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Your projection screen is the main attraction in your presentation, and in this day and age, churches cannot do without them.

Knowing the Ropes, A Guide to Selecting a Church’s Projection Screen

Finding the right projection screen for your congregation requires answers for quite a few questions, but in this piece are a number of ideas, to make your selection process easy.

A large projection screen is much more afordable than digital signage, and can also match or surpass them in terms of performance.

While the majority of screen materials are matte white, that works fine as long as it’s in a dark room.

Choosing the right projection screen for your house of worship setup should be a relatively easy process.

Here are some tips:

There are basic features of compatibility:

Its size determines how large your projection screen will be, based on how large your venue is.

The aspect ratio is the screen’s “shape.” You’ll want it to match the projector’s aspect ratio.

The screen material determines if a matte white surface is appropriate, or if a specialty material is required.

The format or type determines what type of projection screen it will be (e.g., fixed frame, roll-up, or portable).

To make the best selection, here are the questions to ask and the answers to know:

  • Determine the Purpose of Your Screen Installation. Will it be fixed, a roll-up, or portable design?
  • Know Your Environment. How big is your space? Does it or does it not have ambient light control? Are there other factors to account for, such as whether it will be used indoors or outdoors?
  • Know what Associated Gear You Will Use with the Projector. This determines what aspect ratio, and screen material will be suitable to the type of projector and accessories that will be accompanying the screen.


Church applications will be similar to many commercial presentations that may involve 16:10 aspect ratio PowerPoint presentations, to TV/movie content.

The screen could be featured in a fixed-frame for dedicated use or in an electric or manual “roll-up” configuration for multipurpose applications where the free wall space may be used for other activities.

If this configuration is to be portable, or there is a need for a noninvasive screen, where wall or ceiling installations are impractical, a free-standing portable screen is best.

  • Which format do you want? First, determine if you want a fixed-frame, electric “roll-up” or free-standing projection screen.
    • Fixed-frame screens are ideal for a dedicated wall space. The uniform tension is ideal for short throw and ultra-short throw projectors.
    • Electric “roll-up” screens suit environments where the room is multipurpose in its use. This format allows for the screen to essentially “go away,” when it is not in use. This includes units that mount to walls and ceilings or can actually be integrated into the ceiling itself.
    • Free-standing/portable projection screens are ideal for applications where wall/ceiling applications are not practical. Textured walls, high ceilings, or even strict association terms may call for a noninvasive solution.


The most common environmental factor is lighting. While the majority of screen materials are matte white, that works fine as long as it’s in a dark room. If there is not adequate control for ambient room lighting, the image on a white projection material will be washed out. An ambient light rejecting material would be best for such occasions. Size constraints of the venue will also determine the ideal screen size.

According to SMPTE, the ideal minimum distance between the viewer and the screen surface is about one-and-a-half times the width of the screen itself. The Consumer Technology Association, or CTA, recommends that the ideal minimum seating distance from a screen will be 3 times the screen’s measured height. This means that an 11-foot viewing distance for 100-inch HDTV screens or a 22-inch viewing distance for 200-inch HDTV screens would be appropriate. To bring it into scale, the average size of a home theater screen is 100-120 inches, but seldom larger than 135 inches. Commercial applications typically involve a projection screen that is 150 inches or larger.

Projection screen size ranges

The longer “throw distance” your projector has, the larger the screen size that will be required.

  • Get the right screen size: If the screen is too small, it’s not impressive. If the screen is too big, it’s as popular as the first two rows of a movie theater. The longer “throw distance” your projector has, the larger the screen size that will be required.
  • Determine the right screen material: Depending on the environment, make sure that the material will best fit your application. Here are some general guidelines for determining just that.
    • Matte white materials are the most uniformly ideal. It can be used in most applications, but is limited by its inability to reduce the washout effects of ambient light.
    • Matte gray materials are often confused with ALR screen materials but are more synonymous with matte white materials in their performance. These can enhance black-white levels to assist projectors with lower dynamic range performance, but they are even more vulnerable to the washout effects of ambient light.

Projection screens

When dealing with challenges, ambient light is among those that cannot be ignored when configuring a projection system.

    • ALR (a.k.a., “gray”, “black”, “CLR®” or dark screens”) These are specifically made to enhance picture brightness, color contrast, and black/white dynamic range, regardless if it’s for dark rooms or in high levels of room lighting. Since most sanctuaries have a lot of overhead light sources, it’s a good idea to look for a ceiling light rejecting® or CLR®, material.
    • Rear Projection screens are ideal for indoor/outdoor or commercial applications. In addition to handling a degree of ambient light intrusion, it completely eliminates the shadow effect caused by foot traffic passing between the projector and screen.

Projection screens

The white portion represents the live projected area from the projector.

Gear - Since projection is a two-piece video display, it is essential that the projector and screen’s performance specs complement one another. The projector and screen should have the same aspect ratio (screen or image shape). Mismatching the projector and screen’s aspect ratio means that your screen will have a lot of dead space in it. A good example is the illustration above where the black background represents a 16:9 movie screen. The white portion represents the live projected area from the projector. Since a 4:3 projector puts out an image that is not as wide as the 16:9 screen, the sides of the image will me “matted.” If a cinemascope projector is used, the live surface is actually wider. This means that when they are formatted together, you will have a “letterbox” image with the top and bottom of the screen matted.


Projection screens

It is best to match your projector’s native aspect ratio with that of your projection screen.

  • Match your Aspect Ratio: It is best to match your projector’s native aspect ratio with that of your projection screen. The aspect ratio is essentially the shape of the projected image. Matching the projector and screen’s aspect ratio ensures that the picture is presented in the most aesthetically pleasing way, and with no “dead-space” on either the top/bottom or sides of the projection surface.

Standard Long-Throw, Short-Throw, and Ultra-Short-Throw projectors may require a specialty material that is specially formatted and tensioned. Always check with the screen manufacturer to verify compatibility.

Other options include acoustically transparent materials, that will allow the sound from your in-wall speakers to breathe through your projection screen, just like it does at the big theaters. A basic breakdown of where you are setting up your screen: how you want to use it, and what electronic gear will be used with it.

Regardless if you have a lot of resources at your disposal or a modest budget, creating the perfect projection display for your congregation just got a whole lot easier.

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