Home theater projectors create the moving pictures that are displayed on projection screens. Whilst there are many different type of technology, the most common home theater projectors use three liquid crystal display (LCD) chips - one per primary color (i.e. red, green, blue) - to modulate the white light generated from a high pressure mercury lamp. The main alternative imaging technology is DLP, or Digital Light Projection, which was more popular before Sony and JVC came to dominate the home theater projector market. Alternate light sources - in particular laser - offer higher energy efficiency and drastically increased lifespan.
Sufficient output to light up the projection screen to luminance targets. These targets vary depending on the amount of ambient light and whether projector light output reduction due to ageing need to be considered. Taking our most common installation - an ambient light controlled home theater using a 110-130" wide acoustically transparent screen - we'd aim for 1000-1500 lumens. Other situations will require design work.
Lens motorization, including zoom, shift and focus, as well as lens memories to allow easy projector setup and use with Cinemascope style 2.4:1 aspect ratio screens.
Sufficient lens shift and throw range to deal with most installation situations. For typical front projection we like vertical shift >80% and horizontal >10%. We do not recommend fixed throw projectors.
Projector, post calibration, meets standard dynamic range (SDR) targets for white point, greyscale, gamma and color accuracy. There are projectors out that cannot be accurately calibrated using the controls provided.
Projector recognizes a high dynamic range (HDR) signal and switches to a suitable image mode. Most projectors have this figured out now, but there are still some on the market that do not. Whilst there are no standards for HDR on projection displays, we expect a watchable image with usable calibration controls.
For high performance home theater, our recommendation is the Sony VPL-VW695ES at $10,000.
This 1800 lumen projector has enough light output for large, low gain acoustically transparent screens and offers lens motorization to work with Cinemascope (2.4:1 aspect ratio) projection screens.
Black levels meet our subjective high performance standards thanks to the dynamic iris, though they are not quite up to JVC projectors standards. Motion performance, image stability and intra-scene contrast are superior though, which is why this projector gets our recommendation.
For screens wider than about 130", or great HDR performance, you need more light output than our recommendation above.
The 5000 lumen Sony VPL-VW5000ES, at $60,000, is our choice for reference class home theaters. It's laser illuminated, has Sony's top ARC-F lens, and is liquid cooled. Lens quality makes a big difference in image quality, and unfortunately an awesome lens is only something you get at higher price points.
If your lumen needs are somewhere between our two recommendations, consider Sony's VPL-VW995ES, at $35,000 which offers 2,200 lumens of laser illumination via the ARC-F lens.
Most of our projection screen needs are met by Sony, who offer a range of home theater projectors from $2000 to $60000. JVC are an alternative, and for some clients their slightly better black levels outweigh the areas such as motion and image stability that Sony projectors generally do better in. For media room type applications requiring high light output at low to moderate cost, we recommend Epson. We have access to other manufacturers such as DPI, Barco, BenQ, Optoma, Vivitek and others as project needs require.
Nyal Mellor, Founder, Acoustic Frontiers