Video Projection: More Than Wizards and Magic

What is this magic that determines projection image quality, and how can it fix that ‘washed out’ projection look?

In the ongoing debate between flat panels and projectors, we’re definitely seeing an honest tug-of-war. Sometimes we hear we are better off installing LCD and LED panels, other times we see evidence that flat panels aren’t replacing projectors anytime soon.

Victoria Ferrari adds to the discourse in her latest AVNation article, offering her two cents on projection and some advice on how to better your next projection install.

She calls it “two-piece projection,” underlining the fact that both the projector and the screen are equally significant in putting together a great projection system. And she questions why there isn’t more projection in conference rooms.

“I’ve heard so many end users say projected images are ‘ugly,’ or ‘My flat panel at home looks better than the projector in our expensive executive boardroom,'” Ferrari says, adding that it’s “sad, but true.”

It’s too easy to put together a subpar projection system, she explains. There are so many variables: the right projector, the right screen, the right place and the right size. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

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“Surprisingly, I firmly believe that with the right environmental factors in play, a projected image can look better than a flat panel,” she says. “I always lead my sales with 2-piece projection and I can say my team is designing approximately 60 – 70% of my jobs with projection.”

Ferrari says she uses projection in most cases for many reasons, but the biggest is size: you get a bigger screen for the money you spend. Flat panels over 80″ or 90″ just don’t make economic sense.

It’s up to the integrator to understand the variables to installing a projector and how to many it work with a room’s size, not to mention number of viewers, lighting, furniture, and purpose. If you do, a projection system can be a cheaper and truly better alternative to flat panels.

There’s just one last question, and it is certainly the meat of Ferrari’s point: why is this post called ‘Video Projection: More Than Wizards and Magic’?

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The biggest negative Ferrari says she hears about projection is that the color is washed out. But it’s not magic; there is in fact a science to making those projection screens crisp and clear. The first question Ferrari asks when installing front projection is, “How much ambient light is in the room?”

That’s because it all comes down to measuring contrast ratio and the PISCR standards. The ANSI/Infocomm 3M-2011 Projected Image System Contrast Ratio (PISCR) is a standard assessing image quality and complete system contrast ratio, taking into account projection, screen and ambient light.

Contrast is the most important factor when perfecting an image, Ferrari says. Washed out projection images are all due to a lack of contrast. The PISCR is the only standard taking into account ambient light in the room, thus measuring true total system contrast ratio and determining which projectors and screens are best for different amounts of ambient light.

So there isn’t any wizard magically contriving impressive looking contrast ratios we hear of like 5000:1. But there might be a wand—an incredibly useful tool with brand new measurements for each projection system.

“You must feel out your client, but I’ve actually explained foot lamberts, ANSI contrast ratio, and PISCR to some of my clients, and they get it! It puts their mind at ease that we, as their trusted advisor, have metrics and measurements; that we’re not just making stuff up.”

Ferrari also discusses the tools she uses for achieving these true system contrast ratios, like the Stewart Filmscreen Contrast Calculator, an excel file that allows you to manipulate image size, projector lumens, and select the PISCR standards you are trying to achieve.

Read Ferrari’s article on to learn more.

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