This article follows a little segment I did for BBC Radio Manchester on replicating the cinema experience at home, following a poor experience at the local multiplex.
Many people these days have large screens in their homes over 37in. These are increasingly capable of high definition pictures – either at the lower ‘720p’ standard (720 horizontal lines, progressive scanning, also known as ‘HD Ready’) or at the higher 1080p (1080 horizontal lines, also progressive scanning, known as ‘Full HD’). But on reflection watching my own 40in screen, good as it is, it doesn’t quite qualify as cinematic.
So I looked into projectors. Epson was the first company to respond to my request, and offered to loan me one of its projectors that fitted my specifications. The EH-TW450 retails around the £500 mark and has a number of features that make it ideal for occasional home cinema use. The short ‘throw’ means that even in a small room where the projector can’t be placed far from the screen, you will get a big picture. Epson suggest a maximum of 300 inches diagonally but I imagine at this size (I don’t have a clear wall big enough to test this) the picture might get a little grainy.
The EH-TW450 is also incredibly bright at 2500 lumens, meaning you can use it in daylight (especially in typical Manchester weather). It delivers a 720p picture via an LCD system typical for cheaper projectors: light is passed through three liquid crystal filter panels that add red, green, and blue shading to each pixel to create the picture. There is an alternative technology called DLP and the debate rages as to which one is better (with a good guide here: http://www.projectorcentral.com/lcd_dlp_comparison.htm), but at this kind of money LCD delivers a very compelling picture. I watched BBC’s new thriller Page Eight on the iPlayer in HD and everyone in the house was staggered at how bright and sharp the picture was, even just projected on my beige kitchen wall.
Projectors do have a couple of downsides. First of all is the noise: projectors are driven by lamps and lamps get hot, so they need cooling fans. This example isn’t particularly loud at 29dB in Eco Mode (about the same as a very quiet desktop fan) and to be fair, you wouldn’t notice it so much if you have the surround sound cranked up. It’s certainly less annoying than ‘whispering’ kids at the back of the cinema. The second problem is lamps: they do blow, and when they do you can be looking at £150-200 for a replacement, though this one is good for 3 years (with a warranty to prove it).
The final issue with projectors is that you really need a screen on which to display the picture they create. These add to the total cost of the package: you’re looking around the £90-100 pound mark for a decent 106in screen. Still though, that only takes the total cost to £600ish (not including cables) for what will be an event each time you turn it on. Not cheap but a reasonable sum if you’re a real film fan and want a truly cinematic experience.
In summary then I am impressed at what is available for the money when it comes to getting the big screen experience.