Grey vs White projector screen in your living room!

Introduction

Grey vs white projector screen, what’s the difference? Well if you plan to use your projector in your living room there is a big difference between the two screens. But the difference varies depending on how much light there is in the room.

A white screen is something that is used in theaters or where a dedicated room is available. When you use a white screen you need to avoid ambient light, just a little light can wash out the picture and make greatly affect the dark portions of the image, making it look grey and not black. Colors will be washed out too.

Another problem is that the light from the projector screen will also be reflected on the walls and furniture if these are of the lighter color, making the room even brighter. So this screen is in most cases not suitable for a living room if you have a lost of light coming in. Luckily there is a solution if you want to have a projector in your living room.

Ambient Light Rejecting Screen – How does it work?

An ambient light rejecting screen is used in a living room where you can ́t make it totally dark in the room. An ALR screen works by selecting which light is reflected back to the viewer. The projectors image will bounce off the screen and reach your eyes white the other stray lights in the room is reflected back in some other place in the room. This will decrease the chances that the image on the screen will be washed out.

How is light reflected?

To help you understand further here are some more details about light rejection:
Every projector screen has a certain amount of diffuse reflection and specular reflection. A diffuse reflection reflects lights at every direction including the seating area which is not good if you are using a white screen since it will increase the overall light level in the room. Specular reflection is where the light is reflected away at the opposite direction. A good example of this is the overhead lamp in the picture below which reflects light of the ALR screen.

We shouldn’t really call an ALR screen grey. There are grey screen out there that helps to improve contrast with moderate ambient light compared to a white screen but they mostly still have a diffuse reflective surface so they are not good at dispersing light. 

An ALR screen works by selecting which light is reflected back to the viewer
Image from draperinc.com

Comparing a white screen vs ALR screen in my living room

I wanted to do a comparison between my ALR screen and a white projector screen in different lightning conditions. I don’t have a white screen to test with so I used some white bed sheets which I put over half of my screen. Of course a store bought projector screen is much better in terms of sharpness and other details but in light performance they are about the save. I wanted to test the difference between the 2 screens in 3 different lighting conditions: daylight, evening with 1 light on, no lights on. You can see my results in the video below:

Conclusions from the video

As you can see the image is almost unwatchable during the day with the white screen, especially with dark scenes. Even with no lights on the ALR screen still has better contrast and black levels while retaining the brightness. The white screen is a little brighter but at the cost of contrast and black level ( the white screen is of course just bed sheet cloth, for a comparison between an actual white projector screen and a white wall check out this post: projector screen material – the best option for you ) With no light on there is not that much difference between the 2 screens but the ALR screen still has slightly better contrast and black levels in my opinion. It’s a little hard to see in this video because of the limitations of my camera. There a certainly better cameras YouTubers use, which can show the differences better.

Better results with better projectors

A better projector with better black levels / contrast can make the difference even smaller in a real life comparison. This test was done with a Dark Energy Abyss ALR screen and an Optoma hd33 1080p projector. My projector is old so the dark level performance is not that great. There are certainly better projectors out there. The Combination in the following video shows that an ALR screen ( DEA ) and an epson projector is a very good combination. Its mostly bright scenes.

Is a Tv a better choice?

I was very encouraged by this video. I have been going back and forth in my mind if I should buy a new projector or Tv. Look at the video above. it´s not really washed out even when watching in daylight. For this happen to happen the projectors light output must be set higher, If you watch a lot in the day the lamp will burn out more quickly when using this higher lamp setting. Buying a new lamp every 2 years can be costly. In this scenario, buying a tv is the better choice.

Projector and TV at the same location?

I plan to buy a new TV while keeping my projector and screen in the same place. The plan is to use the tv when watching tv shows and use my projector for movies. I will post a new blog post on how I plan to do this. For now I hope you know the difference between a grey vs white projector screen. And how different lighting conditions can affect the results. But remember the correct term is an ALR projection screen and not grey if you plan to use it in your living room with ambient lights.

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