It used to be that when custom electronics (CE) professionals designed theaters one of their chief objectives was finding a way to hide the video projector.
Big, bulky and industrial looking, they were considered an eyesore by many homeowners, and CE pros became masters of concealment. A popular method of disguise was the soffit. Usually constructed of wood, it was designed so that the entire projector could be stowed inside. The only giveaway was a small, round opening in the front for the projector lens to shine through.
Soffits, when designed correctly with adequate ventilation and easy access to the interior, are still effective hiding spots, but recently, we’ve seen more and more homeowners electing to bring their projectors out of hiding, leaving them completely exposed for everyone to see and admire.
Why the trend? Thanks to the implementation of new technology—particularly LED and laser—manufacturers are able to design projectors that are not only smaller than earlier models, but are also quieter. Better internal cooling and sound insulation make newer projectors quieter, so their fan and color wheel sounds don’t get in the way of your movie enjoyment. Some manufacturers also offer customization services, so you can order your projector in a color and finish that complements the room—or that makes it stand out as a visual showpiece.
So what’s the best solution: soffit or no soffit? Based on the wide variety of choices now available in projector designs, it’s become a tough decision. This list of pros and cons will offer some guidance.
Hides the projector for a clean room aesthetic
Offers protection from dusk and other elements
Contains the noise of a projector when it’s operating
Can add architectural interest when designed appropriately
In this theater, the projector is built into the back wall.
Easy to service the projector
No worries about ventilation of heat that’s generated by the projector
Can add visual interest
Inexpensive to install, minus the soffit
Can be expensive and complicated to install
Tough to access the projector for service and maintenance
Can eat up a fair amount of space
Presents safety issues, particularly from heat build-up
Here the projector is exposed, making it easy to access and keep ventilated.
Can clash with the décor
Some projectors can be noisy
Quiet and attractive projectors like this SIM2 can easily be exposed without being distracting.
Check out this system that uses an additional mirror and motor hide the bulk of a projector when it’s not being used.
In this room, high performance meets interior design.
See how New Hampshire-based custom electronics pro Audio Video Experience constructed its own showroom theater with the projector peeking in from an adjacent room.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.