0True home cinema for a grand

I’ve long had a “home cinema” setup with a fairly budget HTPC, a 50″ plasma TV, and a 4.1 sur­round sys­tem, but when I moved house a year ago I found I no longer had a place in the main fam­ily room to fit the 50″ TV, so had to revert back to the old Sam­sung 32″ 720p CRT that I bought in around 2006. The room has a large bay win­dow with a little recess per­fect for fit­ting a screen, so a plan was born for true home cinema

A 133 inch motor­ised and tab-ten­sioned screen was a mere £200 on amazon, and with the audio sys­tem already in place all I needed was a decent pro­ject­or. After lots of research I settled on a BenQ W2000 for £800 from rich­er sounds as I was able to see it in action in store and was happy with the pic­ture qual­ity and the bright­ness. 4k pro­ject­ors are cur­rently far too expens­ive to con­tem­plate, and whilst I could have gone for an even high­er end pro­ject­or, the increase in qual­ity was­n’t worth the extra money which I will instead save towards a future 4k or 8k upgrade. I was offered cables and mount­ing brack­ets and screens but this is where Rich­er must make there money as the value was very poor com­pared to what I’d already researched online, so I left with just the pro­ject­or and set it up on top of a spare fil­ing cab­in­et to exper­i­ment with the optim­al dis­tance and position.

The pro­ject­or auto­mat­ic­ally adjus­ted itself and turned on (or already had turned on) a small amount of key­stone cor­rec­tion and lens shift — both of which I promptly restored to default to avoid prob­lems with pic­ture qual­ity. Key­stone cor­rec­tion had caused notice­able reduc­tion in pic­ture qual­ity so turn­ing it off was essen­tial. Once I was happy with the arrange­ments I ordered a wall/ceiling mount from amazon and moun­ted the pro­ject­or high up from the wall (the wall being sol­id load-bear­ing, where­as the ceil­ing is plaster with unknown strength behind it).

Finally I ordered a couple of long high qual­ity white HDMI cables and a long white power cable. The whole sys­tem was up and ready in time for the start of the new BBC / Dav­id Atten­bor­ough series Blue Plan­et II which has been excep­tion­al as a true cine­mat­ic exper­i­ence. I have also watched a couple of movies which have also been fant­ast­ic — I can­’t see myself going to the cinema very much in the future, the exper­i­ence at home is actu­ally super­i­or for sev­er­al reas­ons, and there is no tick­et to pay for. The final part of the phys­ic­al install­a­tion was some self-adhes­ive trunk­ing from screwfix.

The “old” 50″ plasma screen was a good qual­ity screen and plas­ma’s are well known for hav­ing bet­ter qual­ity col­ours than most flat pan­els so the pro­ject­or had a lot to live up to. Advice online about home cinema pro­ject­ors says it’s best to have dark col­oured walls, min­im­al light­ing and no large win­dows. My lounge has 2 large bay win­dows, white walls, white ceil­ing, beige car­pet and 12 lights, so it’s not exactly tick­ing the home cinema boxes. The screen does at least come down in front of the main west-facing bay win­dow which blocks the light from that, but I was still con­cerned about how well it might work. I was delighted to find that the “scare stor­ies” were non­sense. For a full cinema exper­i­ence it is neces­sary to turn off lights and close cur­tains, but this was also neces­sary with the plasma TV. The pro­ject­or can also be used just fine with cur­tains open dur­ing the day, or the lights on in the even­ing. The plasma TV, like most flat pan­els, was highly reflect­ive, so any lights would inev­it­ably reflect from it straight into any view­ers eyes. The pro­ject­or arrange­ment does­n’t suf­fer from this prob­lem in the same way, the screen is matt so instead of a point reflec­tion there is just a slight loss of con­trast because blacks become dis­tinctly grey. This may be a mat­ter of pref­er­ence, but for me the pro­ject­or arrange­ment is hugely superior.

The final part of the puzzle was to upgrade the HTPC with an nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti which is cap­able of hard­ware decod­ing both 4k and 8k video, and also of run­ning the mad­vr presenter which hugely improves upscal­ing of low res­ol­u­tion videos, which could oth­er­wise look very dis­ap­point­ing on the 130″ screen. 4k videos down­scaled actu­ally look much sharp­er than nat­ive 1080p videos, which I attrib­ute to the mask­ing of com­pres­sion defects — the 4k videos are typ­ic­ally around 10 times lar­ger in data terms, and what com­pres­sion arti­facts that are present will be par­tially hid­den by the down­scal­ing. Com­bined with hav­ing HDR this means that although the pro­ject­or is “only” 1080p, the pic­ture qual­ity is very close to the qual­ity of a nat­ive 4k dis­play, and far big­ger than any TV available.

I will be writ­ing about mad­vr set­tings in the near future, but they’re still a work in pro­gress as there are so many options to get my head round with too little empir­ic­al evid­ence avail­able from a google search. The video card did push the total cost up to around £1200 — a little bit above a grand, but it was­n’t strictly neces­sary. The pro­ject­or, screen, and mount were with­in a few quid of £1000, com­par­able to a 60″ 4k TV and vastly more cine­mat­ic. A final bonus of the pro­ject­or sys­tem is that it does­n’t dom­in­ate the room in the same way as a large TV would — when it is not in use the screen dis­ap­pears back up to the ceil­ing and the room becomes a fam­ily space again. We still have the old 32″ CRT in the corner for day-to-day TV use.

Got some thoughts of your own? Indulge yourself below by commenting! If you would like to subscribe please use the subscribe link on the menu at the top right. You can also share this with your friends by using the social links below. Cheers.

Leave a Reply