Regardless of if you’re planning to get your first projector soon or have been using projectors for years, you are no stranger to the washout effect that the ambient light in the room has on the projected image.
Even if you were to use a projector in a completely dark room, the projector’s own light would have a slight washout effect on the image.
ALR projector screens eliminate this washout effect. These screens are made from a different material than regular projector screens are, and the material deals with light pollution a lot more effectively.
But how do these screens work? And are they worth their cost?
We will answer these questions and more in this post.
How Do ALR Screens Work?
An Ambient Light Rejecting (ALR) screen is different from a regular projector screen in many ways.
Most projector screens you find in the market are made from a material that reflects incoming light in several directions. In other words, the light cast on the screen is reflected in several angles instead of one fixed angle.
For this reason, these screens are also called diffuse reflectors.
However, there are screens out there that reflect light at a specific angle precisely opposite to the angle at which the light was cast, just like a mirror. These screens are called specular reflectors.
There are also screens that are not purely diffuse reflectors by nature. These screens may reflect light in one or more than one direction. These screens are typically used to increase the brightness of the projected image for a specific viewing angle.
ALR screens work on this principle. Light is reflected selectively by positioning the screen and the projector in a way that the light bounces directly to your eyes. All the other light that hits the screen is reflected in another direction, eliminating the washout effect and causing a perceived increase in image quality.
ALR projector screens that you find in the market use one of the following two techniques to deal with ambient light:
The image projected onto the screen is reflected to the audience at the precise opposite angle it hits the screen.
For example, if the projector is angled down at 15 degrees, the audience will see the image at its brightest when looking up at the screen at a 15-degree angle.
There are few ALR projector screens in the market that employ optics to eliminate ambient light.
Optical ALR screens typically comprise several layers of material, and each layer has a different reflectivity angle and absorption properties. The material is made up of lens-like elements, and for this reason, the structure of the material is referred to as a lenticular structure.
Are There Lapses In ALR Screen Technology?
Regardless of what type of ALR technology your projector screen is using, the screen just cannot nullify some ambient light.
And the reason behind this is ALR screens can only negate the ambient light that is not hitting the screen from the same direction the projector’s light is hitting it.
If your projector is positioned near the back of the room, and there are other sources of light near it that are also directed towards the screen, the ALR projector screen will fail to negate the light from those sources.
For the ALR screen to work, the ambient light must come from a different angle than where the projector is aimed. Light reflected from white walls, overhead lighting, and even a window in the room will be negated, and the projected image will look natural.
How Do I Choose The Right ALR Projector Screen?
Elite Screens, Silver Ticket, and Vividstorm are three brands that manufacture some of the best ALR screens.
But several lesser-known companies also manufacture some great ALR screens, and a lot of times, they sell them for a lot cheaper than market price.
To get the best ALR projector screen, look at the material the screen is made from. Regardless of if you’re shopping online or in-store, look for screens that are made from CineGrey 5D or 3D material.
Ensure the material has the prefix “Cine” – Cine screens are made from the same material used to make screens for movie theatres.
Also, try and get an ALR screen that is black or grey in color. While there is nothing wrong with using a white screen, white screens absorb a little more ambient light than darker screens.
Getting a dark ALR screen will allow you to make the most of your projector.
Does Screen Gain Matter When Buying An ALR Projector?
Screen gain is a measure of the amount of light reflected off the surface of a projector screen. Every projector screen in the market will come with the gain mentioned on the packaging. If you’re shopping online, the gain will be included in the description.
Most projector screens in the market have a 1.0 gain. The light projected on these screens will neither be brightened nor dimmed.
If an ALR projector screen has a gain of over 1.0, it means that the projected image will be brighter than it’s supposed to be.
If the screen’s gain is lower than 1.0, say, 0.8, the projected image will look dimmer than it’s supposed to.
Getting a screen that has too high or too low gain will make things difficult for you – you will find yourself needing to adjust the viewing angle, so the image looks better.
If you have a lower lumen projector, get a screen with a gain of 1.0 or a little higher. If your projector is really bright, getting a screen of slightly lower gain will help you better manage its brightness.
Are ALR Screens Worth It?
ALR screens can cost you up to 4-figure. But getting your hands on the most expensive ALR screen is not a good idea because several factors affect the quality of the image other than the screen.
Getting your hands on an ALR screen around the 3-figure range is the right way to go. Couple a mid-range ALR screen with a blackout curtain, and your projector’s image will look significantly better.