Projector Tricks: More than Home Theater of the Office

Rear projection, front projection, short throw, ultrashort throw, touch-screen whiteboards and LCD screens. Business projectors are more than just the home theater of the office and conference room. A little know-how and a few tricks enable more than presentations and make the projector a business tool. Knowing your options can prove valuable the next time someone asks you to review or recommend a projector or large-screen display.

Think of a business projector and you probably picture a typical front-projection setup in a conference room, with the projector mounted on the ceiling, or perhaps sitting on a table or desk, projecting the image from a spot somewhere in front of the screen. There are other options, however. It's well worth knowing about them, because the next time someone in your company asks for a recommendation for a projector-or for any kind of large display for that matter-you have the potential to be a hero, and steer them in a direction they didn't even know existed.

Throwing an Image

Many customers think business projectors are basically commodity items. They're wrong. There are plenty of significant differences from one projector to another. The most important for purposes of this discussion is their throw distance-the distance they need to be from a screen to project, or throw, an image of a given size.

1. Standard Throw

Broadly speaking, projectors can have a standard throw, short throw, or ultrashort throw. These are vague categories without clear lines between them, but it's usually easy to put a given projector in the right category. By definition, a standard throw is what you'll get from the overwhelming majority of projectors. They have to be relatively far back from the screen-about 12 to 13 feet, to give you an image that's 2-meters wide (about 100-inches diagonally at the traditional 3-by-4 aspect ratio) at maximum zoom for the lens.

2. Short Throw

For any given size image, short-throw projectors can sit significantly closer to the screen than standard throw projectors. For a 2-meter wide image, the distance shrinks to roughly 3 to 6 feet. One obvious advantage for a short throw is in a small conference room, where setting up a standard throw projector would be impractical. The shorter throw distance can turn "impractical" into "easy."

3. Ultrashort Throw

For an ultrashort-throw projector, the distance needed from the screen shrinks even more-to 2 feet or less for a 2-meter wide image. The lens system in at least one ultrashort-throw projector is limited to slightly smaller images than 2-meters across, but at a distance from the screen of just 3 inches. (Very few projectors fall in the gaps between these categories, so there's little reason to quibble over the exact range for each.)

4. The Default Choice

Along with the issue of how far a projector needs to be from the screen, consider where it needs to be in relation to the screen. Front projection with a standard throw is pretty much the default choice. It's easy to set up; it's what most people are used to seeing; and it works well under most conditions. But in some situations, it can be a challenge to position the projector so there's nothing between it and the screen to cast shadows.