Hang and Bang — It’s Not for Outlets and It’s Not for Projection Screens

Screen Shot 2022 06 30 at 1.31.20 PMBy John Borns
Exertis Almo

I recently decided that I wanted to upgrade and replace my outlets and switches throughout my house. I went to the hardware store and bought the good stuff. Did I splurge on the fancy screwless covers? Did I get outlets with little USB outlets and tiny night lights built into them? You know I did. If you’re going to do it, do it right. So as I started popping out the dull old hardware, I quickly learned that the previous homeowner did not have the same commitment to excellence as I have. As it turns out, many of the existing wiring in my home were old two-conductor wires without a ground line. I’m sure many people have experienced a situation like this. The previous owners had wanted outlets with three prongs to plug in all their three-pronged products and decided that just putting in the new outlets without running new wiring was a good enough solution for them.

There are plenty of situations where “good enough” solutions are perfectly fine options. I love when I can find a product that I love that is good enough compared to other costlier options. There’s nothing wrong with finding a good value, as long as you’re not violating safety codes. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an alarming trend towards “good enough” solutions regarding upgrading projection screens in installed systems. There are two primary cases that I see. First, there are spaces where the end user wants to upgrade or replace an old projector, but they’re still planning on keeping the old screen. Secondly, a completely new system is being built, and the integrator/end user is planning on installing a new screen, but they’re not choosing the right screen for the application.

Let’s start with the new projector/old screen dilemma. Let’s say you went to a car dealership to buy a brand new car. The dealership offers to knock $1,000 off of the price if you take the wheels and tires off of your old car and put them on the new car. Would you take that offer? Am I sure it would be “good enough,” right? But wouldn’t it make more sense to get the wheels and tires that are designed for that car? Wouldn’t you feel the overall experience driving that car would be better on the appropriate wheels? This is a silly scenario, but it’s not too far away from buying a new projector and using an old screen.

There have been significant upgrades in projection technology in the past decade. HD content and laser projectors have changed how we need to pair screens and projectors together. If you have an old Matte White screen, and you won’t use a 4K laser projector with it, you’re likely not to be getting the full effect of your new projector. Just as projectors have evolved, so have screens. New HD screens are flatter and smoother than old ones, allowing optimal viewing. Older screens may have a rougher surface, affecting HD pixels. So do yourself a favor and upgrade your screens when you upgrade your projectors.

This ties into the second dilemma: building a whole new system and selecting the wrong screen to go with it. The majority of screens we sell are Matte White screens, and the majority of the projectors we sell are laser, many of them being 4K projectors. As we just discussed above, there are downsides to not having screens designed to work with the new projectors. This means that there are a lot of customers out there who may not be getting the most out of their projection system. So if you have the opportunity to build a whole new system, it makes the most sense to go ahead and get the right screen in the first place. The barrier here is primarily muscle memory and comfort. For many years, there was no compelling need to consider the fabric of the material too much. A great deal of work goes into specifying the correct screen size for each space already. But then, many people tend to default to the common standard for decades and still get a Matte White surface.

Specific screens are designed and built differently for various spaces and applications at the chemical and physical levels:

  • Screens that provide more profound contrast or better color accuracy.
  • Screens that reject ambient light in a space.
  • Screens that actually provide additional perceived brightness.

These are all factors that should be considered before selecting a screen surface. Putting a Matte White screen in some of these applications will create a sub-optimal experience for the users. Screens can be complicated to design.  If you’re interested in learning more about the different screen options available, please feel free to reach out at any time, and we can help you increase your comfort with some of the options out there.

You may be wondering how I resolved the electrical problem I described earlier. Was I the hypocrite who stuck the new outlets on because I didn’t feel like spending extra time and money to do it right away? Well, Reader, I can tell you that after a few trips to and from the hardware store and a few more hours digging around in the walls, I now have a fully functioning, 100% to-code (I hope!) outlets and switches throughout the house. It may have been more work, but in the end, knowing that I’m protecting my investments and optimizing my products’ performance was more important to me than just getting by with a “good enough” solution.