Yes, it is possible to buy a video projector and a screen for less than what you’d pay for a comparable-size flat-panel TV. It’s a financial fact that has cost-conscious homeowners reconsidering their choice of display. There’s just one problem: a two-piece projection system can be tough to integrate visually into a living room, family room, and other areas. Manufacturers have done a great job and streamlining the footprint of video projectors to help them blend in better—some can even be ordered in a special color—but no matter how you slice it, a projector suspended from the ceiling is going to call attention to itself. For some homeowners, keeping a video projector exposed for all their friends and family to admire is completely fine. But if you prefer to keep technology under wraps, here are some proven techniques implemented by home theater designers that can minimize a video projector’s visual impact on the home decor.
1. Stuff it in a Custom-Made Soffit
This is a popular go-to solution of home theater designers. It requires building a “box” (usually wooden) around the entire projector. The wooden housing is designed to match the rest of the woodwork in the room, so in addition to hiding the projector, it can add architectural interest. While a soffit is an effective concealment technique, it can be expensive to implement. Projectors generate quite a bit of heat when they’re operating, so it’s important that the soffit is well ventilated, and this sometimes requires the addition of cooling fans. Also, keep in mind that the soffit should be built with a trap door so that the machine can be easily serviced.
2. Build a Wall Around It
This solution is similar to a soffit, except that the housing is completely open in the front and on the bottom. Basically, it’s like a wooden barrier around the perimeter of the projector, says Lance Anderson, a home systems integrator at Admit One Home Cinema, of Edina, Minn. Because the housing only covers a portion of the projector, there’s no chance of heat build-up which precludes the need for adding costly cooling equipment as you would with a fully enclosed soft. “Plus, if it’s built a few inches of clearance around the projector you can upgrade to a new unit without worrying that it won’t fit,” Anderson continues.
3. Stow it Behind the Wall
If there’s a closet or a largely unused room behind the back wall of your media space, a video projector can be housed there. The entire unit will be hidden with the exception of the lense, which will shine through an appropriately sized hole that a home theater designer will cut into the wall. The projector will most likely be mounted close to the ceiling, so that hole will be fairly inconspicuous, often integrated into the crown molding.
4. Hide it Behind the Screen
When most people think of a video projection system, they envision a video projector placed in front of the screen. There are systems, however, that allow you to position a video projector behind the screen. Called rear-projection systems, they require a special screen and some additional equipment that enables an image to essentially be flipped so that it appears correctly on the screen. You’ll need quite a bit of open space behind the screen to house the projection gear; if your room is large you could even build a false wall to make room.
5. Put it in a Cabinet, Place it On a Shelf
A piece of furniture—as long as it’s of the appropriate size and shape—can be used to house a video projector. As with the soffit solution, make sure there is adequate ventilation for heat to escape.
6. Tuck it Above the Ceiling
If you’re a fan of James Bond trickery, you’ll love this solution. Attached to a motorized mechanism specially designed for video projectors (check out Chief Manufacturing, Da-Lite, Draper, and Future Automation), a video projector can slowly descend from a trap door in the ceiling when you’re ready to watch a movie and lift back up into its hiding spot when you’re done. You’ll need space above the ceiling to make this work—just how much depends on the size of the projector and how far the lift needs to move. Ventilation and cooling equipment may need to be added and, of course, you’ll need to add electrical power up above to drive the motor of the lift. When it’s all said and done, stowing the projector above the ceiling can be labor intensive and expensive.
7. Consider a Short Throw Projector
Originally designed only as a projection solution for conference rooms, short-throw projectors are becoming a viable solution for media rooms, due to recent advancements in the technology … and cosmetics. Unlike business units, short-throw projectors are being designed to resemble pieces of furniture so that they can sit out in the open just a few inches from the front of the screen. Sony’s VPL-GTZ1 and Life Space UX are particularly eye-catching.