Ambient Light Rejecting Screen

Ambient Light Rejecting screens started becoming popular less than a decade ago, and for good reason. They allow users to be able to project in rooms with a respectable amount of ambient light, filling a large screen with far less loss of contrast and color saturation than with traditional screens. This screen type, combined with far brighter projectors, has taken projectors out of darkened rooms and into the light. Whether in a classroom or auditorium, no longer does the room have to be made dark to be able to see the image. From a practical standpoint that gives projectors a significant advantage over very large monitors in most environments. That’s because large monitors are still relatively small as they are only “affordable” up to about 71”-80”. A 100” monitor setup can easily cost 10 times that of a 100” projector and screen setup of really good quality. In a perfect world, that means that using a projector with an ALR screen will “reject” ambient light from the room producing an image about as good as if there was no ambient light in the room. That, however, is to assume that the ambient light is not coming from near where the projector is positioned. Today (2020) fixed ALR type screens from recognized brands sell starting at under $1000 for a 100” size, while premium brands can cost twice that or more.
Now a 3,000 lumen, standard throw projector in a fairly bright room using a 100” ALR screen may look a lot better than a 5,000, or even a 10,000 lumen projector on a regular screen. In a darkened room, of course, the brighter projectors will look much brighter. But, the least expensive projector in a bright room, with a good ALR screen can outperform other projectors costing far more, but with traditional screens. There’s always a catch! In this case, two of them!
  1. To be effective at rejecting ambient light, that ambient light can’t be coming from anywhere near where the projector is placed.
  2. Ultra Short Throw projectors require special ALR screens specifically designed for UST.
With a great ALR screen, a projector ceiling mounted 12 feet back from a 100” screen (typical), ambient light coming from unshaded windows on either side of the screen will have almost zero effect on how the projected image looks. Close shades on those windows and leave the rest of the room the same, and you probably can’t tell the difference looking at the projected image. But, if those windows are in the back of the room, behind the projector, the ALR screen can do nothing, for to reject that ambient light it would have to also reject the light from the projector! If the light is coming in from a back corner, then the ALR screen should still be pretty effective, and more so the further the ambient light is to the side. The same is true for overhead lights.  Ambient light from almost directly above the screen will be rejected, but if that light is closer to the projector – again, it can’t be.
Ultra short throw projectors cannot use an ALR screen designed for standard throw projectors, as those screens mistake the light from the projector as ambient light. This results in a completely washed out image. For this reason, if you’re pairing an ultra short throw projector with an ALR screen, you must choose one that is specifically designed for a UST projector.   Ambient light rejecting screen in a bright environment ALR screens can be game changers in many business and education environments. In today’s newer classrooms, more emphasis is being made on having natural light – skylights where possible, and more windows. ALR screens can make a huge difference in these environments. An ALR screen can make a 100” screen fully readable in a conference room with a wall of glass on one side, without spending a fortune on a massively powerful projector. In most situations, ALR screens are the way to go. In addition to classrooms, ALR screens are ideal for conference rooms, auditoriums, and museums – anywhere where lighting cannot be completely controlled and minimized. They can be a game changer in brighter rooms, requiring far less to be spent on buying a higher power projector. As more motorized ALR screens hit the market, I would expect this technology to dominate the market. I predict they will be used in most classrooms and conference rooms as the price points will drop, and they won’t cost that much more than a standard screen. If a good ALR screen only adds $500 or so to the budget, but it saves you $1,500 by going with a less bright projector (and still having a better-looking image), they certainly will dominate the business and education world.
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