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Buying Guide: Projectors

Buying Guide: Projectors
Canon's XEED 4K600STZ projector

Buying Guide: Projectors

Canon’s European product marketing specialist for projectors and former church production manager Colin Boyle provides considerations for HOWs seeking new projectors

Brightness and resolution are the two key considerations when buying a projector. It’s important to check that the projector is bright enough for the lighting in the environment. For instance, in ambient lighting, it will be essential that the projector can deliver enough lumens of brightness to ensure faithful image reproduction.

Take into account the projected screen size and the type of content being displayed when you are thinking about what resolution projector you might need. For certain media, a WUXGA and Full HD projector would deliver the image quality needed. However, as content is increasingly made in 4K, there might be a requirement to invest in a 4K projector to future-proof these investments. In fact, this is a very important factor – think about what you will need in the long term, not just currently. It’s important to lay down the foundation of a projection infrastructure that will support future requirements.

Colin Boyle
Colin Boyle

Depending on the installation environment, other specifications become significant: do you need interchangeable lenses to allow for flexible installation or to achieve the desired screen/image size? HDBaseT and connectivity – what type of signal are you sending to the projector and can that be done effectively and efficiently over the distance required? HDBaseT offers the ability to run high-resolution signals up to 100m, aiding the installation process and maintaining the quality.

If the projector is being used for IMAG from a live camera feed, then latency times need to be considered or there will be a big delay in the live movement to what appears onscreen. More importantly, with IMAG or video comes the need for accurate colour reproduction, so that what appears live looks the same onscreen.

Brightness, contrast and resolution are crucial. Depending on whether the content has a lot of black or dark scenes, then the contrast ratio must be high – especially if video is being used. A high native contrast will ensure that the image stands out, but also look at the dynamic contrast, which actively monitors the content detail and lowers the light output to help with black images or dark scenes.

Test the brightness output in the environment and, if possible, do a comparison between several different makes and types of projector to see what delivers the strongest output.

While ANSI lumens is a standard for light output, some manufacturers may state lumens based on the technical design specification of the light source rather than what actually leaves the projector lens or reaches a screen at a particular distance.

If you are using an interchangeable lens projector, all manufacturers specify the lumen output based on the standard lens. If you are using a long throw lens or ultrawide lens, then the quality of the lens becomes increasingly significant. Up to 20% of light can be lost with a poor lens, so you could pay for a 7,000-lumen projector and only get 5,600 lumens on your screen.

Congregants and venue

The age of the congregation needs to be considered on several levels. Aging congregations benefit from IMAG and clearer words/images, while younger generations expect high-quality video and engagement. Even in a medium-sized house of worship, many will look at the projection screen even if they can see the stage or front of house area.

Environmental projection surrounding a rear projection screen at St Anne's Cathedral (photo courtesy of Niall McNally from Cast Ireland)
Environmental projection surrounding a rear projection screen at St Anne's Cathedral (photo courtesy of Niall McNally from Cast Ireland)

In some traditional houses of worship, the aesthetics are important, so having features on the projector to allow large amounts of lens shift, geometry correction or keystone correction will allow the projector to be installed discreetly, while still meeting the needs of the projection.

High gain screens help with contrast, but also viewing angles. Many houses of worship make the mistake of viewing their main projection screen from the point of view of the PC operator or vision mixer. Instead, think about the layout of the whole congregation and check that the sightlines and image quality is good from where everyone sits.

Whether the operating noise a projector makes has an impact really depends on the installation position. In some environments, the projector may need to be installed under a balcony, so it is quite close to a small number of the congregation. If so, noise may be an issue. When installing many projectors along with lighting rigs and fans, the noise can easily build but, with the type of music and content used in contemporary houses of worship, this is less of an issue.

Costs and maintenance

Work out how many hours a week on average the projector will be used a year and check this against the warranty length of your projector to see if it meets your needs. A laser will offer longer life with less maintenance but will demand a higher initial investment. This is reflected by the warranty, which is typically five years for a laser model and only three for a lamp-based device. For this reason, laser models are also a better option if the projector will be installed somewhere that is difficult to access.

For basic maintenance, like hoovering the filter, dusting the lens and housing, houses of worship can save money by doing it themselves. When it comes to more complex tasks, always look to see what extra support is offered, such as onsite support or a next-day loan unit. If you are investing the time and resources to install a projection system, then build a relationship with a local company or systems integrator for support. They can help you plan for an installation that offers you room to expand as your needs change.


Laser projectors are definitely worth considering. As well as being capable of high brightness, they also have a long lifespan which means less maintenance requirements and generally lower total cost of ownership. Single-chip DLP projectors are prone to colour breakup so, if you plan to project video content, then look for 3-Chip DLP or LCOS technology.

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