Setting Up a Projection System for a Successful Presentation

Buying Guide for Projectors, Screens & Mounts

Posted on 26, March, 2015

Last Modified on 17, April, 2015

Leaving a lasting impact can be difficult for any presenter, but adding multimedia in the form of visual cues and audio is certain to make your presentation stick. One of the best ways to enhance a presentation and guarantee its success is to use a projection system. A projector allows presenters to share data, supporting information, and new ideas easily while ensuring professionalism. Using a video projector for slideshow presentations not only gives speakers the control they need but also increases the likelihood of the audience’s comprehension. Below you will find step by step instructions explaining how to purchase and set up all the necessary components for your projection system.

The Projector

Different Types of Projectors

First, let’s take a look at the main component of the projection system, the video projector. Projectors come in all kinds of designs, ranging from low-budget options to extremely high-end, expensive systems. You will want to choose the quality of your projector based on a few things:

  • How frequently will it be used? Will it be installed permanently or used for many presentations in different locations?
  • What sort of video quality does your presentation require? For example if you are in the stock photo business and you’re trying to gain customers, the quality of the projected images is extremely important.
  • Choose a name brand based on customer reviews, popularity, and the included warranty.

Next, we’ll talk about the technical aspects of video projectors. Throw distance is one of the first specifications to consider and has to do with how the image is being projected onto the screen. Put simply, it is the distance between the projector’s lens and the screen. A common ratio for projectors is 2:1, meaning the projector is placed at twice the distance from the screen as the screen is wide (measured diagonally). In short, the further back the projector is placed from the screen, the larger the projected image becomes. Keep in mind that this is true only if the projected image size is not adjusted on the projector itself (many models offer this adjustability).

Short-Throw vs. Long-Throw Projection

The two main types of projectors, short-throw and long-throw, are relatively self-explanatory. A short-throw projector is placed closer to the screen and is designed to be used in places like conference rooms. On the other hand, a long-throw projector is usually positioned quite a bit further from the screen and is commonly used in lecture halls and locations with lots of seating. Part of the reason I mentioned the projector first in the context of setting up a projection system is that the model and specifications of the projector will help you determine which screen size to buy. Once you know where you will be placing the projector, just divide the throw distance by the throw ratio to find out the proper screen width for your system. Some elements of your setup might be out of your control, so consider adding an extra lens or changing it (many professional models allow for this) once it is installed to accommodate extreme distances if necessary.

Projector Screens & Stands

portable projector screen with stand

Now that you know how to buy the right size projector screen, let’s talk about some of the other features to look for. Most screens are wall mounting, hung from the ceiling, or come with their own stands. We carry quite a few different models, but the primary feature we try to offer is portability. Our portable screens either knock down or retract so they are compact when carried. In fact, most include some type of tote bag that is specially designed to fit the collapsed framework. Although we primarily sell portable systems, many (including the retractable wall designs) can be used for long-term use as well. Screens that include their own stands come in both floor and countertop designs, so virtually any type of presentation can be accommodated. Other vendors also provide a variety of interim and long-term projector screen options.

Another important aspect of any projector screen is its shape. Most feature a widescreen format that is commonly associated with modern televisions, computer monitors, and (no surprise) movie theater projection screens. All "widescreen" means is that the horizontal width of the screen exceeds the vertical height, usually by a ratio of 16:9, 16:10, or 2.35:1. (Keep in mind this screen ratio is not the same as the ratio of the projector.) Square projector screens are far less common, but they are still used for overhead transparency projectors in many cases.

Carts, Stands, Brackets & Mounts

Ceiling Projector Lift

After you’ve selected the main components for your projection system, you’ll want to figure out the best option for mounting the video projector. Wall and ceiling brackets are some of the most common choices, especially because they are relatively inexpensive and offer a wide range of adjustability. Many locations want to keep the projector protected by attaching it to a wall or ceiling. This way, it doesn’t get knocked off a tabletop and broken by accident.

If you want to hang the projector from the ceiling, consider a lift-style mount. A projector lift keeps the system hidden while it’s not in use, and many are actually fit with electronic motors that deploy with a simple remote control. Automatic lifts are generally quite a bit more expensive but are a great option for those who can afford them. No matter which style bracket you choose, make sure it offers the adjustability you need like tilt, rotation, and retractable height.

projector cart with adjustable work space

Media carts are a little different than mounting brackets but are equally useful for presenters. You might consider an AV cart if you plan to use your projector in more than one location since the wheels allow for easy mobility. Carts are also practical for trade shows, job fairs, and training seminars. Think about your specific application and which features you need when selecting the best holder for your projector.