When building a home theater system, watching a movie outdoors, or using a projection screen for other purposes — whether work or personal — one of the most important elements is the screen itself. The screen will determine how the projector can be used and will be a determining factor in the quality of the movie being projected. There are several types available, including manual or electric screens for classroom or home theater use, portable screens for outside use, rear-projection screens, and paint-on screens. Each has a different setup that will make the screen useful for certain environments.
The manual screen works like a window shade; the screen has to be pulled down by hand so an image can be projected on it. There are two versions: tensioned and non-tensioned. Tensioned screens use tension to keep the screen flat, while non-tensioned ones are prone to being moved by air flow in the screening area but are much cheaper. These screens are one of the cheapest available for indoor use and, if there is not a lot of air to disturb the screen, they offer good quality.
Electric screens are nearly identical to their manual counterparts, with tensioned and non-tensioned versions. The main difference is that an electrical motor is responsible for dropping and raising the screen. Some projectors come with a function to automatically lower the screen.
Rear-projection screens are good for some indoor uses and outdoor projecting, as well. Instead of projecting an image on the front of the screen, the projector is supposed to sit behind the screen for the image to come through. The space between the projector and screen must be dark, so this type is usually best for nighttime use.
The mobile type is often a manual screen propped up on a tripod, but there also are inflatable projector screens. These are not meant for permanent installation. They are best used in the home when showing movies is only an occasional occurrence, and for outside projections when they will be removed afterward.
Paint-on projection screens are meant exclusively for permanent installation, because the screen cannot be removed without extensive work. This screen uses a special type of paint that affixes to the wall, and makes that wall a projection surface. Smooth walls without texture will provide the best quality, and the surface can be used right after application, although it will usually take 24 hours for the paint to fully cure and dry.