Before buying your first projector, you should have a general idea of where it’ll go. You’ll need to have ample space on your wall, as well as easy access to a power outlet. With that settled, you’ll also need to decide if you want to get a screen. Projector screens don’t have to be super expensive, but before spending any amount of money, it’s worth deciding if you need one.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Projector Screen
The biggest advantage of buying a projector screen is that it gives you more control than you’d get with a bare wall. A perfectly smooth wall is great, but any minor imperfections could harm your projected image.
The color of your wall will be the biggest factor. If you own your home, this is less of an issue, but renters may be stuck with a wall color that would make a projected image look too dark or too bright.
Even if you have a perfectly smooth, white wall, you still might want to get a projector screen. Most screens have a black border around them, which helps frame your movies and TV shows. A screen also gives you a bit more control over how much light gets reflected: a screen with a matte coating will have a much easier time of keeping ambient light from ruining your image.
But a screen is at least somewhat permanent. A couple of months ago, I moved some stuff around so my projected image could be a bit larger than it was. Because I project onto a bare wall, I was able to realign my projector and be on my merry way. If I used a screen, I’d have to purchase a larger screen, take down the smaller screen to mount the larger one, and then find a home for the smaller one. Those aren’t impossible tasks, and I’m not going to move my projector to a new spot super often. But it’s nice to know I have more flexibility to try different arrangements since I don’t have to worry about moving a giant frame around.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Projecting Onto a Bare Wall
The main appeal of just projecting on a bare wall is that you don’t have to shell out any money for a screen. Basic projector screens aren’t too pricey—especially compared to the price of the projector itself. But you’ll want to get a more expensive screen to make sure your image is color corrected and have some of the ambient light absorbed. And a good quality screen can add a few hundred dollars to your home theater project.
Projecting against the wall also makes moving the projector super easy: place it where you want it, make minor adjustments as needed, and enjoy the giant image. Again, this isn’t something most people will do on a regular basis, but I enjoy the flexibility. I take my projector around to backyard movie nights, weddings, funerals, and other events. When I come home and want to play some video games, I don’t want to waste time getting the projector in a 100% perfect spot. It can be good enough for an hour or so while I unwind with a game.
I also move into a different apartment each year. There are worse ways to spend a day than by taking down and remounting a projector screen, but it’s just one more thing to do when I’m worried about getting all of my possessions moved. There’s also a non-zero chance the screen will get damaged while it’s in the moving van.
Your projector may also have a setting to correct for the color of your wall. This feature will vary by manufacturer and model, but it can be a way of getting some of the benefits of buying a screen, without the extra cost.
None of these concerns pop up on a daily basis, but home theater equipment is a big investment that should last for years and years. It’s worth thinking about every part of using and maintaining a home theater over a long time frame.
Which Is Right For You?
Don’t spend an exorbitant amount on paint.
Whether you buy a projector screen will depend on your exact situation. If you know for a fact your projector is going to be in the same place as long as you live in your home, then a projector screen is a great option. You can get by with a cheaper screen, but something like Silver Tickets’ line is a treat if you can spring for them. The frame is easy to put together, and the screen is great at absorbing ambient light. The black border around the screen will help you get the image placed correctly, and it’ll make your image pop that much more. These range in price from $175 for a 92-inch screen up to $770 for a 200-inch one, so be sure exactly what size you want before spending the money.
Nierbo’s line goes from a 100-inch screen at $28 to a 300-inch one at $178. These don’t have the sturdy metal frame, but this makes the screen cheaper and easier to move. You can also make your own screen by cutting a piece of canvas to your desired size and painting it if you want your home theater to be extra personal.
If you’re unsure—or if you don’t want to fork out the money for a screen right away—there’s no harm in trying to project the image onto a bare wall. It’s easier to try the bare wall first, and you might find that once you start watching a movie or playing a game, the minor imperfections on your wall fade away.
You may be tempted by special “ULTRA PREMIUM SUPER AWESOME PROJECTOR SCREEN PAINT” that claims to make your wall work like a projector screen. The paint probably isn’t bad, but it’s WAAAAY too expensive for what it is. Just get some matte white or light gray paint if you want to spruce up your wall.