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What Are the Different Types of Projection Screen Material?

By M. Kayo
Updated May 16, 2024
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To make a home theater system experience similar to watching a movie at a movie theater, it is important to select the right projection screen material. The type of projection screen material selected can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of the projected image. Whether a projection screen is bought ready-to-use or constructed from purchased materials, consider the cost, availability, and performance of the different options when matched with the size, power, and type of projection method to be used. There are many types of projection screen material including those that may be applied as a paint, textile-backed screens, tensioned surface screens.

Projection screen material is available in white and various shades of gray, with different levels of light gain, and with surfaces infused with glass beads. A gray color helps the projection system to balance colors and to create a deep, dark black on the screen. Depending upon the type of projector that is used, a white screen will sometimes produce blacks that are not as dark. Some projectors are designed to compensate for this, however, so it is not as much a consideration as it once was. Another characteristic of a high quality projection screen material is its ability to completely block projected light, not allowing it to go through the screen, which negatively affects overall picture quality.

Textile-backed projection screen material is composed of a reflective surface that is sprayed or applied to a larger piece of woven material. The material is kept taut by the weight of a dowel rod at the bottom of the screen. This type of material is found in most ready-to-use consumer or business projection screens and can be rolled up inside a tube, the supporting framework folded, and the entire unit easily stored in a small space. The various projection screen materials applied to the fabric base include matte white, high-contrast grey, glass-beaded, and perforated matte white.

Tensioned surface projection screen material is typically made of a vinyl surface without the backing found on textile-backed screens. These tensioned projection screens may be referred to as drapers and come in built-in crank-operated or motorized tensioning systems as well as permanently tensioned static varieties. Some of the many surface materials are rear Cineflex, matte white, high-definition grey, black-backed, and low light gain varieties.

Some projection screens are directly applied to the backing surface as a specially-designed paint that contains a highly refined silver metallic base. These particles of silver act as tiny mirrors, producing a high-quality image. The support onto which this paint-on screen is applied must be rigid and smooth to get the highest resolution images possible. These paint-on movie theater screens typically cost less than other textile projection screens, are easily cleaned or repaired with a fresh coat of paint, and may outperform other projection screen material.

Keeping the the overall durability and maintenance requirements for a particular projection surface in mind is important. A high quality projection screen is not going to function in an optimal manner if it cannot be easily cleaned and maintained. If possible, asking for samples of the various types of projection screen material is a good idea, so that they can be tested for overall strength, projection suitability, and ease of cleaning.

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Discussion Comments

By rukbat — On Aug 01, 2014

I am considering rear projection for a theatrical performance. I would prefer material that could be installed within a constructed set. The material would have to be flexible enough to be easily stored for future performances. I am also concerned about angled viewing. Does anyone have any experience with this usage?

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