There was a time the word “projector” recalled images of a weak beam with dust flies buzzing through the cylinder of light. Fortunately, projectors today are vastly improved. They’re insanely bright, can give you a huge image size, they’re quiet, and versatile. If you haven’t considered getting one instead of a TV, it’s time for a look, particularly since it’s Home Theatre Month.
Projector Basics: Phenomenally bright image
Projectors measure brightness in lumens: basically a number that tells you how bright the image will be, and thus how big you can project it, even with some ambient light entering the room. Most projectors now use about 2300 lumens minimum. That is bright enough to create a 10-14 foot image clearly, even with some light coming in. People are also using their projectors outdoors in good weather, having movie night under the stars, or taking in a ball game in the backyard. Today’s projectors can stand up to that kind of ambient light competition.
Projector Basics: 3 types
You’ll come across three types of projectors: LCD, DLP, and LCOS. I’ll simplify each:
- LCD is basically the same technology used in flat-panel TVs, except in this case, they beam the light through the set of liquid crystals, rather than bouncing light off it. This Epson is one example of that technology.
- DLP, or Digital Light Processing, uses millions of tiny mirrors, or “digital micromirrors” to reflect light and beam your image. This is the type of projector most often found in movie theatres.
- LCOS projectors are the third type, with the acronym standing for “liquid crystal on silicon”. LCOS is basically a combination of LCD and DLP technology.
Projector Basics: They’re kinda smart
Projectors are no longer just for slides and power point presentations. They’re TVs in a much smaller box. You can hook your computer up to a projector and stream TV, photos, home videos and more. You can also connect it to a device like Google Chromecast, so you can play online shows or movies right to the projector from your phone.
Projector Basics: It can be like being in a movie theater
While we all laud our flat screen TVs, we forget that when we go to the movies, they’re still using projectors to beam all that big budget hollywood goodness up there. Mind you, those projectors cost more than your car, but at its core it’s the same technology that’s now available to you at home. So if you’re looking for that big screen feeling in your basement or media room, projectors are the way Hollywood still prefers to go. These projectors as I noted above are DLP, and they’re often available for home use.
Projector Basics: They’re the ninjas of home theatre
Sure, TVs come in sizes from massive to ginormous now. But they’re still heavy, and big, and take up a lot of wall or console space. Projectors are the ninjas of home theatre. They can hide out where you can’t see them, and then when it’s time; BAM, there they are, at the ready. Even today’s most powerful projectors are really only the size of a coffee maker, not to mention they come in white, so they blend in a lot better.
Projector Basics: Don’t forget you need a screen!
If you’re clever, and want to continue the theme of your home theatre system as a band of ninjas, you don’t even need a screen. A white or even beige wall is the perfect canvas. But the purists will want one, and there are numerous screen options, both pull-down, and automatically retractible. The projector can be hidden in an adjacent cabinet, or hooked to the ceiling.
Depending how much work you want to do with it, or how frequently you might need to hide a screen, you can select a motorized version, like this EluneVision matte, or “cinema white” screen which uses washable fabric. When not in use, it retracts into the ceiling, into a casing designed to lie flush with your ceiling. The motor drops it quickly and quietly, and it comes with a remote control and a wall-mountable control panel. It also comes (bonus!) fully assembled and ready to install.
More the retro do-it-yourself type? A manual screen works just as well. Manual screens usually have a self-locking mechanism that allows the screen to be unrolled to almost any position, rather than only a handful of presets.
To sum it all up, projectors are versatile, small, quiet and can provide an amazing viewing experience. After all, if you like going to the movies, you’re seeing some of the finest projectors in action, and that’s the type of experience today’s projectors can give you at home. It’s definitely an option to consider if you’re upgrading a media or TV room.