Contrast VS projector VS environment

Hello Dears Readers,

today we would like to share our thoughts about Contrast VS Projector VS Environment you are projecting in.

The contrast is always a result of the native contrast performance of the projector AND the room you put the projector in.

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Here, we compare 3 projectors in 3 different price categories.

  • The Benq W1070 (a small FullHD 3D DLP unit selling for less than 700 €)
  • The Epson EH-TW9200W ( a high end FullHD LCD 3D projector selling for about 2500 €)
  • The Sony VPL-VW520ES ( the very high end SRXD 4K 3D projector selling for 10 000 €)

You will notice that there is a factor 4 in the price between each “upgrade”.

Using the patterns we created after looking at the brightness distribution of movie pictures in our ADL study:

ADL_contrast_patterns

Here are the contrast results we found for each projector depending on the room conditions:

Contrast_Curve_ADL_Benq_W1070Contrast_Curve_ADL_Epson_EH-TW9200Sony VPL-VW520ES Contrast

We see how dramatically the room effects the contrast performance of the projector. However, we clearly see that the more expensive the projector the higher starts the contrast curve.

The red curve for a room with white walls drops very quickly for every projector…and it SEEMS even quicker as you move up to higher end projector.

Under 5% ADL

Let’s look closer at the results under 5% ADL (50% of all movie pictures) for a “room with white walls” and an “optimized room” how the projectors compare to each others:

Contrast Optimized Room Sony VPL-VW520ES Epson EH-TW9200 Benq W1070 Contrast Living Room Sony VPL-VW520ES Epson EH-TW9200 Benq W1070

What can we see?

  • The native contrast (ON-OFF) contrast stays unchanged while projecting in a room optimized or with white walls AS LONG AS no other lights enter the room (windows, ceiling, candle, smartphone etc…)
  • The 1% white contrast drops a lot more in the “room with white walls” than in an optimized room. However, if we compare the Benq W1070 and the Sony VPL-VW520ES, there is still quite a world between them, EVEN in the room with white walls.
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 6 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has still 2.5 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
  • For the 2% white contrast, the difference is still large between the “low end” and “very high end” projector even in a white room:
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 4.4 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has still 1.7 times the contrast of the Benq W1070

Above 5% ADL

Let’s now look closer at the results above 5% ADL (50% of all movie pictures) for a “room with white walls” and an “optimized room” how the projectors compare to each others:

Contrast Optimized_Room Sony VPL-VW520ES Epson EH-TW9200 Benq W1070 Contrast Living_Room Sony VPL-VW520ES Epson EH-TW9200 Benq W1070

  • For the 5% white contrast, the difference is still large between the “low end” and “very high end” projector in an optimized room, but not so much in a white room:
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 2.9 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.3 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
  • For the 10% white contrast, the difference is still large between the “low end” and “very high end” projector in an optimized room, but almost not existent in a white room:
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 2.1 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.1 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
  • For the 20% white contrast, there is still a difference between the “low end” and “very high end” projector in an optimized room, but the contrast is the same in the white room (170:1):
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.6 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.0 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
  • For the 50% white contrast, there is still a difference between the “low end” and “very high end” projector in an optimized room, but the ANSI contrast is the same in the white room (67:1):
    • In the optimized room: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.6 times the contrast of the Benq W1070
    • In the room with white walls: the Sony VPL-VW520ES has 1.0 times the contrast of the Benq W1070

ANSI contrast

Let’s talk a bit of the ANSI contrast. This is a checkerboard pattern with 50% white and 50% black. The contrast is there measured by dividing the “average white” by the “average black”.

Many people believe that the ANSI contrast is what brings “pop” in bright pictures even if the projector is located a room with bright walls.

Let’s face it, this is totally untrue when projecting in a living room with white walls.

And here is why: the ANSI contrast in such a living room is around 60:1 and DOES NOT depend on the projector anymore, but solely on the light pollution due to room reflection.

So the “pop” some people see on a DLP projector in a living room with white walls in a bright scene is NOT due the “high” ANSI contrast of their DLP projector…but more likely the combination of high brightness with high sharpness of the DLP technology.

On the following pictures you can see how the ANSI contrast pattern looks in a room with white walls and in an optimized room. The ANSI contrast jumps from 60:1 to 295:1!

Optimizing our room multiplied the ANSI contrast of our Epson EH-TW9200W by 5!

And afterwards, you can really see the “pop”.

ANSI contrast Epson EH-TW9200 living room vs optimized room

However, you should not forget, that the ANSI contrast also tells you how good black can be displayed just next to white.

Conclusion

On-Off contrast

  • A projector with a higher native (on-off) contrast will perform better in every room than a projector with a smaller native contrast.
  • In a room with white walls the higher on-off contrast translates in better dark scenes.
  • In an optimized room a high on-off contrast will have a positive effect not only on dark scenes, but also on brighter scenes

ANSI contrast

  • In a typical living room with white walls the ANSI contrast is almost equal for all projectors (in most cases under 60:1)
  • In a living room with white walls, the room is the limiting factor due to wall, ceiling and floor reflections leading to light pollution on the screen
  • While considering bright scenes the ANSI contrast is only relevant in an optimized room.
  • However, for dark scenes the ANSI contrast tells you how good the projector can display black just next to a white spot. ANSI contrast can truly bring some pop to dark scenes as long as they have some bright spots (like the skyline of a city at night)!

Last thoughts

If you have a living room with white walls, a high end projector with a higher native contrast will bring you a contrast performance boost in dark scenes. However, it will not help the contrast in bright scenes at all, even if the projector is supposed to have a high ANSI contrast.

If you choose to optimize your room, you will get a much better contrast performance out of any projector for dark and bright scenes. In this case not only the On-Off contrast but also the ANSI contrast of your projector plays an important role!

 

8 Comments

  1. Very interessting!Thank you very much!
    The next “step” would be now to elaborate what someone can do to optimize his living room with minimal invasive actions. Whats better? Painting the white walls as dark as your wife accepts or is a dark furniture enough?
    Does it make a difference if the walls are dark but the ceiling is white? Is it necessary to paint the whole room dark or is it sufficent to just paint 1m around the screen?
    Do you have some good tips to optimize the living room?
    Looking forward to read more 🙂

    • Hi McElli,

      thank you for your appreciation! 🙂

      We have done the “next step” ourselves already. 🙂
      And we will write an article about our solution in the near future.

      Floor, ceiling and walls should be as black and absorbing as possible.
      Carpet and curtains work a lot better than paint and absorb for light reflexions.

      Our solution is to have some side and ceiling curtains (3m from screen toward the spectator) made out “triple black velvet” to transform your bright living room into a black hole within 5 seconds by just moving the curtains.

      😉

      Have a nice evening,
      See you soon,
      Anna&Flo

  2. Terrific article, thanks again!

    I’m hoping to find the cheapest and best performing black velvet material (most light absorption / square meter / dollar), can you offer any suggestions?

      • Hi there, any chance you can do a review of the Optoma UHD60 or 65?

        Many of us on AVS are dying to find out what the actual contrast is like, whether it can accept native 2716 x 1528 resolution from a PC, whether XPR can be disabled, whether it can accept 120hz at any resolution (forced, using a custom resolution / refresh from a PC will be likely necessary), and of course whether it can in fact display a DCI P3 gamut.

        Hope all is well with you both!

  3. Fascinating and well written article! Unfortunately when I set up my theater room I was not aware how important it would be to have light absorbing walls and ceiling to eliminate light reflecting off the screen. On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being all white walls and 10 being fully draped with triple black velvet – where would you put painting the first 2m of walls and ceiling black or some dark color?

    • Hi James!
      Glad you could learn something on our blog!
      We would say that painting in black the first 2m of side walls and ceiling will correspond to a 4.
      Even black paint reflects quite a lot because it is to flat. If your side walls and the wall behind you are very far away from your screen (let’s say 5m), you may get a 6/10.

      Cheers
      Anna&Flo

      ps: a technical screen like the Draper React 3.0 or the Elitescreen 5D could also be a solution. The best would be curtain side+ceiling out of triple black velvet as we have in our home-theater!

  4. If you were ever in a place and for some reason or another you couldn’t darken around the screen with fabric.

    Would you still consider projection? I have my room flat black and dark grey and even with my epson 8350 sometimes I feel the contrast is lacking from reflections. After the initial wow factor wears off when you start up the pj for the weekend I tend to prefer a higher contrast flat panel.

    Many pj owners seem to be in denial or blissful ignorance that a light colored room washes out your image. I’ve heard even a sheet of paper on a couch can reflect significant light back to the screen. I’m very fond of front projection but it seems you really need to go all the way.

    If it was up to me I would go with a 70″ or larger oled display but my Wife loves the big screen.

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