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When it comes to setting up a home theater for best experience, nothing can beat the big screen when watching movies or even playing video games. However, most people refrain themselves from setting up a big projector screen because they don’t have a big budget. However, a home theater system with a projector and a display isn’t expensive, particularly if you build a DIY projector screen.

Besides saving a few hundred dollars (which you can put towards better equipment), setting up a custom projector screen will take your movie experience to the next level. You can customize it according to your requirements. You just need to keep a few basics in mind when designing and installing a projector screen. From choosing the right screen fabric to fine-tuning the screen location, this post offers tips on making and installing a projector screen flawlessly.

1. Determine Screen Location

The first thing you need to do is to determine the location of your projector screen even though it’s not a part of the building process directly. However, it will affect the screen size and the choice of building material. So, be prepared to spend some serious amount of time thinking about the right location. You also need to consider the distance of your recliner seats from screen, speaker arrangement, the location of your projector, and its zoom range, among other things.

Keeping the bottom of your display screen 24 to 36 inches off the floor will help you avoid neck and eye fatigue. Make sure your eyesight aligns with the line between top two-thirds and bottom one-third of the screen when sitting. You also need to ensure that the projector is positioned at a suitable distance from the screen. You can find the correct throw distance for your projector in the user manual.

Make sure to place the screen on a wall that does not receive direct light. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can damage the screen material, resulting in lower picture quality. That’s why you should avoid substituting a projection screen as curtain or window cover.

2. Choose the Right Screen Material

Based on the mechanical properties, the projector screen material is of two types: the stretchable one and the non-stretchable one. Most manual projector screens are built using non-stretchable fabrics. The stretchable one, on the other hand, is found in almost all types of display screens including fixed-frame screens and tab-tension screens.

In general, the stretchable material is usually the best option as it can withstand considerable tension, creating a uniformly flat surface. However, when selecting a screen fabric, you also need to consider several factors other than just the mechanical properties such as gain, contrast, acoustic transparency, and viewing angle.

Standard Matte White

This is the most commonly used fabric for display screens. The images can appear uniform from any angle as this fabric diffuses light in all directions. If you are painting a display screen, you can buy matte white paint.  

High Contrast Fabrics

High contrast fabrics can reflect less light (both ambient and projector light) compared to standard matte white fabrics, resulting in an increased color contrast. In this type of screen, a gray-colored fabric is used instead of a white matte one to enhance the color contrast. However, high contrast fabrics also have a lower gain, resulting in darker images.

High Gain Fabrics

This type of screen fabric is used when the projector has low brightness or the amount of ambient light is higher than you are able to shut out. However, this is achieved at the expense of reduced viewing angles and increased hotspots. To overcome these negative effects, you can use a medium gain fabric.

Perforated Screen Fabrics

If you are going to place the center and front speakers behind the projector screen , you will need to use a perforated screen fabric. A standard perforated fabric comes with several tiny holes or perforations. These tiny holes will facilitate the passage of sound waves through the tiny creating acoustic transparency.   

3. Frame Material: Wood or Metal or Both

The frame is one of the most important parts of a display screen. Just like the screen material, the choice of frame material will also depend on a variety of factors including your budget, location of the screen (indoor or outdoor, wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted), and mechanics (motorized, manual, and portable), among others.

If you are looking for a more permanent setup, you can certainly use heavier frame materials such as wood and thick metal piping. In addition to nuts and bolts, you can also use connectors for better support. On the other hand, if you are looking for a temporary setup such as a folding screen, you may have to use a lighter material such as PVC or plastic pipes or even thinner metal pipes.

4. Add a Layer of Soft Padding

Once you have built a frame and put a sturdy back support such as hardboard, the next obvious step is to place the screen fabric. However, if you want to enjoy better picture quality, you should add a layer of soft padding between the backer board and the screen fabric. This soft underbelly will not only hide the shortcomings such as screw heads and tiny gaps on backer board, but also create a smoother screen surface.

You can use cotton or polyester fabric such as quilt batting to cover the backer board. However, the material shouldn’t have any decorative stitching or textured patterns. If necessary, iron the sheet a couple of times to remove wrinkles. Instead of using a screw gun to fasten it to the board, use spray adhesive to fix the padding firmly to the board.

Conclusion

You may have the best recliners, best speakers, good quality LEDs and have arranged your recliners for the best movie experience, a home theater setup without a good quality projector screen is always incomplete. Though you will spend some hard cash on a projector, a DIY screen will save you a considerable amount of money. The above tips will help you create and install a projector screen that suits your requirements. Sitting through those favorite-movie marathons will never feel so good!

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