The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Your Home Theater Projector questions – How to get an answer

Greetings all:   I’m normally buried in emails requesting advice.  It’s getting out of hand, in that there just isn’t close to enough time to answer all, or even most of your questions.  I therefore thought it would be helpful to you to explain where I am at answering questions, and how to improve your chances of getting an answer. I composed this email from the show, and decided that making a blog out of it would be helpful to my readers… So, here goes:

I have just returned from CEDIA trade show, am slammed with blogs to write, two projectors for review, and playing catch-up on emails.
Unfortunately, while at CEDIA, I received more than  100 emails requesting advice, about twice the normal weekly levels (naturally).  At best, I do 4-5 responses a day, generally the ones that are either interesting, or where sufficient information, makes a response something I can do quickly (200 words or less).  I was also about 30 – 40 emails behind, from the previous 10 days.
The bottom line is that I will only get to about 1 in 6 of all emails received last week and this week combined, instead of the usual half.
I am also more likely to answer emails through my blog, as those which I consider particularly good questions, get to be shared by others.  However, that is no guarantee.  When I do answer on a blog, I simply edit your comment, at the bottom, with my answers, with a bunch of   ************  to separate the question from my answer.
Therefore, any of you who would really like to get an answer, may I suggest re-posting your question into a blog.
BTW, anyone who asks about distances for placement – such as “where do I have to place the xyz projector for a 110″ screen – are automatically tossed in the trash.  Each review provides the distance ranges for a 100″ screen.  A 110″ screen increases those closest and furthest points by 10%, a 92 inch screen reduces by 8% and so on.  I do not have the time to look up lens throw information when answering.   Same for lens shift offsets, and any number of other things.  
Lastly, please, for example, don’t ask things like – “will the sanyo projector be bright enough if I buy a 120″ screen”.  Brightness is, of course somewhat subjective, and very dependent on your lighting.  And, of course you can go with very high gain screens to make up for a dim projector, but they have their drawbacks.  As a result, if I recommend no more than a 110″ screen, that is my recommendation.  I won’t change my recommendation, just because you ask me again.  If you want to get a 1.8 gain screen, sure, you can obviously go larger than my recommendation, if you can live with the downside of high gain screens.  
In other words, don’t ask me about what’s already in the reviews.
Then there’s one other request I have.  As I do not charge for those I answer, I do request that anyone who does get a detailed answer from me, to please provide me feedback on your final system, what projector, screen, lighting conditions, etc.  But please do not do that until you have had the system fully functional for 3-4 weeks.
Everyone pretty much is blown away, when they get their first projector based home theater.    My question is what you think of it, after the initial shock wheres off.
I’m doing the best I can, with limited time.  Thanks -art

News And Comments

  • Tim

    Art,

    I understand that you are behind but I have some questions about entry-level, cinema-like quality projectors. I am a newbie, so I have no experience in HD HT projectors but I am looking to purchase one by November. How do the new projectors (e.g. PLVZ700, AE3000U, HC5500) compare to the Epson 1080UB? I have no concerns about ambient light since the projector will be in a dedicated basement rec room but I plan to watch more than just movies, including but not limited to sports and regular HD cable stations, so I need a well rounded projector. Since I am looking at a 92″ Elite EZ screen (gray? white?) and a seating distance of no more than 12′, how do the projectors compare and which do you think would be the best for my application/setting?

    *******************

    Greetings Tim,

    It’s very hard to “compare” until I’ve seen the new products. And trade show demos aren’t much help, as rooms are always 100% pitch black, with black walls/floor/ceilings, etc.

    The Sanyo I haven’t seen at all, Sanyo did not exhibit at CEDIA. The Panasonic, I got as good a look at as possible for a show. More importantly, I saw it side by side on the same content as the PT-AE2000, which gives me a useful reference. The HC5500 I’ve already reviewed, so I know what that projector is capable of. With a 92″ screen, you should have a nice bright picture with either in best mode. Your 92″ requires just about half the lumens as my 128″ firehawk to be equally as bright, and the Epson does a very nice job in brightest mode when I’m watching football, etc.

    I suspect that the PT-AE3000U and the Epson are good competition for each other, in other words, you’ll have to make a subjective call. The AE3000U is definitely a bit sharper than the older one, which, I would guess that it is at least as sharp as the Epson, (which is average, and the Panny 2000 was a little below average).

    It’s too hard to conjecture about the Sanyo, except that it won’t be as bright as the other two It’s black levels may well rise to the Epson level, but I would be surprised, but again, it may be close enough for it to become a minor point. Of course, in 45 days, or less, both should be reviewed (I’d like nothing better than to complete both Panny and Sanyo reviews by end of Sept, but that’s up to the manufacturers to get in, and ship out their first batch of review units.

    -art

    Let’s say that the Mitsubishi HC5500 in terms of black levels is still no match for the Epson UB.

    The PT-AE3000 really does significantly improve on black levels, compared with the PT-AE2000U, and should be close to the Epson UB. If I had to guess, I would still give the Epson the advantage, but, both should be roughly at the same level. I expect that overall, the PT-AE3000U and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB should be closer to each other in black level performance, than the PT-AE3000U is to the older PT-AE2000U.

    The Epson is average in brightness in best mode, but one of the brighter when you need max lumens. The PT-AE3000U, again, should be similar, and if I had to guess, I’d say they would be roughly equal in brightness in their best modes, while the Epson probably still has about a 30 – 45% advantage in brightest mode. That gives the Epson the edge for sports viewing… I’m basing this on the difference between best and brightest modes on the PT-AE2000U, and assuming the same differences with the PT-AE3000U. The Epson has one of the biggest percentage differences between best and brightest modes, of any projectors I’ve reviewed.

  • Tim

    Many thanks! I look forward to the upcoming reviews. I’ll probably wait to purchase until after I have all of the information.

  • Randy

    Hi Art:
    I am a newbie and have read enough to be almost totally confused about the decisions I have made about my first theater room.
    I really wanted some advice, if you agree with what I think will work best for my circumstances:
    The room that the theater will be set up in is 18’8”L X 11’10”W X 10’H; Seating is about 16’ from the screen, I have installed blackout curtains over the windows so the room is cave like.
    Reading your reviews on projectors I have decided on the Infocus IN83 ceiling mounted and a 123” Stewart Luxus Deluxe Screenwall 16:9 with Studio Tek 130 G3 film.
    The input for the projector will need a HDMI cable about 50’ long.
    Have I forgotten anything else that may be needed and do you think this will make a good film, TV system?
    Thanks for any advice as I said I have read so much I’m feeling pretty confused write now.
    Thanks Randy

    *********************
    Greetings Randy,

    The IN83 is a good choice. It will be excellent for your TV, and movies, however, since the IN83 has the horsepower to spare, you might want to consider either the Firehawk or Grayhawk screens as an alternative to the Studiotek. While your room lighting doesn’t call for rejecting side lighting, either Firehawk or Grayhawk will lower those black levels a noticeable amount. I’ve been doing most of my viewing on the Firehawk G3. As it turns out, in my theater, my temporary setup for projectors I’m reviewing is only so far back. With the IN83, I couldn’t place it quite as far back as needed to fill the screen. In fact the size I was normally viewing at, was about 119-120 inches. The IN83 worked great in that environment. Depending on where you are mounting, you might also consider the Firehawk SST, for a slightly wider viewing cone (people sitting to the sides will experience less roll off of brightness, and more even illumination.

    Best of luck! I’ll bet you love the setup, regardless of screen choice! -art

  • Randy

    Art:
    Thanks for your input, I really was having heartburn over this dicision, there seems to be so many good projectors/screens out there today…
    Your input is much appreciated and I will look at some of the other screen choices you have listed.
    Thank you so much for your expert advice.
    Randy

  • Anthony

    Art:

    Being relatively new to the Home Theater market… I was wondering if you would mind giving me your opinion regarding the few questions below:

    I was just about to purchase an Optoma HD80 when I heard about this new Sony VPL-HW10… It would be greatly appreciated provide insight into the following question and concerns…

    The things that I like about the Optoma are:
    · Smoothness of picture (no visible pixels)

    · Sealed light path that does not allow dust in (no changing of filters)

    · Good for gaming (Wii, etc)

    · Built in scaler

    · Fairly bright and meets my “wish list” for light output described in #5 below

    The things that I DON’T like about the Optoma are:
    · Short throw distance (I have 12 feet from front of projector)… can’t get 100” screen with this projector

    · Limited lens shift

    · Not flexible for placement

    My understanding is that the HW10 projector can throw a 100” diagonal at around 11’… This is a definite plus over the DLP HD-80, however, I am concerned that the smoothness of the Sony may not be as good and you will notice more of the pixels… Do you have any opinions about this?

    I am able to control 90% of the light in my theater area, therefore, I am not as concerned about the lumen output for watching movies, however, on occasion, I would like to have live sports playing with more light on in the room (so I could glance at the screen while playing pool, etc…). Do you fee that the lumen output of the HW10 is generally acceptable for the situation I am describing?

    Lastly, just give me your gut feeling ,putting price aside and considering my comments above, which of these two projectors do you consider better…?

    I would greatly appreciate if you could help me in this regard…

    Thank you!!!!

    Anthony

  • Brad

    Art,
    It’s time to replace my NEC lt240k. I use it in a fairly bright room with a 16:9 screen primarily for sports viewing. I have my choices narrowed down to the epson home cinema 720 and the panny ax200u. My NEC is rated at 2000 lumens, but I am sure when viewing video in 16:9 format (it is 1024 x 768 native) it is nowhere near that. I just have no idea how much brighter these new home theater projectors are going to be in comparison to this 5 year old business projector. Is the epson going to be any brighter than what I have now? I know there are obvious brightness benefits from the zoom lens, and not blacking out pixels in wide screen format. Any input on actual lumen outputs of the older business projectors and your opinions are greatly appreciated.

    cheers,

    Brad

    Greetings Brad,

    You are correct – because you are using less pixels due to XGA resolution, the average brightness is less for the same sized projected content, than a 720p projector. Further, I imagine you are using a “video” mode, not the brightest mode, to get better color. It’s been a very long time, but, if I recall correctly the LT240 is a typical business projector – lots of lumens in brightest mode, but weak reds and yellows. The “video” modes tend to have dramatically better color but drop brightness by roughly half.

    So, in terms of current 720p projectors, the Panasonic PT-AX200U, the Epson Home Cinema 720 (and the December release of their very inexpensive Home Cinema 700), and finally, the Optoma HD71 all should be every bit as bright with comparable or better color than the LT240, when in brightest modes, and much brighter if you have found that you are only using the “video” mode.

    Both the Panasonic and Epson measure 1800+ lumens and upward, depending on placement. The Epson was the dimmer of the two (almost 1700 lumens after bright mode “quick”calibration for improved color accuracy), with the zoom at the mid-point. The Panasonic actually was around 2900 lumens in brightest, without that “quick” calibration, with the zoom at full wide angle (closest position).

    In other words, each of these should be able to hold their own, or be brighter than your LT240. In “best mode” they might be less bright, but no contest in image quality. Most likely their brightest modes will still provide a better image – better black levels, shadow detail, etc. than the best you can get out of the LT240.

    I’m assuming budget doesn’t allow a 1080p projector, but if it’s possible, you might want to take a close look at the $1999 MSRP Epson Home Cinema 6100 due in December as well. While a review unit of that projector probably won’t be available to me until late Nov, or early Dec., I expect I’ll receive the “Pro” version in about 2-3 weeks for review. Except for ISF certification, support for an anamorphic lens on the Pro, and price, they are essentially identical. I hope to have that unit arrive in time to publish before the end of October (or shortly after). -art

  • Gerald Nielsen

    I have an Optoma HD7100; it only has a DVI, no HDMI. My Panasonic does not work with it via HDMI; indeed, it makes my Optoma go a little nuts, such that it will only display properly in the pixel-to-pixel mode. I suspect this may be the case with 1.3 HDMI products, as DVI works for every other source I have.

    ***********

    I assume you are talking about a Panasonic Blu-ray player?

    I suggest you contact Optoma. The HD7100 has DVI with HDCP. While I haven’t run across such a problem with DVI, consider this.

    I have a number of HDMI switchers and splitters. They are all 1.2 compliant, but say they are 1.3 compatible. When I did one of the usual download/upgrades for my Sony PS3 (HDMI 1.3), I encountered an issue. I could only get a broken up image on the lower 1/3 of the screen, noise above.

    This is what was happening: When the splitter/switchers had previously seen a 1.3 source, they would recognize it as such, but tell the source (PS3) to send HDMI 1.2. That worked until one upgrade of the PS3. Then the problem occured. Apparently that upgrade change confused the switcher, it no longer recognized it as a 1.3 signal, and tried to process it, which it couldn’t do.

    In the case of my gefen switcher/splitters, Gefen said I needed new firmware. Sure enough, they upgraded the firmware, and now it works. It’s still asking for 1.2 from my HDMI 1.3 source, but – until Deep Color, etc. becomes popular, that’s just fine.

    So, my point is, there may be a firmware upgrade for the HD7100 that will solve the problem. Failing that, assuming it is the HDMI 1.3 – 1.2 compatibility/compliance, that I encountered, you might be able to find a switch box that does what my gefen does. Tell an HDMI 1.3 device to output 1.2.

    All guesswork, but that’s all I can think of – so call Optoma. -art

    Turns out, my switchers/splitters were supposed to identify