Choosing a Projector for Home Projection Mapping

How Do I Find the Right Projector for Projection Mapping?

When looking for a projector for use in home projection mapping, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  I wish I could just tell you to buy the Sony ABC45J or Panasonic MX4 projector and you’d be ready to go (BTW both are made up model numbers).

The problem is you’re working in a very un-ideal environment. Outdoor projection onto a surface that wasn’t meant for projection is going to bring its own unique set of challenges for each different house. My house has a brick facade and is one house down from a street light. Your house might be white siding on the front and be in complete darkness. We’d have different success with different projectors.  What I’m hoping to offer here is some general things to look for when choosing a projector.

Get all the lumens!

Get all the lumens!


Regardless of our differing houses, the one thing you can hang your hat on when is comes to video mapping your own house is this: the more light the better. Since we do face this problem of different situations with our house colors, ambient light, differing throw distances, etc. we need to dump every photon we can on our house to try to overcome these problems.  You won’t want to go below 2000 lumens and 3000+ would be better.

The professional displays you see on YouTube are using 10,000 and 20,000 lumen projectors.  In many cases they have to have that because they’re projecting onto three or four (or ten or twenty) story buildings. So hopefully we can benefit from our smaller scale.

The best thing to do would be to test out a few different projectors  on your house. Borrow from your workplace or a friend and see what it does.

Contrast Ratio

Along with lumens you’ll see contrast ratio listed. They’ll be big numbers too… 20,000:1 or even 50,000:1.  This leaves you with the question, “which is more important?” when comparing projectors.  If you’re looking at one projector with 3500 lumens and 5,000:1 contrast ratio and another projector with 2700 lumens and 50,000:1 ratio – which do you choose?

The short answer is this: stick with lumens. Contrast ratio can differ between manufacturers and technology types (auto iris, color wheel, etc.). Ultimately its the difference  between your blackest black and whitest white.  This hurdle won’t be your biggest when trying to project outdoors.  You’re not going to be watching the Avatar Blu-Ray on the front of your house and trying to discern the colors of the bioluminescent plants in the forest.   You don’t want to ignore contrast though. Some older projectors might offer only 500:1 and you might be left with a washed out image.

Hardware Costs

A huge factor in buying a used projector is the cost of replacement bulbs.  These can be anywhere from $80 to over $300 for a single bulb.  Always check the cost of replacement bulbs when shopping for a used projector.