The Best Projector for Environmental Projection


As I teach seminars and we get emails from all over the world from you guys who are wanting to install Enviornmental Projection, the number one question we get is this: what is the best projector for environmental projection?

What is the best projector for environmental projection?

It’s a fun question to discuss, because we always get a chance to see your room, look at pictures and give advice that is very specific to your room. However most of that isn’t possible because no matter how many measurements we get, and how much we can estimate the light in the room, we almost always have to be in the room.

The Best Projector for Environmental Projection

Now there is one projector that would truly fit in the category of the best projector for environmental projection. That projector is the Barco DP2k-32B. It’s a 43,000 lumen 2k resolution projector. It’s stinking BRIGHT!  But would technically be the best projection for environmental projection in ANY room.

Most of you though, that would be overkill. So lets take a look at some tips and tricks of the best practices to find the best projector for environmental projection in your specific environment. There’s one thing I should tell you before we begin:

Projection for environmental projection is less mathematical and more artistic. 



Second to the question “what is the best projector for environmental projection” is the question “how bright of a projector should I get?” You may have been asking this while reading so far, or you may have even jumped ahead and seen the title “brightness” and knew I would tell you. Remember this isn’t a mathematical formula, it’s a work of art! Let me see if I can help though.

First, know that projector brightness is measured in Lumens (technically it’s called ANSI lumens) and was designed to create a comparable platform for projector brightness. Not all 3,000 lumen projectors are identical, but should give you a rough benchmark on brightness. Simply put, the more “lumens” the brighter a projector is. Therefore a 5,000 lumen projector is going to be significantly brighter than a 3,000 lumen projector. They range from less than 800 lumens all the way up to 43,000 lumens. (You don’t need that bright of a projector, and you probably won’t want to spend $450,000+ on a projector either). Most medium body projectors are 3,000 – 10,000 lumens.


There are a few things to keep in mind when factoring in the right projector lumens:


  • Ambient Light. Ambient light is the amount of light you have in your room that is unintended. This would include a reflection of light from your stage (if it’s not very controlled), windows in your room will cause more ambient light, sometimes if you have a lobby that is really bright (or has windows) and you keep the doors open to the lobby, that will also create more light. In general ambient light is non-controlled light. It’s not bad, as many churches want ambient light to fill their rooms, however more ambient light means we have to get a brighter projector.
  • House Lighting. Do you have lights over your audience? If so, can you dim them or turn them off? House lighting often lights up your walls and makes environmental projection a tough process. If you can turn them off or dim them to only 20%-30% of their intensity, then we have a good chance of making the projected image pop without spending a fortune on image brightness. With bright house lighting, it can wash out your image and make projection a very difficult task.
  • Color of Walls. This may seem like a weird factor, but if you have stark white walls or a flat white curtain you can project onto, then the most amount of light will be reflected which will result in a “brighter” appeared image for environmental projection. If you have a more saturated or grey colored walls, it’s still possible but we will need to compensate with a brighter projector. But honestly, the only color wall that is really difficult to do environmental projection with is Black walls. Don’t paint your walls black. 
  • Size of your image. The bigger your projected image, the brighter we will need. This probably makes sense, but we need to achieve a standard brightness per square inch. So the more “inches” you have, the brighter you need.
  • Use of Fog or Haze. Most often environmental projection is “front projection” as compared to “rear projection.” When front projecting (or when the projector is in front of the projection surface/wall) you need to be aware of the amount of fog or haze as this will cause more density in the air and light will be lost before it gets to the wall. If there is any smoke in the room, it will catch some of the projected light and cause a darker image on the wall. Obviously the more smoke, fog or haze in your room will cause a darker projected image.


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Contrast Ratio

Contrast is one of the most important factors of high quality images or low quality images when looking for the best projector for environmental projection. Contrast deals with the amount of difference there is between black and white. The better the contrast ratio, the better the chance of having a good black, which will make your white’s look/appear brighter.

Since projection deals with the reflection of “light” and the light source is always on (your projector lamp), you will always have light emitting from the projector. We call this projection black. Projection black is the term used when you see a slight amount of light (or grey) when trying to project nothing. A higher contrast ratio will allow for less projection black and appear as if the light is not on (that’s the most ideal situation).

A professional (or projection purest) would argue that contrast ratio is the most important attribute of a projector, but it’s one of the highest drivers of price becuase it is directly related to the quality of lenses, glass, mirrors, LCD chips or light source.  The main thing you need to know when looking at contrast ratio is that a 1000:1 contrast ratio is better than a 100:1 contrast ratio.


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Lens Shift and Keystone

Traditionally environmental projection requires us to put projectors in places that aren’t dead center of our projection surface. Often this means we’re projecting from the ceiling or off angle from the angle of the wall, fabric or screen. With this in mind, we need to consider lens shift and keystone.

Lens shift is the ability for you to “shift” the image up, down, left or right. Some projectors only allow you to shift your image up/down and others allow all four axis. The benefit to this feature is that you have greater flexibility in where you mount your projector body.

Most projectors include keystone correction. There is horizontal keystone correction (which fixes a trapezoid that has a greater left or right side) and vertical keystone correction (which fixes a trapezoid that has a greater top or bottom side). Most projectors include a vertical keystone correction, but not both. Ideally look for a projector that does both Horizontal and Vertical. 


Lens shift if always preferred over keystone correction. Lens shift doesn’t distort your image quality, while keystone correction can often result in less clarity or a blurry image.



The Lens

Finally, when looking for the best projector for environmental projector,  you will want to consider the lens options. The lower cost projectors don’t offer interchangeable lenses which means you’re stuck to the factory standard. The lens will allow you to get the size of the projection image you need.

On larger body projectors (more expensive), you often have the ability to purchase different lenses with different ratios.

Remember when I told you this wasn’t a mathematical formula? This may be where you’ll need a calculator to figure out the specific sense


Here’s the magic formula:



We hope that this has helped shed some light on helping you find the best projector for environmental projection. There’s no question that the possibilities are endless, but we want to help as best as we can to make it as easy as possible. Check out some of our other resources for Environmental Projection here: 

What is Environmental Projection? 

Four Ingredients of Environmental Projection.

Environmental Projection Before & After Pictures

Step By Step Guide to setting up Environmental Projection

Creating an Environment with EP for Easter

If you’re still interested in learning more about the best projector for environmental projection or just environmental projection in general, check out the entire category of posts on EP.



Luke McElroy

Author Luke McElroy

Luke McElroy is the founder of Orange Thread Media, the parent company to TripleWide Media, SALT Conferences and Orange Thread LIVE. He is the author of The Wide Guide: Blueprint for the Multiscreen Movement. Hailed as one of the “top innovators for worship” by Worship Leader Magazine in 2013, Luke’s leadership has helped create powerful worship environments for thousands of Church communities throughout the entire world. He currently lives in Nashville, TN and regularly writes about creativity, leadership and faith at 

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