Projection Screen Terminology

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Steve Scott

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Projectors can be tricky sometimes. There’s just so much to know about them that it can make your head spin. All those terms and phrases, you probably aren’t clear what most of them mean.

Lucky for you, we’ve made this comprehensive list of some of the most essential projector terminology that will make your life easier in the long run. Let’s dig in!


1080p, or often referred to as Full HD or 2K, is a high-definition video format that has 1,920 pixels stretched across the screen horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. The letter p represents a progressive scan. Video is usually displayed at 24 or 60 frames per second.


This is a widescreen aspect ratio that has a height of 16 units (whichever they may be) and a width of 9 units. It is one of the most widely used aspect ratios in the last decade for both TVs and computer monitors. Besides 16:9, this aspect ratio is often described as 1.78:1.


480p is short for a group of several display resolutions. In most cases, it denotes a vertical resolution of 480 pixels that goes with 640 pixels horizontally, which results in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Also, the horizontal resolution can be 654 pixels, which leaves us with a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.


720p is a display resolution that is also known as HD ready or standard HD. It has a resolution of 1280 x 720 and an aspect ratio of 16:9. Most broadcasters offer the HDTV format.

ANSI Lumens    

Measurement of light displayed by a projector. One of the most commonly found features of a projector, regulated by ANSI. The rating is calculated by measuring several different points from the light source.

Aspect Ratio    

Represents the proportion between the height and width of an image. Usually denoted with the use of two numbers, the first one represents height while the second one represents the width. Some common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 4:3.                      

Black Level    

The amount of brightness coming from the darkest part of the image, or simply the darkest part of the image. To get the proper black, you will generally have to calibrate the display.


The intensity of light coming from an image, or the overall amount of light coming from it. Projectors come with different brightness ratings, and depending on that, you’ll know what purpose they’re suitable for. 


This refers to correcting or adjusting a device to make it adhere to a specific reference or a standard.

Contrast Ratio    

The proportion between the brightest and darkest colors, white and black. A desirable trait in any projector. The higher the contrast ratio, the bigger the amount of detail that the projector is able to output.


Short for Digital to Analog Converter. This component takes a digital signal and transforms it into analog. After that, the analog signal is sent to the amplifier.


Stands for Digital Versatile Disc. By looking at it, it’s similar to a compact disc. However, it can carry a lot more data - 4.7GB, or 9.4 if it’s double-sided.

Frequency Response    

The range of frequencies a component can produce, and how well it can do that. In most cases, it is stated as a range of two frequencies and is measured in decibels.


An issue with the projected image, when there’s a duplicate output. Usually, you get one or more layers of one image, but they are slightly offset, and at an angle, so it appears the image is blurred.


High Definition Multimedia Interface is one of the most used audio and video interfaces that uses a cable to transport uncompressed and compressed audio and video data. It is one of the most popular cables for regular households and is used to connect many devices like Blu-ray players, DVD players, video game consoles, and many more.


Stands for High Dynamic Range, and it offers greater contrast and details than Standard Dynamic Range. One of the most sought-after features of modern TVs and projectors. HDR boasts with deeper blacks and richer highlights and color accuracy.

Horizontal Lens Shift    

Its purpose is to reduce the keystoning by shifting the image from left to right. That way, the projector doesn’t have to be horizontally centered. It gives you greater positioning flexibility.

Input Lag    

Input lag is the delay or lag between the time your source sends a frame and the projector actually playing it. It’s a crucial feature for serious gamers.

Keystone Correction

Allow the image to be projected in a rectangular shape. Keystoning is a result of a projector not being perpendicular to the screen. Thus the image can turn out in a trapezoidal shape. And since setting a projector to be perpendicular is not easy, most models offer keystone correction.        


Represents the time between action is called upon from a device, and the time the device performs said action. The shorter the amount of time, the better.    

Lens Shift    

The option of moving the lens vertically and horizontally inside a projector casing, allowing for more flexibility in positioning in relation to the screen surface.

Long Throw Lens    

A type of lens that allows a larger distance between the screen surface and the projector. Opposite of short throw.             

Maximum Distance    

The greatest distance from which a projector can display a focused and clear image.

Maximum Image Size    

The largest possible screen size a projector can handle in acceptable conditions ( dark room).

Maximum Resolution    

Represents the highest resolution a projector can support. It can be higher than the native ResolutionResolution.         

Minimum Distance    

The nearest position where you could place your projector so that it can project a focused image onto a screen surface.    

Native Resolution    

Native ResolutionResolution is the number of pixels or dots on the screen that a device can handle. Sometimes the device can handle even more than that.

Pico Projector    

Pico projector is a projector small enough that can fit into your pocket or the palm of your hand. Easy to use and really convenient to carry everywhere.         

Power Output        

The amount of power that is needed to power the speakers. There’s peak output ( when speakers are working at full capacity) and RMS ( the average amount of power).             


Short for Root Mean Square. The amount of power needed to power the speakers on average. 

Throw Distance

The distance between the screen surface and the projector. A range between the maximum and minimum distance.

Throw Ratio

The ratio between the throw distance and the width of the screen. For example, if the throw ratio is 1.5, then a projector needs to be 1.5 feet away for every foot of screen width.

Vertical Lens Shift

Similar to the horizontal lens shift allows the projector not to be perfectly placed in relation to the screen when looking vertically. It eliminates the keystoning effect and gives more flexibility to the user.

Zoom Lens    

A component that allows changing the image size without actually moving the projector.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, we’ve made things a bit clearer! Now you can read more about many different projector topics with more confidence.

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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