What is a Rear Projection Screen?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rear projection screen is a type of screen which is designed to be used with rear projection presentations. In rear projection, the image passes through the screen to the eyes of the viewer, rather than being reflected against the front of the screen. There are some definite advantages and disadvantages to using rear projection for image displays. Many stores which carry projection suppliers carry rear projection screens along with other equipment options.

Some movie theaters utilize rear projection.
Some movie theaters utilize rear projection.

When a rear projection screen is used, the projector is mounted behind the screen. As with other types of projection, it is necessary to adjust the intensity of the light and focus to get the best image. In rear projection, the light intensity generally needs to be quite high, as the light must pass clearly through the screen.

Rear projection screens can be used to set up home theater systems.
Rear projection screens can be used to set up home theater systems.

There are a variety of situations in which rear projection can be appropriate. A rear projection screen for home use can be used to set up a home theater system, and these screens can also be used in offices, schools, and other presentation environments. Some movie theaters utilize rear projection, and stage productions may have a rear projection screen to create backdrops and scenery effects.

One of the big advantages to rear projection is that the lights in the room can be on when images are projected, and viewers will still be able to see clearly. This can be useful in presentations, where people may want to take notes or engage with the speaker, which can be hard to do when the lights are off. A major disadvantage is the tendency to develop a hot spot, a bright point in the screen created by the high intensity light from the projector. A rear projection screen also has a more limited viewing cone; if people sit in the wrong place, the image will be distorted or of poor quality.

It is also necessary to have ample space behind a rear projection screen for the projector. The projector cannot be butted directly up against the screen, especially in the case of a large screen, and this can cause space problems in a venue with limited working room. The necessary extra space must also be kept clear to avoid projecting shadows onto the screen, which means that it cannot be utilized for storage or the installation of a sound system. By contrast, with front projection, the projector can be mounted up high in the back of a room, taking up minimal space.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I can’t imagine a movie theater using a rear projection screen. If someone were to pay the high cost of a movie ticket and then be unable to see the movie very well because of where he sat, then I imagine he would be very angry.

Every theater I’ve ever been to uses a front projector in a room behind the seats. If you turn around, you can see the high window from which the image gets projected onto the screen.

I’m sure hot spots would be big annoyances as well. It’s hard for some people to focus on the plot if there is something on the screen that doesn’t belong there distracting them.


Has anyone bought one of those inflatable rear projection screens that you can put in your backyard to watch movies? I was thinking of buying one, but not sure how it will hold up because of the wind.

I love the idea of watching movies in my backyard because it is such a fun idea. In my town, they have outdoor movies on beach on the weekends for the residents and it is so much. I really want to duplicate the effect and have a home theater in my backyard, but the cheapest one I saw was about $1,000 for a sixteen foot screen which seems a little pricey for rear projection screen material .

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