A home theater screen isn't a one-size-fits all product. You need to match the screen's characteristics to the room, projector and your viewing habits.
Although projection screens all do the same job and are very similar in appearance, they are far from alike.
Screens differ in size, shape and composition, all of which affects their ability to render a crisp, clear, accurate image.
For example, while one screen might be a champ at displaying images in a brightly illuminated room, another screen might function better with all the room lights off.
Increasingly, this ability to combat ambient light has become a focus of manufacturers and should be a key consideration when selecting a screen for your media space.
Although dedicated theaters will always be popular, more and more people for whatever reason are choosing to incorporate home theater systems into family rooms, dens and other existing spaces.
Manufacturers of projection screens have responded by developing products that can produce bright, vivid pictures regardless of the room environment. In other words, the picture on-screen stays crisp even when sunlight is streaming through the windows and the room lights are on.
Another light-fighting trend is the addition of shading materials to the main screen. The blackout shade can be deployed from its motorized housing whenever the room’s lighting conditions call for it. Other screens use dark layers.
In addition to being able to reproduce a great looking picture under any lighting conditions, the “uniformity” characteristic of screens continues to improve.
Uniformity refers to a screen’s ability to spread a projected image across its entire width so that it looks just as good at the sides as it does directly in the middle. Screens with a lower gain are able to do this better, so manufacturers now offer screens with gains as low as .8 or lower.
This move toward better uniformity/lower gain has been leveraged by the development of super bright projectors. The brighter the projector, the less gain (or reflectivity) a screen requires.
Screens designed for 3D content were all the rage a few years ago; now the hype is all about 4K. Again, screen manufacturers have taken their cues from developments in the video projector market.
As 4K projectors continue to gain steam, they have responded by offering screen materials with an ultra-fine surface that’s able to handle the tightly packed pixel structure of high resolution 4K projectors, without any image degradation.
Expect increasingly refined fabrics from screen manufacturers to emerge as 4K becomes more popular and 8K projectors start hitting the market.
Cosmetically, projection screens that resemble flat-panel displays are trending.
Designed as a rigid panel with pencil-thin, nearly imperceptible frames, these screens evoke an ultra-modern vibe and can blend in nicely with the room architecture and décor.
They usually can be mounted in a number of different ways: recessed flush with the wall, integrated into cabinetry or suspended from the ceiling.
Also trending are curved screens and screens with the ability to change shape through the incorporation of masking systems.
Finally, home theater screen designs are changing to keep pace with the dizzying amount of content now available at people’s fingertips through streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
As our entertainment options continue to expand, homeowners have started to incorporate “video walls” into their viewing spaces as a way to watch several programs at the same time. Multiple individual displays can comprise a video wall, or a newer, more elegant option is to divide one large projection screen into several viewing quadrants through the use of a video tiling system.
Expensive and cutting-edge, a video tiling system enables a projector to present multiple streams of video, each on its own dedicated portion of the screen. For example, four different sporting events can be viewed at once, or you can watch a movie while the kids play video games—all on the same screen.
Ambient light rejecting technology, improved uniformity, superior design and multi-pane viewing are a few of the recent projection screen developments paving the way to a more dynamic, engaging viewing experience. And with many sizes, formats and mounting options available, you can be sure that there’s a screen suitable for any room of your house, often at a price less than that of similar-size flat-panel TV.