I am not master projectionist, in fact it is more a necessary part of the job that I have to understand rather than I want to understand. But because of some past events that have occurred over the last couple of years and more recently the past couple of months it has made me more aware of what to look for in a good projector.
The first thing to understand is that there are two purposes that manufactures make projectors for. The first is Boardrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and home theatres. The second is for event production or IMAG purposes. Projectors in the first category formatted for Boardrooms, conference rooms and classrooms are really made for power point presentations. They are extremely durable and can handle being powered up and down a lot. Other than a bulb change and cleaning the filter they can be installed and not touched for long periods of time. They are essentially made to display a power point presentation or maybe show a DVD from time to time. They usually operate in a different color temperature, usually around 7500K and because of the high resolution and cost effectiveness, they usually take their time to process a signal and have quite a bit of delay. Again the purposes of these projectors are to show a power point, feed though a VGA or some type of RGBHV signal.
The second types of projectors are event/ venue projectors. They are made for live settings, and large venues. They will be centered around IMAG production. Color temperature will be around 5200K and the procession will be much quicker and of higher quality. You can tell when you plug in a low rez signal and the quality is still very good. They are not as durable, once you turn them on, leave them on for a while, too much up and down will wear these out.
When looking at projectors for IMAG production it is important to be looking at a projector that is more of an event/ mid- large venue projector. Now you still have to be careful when looking at these projectors. Just because it may be from a high end manufacturer doesn’t mean it is automatically a good projector. Make sure they have low latency! The less delay the better for IMAG, Projectors are among the worse culprit for delay in a system. Another thing to look at is the overall quality. Watch for stair stepping and blockiness or pixelization. Watch movement on the projectors to make sure it is smooth and not jittery. Next, plug in a camera into the projector and see how flesh tones look, white balance a couple of times and see how the projectors react. Some projectors are very difficult to get flesh tones to look good and you will spend hours tweaking colors on both your cameras and you projectors to get them to look decent. Lastly, if you are doing front projection be sure to consider how loud they are. Noisy projections are just annoying for people sitting out in the audience.
One of the biggest misses that people make is fitting their projector in to their room instead of making changes to the environment their projectors are in. Most people purchase a different lens for their projector to compensate for the distance from projector to screen. Here is the secret, different lenses cause light loss. In some extreme cases, a lens can take a 6K lumen projector and cut it down to 2.5K lumen. This is usually a short or long throw lenses, but not always. Do your research on lenses to make sure what ever lens you choose won’t cut down the light of your projector. If you need to fit a projector into a space get a bigger projector to compensate for lens loss.
The last thing I want to bring up on this subject is LCD vs. DLP. LCD projectors have been around for a long time and are pretty solid. In 2005 we installed 6 LCD projectors, 3 at one campus and 3 at the other. After 3 years all 6 had to have their LCD boards replaced. After doing some research we found that the average life of an LCD projector is only 3-5 years and they will loose a decent amount of lumen output after the first year of use. DLP is the newer technology that is being used. The highest output projectors are using DLP technology and seam to have a much longer lifetime. They are more expensive up front but will look better and last longer.
People sitting in your audience are watching your projectors for the entire service. If you are a video venue then they are your bread and butter, you want people to have a good experience. Projectors are the one thing I believe shouldn’t be cheeped out on, they will make or break an attendees experience. Do your research, ask the questions, and run the tests before you buy, it will pay off in the end.