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To See Your Projector Right, You Gotta Go Dark

by Steffen Ploeger on Sep 30, 2015

Sure, most homeowners would love to have their very own home theatre – and for good reason. Imagine, no more long lines, no more sold out shows, no more sticky floors or uncomfortable seats. Though it’s likely the cost puts this particular luxury a tad on the prohibitive side for many people, for those who have the means to make it a reality, it pays to know how to do it right.

The Home Theatre – Not Exactly An “Out-of-Box” Experience

Sadly, a proper home theatre is not something that’s usually plug-and-play ready. True, projectors have come a long way in terms of being more user-friendly and, generally speaking, offer a pretty intuitive installation. That being said, there is a lot to do before you can turn the lights low, put your feet up, and allow the movie magic wash over you like a bucket of ice-cold water poured from a second-floor window.

Before You Even Decide On Your System

If you plan to just head on down to your local BestBuy and pickup up the unit that happens to be on sale, chances are you’ll be making a return trip – but not before testing your tolerance for dealing with frustration. For this reason, we’ve put together a quick and dirty guide to making the most out of your home entertainment room.

Remember, “Lights” Comes First

Take a look at the room that is destined to become your home theatre. Is it below ground, or on the top floor of your house? Are there large windows or none at all? Depending on how you answered those questions can change what you’ll need to get your room home theatre ready, and it all starts with the room’s lighting.

While projectors themselves are designed to perform under a variety of lighting conditions, if you don’t have the proper window coverings to block out the light, you might as well grab a romance novel and curl up with an afghan, ‘cause the Die Hard marathon just isn’t going to happen. Blackout shades prevent all but the minutest amount of light from entering the room – eliminating glare and enhancing the overall movie experience. As a rule, you’ll likely want cellular shades made from an opaque material.

Examine the Projector’s Specs

We understand that most of the documentation that accompanies an electronic device will invariably go unread – but if there was ever a time to curb this practice, it’s when deciding on which projector you’ll be using. Arguably one of the most important specs you’ll want to pay attention to is the projector’s throw distance/ratio; this critically important piece of info will help you understand which projector will be the right one for your space.

Throw distance is essential in helping you figure out what size of a projection screen you’ll need and how far the projector can be from it. While you may originally have desired to nestle your projector on a shelf along the back wall of the room, depending on the size of the room and the limitations of the projector you may be required to install the projector to a ceiling mount instead – so knowing the projector’s throw distance and ratio is key to knowing which projector will be able to accommodate your desired placement.

Other specs to consider:

  • Lumens; the higher, the better. A high lumen rating offers a greater ability to deal with ambient light levels

  • Contrast. Aim for a contrast ratio of at least 2,000:1

  • Be sure to note whether or not the unit in question has a constant aperture zoom lens (provides improved video quality even if the projector must be moved back from the optimal position)

Cabling: Keep It Organized

If there is one thing that will detract from the overall look and feel of your home theatre, it’s a jumble of wayward and unkempt cords and cables. Power, video, and networking cables can quickly get out of hand so be sure you have a plan to conceal them before deciding on final placement. Depending on where you choose, your cable management system might only consist of a handful of zip ties or a bit of Velcro – in highly visible areas however you might want to consider the use of a small utility cupboard to keep them out of view.

Get to Know The Projector’s Features

This is particularly useful to do before putting the ladder away. After a preliminary installation, give the projector a test drive and make sure you’re comfortable with all the features. Test the range of the remote control (in particularly large areas) so you know how far away you can be from it.

Use a Level Because Eyeballing Just Doesn’t Work

Finally, this last tip might go without saying, but use a level to make sure your projector is sitting on an even plane. There is no sense in investing the kind of time and money necessary to integrate a state of the art entertainment system into your home, only to have a crooked display. Many projectors have adjustable feet so you can adjust while the level sits atop it. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be watching your favorite silver screen classics in no time.

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