This Minute at Runco
By James Wood
In 1985 when Back to the Future came out and Dr. Brown shouted out the results of his calculation, the amount of electricity needed to power the flux-capacitor: “One point twenty-one jigawatts!” It was almost like he was speaking a foreign language. Most of us hadn’t heard of a jiga- anything, and it wasn’t until later that we learned that giga- is what came after mega- and the ‘g’ has a hard sound (silly Doc Brown).
Sometimes it feels the same when hearing about all the ways to measure a home theater projector. There are lumens, candles and foot-Lamberts all used to describe the brightness of projectors, but there’s not much context for what those numbers realistically mean. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) tried to bring some clarity to the situation by defining lumens precisely for the purposes of home theater projection. Without getting into all the formulas, just know that a lumen is the output of one candle emitted. A typical light bulb will send out about 1500 lumens.
So you might see ANSI-lumens listed on a projector and that gives you a specific amount of brightness that you can compare to other projectors. That’s good since you can compare one projector to another, but it doesn’t help much when you want to know how the projector will actually look in your house. Measuring lumens is the equivalent of measuring the output of the projector, not what actually reflects off of the screen. It’s much easier to calculate the lumens since you don’t have to take into account the variables of the screen and room lighting when doing the measurement, but the result is not as helpful when it comes time to pick out a projector.
Foot-Lamberts are the measurement used by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) to determine how bright a movie theater projector should be. One Foot-Lambert is one candle divided by pi per square foot of reflected light. The reflection is the important part, since it doesn’t measure how much light is coming out of the projector, but how much is bouncing off the screen at the people watching the movie.
The SMPTE set the standard of 16 fL for movie theater screens (but they often fall short of that mark), so if you have a comparable projector in your home it will be as bright as the movie theater experience.
But you don’t have to settle for a movie theater experience. Take, for example, the Runco Signature Cinema SC-1 projector, instead of a measly 16 fL it blasts out 331 fL of brightness, making it effectively 20 times brighter than a movie theater. Now that’s something you can compare, or as Doc Brown would say: “Great Scott!”
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