A Great Home Theater Concept

Evan Powell, June 22, 2005

With the variety offered by today's wide array of home theater projectors, there are many ways to set up a home theater. Most people who are into DVDs and HDTV go for a native 16:9 projector with a 16:9 screen. And this is a great way to go if you don't mind watching 4:3 material in the center of your 16:9 screen with black pillars on each side. Certainly, for regular television viewing, if you do this on your projector, this option is usually quite acceptable.

However, the recent review of the Optoma H79 brought to mind an alternative that has been mentioned on this site before, but is worth focusing on again. Regular readers of this site know that I have a strong interest in classic films. And most classic films produced prior to the early 1950's were done in 4:3 aspect ratio. This was the standard format in commercial movie theaters prior to the rise of television. (In fact, the 4:3 television was designed to replicate the commercial movie theater format). So in setting up my home theater, I want to view the great historic films in their original aspect ratio and large format presentation, to reproduce as closely as possible the original theater experience. That means I do NOT want a small 4:3 image centered in the middle of a 16:9 screen with black bars on the sides.

Therefore, the ideal solution for my viewing preferences is to install a home theater system that will give me either 16:9 or large screen 4:3 at the flip of a switch. Two components are required to do this. One is a 4:3 screen, and the other is a projector with a power zoom lens that has at least a 1.33x zoom range, such as the Optoma H79.

The Concept

The idea here is quite simple: let's say I want a 110" diagonal 16:9 image for widescreen material. That screen would be 96" wide and 54" high. With that screen format, my 4:3 material would be displayed in the center, in 90" diagonal, with pillars on the sides. However, instead of going for the 96x54 screen, I can install a screen

that is 96" wide by 72" in height. That enables me to view my 16:9 material in 110" diagonal format, but also lets me display 4:3 films in very large format 120" diagonal.

Increasing the size of the 4:3 image from 90" to 120" diagonal may not sound like a big change. However, a 90" diagonal 4:3 image is 27 square feet, whereas a 120" diagonal 4:3 image is 48 square feet-almost double the surface area. That is a big difference.

To accomplish this, I need a projector with a 1.33x or greater zoom lens. That zoom range lets me either fill the screen horizontally with 16:9 material, or fill the screen both vertically and horizontally with 4:3 material, without having to move the projector. So I end up with the best of both worlds for my preferred type of viewing.

Contents: The Concept Installation Issues Custom Installation