Skip to main content

HOW TO... Get the most from your projector

So, you've decided to eschew that large flatscreen TV in favour of an even bigger – and most likely better – movie image in your living room. You've bought some new blinds to keep the light subdued, and you've been mugging up on the difference between LCD and DLP, all the while marvelling at the resolution and colour claims made by chipset manufacturers. That's right – you've decided to buy a projector. But will you be getting the most out of it...?

For starters, we're here to tell you that if you want to see your new projector perform to its best, projecting the image onto a white wall is just not good enough – getting yourself a decent screen is essential.

You can buy screens in the standard 16:9 shape, or 1.78:1. Or if you prefer, you can buy a screen in wider, 'movie-aspect' shapes, such as 1.85:1 (letterbox). We recommend a standard 1.78:1 shape: it still gives black bars with ultra-wide cinemascope movies, but with both off-air TV watching and anamorphically enhanced letterbox DVDs, you'll get a full-screen image.

An important thing to consider is that different projection technologies require different types of screen. Your screen's reflectivity is measured in 'gain', and high gain is important in rooms that are not very, very dark. On the other hand, combine a high-gain screen with a highly bright projector, and you're in for some trouble.

It's a matter of achieving balance, but is dependent on the specific room/light environment – so consult your dealer on this. Another thing to remember is that the larger your screen, the brighter your projector will need to be for a decent picture quality.

Another question we're frequently asked is about the type of projector: should it be drop-down, fixed or perforated? Fixed designs, which need to be attached permanently to the wall, are cheapest. A fixed screen also allows for a perfectly flat picture.

Drop-down screens can be manual or motorised. Pricey, perforated screens have holes to allow sound to pass through, which have the advantage that you can position your loudspeakers behind the screen. The choice is yours, and depends on the needs of your room.

Another issue is throw ratio. Some projectors need to be placed some distance away from the screen in order to display a picture of a reasonable size, while others work well fairly close up.

To check the suitability of your intended purchase, work out the width of the image you want, then multiply that figure by the lowest number quoted as the projector's throw ratio in our Buyer's Guide (This will be a figure like, for example,1.8).

This will give you the minimum distance that your new projector should be from the screen.
Lastly, make sure you're 'keystone correction' is optimised. This ensures your projector is perfectly aligned, so it produces a rectangular image, square-on to the screen.

Once your projector is in place, if the image is still slightly 'out', you can alter either the vertical or horizontal 'keystone' mode to realign the image and make it fit the screen perfectly.

Get all this right, and you'll be enjoying your new projector's performance for many years to come, safe in the knowledge that you're getting the very best out of it.