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Wedding Gift: Need projector advice.
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sek929
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Sep 16, 2009, 04:15 PM
 
My best friend is getting married on Halloween, and in lieu of registry gifts I've decided to buy them something frivolous yet awesome.

I would like a decent projector (1080p isn't needed) that can be visible in minor light, 100"+, and a solution for the screen. HDMI isn't an issue as they still live in the SD world but I'd imagine I'd want to only go as low as 720p. The major device this will be hooked into is a modded original Xbox, with component-out, but really I'd like to have all their media hooked into it (Wii, Cable TV, and Xbox).

Any info is welcomed as I'm a complete n00b in this area, price shouldn't be outrageous but hopefully I'm getting a slew of the friends to throw in so a bargain basement price probably isn't necessary. Any extras or useful accessories you can think of is greatly appreciated as well.
     
downinflames68
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Sep 16, 2009, 10:26 PM
 
Get them a prenup. Now. Marriage is failure.
     
Eug
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Sep 16, 2009, 10:49 PM
 
What's your budget?

I'm using a PT-AX200U from Panasonic. It's a 720p (ie. lower end) LCD based unit so the blacks aren't great, but it's a very bright projector that autocompensates for ambient room light and also has a gaming mode which is low lag and even brighter.

One potential drawback of 720p projectors is screen door effect, but they have implemented a SmoothScreen technique that reduces it to essentially zero from normal seating distances.

I didn't get a DLP based unit because they are much less flexible in terms of placement options and because I sometimes see rainbows with DLP. In terms of the former, a DLP wouldn't even have worked in my room at all because of the limited placement options. In terms of the latter, I've only seen 4X colour wheel DLPs, and they have visible rainbows. The newer 6X colour wheel DLPs are supposed to minimize this, but they are often more expensive. I didn't get LCoS or higher end LCD (with better blacks) because they simply cost too much.

Anyways, to make a long story short, a projector purchase is not easy. Buying a TV is easy. They just work. Buying a projector is hard, as you need to know the room sizing and projector placement, viewing habits, and sources, etc. If you don't know, then err on the safe side and just get an LCD unit like the PT-AX200U which has all sorts of placement options and features to adjust for varying light and video sources.

As for the screen, I don't have one. I didn't feel like spending $600 - $2000 just for a blank screen, and it was hard to get the right colour of grey I wanted anyway in that price range. (White is no good, as everything looks washed out, and dark grey is no good if there is ambient light in the room because movies will often appear too dark.) I eventually just ended up with Sherwin Williams Gray Screen paint on my wall, which corresponds to Munsell N8 neutral grey. I also tried N9 which was too bright, and N7 which was too dark.

( Last edited by Eug; Sep 16, 2009 at 10:57 PM. )
     
sek929  (op)
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Sep 16, 2009, 11:02 PM
 
Thanks for the info, Eug, when I started this thread I had you in mind.

What are your thoughts on this model?

As for painting the wall that's really not an option. It's going in their living room and I'd want the screen to pull down in front of where the TV is now. I'd estimate the room size at about 15 feet by 25 feet. They're not picky people, most certainly not about their media. I just want to make sure it's bright enough and easy enough to use. Since this could be split a dozen ways getting a decent screen (200 dollar range) isn't out of the question.

Seeing as I'm good with my hands I'll be taking care of the mount, maybe even making my own. I'd say around 1000 dollars to 1200 dollars is the budget for a projector plus screen.
     
Eug
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Sep 17, 2009, 09:51 AM
 
Here is Projector Central's Epson HC700 review.

My main issue with that projector are its very limited zoom options: 1.2, and complete lack of lens shift. It may not matter in the room it will be used in, but you'll never know until you actually have done the room assessment with measurements and the appropriate calculations.



I've never seen it in action, but what about the Epson HC720? It has a more standard HD resolution (1280x720), has good lens shift, and has a 2.1 zoom.

P.S. Not sure about the screen, but it seems to me it would not be easy nor cheap to make a pull-down screen. All the DIY solutions I've seen are for fixed screens. Also, I haven't really seen a good one for $200. These cheap screens seem to be floppy white screens like in classrooms, which don't really make for a good image if there is significant ambient light in the room. However, if they can shut off all the lights, only watch at night, and they aren't too picky, then it should be fine. However, most people recommend getting the projector first, figuring out where you want to install it, and then buying the screen. That way you'll know what size you'll need for sure, in case your calculations are a bit off.

BTW, I wouldn't be caught dead with a projector and screen in my living room. I have a dedicated room for this. If I didn't have a dedicated room, I wouldn't have a projector. It's really that simple for me. Have you checked with them about this? Perhaps the wife to be will hate having these beasts in their otherwise pristine living room.
     
sek929  (op)
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Sep 17, 2009, 03:16 PM
 
They have a much larger, but unfinished room I was planning on putting it in, but they will not have it finished after the wedding. It could be a while until they rebound money-wise and actually finish it off. If anything a little spackle will cover up my screw holes in the TV room if they would rather have it moved into the second room.

Good advice about buying the projector first then figuring out the screen. I might even be able to make a hinged fixed screen that can sit flat against the ceiling when not in use and swing down into position. It could even be built with the 'screen' as a sheet of sheetrock, which I could easily paint the appropriate color. I build things for a living so the only part I'd be clueless on is the screen color. I'd almost rather err on the side of the picture being a little darker than lighter. But again, I don't really know which is better.

The living room has 3 windows, with shades and drapes. During the day it's a moderate amount of ambient light, but I figure this projector is going to be a special use sort of thing, plus with winter rapidly approaching it will be pitch black by 4 PM.

Just FYI, the projector is most certainly being mounted to the ceiling.

I don't really understand the zoom options, but I imagine with limited zoom I'd have to be really precise in the placement of the screen and projector, right?

Also, would you recommend a telescopic mount?

Also, Also, distance from the screen is no problem as the room is much longer than it is wide. I'd be able to place the projector exactly where I needed it.
( Last edited by sek929; Sep 17, 2009 at 03:30 PM. )
     
Eug
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Sep 17, 2009, 06:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
They have a much larger, but unfinished room I was planning on putting it in, but they will not have it finished after the wedding. It could be a while until they rebound money-wise and actually finish it off. If anything a little spackle will cover up my screw holes in the TV room if they would rather have it moved into the second room.

Good advice about buying the projector first then figuring out the screen. I might even be able to make a hinged fixed screen that can sit flat against the ceiling when not in use and swing down into position. It could even be built with the 'screen' as a sheet of sheetrock, which I could easily paint the appropriate color.
Wow. That sounds really, really heavy. How are they going to move it up and down? Isn't furniture gonna get in the way?

I think the roll down white screen is probably better.

Just FYI, the projector is most certainly being mounted to the ceiling.

I don't really understand the zoom options, but I imagine with limited zoom I'd have to be really precise in the placement of the screen and projector, right?

Also, would you recommend a telescopic mount?

Also, Also, distance from the screen is no problem as the room is much longer than it is wide. I'd be able to place the projector exactly where I needed it.
This is why the math and geometry is potentially so hard.

Zoom allows you to change image size for different placement options. With no zoom, then the image size depends only on the distance from the screen. With zoom, you can increase or decrease the size to compensate. Often with DLP projectors, there is very little zoom, so projector placement becomes a major pain in the @ss.

However, the potential bigger issue is lens shift. With a centered lens and no lens shift, a ceiling mounted projector would be projected half on the screen and half on the ceiling, cuz the centre of the image would be at the height of the lens, which is close to where the ceiling and the wall meet. With lens shift you can shift the image downwards to the wall. However, with a tall ceiling or limited lens shift, it still probably would be too high, so an extended mount to bring it down from the ceiling would be needed. Just as importantly though, lens shift allows you to place the projector off centre sideways as well. For example, in terms of right vs. left, perhaps you can't put the projector right in the centre because a light fixture or a beam is there. So, with lens shift you can move the projector to the right, and use the lens shift to move the image back to the left.

The other thing to remember with all of this is wiring. Sure, it might be easy to stick the projector smack dab in the middle of the room on the ceiling, but how are you going to plug it in and wire up your Blu-ray player and TV to it? In my case I already had electrical plugs in the ceiling for the projector, but the existing wiring was S-video and VGA. Luckily it was in surface mount wire guides, so I removed the S-video and VGA and added a second parallel wire guide, to put in 2 x HDMI cables and 1 x component video.



http://www.wiremold.com/diy/img/prod...cable_mate.jpg

However, for the HDMI, I had to get good quality but stiff 24 AWG HDMI cables, since they were 25 feet long. Cheaper built and thinner 26 AWG HDMI cables wouldn't cut it - image errors with 1080p60 material.

P.S. If you do have to lower the projector significantly from the ceiling, suddenly you have a mess of wires that have to come down too. So, in the middle of the living room, there's gonna be a bunch of ugly wires hanging from the ceiling. That's one reason I have no interest in having a projector in my living room. The projector alone is bad enough, but the projector plus wiring is downright ugly IMHO. You can build a room (or structures) to compensate for this of course, but when you're talking about adding a projector to an existing room not built for projectors, that's when the aesthetic problems arise.
( Last edited by Eug; Sep 17, 2009 at 06:24 PM. )
     
sek929  (op)
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Sep 21, 2009, 12:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Wow. That sounds really, really heavy. How are they going to move it up and down? Isn't furniture gonna get in the way?

I think the roll down white screen is probably better.
Yeah, terrible idea. Like I said, these people aren't super picky like most of you hi-fi nerds, so I think a decent pull-down screen is in order.


Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Zoom allows you to change image size for different placement options. With no zoom, then the image size depends only on the distance from the screen. With zoom, you can increase or decrease the size to compensate. Often with DLP projectors, there is very little zoom, so projector placement becomes a major pain in the @ss.

However, the potential bigger issue is lens shift. With a centered lens and no lens shift, a ceiling mounted projector would be projected half on the screen and half on the ceiling, cuz the centre of the image would be at the height of the lens, which is close to where the ceiling and the wall meet. With lens shift you can shift the image downwards to the wall. However, with a tall ceiling or limited lens shift, it still probably would be too high, so an extended mount to bring it down from the ceiling would be needed. Just as importantly though, lens shift allows you to place the projector off centre sideways as well. For example, in terms of right vs. left, perhaps you can't put the projector right in the centre because a light fixture or a beam is there. So, with lens shift you can move the projector to the right, and use the lens shift to move the image back to the left.
After mulling this over you are %100 right suggesting the slightly more expensive projector with lens shift. There is no way I want to install a huge telescopic mount with all the aforementioned cables hanging down. There is a smooth, straight shot across the ceiiling so dead-center won't be a problem, and I imagine with lens shift and a good distance away from the screen I can have the proj. mounted to the ceiling yet display the image at a proper height for viewing.

Originally Posted by Eug View Post
The other thing to remember with all of this is wiring. Sure, it might be easy to stick the projector smack dab in the middle of the room on the ceiling, but how are you going to plug it in and wire up your Blu-ray player and TV to it? In my case I already had electrical plugs in the ceiling for the projector, but the existing wiring was S-video and VGA. Luckily it was in surface mount wire guides, so I removed the S-video and VGA and added a second parallel wire guide, to put in 2 x HDMI cables and 1 x component video.
Not a problem, they don't have any HD units. The only thing I'll need is a VGA to component adapter (which is included with the Epson) and long component cables.

Edit: Surprisingly, people have responded quickly and I already have the money needed with a good deal of friends left to ask. This extra money would be spent poorly on an ugly telescopic mount so I'd rather spend it on a higher-quality projector (that Epson you linked) with lens shift.

Thanks a million for your help so far, but I doubt I'm through asking questions
( Last edited by sek929; Sep 21, 2009 at 01:00 PM. )
     
sek929  (op)
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Dec 26, 2009, 03:58 PM
 
**Update**

We have the room I originally wanted, and we have decided on a 90" screen since it affords me the ability to leave the wall (which is old horsehair plaster) untouched and paint the 'screen' on to a 4x8 sheet of finish plywood. This screen will be surrounded by custom built-in cabinets and a space to store his HTPC that will drive the projector.

I've read that 1.5x viewing distance (of the screen width) is good for a 720p display, and also that the lens should be about 13' away from the screen.

Mostly just passing this by the concerned parties (Eug) and seeing what he thinks.

I'd imagine one coat of grey primer on the finish plywood and one coat of finish paint should do it. I read that Lowes can mix Valspar paint to Sherwin-Williams colors, so I should be able to get them to make me grey screen paint. The color code I have located online is Flat SW 7071 Grey Screen, does this match with your screen Eug?

Also Eug, on a scale of 1-10 for ambient lighting I'd say this room will be a 5, do you think I might need a brighter paint than you've selected?

Once again thanks for the help, and I'm going to post pictures as the project continues. Today we are prepping the room for paint, and turning on the projector, for the first time, and seeing how it's settings correspond to the space I've laid out.
     
Eug
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Dec 26, 2009, 05:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
I've read that 1.5x viewing distance (of the screen width) is good for a 720p display, and also that the lens should be about 13' away from the screen.
?

Screen width for a 90" (or 7.5') diagonal screen is 6.5 feet, so 1.5X is 9.75 feet.

LCD projectors for example are reportedly worse for screen door effect than others. However, some use some sort of slight defocusing mechanism to make it less obvious. For my 720p LCD, I can sit at slightly less than 9' with no problem. I prefer to sit at 1.5-1.6X anyway though.

I didn't try a DLP in my setup because of the limited zoom and lens shift options.

I'd imagine one coat of grey primer on the finish plywood and one coat of finish paint should do it. I read that Lowes can mix Valspar paint to Sherwin-Williams colors, so I should be able to get them to make me grey screen paint. The color code I have located online is Flat SW 7071 Grey Screen, does this match with your screen Eug?
SW 7071 is just a good approximation of N8. It's not exactly N8. I just chose it because it's a good off-the-shelf brand colour and there was a SW store nearby. I used a couple of layers of paint.

And yeah, don't go glossy, or you'll get hotspotting.

Also Eug, on a scale of 1-10 for ambient lighting I'd say this room will be a 5, do you think I might need a brighter paint than you've selected?
I tried N7, N8, and N9 before I settled on N8.
     
sek929  (op)
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Dec 26, 2009, 06:21 PM
 
The 13' measurement is the placement of the projector lens, not the seating which will be slightly in front of the projector unit at ~120" or more precisely your 9.75' mark

I'll start with the N8, non-glossy, and about one gallon should do.

Thanks again!
     
Eug
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Dec 26, 2009, 06:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
The 13' measurement is the placement of the projector lens, not the seating
Ah gotcha. Misread your post.

Good luck!
     
sek929  (op)
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Dec 26, 2009, 09:00 PM
 
Eug, thanks again on the suggestion of the 720. Just did a 'dry' run with the bad wall, the text was crisp and the lens shift and zoom options are simply ingenious.

Menu options are almost overwhelming at this point, but I did find a sweet template utility that allowed me to mark the exact coordinates of the screen.

to you sir
     
sek929  (op)
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Mar 28, 2010, 04:03 PM
 
Update: The media room is coming along nicely. I have some custom birch shelving installed and the screen, made of Painted MDF, looks fantastic. We did a 'dry' run with everything last night and the picture was amazing.

Eug, thanks again for your help, I've modeled much of this project after your advice and everything has (so far) come out flawless. Here are some shots of the largely unfinished wedding gift.


The screen test last night, Picard Approved™ Painted N7 on 3/4" MDF


The room during the pre-finish process for the Birch Plywood.


Bookshelves and entertainment center dry fit.


Rough finished state, minus screen.
     
   
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