Decoding Projector Terminology

Decoding Projector Terminology - Projector RentalsDeciding which projector rental is right for your event can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re not familiar with projector terminology. The good news is there are only a handful of key terms you need to know to decode projector terminology. Once you understand these terms, you will be able to compare projectors and find the one that’s right for you.


Lumens is the light that comes out of the projector. Lumens are officially measured by The American National Standard Institute, which has created a set system for measuring light production. Their official initials often appear before the lumen (ANSI lumen) and provide a consistent measurement across all projector types.

Lumens relate directly to how lit your environment is going to be. For dark spaces, a projector with a lower lumens, say in the 2000 range, will work just fine. For naturally and artificially lit spaces, a brighter lumens projector, say 3000 or more, is needed to counteract light interference. Keep in mind, brighter is not necessarily better. Choose a projector with a lumens value suited to the light environment in which it will be used.

Contrast Ratio
The ratio between a projector’s brightness and darkness. The contrast ratio will determine how clear an image will appear and is especially important when text is involved. The numbers in a contrast ratio represent how much light is reflected in a white image compared to a black image. So for example, a 4000:1 contrast ratio means the white image is 4000 times brighter than the black image. The higher the contrast ratio, the higher the image detail.

Native VS Maximum Resolution
All projectors have a native resolution. This number is the total amount of pixels, or dots, the projector is capable of displaying in any given image. The more pixels, the better the image. For example, a 1024×768 native resolution means a projector can create an image with a height containing up to 1024 pixels and a width containing up to 768 pixels. A projector will never be able to display more pixels than its native resolution.

Maximum resolution is related to signal formats. This is the maximum resolution signal a projector can convert into an image. Most projectors are capable of recognizing a variety of image format signals, but all projectors have a limit – a maximum resolution – they can process into an image.

Throw Distance
The distance between the projector lens and the surface (screen, wall, etc.) where the projected display will fall. The further a projector sits from a surface, the larger the display. A throw distance calculator is used to determine placement of a projector to accomplish a desired screen size.

DLP Projectors
DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors use mirrors and a color wheel to create sequential color. DLP technology is used in most movie theater projectors and is considered to produce a higher contrast ratio, with a smaller distance between each pixel than a LCD projector display.

LCD Projectors
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projectors create color by sending light through three separate panels, or prisms, which each create a primary color. As light hits these panels, it is either allowed to pass through individual pixels or is blocked. These pixels combine on a final prism which projects the image onto the screen. LCD technology is considered to be brighter and have a more accurate color display than DLP.

Still not sure which audio-visual equipment is right for your event? Our friendly team of specialists is always available to answer questions and make recommendations to help you find the perfect projector rental.

To find out more about our diverse inventory of projectors and how they can transform your event, contact us today at (800) 574-0212, email us at or fill out a quote form to get more information and pricing.