Explaining Brightness and ANSI Lumens

Projector Brightness

A major factor in choosing a projector for a particular audiovisual presentation application is the level of brightness that the projector is capable of outputting. You may have seen brightness specifications quoted in ANSI lumens and wondered what these are and how they are defined. This Bamboo AV advice article should enable to you to make accurate comparisons between multimedia projectors of varying levels of brightness.

What are ANSI lumens?

As the amount of light outputted by projectors varies across each model, a standardized procedure for testing projectors for brightness has been established by the American National Standards Institute, which involves averaging together a number of brightness measurements taken at different positions, to give a level of brightness for the projector that is quoted in “ANSI lumens”.  The lumen is basically a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted from the projector.

The greater the ANSI lumen number, the brighter the projected image will appear and, in most cases, the more the projector will cost. However, it is important to note that a projector with the highest ANSI lumen rating does not necessarily mean it is the best projector to use for your presentation application. It is important to consider what you intend to use the projector for and match the level of brightness to your requirements so you can achieve an optimal image that is not too dim or not too bright for your presentation environment.

Levels of projector brightness

The variable ANSI lumen ratings of projectors allow for them to be grouped into separate categories, each specialising in a certain type of application.

1000 lumens of brightness and below

LCD, DLP or L-COS digital projectors with an ANSI lumen rating of 1000 lumens or lower are referred to as low lumen projectors. The primary advantage of low lumen projectors is that they are much less expensive than higher lumen equivalents, which in turn makes them an appealing choice for those presenters working with a small budget. Where the brightness of a presentation environment can be regulated and made sufficiently dark, lower lumen projectors can be a good choice. A dedicated home theatre room is an example of where a lower lumen projector could be the most suitable type of projector for the task.

However, in conditions where light ambience cannot be controlled, anything other than very dimly lit rooms will cause the image to appear washed out and unclear. If ambient light may become a problem where you plan to do most of your presentations, you should definitely consider purchasing a projector with a higher ANSI lumen rating which can cope with competing ambient light.

1000 - 2000 lumen brightness projectors

Projectors with a luminosity of between 1000 and 2000 lumens are the most common type of projector since they deliver a suitably bright image while maintaining a price affordable to most people or organisations. While an environment of reduced ambient light is preferable, unlike projectors of 1000 lumens and below, extreme darkness it is not a necessity to view the best quality image. Due to their ideal combination of cost and image quality, projectors with a luminosity of between 1000 and 2000 lumens are frequently used in classrooms, business meetings, or other frequent gatherings of small groups of people.

2000 - 3000 lumen brightness projectors

Projectors in the ANSI lumen range of 2000 to 3000 are synonymous with high end portable or semi-portable projectors. This is primarily because the intensity of the projector’s brightness output allows the projector to be used in conditions of varying light ambience without causing the image to appear washed out. This is extremely advantageous to roaming presenters who may not be aware or able to control the amount of light in the room they are presenting in. Furthermore, projectors with a high lumen range of between 2000 and 3000 lumens are perfect for broadcasting to large audiences as they can project on to a large screen without causing any noticeable degradation of the quality of the image.

3000 lumens of brightness and above

Projectors with a luminosity of above 3000 lumens, which can range up to 15,000 lumens, are considered high end projectors. These high lumen projectors are extremely expensive and can cost well over ten thousand dollars. However, compared to other projectors, the image displayed is of unparalleled quality. These high lumen projectors are rarely bought for personal home theatre use. Instead they are mainly bought by businesses to impress customers for use in high profile events or in large venues to wow customer such as nightclubs or sports stadiums. Projectors of very high lumen ratings will the type used when you see a film at the cinema or movie theatre.

Factors to consider when investigating projector brightness

When comparing projectors of different brightness levels, you should note that a greater number of lumens does not necessarily result in a better picture. Should you wish to purchase the projector set up most applicable to your needs, you should consider the following factors before making your purchase:

The ambient light in the room

The environment you intend to use your projector in, and thus the amount of ambient light in the room is one of the most important factors to consider when working out the amount of projector brightness necessary for your application. If a low ANSI lumen projector is used in a situation where light in the room is necessary, for example a classroom, then the image can appear faded and unclear. On the other hand, if an overly bright projector is installed in a darkened setting, it can cause irritation and headaches for the people viewing the presentation.

Those using portable projectors can very often find themselves presenting in different environment in which light ambience is an unknown variable and cannot be controlled. To ensure that the screen will appear clear and visible regardless of the room’s light intensity, it is extremely important to have a projector with a high (2000+) ANSI lumen rating. On the other hand, home theatre projector users only require a minimum of 1000 ANSI lumens as the lighting of the room will usually be fully controllable.

The audience size and layout

If you are projecting an image or video to a widely spread out audience, it is important that everyone can clearly see the presentation. As a result, the image needs to have a high viewing angle. To achieve this larger viewing cone a projector of a lower brightness is required. Conversely, if the audience consists of a large, narrow hall of people then a larger image will need to be projected to ensure those at the back can see the screen. However, stretching an image will cause the brightness to decrease. It is therefore advisable to choose a projector of above 2000 lumens for this type of application as it can offer a large viewing angle while maintaining a strong degree of brightness.

Brightness vs. price

Simply put, the price of a projector will usually be directly proportional to its ANSI lumen rating number. The brighter the picture you require, the more you will have to pay.

The subject matter being projected

Should you need to project highly meticulously produced images that you wish the audience to view in detail, a projector with a high ANSI lumen number is preferable. This is because a brighter display will render images clearly. However, this is not a problem if you are using the projector to display bold, sizeable text such as in a PowerPoint presentation.

We hope this Bamboo AV advice article has been useful to you!

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