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Projection screens are often overlooked when choosing the audiovisual equipment for business presentation environments and home theatre systems. The type of projection screen used is actually very important since the quality of the projected image displaying your business presentation, home theatre movie or big screen sports event can only be as good as the screen surface it is projected on.

There would not be much point in spending lots of money on the latest high-tech projector if the image is going to be displayed on a low quality projection screen, or even a high quality projection screen which is not the right type for the task in hand. Sometimes, an otherwise incredible display can be ruined by projecting the image on to a blank wall and not using a screen at all. Luckily most people now realize that a good projection screen is essential, but it can be tough to figure out which type of screen is needed for the job.

The best type of projection screen to use will depend on two main factors: the type of presentation application you are going to use the screen for, and where you are going to use it. 

If you plan on using your projection screen while on business trips away from the office then a portable screen will most likely be the best option. If the screen is being used in a boardroom or training environment, a permanent projection screen may be the best choice to maximize the quality of the projected image. There are many different types of portable and permanent projection screens, and it can be hard to figure out which one is the best screen for the job.

This Projector Source Canada article will give you a good overview of the types of projection screens available, and help you to choose the right type of screen for your presentation application.

Portable projection screens

When selecting a projection screen, the first decision you need to make is whether you will need a portable projection screen, or a screen that is permanently installed. Portable screens are the best option if you need to use the screen in different locations, for example:

  • Businesses that do presentations at clients'' offices
  • Convention centres
  • Education institutions that require increased AV flexibility
  • Road warriors and salespeople that travel frequently
  • Hotels that offer conference facilities
  • Entertainers, DJs and event promotion companies
Portable projection screens allow for great flexibility. They can be transported effortlessly from one location to another and are quick and easy and to set up and use. There are four main categories of portable screen:

Pull-up projection screens

Are usually self-contained within a case and are positioned on the floor before being manually pulled upwards and locked into place.  It is hard to beat pull-up projection screens where a fast set up, combined with a professional appearance is needed, and so this type of projection screen is perfect for trade shows.

Portable Tri-pod Screens

Consist of a pull up screen and built in stand made up of three foldable legs which provide stability and elevate the screen off the ground to increase the impact of presentations. Tri-pod screens are very economical and easy to transport and so are often favoured by road warriors.

Table screens

Are smaller versions of pull-up screens, and are positioned on a tabletop and pulled outwards, then stabilized with fold-out feet. These types of screens are ideal for presentations to smaller groups and in situations where the presentation space is extremely tight.

Truss-style projection screens

Use a rigid truss system which stretches the screen fabric over a framework usually made from a lightweight aluminium alloy. Truss-style projection screens can accommodate many sizes of screen and can usually utilize both front and rear projected images. They are often used at trade shows where a high degree of professionalism is required, and as such are the most expensive yet best looking type of portable screen.

Permanent screens:

Where a projection screen does not need to be used in different locations, flexibility and portability can be sacrificed in favor of the convenience and better image quality of a permanently installed projection screen. There are three main types of permanent screen:

Fixed frame projection screens:

Fixed frame screens consist of a flexible projection material that is permanently tensioned by being stretched around a frame, similar to a stretched painting canvas. This results in a very flat screen which will produce a much higher image clarity than a non-tensioned screen, but without the visible tension cords of a tab-tensioned screen. Fixed frame screens are designed for use in locations where they can be permanently installed and where an extremely high quality and professional display is frequently required. These types of permanent screens integrate well into:

  • Corporate Boardrooms
  • Conference rooms
  • Home theatres
  • Classrooms
  • Other environments where the screen must be constantly ready

Fixed frame screens are designed for easy installation and wall mounting. They are available in wide screen/HDTV (16:9) and video (4:3) formats.

Fixed frame screens usually incorporate black borders around the screen to absorb "projector wash", which is the light that spills over from the projected image. The black borders absorb the excess light which enhances the perceived visual display and gives optimal viewing conditions. The black border can be provided by the frame, painted in black matt to prevent glare, or for the ultimate viewing quality a black, velvet-textured material is added to the frame to absorb the maximum amount of projected light overspill.

Manual pull-down projection screens:

Manual screens (and their electric screen counterparts) are popular because they are easy to install and easy to use. These screens are generally for use in situations where the screen will be in place for most of the time, but perhaps not all the time. A great example is in schools where at the front of the classroom there is a mounted blackboard with a screen in front of it, both of which will be used throughout the day.

A manual screen enables the user (in this case a teacher) to pull the screen down manually from its casing to the desired height when it is needed. Spring roller technology ensures that the screen locks into place when it is pulled down, but also rolls back into its case easily when the screen is no longer needed. Controlled Screen Return technology can prevent the screen from rolling back into the case too quickly, or alternatively a crank and pulley system can be used on some models.

Other situations where a manual screen can be used are:

  • Training facilities
  • Places of worship
  • Home theatre systems
  • Other permanent installations were cost-effectiveness is important

Manual pull-down screens are usually installed directly on to a wall or suspended from the ceiling. They are an economical choice for a professional-looking projector screen solution that stays in one location most of the time.
Most manual projection screens have black masking borders to absorb projector wash and some can be tab-tensioned, which means the screen is kept flat by tensioned cords on both sides of the screen and a weighted base. This increases image clarity and can prevent wrinkles from forming, but typically the audience can see these tensioned cords which can detract slightly from the viewing experience.

Electric Projection Screens

Electric screens (also known as motorized screens) are similar to manual projection screens in that they are used in situations where they are installed permanently and yet are not needed 100% of the time.

Electric screens are more expensive than manual screens, but provide much greater convenience since the screen can be raised or lowered using an infra red (IR) or radio frequency (RF) remote control, or by pressing a switch mounted on a wall or podium. The advantages of remotes are that they can be used to operate the screen from a variety of locations in the room (infra red remotes work up to 12 metres away with a 60 degree operating cone whereas radio frequency remotes can operate up to 20 metres away with a 180 degree cone).

Regarded as one of the most professional types of projection screen, electric screens are frequently found in the boardrooms of larger companies. Another major use for electric screens is in applications where the screen is simply inaccessible and so a manual pull-down screen is not feasible, for instance, in large lecture halls.

Electric screens can be mounted externally to the ceiling with brackets or for a touch of finesse, flush-mounted with a recessed casing to hide the screen within the ceiling surface. With a flick of a switch, an ordinary-looking boardroom can be turned into a high-tech presentation environment in seconds. An added bonus of an electric screen is that its usage can be controlled by whoever has the remote, and it can be integrated with control systems that could be used to automatically dim the lights, turn on the projector and lower the projection screen at the same time with the touch of a button. The one disadvantage, apart from the price, is that installation can be difficult since the screen needs a power source to operate.

Rear Projection Screens

There are two main ways of displaying an image on the screens we have explained in this advice section: front projection and rear projection. As opposed to front projection systems, which have the image source on the same side of the screen as the viewing audience, rear projection systems work by displaying an image projected from behind the screen on to a special surface of translucent flexible screen fabric or rigid acrylic.

The projector behind the rear projection screen can either be mounted behind the viewing surface, requiring dark space in between the projector and the screen, or housed inside a cabinet or unit with a system of first surface mirrors which reflect the image perfectly on to the rear projection screen, dramatically cutting down the distance required between the display source and the screen.

This allows for large images while maintaining a relatively thin unit, and so rear projection systems can be found in the home theater, classroom or boardroom. A permanent rear-projection system can also be installed into a wall for a more impressive finish.

The screen surface of a rear projection system has the big advantage of reducing the effect of ambient light on the presentation -- in fact, most rear projection systems can still be used normally in near-normal light levels. All rear projection screens also have the benefit that people are unlikely to walk between the projector and the screen, reducing the chance that the presentation will be disrupted by people casting shadows on the screen.

We hope you enjoyed this article by Projector Source Canada.  For more information, or to purchase a display and projector for your business or home, visit us online at or contact us at 1-800-821-3021.


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