Most folks won’t want to dim the lights just to see the evening news or occasional sitcom. For those who want to reserve their projectors for home cinema, one elegant but equipment-intensive solution is to mount a flat-panel TV on the front wall between the left and right speakers, with a pull-down screen for movie time.
Screens prices vary from free—a flat-white wall works well enough for some folks—to expensive, for automated, stateof- the-art creations. Styles vary from snap-on types that are stretched onto metal frames, to pop-ups similar to those used for schoolroom slide shows, to manually-operated pulldowns and many models of motorized ceilingmounted devices. Not all of them are white. Some are gray, to improve apparent black level, and some are coated to absorb ambient light to improve apparent brightness.
As a Web search will show you, there’s a huge underground of do-it-yourself video hobbyists who can tell you how to modify ordinary wall paint for maximum reflectivity, or how to make a high-performance screen from readily available materials. A 4' x 8' sheet of Foam Core (the white material used to mount framed photos) makes an acceptable screen for some people. It’s lightweight, easy to cut, and costs only about $40 per sheet at art supply stores. Screens, in fact, are a subject worthy of their own in-depth examination. Look for that in an upcoming issue of TPV.
A projector can do more to enhance your home-theater experience than probably any other piece of equipment you can buy. Shop carefully and enlist all the expert help you can recruit. For truly long-term satisfaction, make friends with a good retailer and stick with him. The bit of extra money you’ll spend for his expertise will more than pay for itself in time saved with futile trial-and-error. You don’t need to take on heavy debt for a good projector. As with everything from automobiles to fine dining, you don’t get ten times the value for a tenfold increase in price. Remember that today’s state-of-the-art flagship is tomorrow’s mass-production runabout. By staying a year or two behind the cutting edge, you can enjoy yesterday’s best at today’s commodity prices. Video is definitely a buyer’s market.N