Projection Pro Tip #1: What Do You Use for a Screen?

This is part 1 of an interview with professional technical director Paul Ackerman. This interview will provide a series of tips for using theatrical projections—in a simple question and answer format.

Mitch: What do you use in your community center for a projection screen?

Paul: “Our main screen is by a company called Draper—one of the big manufacturers. There are all sorts of different screens out there. The more theatrical suppliers like Roscoe; they are a fairly common screen to run into. The screen that we have is really only designed as a front projection screen. If you’re going to do rear projection, you need a screen set up for that. It’s (our screen is) opaque on the back. You can’t rear project. But, that makes it a better front projection screen because it has more reflectance. So, there’s various properties of any screen, whether it’s a front projection screen or a rear projection screen; or, as Roscoe makes, one that can be used as either. So it’s got a little more flexibility. But, those qualities that a screen has are one, reflectance, or how of the light that hits it reflects back out to the viewing audience. And then the angle of viewing—how far off center will anybody be able to see the image projected on that screen. And, like anything else with physics, there’s tradeoffs. How much reflectance does it have to how wide an angle it works at. So, it goes back and forth.

Also, you can project on a bed sheet. A lot of times, it will be fine. If you go to the supplier Rosebrand, it’s a big theatrical supplier, they are known as a fabric supplier although they sell a lot of different equipment. But one of the things that’s so helpful on their website is they rate different fabrics and how good they’re used for projection screens. We did a show in January called ‘Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There’ that had four small screens as part of the set. There was a lot of video, a lot of imagery that was put up to support the songs that were being played. A lot of historical stuff—the artists, the area, about Muscle Shoals. But anyways, these four screens because they were such odd shapes, we just bought some mid-range fabric and stretched it over some frames and hung it up there and said ‘Hey, there you go, projection screens.’ And it worked just fine. So you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make it work.”

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