Homes, especially nowadays, are more than just for shelter. We use it as our gym, classroom, office, and, more importantly, as a movie theater. However, setting one up doesn’t start and end in getting a screen—there’s a more crucial part here, which is determining the size suitable for the room.
The ideal size for a home theater screen should have a max height of half the nearest seat from the screen. If the nearest is 100 in (254 cm) away, then your ideal height for the screen is 50 in (127 cm). From there, you can calculate the width, depending on the aspect ratio you want for your screen.
Choosing the right screen size for your home theater isn’t as straightforward as what many people think, but we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about screen sizes in great detail. By the end of this article, you’ll surely be on your way to getting that perfect screen for your room.
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TVs vs. Projectors: Which Is Better?
Before anything else, let’s determine which would be better for your home theater: a TV or a projector?
Most people would go for TVs because it’s a more straightforward option. It also has all the connectivity features you need to set up your home theater. If you have the perfect TV for your home theater, you’re already halfway through your setup. The only things you’ll need are the player, sound system, and seats.
Unfortunately, you can’t go all out with your home theater if you’re using a TV. There’s always a limitation with the size and price of the screen. You can’t always get the exact size you need for your home theater, and it’ll get more expensive as it gets bigger.
If you need something that can provide you with better flexibility in setting up your home theater, projectors are the best option. You can buy the same projector and set it to work well even at 4K resolution and get anywhere from 80 inches (203 cm) to 150 inches (381 cm) of screen size.
Setting up a home theater with a projector is a bit more complicated, though, because you’ll need to set up everything. You need the right projector screen, sound systems, and, more importantly, manage the cables that bring these systems together.
I’ll leave the decision on which one is better for you to decide, but it’ll be a lot easier if you can determine the right screen size for your home theater, right?
What You Don’t Want for Your Home Theater Screen
It’s easy to be overwhelmed when looking for a home theater screen. We all want the best and biggest possible. After all, more details mean a better viewing experience, right? However, you don’t want to have a screen that isn’t coherent with your room’s size.
Setting up a massive screen in a small room will overwhelm the place. It may not even be comfortable to watch and feel like having a screen right in front of your face. A large room with an average screen isn’t ideal either, because it’ll make you feel like watching from a smartphone. It may work, but definitely not the home theater experience that you’re expecting.
That’s why we need to determine the size we need for home theaters before we even start looking at the options. Plus, knowing the right size for your room will also make choosing between TVs and projectors much easier. If your room needs a screen bigger than 80 inches (203 cm), a projector is a more practical option. However, if you only need a screen smaller than 80 inches (203 cm), TVs may be a better choice.
How to Calculate Screen Size
Before you start determining the size you’ll need for your home theater, let’s be sure that you have the most crucial tool for this task—a tape measure.
Of course, you can use any tape measure, but if you’re aiming for accuracy even in larger rooms, I’d recommend Lexivon Digital Tape Measure. It features a laser distance measure that works for up to 130 feet (40 meters) and an auto-lock measuring tape up to 16 feet (5 meters).
Now that you have what you need, let’s talk about screen sizes. Normally, when you see a 75-inch screen, it’s not the horizontal or vertical length of the screen—it’s diagonal. It’s more complicated than what most people think. Diagonal size is always affected by the aspect ratio. It means that a 75-inch 16:9 TV will be wider than a 75-inch 16:10 TV.
Although the market is dominated by 16:9 screens these days, you’ll notice that two 75-inch monitors with different aspect ratios will have different heights and widths. So it’s really not that easy to measure how big a 75-inch home theater screen would be if you’re going to measure it diagonally. It’ll even be more complicated as you reach the 100-inch mark, and most people won’t even know how to begin with the measurement.
To make things a smidge more manageable, let’s measure the screen you’ll need by determining the height and aspect ratio you want. With these two variables in place, it’ll be easier to determine the screen’s width that is ideal for your room, then get its diagonal size. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves—first things first; plan the home theater setup.
Plan Your Home Theater Setup
Everything starts with the plan. Without it, all the variables you’ll need to get the ideal screen size for your home theater will be guesswork. So let’s start planning for your room by asking the following questions:
- What’s the actual size of the room? The bigger the room is, the bigger your screen should be. However, it’s not always a straightforward answer because you still need to consider the number of people watching, the type of seat you’re using, and each seat’s distance.
- How many people will watch simultaneously? Once you have your room’s actual size, you need to determine the number of people that can comfortably watch. With more and more movies pushing through the usual 2-hour movie length, comfort should always be a priority. Knowing how many people will use the home theater simultaneously is crucial to determine the seating position.
- What type of seat are you planning to use? If you’re only planning to use a sofa, it’ll be easier to determine the seat’s ideal distance from the screen. If you’re using rows for the seats, things get a bit more complicated. You want the seats to have the right distance from each other, but not too far that the viewing experience starts to diminish.
- How far should the seats be from the screen? Ideally, you want the seats to be in the middle of the room. It provides a better viewing angle and enough space for surround sound to propagate. However, as a general rule, the closest seat should never be twice the screen’s height. If you want a screen with a height of 50 inches (127 cm), the closest seat should not be less than 100 inches (254 cm) away from the screen.
Determine Screen’s Height
The easiest way to determine the height you’ll need for your screen is to take a chair and put it at the optimal position in your home theater. It could be right in the middle or leaning towards the adjacent wall. This position will be the middle ground that will help you determine two things: the screen’s height and how you should position the rest of the seats.
Now, take the distance between the ideal position and where you want to install your screen. Divide it by three, and that is the starting point for the height of the screen you should have.
For example, if the distance between the screen and the optimal position is 150 inches (381 cm), a good screen height would be 50 inches (127 cm). For context, the SAMSUNG 85-inch Class Q60T QLED 4K Smart TV has a screen height of only 42.6 inches (108.2 cm).
Of course, if you’re going to use a TV for your home theater, you’ll have to make some adjustments. You can’t get a TV with the exact dimensions you need, so adjusting the seats is the next best step. If your screen’s height is 42.6 inches (108.2 cm), then the best position should be at least 128 inches (325 cm) away from the screen.
Do you remember the questions we asked earlier? Answering them will give you an idea of how you should place your seats. If only four people are watching simultaneously and you’re only using a sofa, then putting it at least 128 inches (325 cm) away from the screen gives everyone the best position.
Getting the best position for the seats is not an exact science. You could adjust your distance from the screen if the position is awkward, which is a more likely scenario if you picked a TV. It’s the most significant disadvantage for TVs—it doesn’t give you the flexibility you’ll get from projectors.
Aside from getting the ideal height that is coherent with the optimal seating position, here are other things that you need to consider when planning your home theater setup:
- The furthest seat that you can have is at least five to six times your screen’s height. If your screen is 42.6 inches (108.2 cm) tall, you shouldn’t place a seat that is more than 255 inches (648 cm) away from the screen. At this distance, the screen starts to appear smaller, affecting the viewing experience.
- The closest seat shouldn’t be less than twice the screen’s height. Similarly, the closest seat should not be less than 85 inches (216 cm) away from the screen. Watching from a distance closer than that will be overwhelming and may not even be comfortable.
With all of these variables in place, you can already start planning everything you want for your home theater. You even have the optimal locations for the seats and how you should position them according to the number of people watching simultaneously and the type of seat you’re using. It’s so simple that if you decide to use a TV for your home theater, you already have almost everything you need.
If the optimal position for you to watch a movie is at least 128 inches (325 cm) away from the wall, then you’ll need an 85-inch screen. It would still be the ideal size, even if you want to sit anywhere from 85 inches (216 cm) up to 213 inches (541 cm) away from the screen.
Unfortunately, having the flexibility of using projectors can make things a bit more complicated for you. Remember, we only have the screen’s height. It’s only easy for TVs because manufacturers already have the width pre-determined, but it’s not the case if you’re going to build your projector screen.
So, if you’re planning to use a projector for your home theater, the next step would be to determine the width that you’ll need for a projector screen.
Determine Screen’s Width
Two factors will determine how wide your screen should be: the screen’s height and the aspect ratio. We already have the height—50 inches (127 cm) based on the optimal position where you want to watch. The aspect ratio will be the tricky part because different videos use different aspect ratios. Projectors may also vary in the aspect ratio that they use. However, the most common that you’ll see has a 16:9 aspect ratio.
To determine the width that you’ll need for your projector screen, take the height and aspect ratio, and use this formula:
X * Y / Z
X = screen’s height
Y = aspect ratio width
Z = aspect ratio height
Let’s say your ideal screen is 50 inches (127 cm) tall, and you want to have an aspect ratio of 16:9. To get the width of the screen, the formula is:
50 * 16 / 9 = 88.9 inches (225.8 cm)
88.9 inches (225.8 cm) should be the width of a screen that has a height of 50 inches (127 cm).
If you want to have a screen that is 80 inches (203 cm) high with an aspect ratio of 4:3, the same formula applies:
80 * 4 / 3 = 106.7 inches (271 cm)
Once you have the height and width for your home theater screen, you can decide whether you want to build your own and get a ready-made projector screen that matches the dimensions you need. This process also involves trying to determine the type of fabric that you’ll use for it.
Find and Position the Projector
The last step is finding the projector that matches your screen size. In most cases, the projector is the limit for the screen that you can have. The throw distance is also another factor that you have to consider when looking for a projector that you can use.
Of course, the bigger the screen, the further your projector should be. However, there are projectors in the market that have a shorter throw distance. It means that you’ll be able to achieve the same screen size for a much less distance than what you’d get from an ordinary projector. Often, the throw distance that a projector has is the limitation on how big your screen can get.
Another factor that can affect the viewing experience is the angle at which you can mount the projector. Although there are projectors that you can mount on any position, there are still some that don’t have this flexibility. Remember, if you opt for a projector for your home theater, your viewing experience will always be as good as your projector.
Never cheap out on a projector for a home theater. If you’re willing to spend thousands on a high-end TV, it would only make sense to have the same budget for a high-end home theater projector.
Some Considerations When Using a Projector for Your Home Theater
If you opt to use a projector for your home theater, there are other things that you need to consider to improve your viewing experience. Several factors can affect the quality of the video that it produces, so it would be best to consider the following:
- Lighting in your home theater. Your room should have dimmable lights because a dark room will lower the overall screen temperature. It allows your projector to have a more accurate color reproduction. If it still doesn’t have the quality you want for your home theater, you may want to consider reducing your screen size.
- A sound system that is ideal for your room. The screen and sound systems are two of the essential parts of a home theater system. Generally, a bigger screen would require a more powerful sound system. However, you should never use your screen as a basis for the sound system that you’re planning to have. It would be best always to get the one that is ideal for the room, not the one that goes well with the screen.
- Fabric for the screen projector. There are several types of fabric that you can use for a screen projector, but the ideal would be a blackout fabric. This fabric allows you to project images onto the screen without passing through the fabric, preventing the viewers from seeing a double image.
The screen is the most crucial part of any home theater system. You can get a mediocre sound system, and you’ll still enjoy a movie night with a good screen, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll go all out when buying a screen for your room. You still need to consider the size to ensure that you’re getting the best experience possible.
The screen size will always be subject to your room’s actual size because it determines your ideal seating position. That’s why it’s always the first that you need to consider before you even start planning for your setup.