Home Theater Calculator: Viewing Distance, Screen Size

Over the past several years, I’ve slowly constructed a spreadsheet to meet all of my home theater design needs. I noticed on various forums that others could probably benefit from this spreadsheet, so I cleaned it up and I’m now making it available to the public. Please download it and put it to good use!

The spreadsheet contains calculations for the following:

  • recommended viewing distances for a given screen size – for both flat panels and projectors (based on THX and SMPTE standards)
  • recommended viewing distances for a given display resolution – 480p, 720p, 1080p/1080i, 1440p, etc (based on Visual Acuity standards)
  • various screen aspect ratios (4:3, 16:9, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, custom ratios, etc.)
  • projector screen size & screen brightness with guidelines for recommended values (based on projector brightness and screen gain)
  • projector screen size & projector mounting location (based on min/max projector throw distances)
  • seat locations, a second row stadium seating platform height calculation, and a few other goodies.

Microsoft Excel Icon theater_calculator_v4.1.xlsx

Please report any problems or suggestions via e-mail or the comments form below.

Revision history:

  • Version 4.1: Added details on how to enter 4k and 8k UHD resolutions.
  • Version 4.0: Added Anamorphic (horizontal expansion) front projector lens option, which adjusts projector brightness and throw ratios when selected.
  • Version 3.7: Clarified back row platform height input fields, modified formulas to prevent negative platform heights (user info message instead), changed spreadsheet defaults to better fit a typical home theater.
  • Version 3.6: Added feature to allow calculation of Visual Acuity Viewing Distance based on eyesight of the viewer. The default is 20/20 vision; changing the input to 20/10 vision with show that the viewer will be able to spot resolution deficiencies at much greater distances due to more acute eyesight.
  • Version 3.5: Fixed bug in the aspect ratio input that caused international users to have problems (problem was related to using “,” as decimal delimiter instead of “.”) Added cells to the far right of the spreadsheet to allow changing and adding custom screen aspect ratios.
  • Version 3.4: Widened columns that were causing being truncated for international users.
  • Version 3.3: Added 2.35:1 aspect ratio back.
  • Version 3.2: Changed anamorphic aspect ratio from 2.35:1 to 2.370370:1, which is the correct value for a 16:9 projector with a 4:3 anamorphic lens. Corrected spelling mistakes on one of the extra tabs within the spreadsheet.
  • Version 3.1: Fixed unit conversion formula that was causing “Second Row Field-of-View Width” to not calculate when any unit besides “inches” was selected.
  • Version 3.0: Added minimum viewing distance calculation, added conditional feedback on seating distance for each specification (seating distance too far, etc.), added first row and second row seating distances (for conditional feedback on seating distances), added field-of-view results (in degrees), added ability to calculate projector throw distances for any screen size (just enter the throw information for one screen and it will interpolate for other screen sizes), fixed mis-spelling that was causing formulas to break.
  • Version 2.9: Added 2.40:1, 2.70:1 screen aspect ratios, added ‘hover’ comments to better explain the different seating distances; added conditional formatting on the screen brightness result cell (red if brightness is too low, yellow if it is close to being too low).
  • Version 2.8: Added charts for “seating distance vs. screen size based on screen resolution” and “seating distance vs. screen size based on published standards.”
  • Version 2.7: Edited notes fields to improve clarity for data entry fields.
  • Version 2.6: Added LCD/Plasma support. Added 16:10 aspect ratios for LCD monitors. Added hints to help enter panel resolutions (hint lists commons resolutions). Added pixel density calculation (useful when using as a PC monitor). Added dot pitch (in mm – millimeters). Added total pixel count. Fixed spelling errors.
  • Version 2.5: Updated screen brightness calculation to adapt to entering screen width vs. height vs. diagonal measurement. Thanks Brad for finding the problem.
  • Version 2.4 – 01-Nov-2004: First Public Release. Uses both metric and English units. Converts between many units. Gives hints for some common input values such as aspect ratio. Seating distance. Platform height. Viewing angle. Screen brightness. Many other features.


If the spreadsheet is too complicated for you…

If you don’t like working with spreadsheets, enter your screen size below to see how close you’ll need to sit to fully appreciate various screen resolutions.

Enter screen size: inches diagonal

  • For 480p (720×480) resolution, you must sit:
    feet or closer to see all available detail
  • For 720p (1280×720) resolution, you must sit:
    feet or closer to see all available detail
  • For 1080p (1920×1080) resolution, you must sit: (recommended minimum distance)
    feet or closer to see all available detail
  • For 4k (3840×2160) resolution, you must sit:
    feet or closer to see all available detail
  • For 8k (7680×4320) resolution, you must sit:
    feet or closer to see all available detail

Note about “or closer” viewing distances calculated above: if you sit closer than the distances shown above, you will be able to see some (but not all) of the detail offered by the next higher resolution.

Written by on 2006-Nov-11, Last updated on: 2015-December-30 in: |


  • Logan Ross says:

    Hi. Awesome Site! Happy Holidays!

    Similar to a poster above, I have a JVC RS500 on order. We just moved and are in a temporary apartment for the next two years – but I simply can’t give up my home theater. The movers destroyed my 128″ 2.35:1 criterion screen, so I need to get a new one. I need a retractable due to the apartment having glass window walls. Since we plan on moving, I am looking at 133″ diagonal (2.35:1). We sit 10 ft away from the screen. Questions:

    (1) Your calculator shows a first row FOV of 54 degrees. Is this too much?

    (2) I have measured my eye level at 38″ from the floor. Due to room/furniture constraints, the lowest I can put the bottom of the image is 26″. Will this be a big problem in terms of comfort and fatigue given the seating distance?

    (3) Above, you mentioned Carada as a reasonable option for screens. I agree since I had one. How about when the screen needs to be retractable? I have looked at Elite, but given the reported track record with issues for their retractables, I have concerns (even an elite, at this size, is $1400). I wouldn’t mind paying a little more and feeling like I have taken less of a risk. I am considering the Stewart CIMA but really I am not excited about the price :) Your thoughts on this question are appreciated.


    • Carlton Bale says:

      Logan, I don’t think there are any issues with a 133-inch screen width at that seating distance. The bottom of the screen being 26-inches above the floor will be OK; slightly higher than desired, but definitely usable and not a huge concern.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with retractable screens of any brand. Like you, they make me nervous. I have a Stewart screen but I kinda think they are a waste of money, but for retractable reliability, it may be an acceptable trade-off. I’d look at other established screen brands as well (Da-lite, etc.)

  • srini says:

    Hi Carlton,

    I have a quick question. My media room size is 12.5’X18.5′ (12 feet wide and 18′ depth). I am planning to put two rows: 1) at 18′ wall and at ~12′ away from the screen. Please let me know what will be the best screen size for this setup. I am planning to go with 142″ diagonal screen.

    Thank you for your help in advance.

  • Srini says:

    Hi Carlton,

    Thank you so much for your reply and information. Please let me know what is the maximum size that I can use for the screen for my setup.

    Thanks again for your help and advise.


    • Carlton Bale says:

      You should be fine up to about 160 inches so long as the projector is sufficiently bright. But the question isn’t easily answered just based on seating distance, which is why I created the spreadsheet in the first place. You really should pick a projector and see how it calculates for your room. And you need to figure out if you need space on either side of the screen for left/right speakers without being in front of your screen.

  • Rob Foale says:

    Dear Carlton, firstly many thanks for making so much excellent information available! My question is: I have a 3.5 x 3.8m room I wish to make into a family movie viewing room but was going to put in a 4K plasma screen. We would sit 3m from the screen. Would a 75 inch screen be too big for what is quite a small room and would I therefore be better off purchasing a 65 inch screen? I would love the bigger screen for a more immersive experience but don’t want to cause eye fatigue. Many thanks!

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Rob, I don’t think a 75-inch screen would be too big for 3 meter viewing distance. I sit less than 4 meters from my 123-inch projection screen and have zero fatigue issues.

  • Micah Gingrich says:

    Carlton, I would like to confirm my lost-factor in this projector quest I am on. I have a room in the basement with potential for a throw of 12’6″ to the screen. The couch would sit right underneath the projector (edge of couch to screen at 9′). I was looking at the Ben Q 1070 and a pull down screen (Kids play in the basement – dont need a hockey stick or nerf dart going through the screen). Is this a feesable set up for a quality viewing?

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Micah: this sounds like a very feasible setup assuming you have good light control. Read the owners manual for the projector and make sure it can project the screen size at the mounting distance you have planned.

  • Media says:

    My media room has 15X13 feet and the distance between projector and the screen is 11 feet. can you please suggest the best size of the screen I can go for.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      It depends on which projector you select. Read the owners manual for the projector you intend to purchase to see what the possible screen sizes are for the mounting distance you have planned.

  • Logan Ross says:

    Hi Carlton,
    I think your calculator is great. I have a JVC RS500 and am deciding on screen size. I certainly like the brightness calculations your calculator gives . However, I noticed that it is substantially higher than the results I get from the projector Central calculator. Do you recommend one over the other in terms of accuracy? How accurate is yours? As an FYI, I am looking at a 150″ screen from a throw of 17ft which is close to the widest zoom setting (i.e., close to the zoom setting with the most light transmission). I am using a 1.1 gain screen. Thanks.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Logan, I haven’t looked at the Projector Central screen brightness calculator, so I can’t comment on it. I don’t know how they are performing the calculation. In my experience, my calculator is accurate and matches actual performance. It’s a pretty straightforward calculation: total lumens divided by total surface area, then adjusted up or down slightly for screen gain.

      Perhaps their calculation has a correction factor in it to adjust “advertised brightness” down to a more realistic “actual calibrated brightness” level. My calculator assumes actual calibrated/measured brightness.

  • Shaun says:

    Hi there. Can anyone give me some info on my screen and projector at all?

  • Juraj says:

    Hi Carlton,i have ordered 120 inch matte white 16:9 screen to watch the 1080p image from about 12 feet.They have made a mistake and sent me 135 inch instead.I can still fit it into the room,and projector can handle the diagonal too,but do you think this is going to be too big for a viewing distance of 12 feet?Thanks for reply.Juraj

    • Carlton Bale says:

      My primary concern would be screen brightness. I don’t think the larger screen size would otherwise be a concern. Since it’s ready arrived at your house, I think it’s worth testing.

      • Juraj says:

        Screen brightness you mean in relation to too much brightness,so it could cause problems and will be tiring for eyes?I think the brightness can be adjusted right?This is new model of Benq projectors with 2200 lumens and contrast of 15000:1. Or do you mean it wont be bright enough?That would not be a problem,as i have external black shutter mounted on that room window and even during the bright day i can make the room total dark with no light coming.Thanks

        • Carlton Bale says:

          I mean not enough brightness. Once you properly calibrate your projector for the best possible Home theater picture quality, it will not produce 2200 lm of brightness. The larger the screen, the dimmer the image.

          • Juraj says:

            Ahh ok,i think in total dark could be fine.As i will be watching movies only with shutter down.Will see anyway.I was doing the maths on Benq website regarding the size of the room,distances and throw and possible screen size results,and it all works on the “paper”.So fingers crossed :) Thanks

          • Juraj says:

            And just one more question for you Carlton,what lumens range projector would you recommend for mentioned 135inch screen to reach the good results?Thanks,for your help.

          • Carlton Bale says:

            Juraj, my recommendation is to use the spreadsheet to figure it out. That’s what I would do. But you need to enter an actual calibrated brightness level, not the manufacturer advertised max brightness level. I’d guess the calibrated brightness would be about 60% of advertised max, but varies by projector.

  • Sid Irwin says:

    Hi Carlton I have a 100 inch screen 6 ft 7 inches wide with a throw from screen to lens of 15 ft, can you recommend a reasonably priced projector for use in my living room, for use with DVD player and hd satellite system.
    Thank you

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Sid, the problem with the lower-cost projectors (that cost less than $1,000 USD) is that they have very limited optics. So the zoom range is very limited, and the projector must be a very specific distance form the screen. More expensive projectors have better optics with larger zoom ranges, which allow for more varied mounting distances; they also have lens shift to accommodate varied mounting heights.

      I don’t think you’ll find a low-cost projector that meets your needs. Here are some options:

      Less than $1000 USD:
      Optoma HD28DSE: 10.8 to 11.8 feet from a 100-inch diagonal screen http://amzn.to/1UyYrDW

      Epson Home Cinema 2040: 8.9 and 10.7 feet from 100-inch diagonal screen http://amzn.to/1JQNH3j

      $1,400 USD:
      BenQ HT4050: 8.4 feet – 13.7 feet for 100-inch screen http://amzn.to/1nVwImt

      $3,900 USD:
      Sony VPL-HW65ES: 9.9 feet – 15.6 feet for a 100-inch screen http://amzn.to/1nFmN4J

  • Sean says:

    I would like to get a 120″ screen, but my projector will need to be about 15′ away. Can you recommend any projectors in the $600-700 range that will be able to accommodate that throw distance?

  • Ed says:

    Hi Carlton, I would like to buy a 100 in screen(diagonal size), 16:9 format . My sitting row will be 11 feet away. Will that work ? can you recommend a sitting range just in case I want to add a second or third row?

  • Ed says:

    Follow up question to my previous one, what would be the minimum height for the bottom of the screen in relation to the floor at the 11 feet sitting distance?

  • Eddie says:

    My room is 19 feet long want to hang a projector on ceiling what would be the dis from projector to screen

  • Troy says:

    I just bought an Epson 2040 with 135″ screen. My question is how far back do I mount the projector from the screen? I read your sheet and it says seating

  • Bill Hohmann says:

    Hi we are building a new home with a media room that is 26.5 feet long and 18.11 feet wide with a 12 foot ceiling(at lowest point in back of room) it will be in complete darkness. Can you please recomend a screen size, distance for back of the seating for front row(step) with your recommended screen size. Plan to use media style leather seating for 8-10 or more. Plan on dropping the first one or two rows down on the slab. Also recomended projectors and screen guess in the $6-$7k + – USD range on projector etc… Thanks!

  • J says:

    First off thanks for this. I have a room that is about 16 x 15.5 and planning on the Sony VPL-HW65ES being 12 feet back from the screen. If i’m going to be sitting at 14ft forward(closer) what is the best screen size in your opinion.

  • Fred Tow says:

    Hi, I used the calculator, but I still don’t know whether to optimize my screen size for the front or the rear row. I want as big of a screen that I can use that won’t be too big and give eye strain yet maintain HD quality (1920×1080). The front row is about 12.6 ft wide and 10-11 ft from the screen and the back row is about 16 ft from screen and nearly 15ft wide and a foot taller. I am thinking of buying the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UBe 2D/3D 1080p 3LCD Projector. It has 2400 lumens. Even though I might have some intermittent ambient light, I expect to keep the gain around 1.1-1.3 (though I’m still not sure). Any advice on the proper screen size?

  • kurtis says:

    I have an 8foot distance for my projector to the screen. What size screen should I purchase ?

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