Advice and Resources

Hardware: Choosing a Projector

An in-depth guide to choosing and installing the right projector for your show.

Easy-to-use scenic technology is opening doors and making theatre more accessible than ever, but this shouldn’t be limited to the media. Choosing the right hardware for the job might seem like rocket science, but believe us, it’s far from it. There’s no secret sauce, and there should be no consultation fees, or overwhelming choices. We’ve rigorously tested countless projector models to bring you 5 that are made for the stage (but we’ll get to that later). Here’s what you need to look at when considering which projector to rent (or invest in): short-throw versus long-throw projectors, throw-ratio, and lumens.

1. Short-throw vs. Long-throw Projectors

Short-throw projectors: Has a throw ratio less than 1. This projector can be placed much closer to the projection surface and project large images, eliminating much of the risk of shadows.

Long-throw projectors: Has a throw ratio that generally exceeds 1 (for example, home theaters tend to be about 1.8:1). This projector should be placed farther away from the projection surface, traditionally at the back of the theatre.

When recommending a projector, we suggest short-throw projectors over long-throw projectors. To closer compare the two, let’s look at what we refer to as the Triangle of Light.

Short Throw Projectors

Long Throw Projectors

The triangle of light is made up of the top and bottom of the outwards projected image in relation to the projector lens. The top image is a short-throw projector mounted from a light bar onstage and above the actors. The bottom image is a long-throw projector placed at the back of the theatre. Since a short-throw projector has the ability to be placed closer to the stage, the triangle of light fully covers the projection surface and avoids catching the actors and creating shadows. In regards to image quality, its placement also delivers a clear and bright image.

Imagine the following scenario: You’re pointing a flashlight at a wall. The closer you stand to the wall, the sharper and clearer your circle of light will be, and there is less space for something to get in front of your beam of light. Now, if you walked away from the wall, your circle of light would become blurry and fuzzy around the edges, creating a greater space between the wall and source of light, creating shadows.

Due to its ability to project large images while being placed close to your projection surface, short-throw projectors are our go-to recommendation to eliminate shadows and deliver a sharp, bright picture.

2. Throw Ratio

Throw ratio: This describes the relationship between the distance of your projector from the screen and the size of the image it creates.

In order to get a better understanding of your theatre find out the dimensions of your stage. Knowing the height and width of your back wall is extremely helpful when looking for a recommendation. We begin to determine the size of your desired image, and where your projector needs to be placed. This is where the math comes in with throw-ratio.

To decide where you need to place your projector, follow this simple equation:

Your desired image size x throw ratio = distance projector needs to be hung

If you already have a bar from which to hang your projector, this equation will give you the image size:

Distance from screen- throw ratio = image size

Data and home cinema projectors tend to have a throw ratio of about 1.8, which requires a fair amount of distance, so we exclusively use Short-Throw Projectors, which vary between .3 to .5. It means you can get a really large image and keep your projector upstage, minimizing shadows!

3. Lumens

Lumens: Lumens is the true measure of brightness. Simply put, the higher the lumen count the brighter the image.

In order to achieve the brightest possible image, take into consideration how much natural and artificial lighting is in your space. The more light in your performance space, the more lumens you’ll need to counter that. Think about how bright a classroom data projector is when the window blinds are up. That’s about 3,000 lumens. Our standard short-throw projector has 5,200 lumens: A great projector for first-timers.

PRO TIP: You can also maximize your projector’s brightness by angling your stage lights downwards and making sure the house lights are completely off.

Now that you know what goes into choosing a projector, you have the tools to achieve a successful and clear projection. However, projectors are not a one-size-fits-all technology. Our Production Team is here to find the best projector option for your production (and productions to come)!

There’s no day like today, let’s get started!

Learn more about our projectors!


Request a Proposal

Latest Articles

View All

A Gentleman's Guide to Projection Design

The team at Broadway Media sat down with Aaron Rhyne, one of the world’s preeminent theatrical projection designers, to learn more about his A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder designs, and get some tips on what good design is all about.

February 1, 2021

Creating Immersive Scenery with Scenic Projections

In the first two months of 2019, Green Valley High School, Performing Arts Department in Nevada, piloted Broadway Media’s Scenic Projections for Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin.

February 1, 2021

Top Disney Titles for Schools with Amazing Digital Scenery

Theatrical titles from Disney are a great way to introduce your students to theatre using characters and stories with which they are undoubtedly familiar. Combine them with a 60-minute or 30-minute Broadway Junior runtime and you’ve got yourself a show that’s easy to teach and fun for your kids to learn and perform!

February 1, 2021