what is the best projector screen size

You are all onboard with using your classroom projector to help enrich the lives of your students. But that’s only half the battle.

A projector without the right projector screen doesn’t help your students. One of the most important factors to consider is the projector screen size.

What is the ideal projector screen size for the audience to enjoy the experience? How do you calculate the scene size for your classroom projector screen, conference room, media room, or dedicated home theater?

The right size screen, screen material, and projection screen style are the three most important factors when selecting the projector screen. The projector screen size is as important as the projector. A quality projector can’t change poor picture quality when screening on a projection surface not intended for projection. Color reproduction, image contrast, and resolution suffer when using the wrong projector screen. 

We’ve done the legwork to help you determine the right screen size for a great projector. A perfect screen that gives you a fantastic projected image experience and accommodates your personal preference for the best seat, whether you like sitting closer or at the back. 

Projection Distance From Screen

Projection distance from the screen is the maximum distance for the specific projector model setup and the projector screen size in the classroom. The projected distance is determined by where you place the projector in the classroom. 

Measuring The Room

The first step to calculating the ideal screen size is to use a tape measure to measure the classroom. Measure the width and length of the room or event space gives you an idea of the maximum distance you can place the projector. Consider the furniture placement and the furthermost distance you can set the projector in irregular-shaped rooms.

These measurements will guide you in determining the best projector screen for the classroom. 

Calculating The Distance

Multiply the projector screen size by 1.6 for the standard viewing distance from the screen and 1.2 for cinematic viewing. 

distance guidelines

You can sit closer to a small screen than a larger screen; a huge screen requires a longer distance from the projection screen for the best field of vision viewing. You don’t want the picture to exceed what the eyes can take in; the field of view or horizontal viewing angle is the distance from the center of the seating position to the angle of each corner of the screen. The SMPTE (Society Of Motion Picture And Television Engineers) guidelines recommend 30 degrees field of view as the optimal viewing distance. The THX guidelines recommend 40 degrees field of view for a cinematic view.

What Is The Throw Distance?

Throw distance and viewing distance are the same and help you determine the perfect screen size. The maximum throw distance of a projector in the classroom can limit the screen size if there isn’t enough space in the room.

With limited space between the projector and the screen, short-throw projectors can project on a large screen in small spaces. The short-throw lens has a shorter projector distance for the same screen size as the standard throw ratio. You can have a movie theater experience in your apartment with the right throw ratio. 

What Is The Throw Ratio?

A throw ratio of 1.13:1 allows viewers to have a 100-inch screen in smaller rooms measuring 21 sq. ft to 32. sq ft. The throw ratio is equal to the throw distance / the image width. 

Lens Design

A lens design in front of the short-throw projector can project a picture on a 100-inch screen with a throw distance of about 8 feet.

Ultra-short throw projector models feature the lens inside the projector body. These lenses project images upward, and behind the projector body, the rear projection is ideal for smaller rooms and portable screen projectors. 

Large throw projectors or interchangeable lenses are great for the widescreen format you want for movie night and large venues.

Projector Screens Aspect Ratios

The screen’s aspect ratio should match the projector’s aspect ratio for the best image quality. Mismatches result in projecting too wide or too small images. 

What Is The Aspect Ratio?

The aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between the width and height of the monitor or projector screen. The aspect ratio has two numbers separated by a colon; the first number represents the width and the second number the height.

The best aspect ratio depends on the type of video content and the format the projector supports. The three common aspect ratios for projector screens are 4:3, 16:9, and 2.35:1 width to height ratio. If you want a cinematic experience for your home theater, then the 2.35:1 aspect ratio is a good option, and for normal viewing, the standard aspect ratio of 16:9 will be sufficient. The 4:3 aspect ratio is more for older TV show viewing. 

Aspect Ratios For The Classroom And Education Applications

Many projectors have a common aspect ratio of 16:9, ideal for watching 1080p resolution full HD content. Blu-ray, DVD, and set-top boxes output images feature 16:9 format. However, in classrooms, education, and business applications, you may find the older 4:3 aspect ratio (or 1.33:1) and the 16:10 (or 1.78:1) aspect ratio for LCD monitors.

Most projector, computer monitors, and flat-panel TVs feature an aspect ratio of 16:9, a 1.78:1 width to height ratio. It is also the aspect ratio for standard TV screens. 

common aspect ratios
47:20 is also called CinemaScope.

To summarize, the screen format is generally

  • 1:1 square
  • 4:3 for video or NTSC (National Television Standards Committee)
  • 16:9 HDTV
  • 16:10 widescreen PC
  • 2.35:1 CinemaScope.

Wide Screen Aspect Ratio

Home theaters need to pair their widescreen format with an anamorphic lens projector that stretches the images to fit the entire screen or a projector featuring Lens Memory to achieve the same effect as in the movies. Widescreen or Cinemascope feature an aspect screen ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 for widescreen content without any gray letterboxes – the black bars to the sides of the projector screen. The zoom method or an anamorphic lens can solve the specific aspect ratio dilemma by moving the black bars outside the projection screen.  

The Best Projector Screen Size

What is the best screen size? Is there a standard screen size for projectors?

Although there isn’t a standard projector screen size, the most common projector screen size is 100 to 120 inches diagonally for home screens. One to 1.5 times the screen diagonal is often a good indication of the viewing distance. 

Are Larger Screens Better?

Selecting the biggest projector screen size is not necessarily the best choice if your projector is not bright enough for the bigger screen or the room is too small for the biggest screen on the market. When considering a big screen, make sure you can move the projector far enough back to fill the entire screen. The alternative to a smaller screen is a projector with short-throw or ultra-short-throw ratios to accommodate a big screen in a small room. 

The lighting, projector brightness, screen gain, and distance affect the image quality. A smaller screen image concentrates the projector’s light more than a massive screen design. A dark room requires different brightness than a room with ambient light. Media rooms may be darkened sufficiently, but classrooms and conference rooms typically aren’t entirely dark. When sitting too close to a massive screen, the audience sees the pixels of the projected image.

Type Of Screens

What type of white screen is best for the projector?

  • The entry-level pull-down projector screen offers a flat projection surface.
  • A fixed frame screen is commonly seen in home theaters; the diagonal size of a fixed screen ranges from 100 to 200 inches.
  • Motorized screens are retractable screens giving you the option to use the room for other purposes—the diagonal screen size ranges from 100 to 350 inches. Electric screens work with a remote control or wall switch. 

How To Measure The Correct Screen Size

Entire Room Size

Measure the length and width of the room. The room size determines the maximum size of the projector screen. Keep in mind you don’t want people walking in front of the projector screen, so factor in a distance behind the projector for people to walk past.

Calculate the free space for seat placement by subtracting the distance between the projector and screen and the walking space. The general rule is the closest viewers should be twice the projector display screen height away from the screen and the furthest audience viewer about eight times the height of the projector screen. 

Screen Height

Measure the length of the wall from floor to ceiling to determine the maximum projector screen height. Ensure your ceiling is high enough to accommodate the projector screen, especially when considering a larger screen. The projector screen should be about 5 feet from the floor and one foot from the ceiling for the best viewing for the entire audience. 

For example, a 9 feet distance from the floor to ceiling allows for a maximum of 4 feet high screen, and an 18 feet high wall allows for up to 12 feet tall screen. 

Another way to determine the height is to change the aspect ratio into a fraction and multiply it with the screen width.

Screen Height By Ratio

The screen height by ratio is another way to determine the best projector screen size.

  • 4:3 Video. Watching a TV show or movie, the screen height must be at least 1/6 high as the distance of the farthest chair to the screen.
  • 4:3 Video. Displaying images and charts in the classroom, the screen height should be 1/4 to the furthest chair.
  • 16:9 HDTV viewing requires a larger screen. The screen height should be about 1/3 to the personal preference seating.
  • 16:10 Widescreen viewing is also screen height of 1/3 to the best seat in the room.
  • 2.35:1 Cinema viewing is based on personal preference ranging from 1/3 to 1/4 measurement.

Screen Width

The screen width is related to the aspect ratio you will use. For example, a 4 feet high screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio should have a maximum width of 7 feet, and a 12 feet tall screen will have a full-screen width of 21 feet. The ideal width for a standard 16:9 aspect ratio is 1.78x the screen height. 

Distance Between Screen And Projector

If the throw ratio is confusing, a quick way to calculate where to place the projector is 1.5 times the width of the projector screen. For example, if the projector screen width is 7 feet, the projector should be 10,5 feet away from the screen, and for a  screen 21 feet wide, the projector should be 31.5 feet away. 

Measuring The Screen Diagonal Size

Measuring the screen diagonal could help you find the right projector screen size for a similar effect as the middle of the row seat in the movie theater. Measure the distance you want to sit from the projector screen. With a 30-degree field of vision and a 16:9 screen aspect ratio, the screen diagonal would equal the screen distance in inches multiplied by 0.619. 

You can also measure the diagonal screen size by measuring the length from the top right to the bottom left corner of your screen. A more intricate calculation of the diagonal measurement adds the square root of the height to the square root of the width.

The Projection Calculator does the calculations for you.

How do you calculate the ideal projector screen size for your projector, classroom, and the type of projections?

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