod screen and prices start at around £110+VAT.  The following may sound like a sales pitch to get you to spend more, but if you have the budget then always buy one of these instead of a tripod screen.  The other advantage is ease of set up.  If you have ever used a tripod screen then you will know how awkward they are to get assembled and with the pull up screen, call you do is to rotate the two legs, unlock and pull up into position.  

The biggest sizes of these go up to around a maximum of 200x150cm, so if you are projecting to large audiences, then consider a large tripod or a frame screen (see below) instead.

See Pull up projector screens for comparisons of current models.


Portable framed screens

The above tripod, table top and pull up screens are really easy to use portable screens designed for smallish audiences.   Framed screens tend to be much larger portable screens that are designed for large venues such as theaters and large conference facilities.  They come in flight cases and are made up of a series of metal pipes that assemble into a frame and then you stretch the projector screen fabric over the frame:

Medium RapidFold 304 x 228  front screen 3.05m
Some of them are billed as 'fast fold' but they still take longer to set up that a tripod or pull up screen.  They give a lot more professional look and neater finish than a large tripod, but are considerably more expensive.

These screens are split into two flavours: front or rear projection.  Front projection is like in a traditional cinema where the projector is at the back of the cinema and the light is shining forwards (over the heads of the audience) onto the projector screen.  So with front projection, the projector is placed on a table or in a ceiling mount bracket in front of the screen with the audience.  Rear projection means that the projector is behind the screen, so that the audience doesn't see it and gives the effect that the projector screen is like a large TV or computer monitor.  This also means that if you have someone standing in front of the projector screen giving a presentation, they are not getting the projector's light in their eyes and you also don't get a shaddow from the presenter.  This is a nicer effect but the problem is that you need space behind the projector screen to put the projector and depending on the projector and size of the projector screen, you need a good distance for the projector's image to fill the screen.  Sizes range up to around 400x300cm, which is huge.  You would need a very bright projector of around 4,000 ANSI lumens to project a clear image onto a screen of that size.

See our Mobile frame projector screens and Mobile rear frame projector screens comparison charts. 


Summary

To summarise, small audiences up to around 6 people, consider a table top screen.  Above this for audiences of up to around 40 people, we would recommend a pull up screen, over a tripod.  Larger audiences, then go for a large tripod if you are on a budget, otherwise consider a mobile frame screen instead.  So that concludes the portable screens, so we will look at the ones fixed permanently in rooms now.


Installed fixed projector screens

The screens below are designed to be permanently installed in one room.  We will go through each type below:


Fixed "picture" frame screens

These are fixed sized screens that are mounted on walled and look like a notice board or whiteboard until you project onto them:

ScreenLabs Movie Frame 160 x 100 screenSapphire SFSV146 146 x 110 fixed frame screen

These have the advantage of have a really nice look when you project onto them.  You need to make sure you get the picture frame screen is the same shape as your projected image (see at the top of this page about screen shapes), i.e. if your projector is widescreen then get a widescreen projector screen to go along with it.

There are a lot more expensive than wall and ceiling mounted pull down projector screens, which can also be retracted when not in use.  Prices start at around the £150+VAT mark and range from small screens for small rooms right up to 400x300cm screens which are designed for places like conference facilities and auditoriums.

See Picture frame projector screens for our current range.


Wall and ceiling mounted pull down projector screens

These are by far the cheapest option for installed screens as they start at £45+VAT for a basic screen.  They consist of a metal case, either attached to a wall or suspended from a ceiling with the projector screen fabric rolled up inside the case. 

Sahara 1340368 156 x 156 manual wall screen
You then pull down the fabric and attach it to a hook on the wall to keep it in place:

Medium 150  x 110 manual wall screen

There is not much to say about this screens.  Wall installation is quiet straight forwards if you are doing this yourself as usually it is just the case of drilling holes, filling with rawl plugs and screwing them in.  However, ceiling installations and installations for large screens are best performed by a local electrician or a specialist projector installation company.  If you are having projectors ceiling mounted at the same time, it may be best to opt for a professional AV installation company.

See Wall and ceiling pull down projector screens for comparisons.


Electric projector screens

These look the same as the pull down screens apart from an electric motor is used to do the raising and lowering of the screen.  These are either operated by having a switch near the projector screen or via a remote control.  Usually the remote control is an optional extra so check the manufacturer's PDF datasheet on any model you are looking at and factor this cost in as well.

Medium 150  x 110 manual wall screen

Installation will need to be done by an electrician or a professional AV installation company.  The screen is going to need connecting to a mains socket and especially if you are using a ceiling mounted version, you may also require an extra power sockets.  Electric screens are not as expensive as you might think.  Prices start at around £150+VAT.

See Electric projector screens for current models.


Additional information

So we have covered the main types of projector screens and their usage.  There are a few other things that need mentioning.


How to choose the projector screen size

This is easiest if you already have a projector, or can borrow one from somewhere, if you are purchasing a projector as the same time as the screen.  Take the projector to the room either the room you will be installing the screen in or, if you are intending on doing portable presentations, a meeting room of average size similar to the type of places you will be presenting in.  Turn the projector on and project your computer's image onto the wall, or if for video presentations, project the video onto the wall.  Now adjust the zoom and/or move the projector forwards or backwards to the wall till you get an image size that looks about right for that location.  If you are projecting computer programs such as spreadsheets, then also display these on the wall.  This will give you an idea of whether the text size is going to be readable from the seat the furthest away from the projector screen.  If you can't read it then consider altering text sizes or moving the projector backwards to make the projector image larger.  You can then use a tape measure against the projected image and get an ideal of the size of screen you need. 

You can also go the other way.  If you find a screen at the right price of a particular size, say 200x150cm, then project onto a wall at this size and see how it looks before you purchase the screen.  This sounds like a bit of a bodge but this will be a good learning exercise as well and will give you an idea of where in a room a projector is going to have to sit, or be mounted, to give you the image size you are looking for. 

If you don't have a projector, see if you can visit somewhere that uses one.  Many bars use them for projecting football onto screens, look at ones in school classrooms when you are collecting your kids from school, visit a customer or supplier that has one, etc.  Failing that, consider your audience size.  If you are displaying to less than 10 people a screen width width of 100cm should be fine.  Less than 30, then 150cm wide, larger, then it would be best to speak to a local AV company about doing a demonstration at your location.


Tab tension

On our comparison charts, their is a column for 'Tab tension'.  This is a feature of some of the more expensive screens which have a mechanism for stretching the projector screen fabric very tightly over the screen's frame so that you get a very flat surface to project onto, which gives a clearer image.

 

 

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