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First, a big thanks to the maintainers of (and contributors to) this site. This place is a gold mine of information, especially for a person like myself who's new to the home-theater scene.

I'm putting together a basic setup - my first home theater, replacing an ancient 27" TV, which gives me very little to compare with. I'm hoping the folks on this site can offer some ideas regarding a good screen, given my parameters. Right off the bat: I'm thinking in terms of just paint (less likely) or laminate (more likely). Not a pull-down, motorized, or fixed commercial screen; and not an especially complex DIY option.

Projector: Optoma HD20, brand new. Apparently it's regarded as entry-level, but good for the money (just under $1000). Claims 1700 lumens, although many on the Web say that's a polite fiction, perhaps even more so than lumen claims for projectors in general. Has both "regular" and "bright" mode, with lamp life listed as 4000 and 3000 hours, respectively. I'd prefer to use the regular, longer-life mode, if conditions make this reasonably possible. HD20 black levels seem to be regarded by most people as being, er, "very entry level."

Room: My living-room, about 14 by 25 feet. Every wall and ceiling is white. :-/ Ceilings: I don't know the exact variety of white. Walls: a True Value paint called "Antique White," with eggshell finish. Web searches tell me rgb=(250,235,215) for this seller+color. That shows up on my computer as a very light brown, but to this person's eye it looks white on the walls.

The wall has some texture, neither minimal nor huge. I'm not sure how best to quantify this. Perhaps it won't prove to be important.

Placement/Projection: Ceiling mount. And I'll be projecting onto a portion of the long (25 foot) side of the room. It's a wall segment about 10 feet wide, varying from about 8 to 9 feet high (the ceiling is very slightly vaulted). On either side of the wall segment, the room just opens to other rooms. Not ideal, perhaps, but it's the best place I've got. The HD20 should allow for about an 8-foot wide by 4.5-foot tall image, at that distance; that's about a 110" diagonal. That'll also give me about a foot on each side of the wall segment, for left/right speaker placement.

Viewing/Lighting: Seating will be about 9-12 feet from the screen. Viewing will be mostly in the evenings or after dark. Window blinds in the living-room, and a skylight) let in enough light during daylight hours that I don't anticipate even trying to do much daytime viewing - which I generally don't do anyway. Content will be both TV (max. 1-2 hours a day) and movies, the latter from my old DVD collection and (soon-to-be-built) Blu-ray collection. Good light control in evenings; I don't mind just turning out all the lights in the living-room. Light in the adjoining rooms can usually be dimmed or shut off, to avoid glare from either side of the screen. Despite all this, it would no doubt prove to be convenient, occasionally, if TV and movies are at least minimally watchable when there's some light in the room.

Screen thoughts: I'm a home-theater newbie, I'm far from rich, I have a decent but entry-level projector, and I don't have the time to expend too much effort on a DIY screen. Based on the information I've gleaned from this and other sites, I've been considering the following main possibilities:

- White paint. But maybe not, considering the wall's texture, and the projector's mediocre black levels. (I don't really notice the texture from the closest realistic seating distance, but I can see it, at least in a bright image area, from 5-6 feet away. I have to imagine that my brain perceives it, in some form, from further away.)

- Grey paint. Better black levels. But wall texture still an issue?

- White laminate, e.g. Designer White. But black levels still an issue with the HD20's "entry-level" blacks?

- Grey laminate, e.g. Fashion Grey. Perhaps the best option for this setup?? Or maybe not. That's what I'm hoping to learn here.

Just painting the wall would be easier and less expensive, I suppose, and it was the first option I considered - before I looked on these sites and found all the information about laminate screens. Really, I suspect that a laminate would look much better. Especially considering the texture of my wall. And I have no inclination to sand my living-room wall, to make it smoother.

I can order an 8x5 laminate sheet, in matte finish (which I understand is the best), from either Lowe's or Home Depot, and trim it as necessary. If possible (and if I indeed choose laminate), I may just screw it directly into the wall, rather than attach it to a heavy/awkward frame or to pegboard. At least, I'll consider doing that if laminate is strong enough to hand by a few screws. Then, I could separately attach four boards - painted, or with black felt or something similar - around the laminate.

I'd be willing to paint the entire wall segment, around any laminate, to almost any color, even black. Beyond that, it *is* still supposed to be a living-room. No major paint job is going to happen. Which reminds me: since the HD20 arrived a few days ago, I've just been projecting onto the wall. Not surprisingly, there's a distinct glow from the (white) ceiling above the image, for a good 4-5 feet away from the wall. It sure would be nice to suppress this glow, so I'm open to any ideas about appropriate modifications, provided that (1) they're not too time consuming and (2) they won't make my living-room look too odd.

What do y'all think about laminate? Or are there other good DIY options I haven't considered? Regarding laminate: what do you think of Designer White versus Fashion Grey for my situation? I understand that the trade-off is largely between overall image brightness, and black levels. Good blacks would be nice, but I don't want too dark or washed-out an image. Maybe it would be nice if there was a good laminate that was roughly halfway between DW and FG, but I haven't heard of any. If I go with Fashion Grey, does my situation sound like one where it would need the oft-suggested polyurethane coating in order to reduce hot-spotting? Or is that something I'll just have to see for myself?

Thanks to anyone who read this far, in this long post. Oh, a couple of general projector questions: (1) I'm "high altitude" (about 6000 feet), but when I put this projector into its high-altitude mode, the fan is much noisier. Any opinions/experience on whether or not this really matters? (2) Do people generally just leave lens caps off of projectors that they use every day? Ideally, I'd replace the lens cap whenever the projector is not in use. But doing anything with the lens cap on this unit invariably changes the focus, and I'd rather not have to get up on a chair to fix the focus every day.

Martin
 

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Hi Martin, welcome to the forum! :wave:

As in just about everything else in life, I think you are going to have to compromise in your HT situation.

Just to get this out of the way, we simply don't have any "complex DIY options" here. ;) A few of our screen mixes might appear to be a bit complicated (Scorpion™ N8.5 and Cream&Sugar™ #2), but there are equivalent mixes that are simpler, or in the case of C&S™ #2 the mix really isn't complicated at all since nothing has to be measured - just empty the paint can and bottles into a bucket and stir.

As for laminates, I think you can forget about Designer White; between having white walls/ceiling and a PJ that needs some help with image contrast anyway, a white screen will always be lacking in contrast and have gray blacks. That pretty much leaves Fashion Gray. The only negative thing I have heard about FG is that some have said it hot spots. This is not something that is easy to control by applying a clear matte finish. All the clear finishes we have tested (Behr Faux Glaze and an number of clear water-based polyurethanes) have all visibly yellowed within about a year. The other thing about laminates is that they are relatively prone to breaking or cracking and must be glued to some kind of hard substrate to support them unless they already come that way.

You might want to look into using some type of foam board such as Gatorfoam or Sintra. These types of boards are used to make signs for interior and exterior usage and work well as screen substrates as well. They can be used as a white screen if unpainted, and can be painted without using a primer first. The big problem is that you can't get them from most "home improvement" stores. Try to find a plastics distributer in your area, or ask a local sign business where they get their sign board stock.

Now to talk about paint. In your situation I would use a N8 or darker mix. You could use a simple N8 neutral gray paint, but going with a paint that has a reflective element in it will help maintain whites in the image better than the same shade of regular gray paint. We have no complex and hard to prepare mixes here at HTS (unlike another DIY screen forum I could mention). Our darkest mix to date is Black Widow™ at N7.5 (N0 is pure black and N10 is pure white). The lightest mix we offer is our N9 Cream&Sugar™ that has 3 different formulas that all make essentially the same mix. Both of these mixes are binary mixes consisting of only two paints that are stirred together (the latex base paint and a aluminum metallic paint). Shades of neutral gray between N9 and N7.5 can be obtained with our other mixes, but we can talk about them later if you should be interested (their names are Scorpion™ and Elektra™). Also, all our screen mixes can be rolled or sprayed.

If you are seeing the texture of your wall under projection now, I think it would only get worse if it was painted. Since you don't want to do anything to smooth the wall I think your best option is us use a substrate of some kind, thus the need for a laminate or foam board.

The color of the screen wall has the least affect on screen performance so it can be any color you like. As for taming the bounce-back from your white ceiling, that can be a tough problem if you are unwilling to paint it a darker color. One solution might be to rig up a dark cloth or foam panel that could be installed for viewing and then removed when not needed. Necessity is the mother of invention. If made light enough such a panel, or panels, could be held in place by "button magnets"; those little things can be strong!

Can't help you with the "high altitude" question.

As for the lens cap, you could simply keep it off, but be sure to dust the lens every now and then. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks so much for all the information, Harpmaker. I'm glad you mentioned
the problem of clear finishes yellowing on the Fashion Grey laminate, as
I hadn't heard about that before.

After giving it more thought, I'm now inclined to go ahead and smooth the
wall, then paint. I'll be using that wall as a screen for the foreseeable
future, and I can't imagine that a future homebuyer will look at a nice
home-theater setup/screen and say, "oh, I can't buy this place, he smoothed
the wall!" :)

Partly, I'd also been leery of covering my already nicely-furnished room
with very fine (and probably carcinogenic) dust from sanding the wall, but
hey, a person's gotta do what a person's gotta do. :) I should be able to
more-or-less tape off the area using some drop-cloths, and then my Bosch
1250DEVS should be able to make short work of the wall texture. At least,
it always grinds wood really fast, and when it's attached to a shopvac it
doesn't typically put much dust in the air.

The wall is sheetrock, and the texturing only has maybe about 1/16 inch of
depth. I may be able to get a good, smooth wall for priming before even getting
to the sheetrock. Assuming I can get a good, smooth wall, that'll save me the
cost foam board.

You suggested I go with an N8 or darker mix. Last night, I set up the projector
in what should be its final position, and I found I could get an image slightly
larger than I'd though; about 116 inches. I don't want to overthink this whole
situation, but I suppose the larger screen does mean a bit less light per
square inch of screen, so I'm tempted to stick to the upper end of your range.

So, then, I'm eyeing the Scorpion N8. I'd be rolling, not spraying.

By the way, of course I'll be putting a black frame around the screen,
probably just by screwing boards into the wall. Does it work very well to just
paint a board black? Or should I really be looking at felt or velvet to get the
best results?
 

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Thanks so much for all the information, Harpmaker. I'm glad you mentioned
the problem of clear finishes yellowing on the Fashion Grey laminate, as
I hadn't heard about that before.
Just about every clear (polyurethanes mainly) I've tested hastens the yellowing process quite a bit. :yikes:

So, then, I'm eyeing the Scorpion N8. I'd be rolling, not spraying.
Good for you! :T

By the way, of course I'll be putting a black frame around the screen,
probably just by screwing boards into the wall. Does it work very well to just
paint a board black? Or should I really be looking at felt or velvet to get the
best results?
You cannot beat black velvet. You could always try the paint and if it doesn't work out, take the boards down and wrap them in velvet.
 

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