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.

506 Comments

  1. Can’t open with Windows version of Excel 🙁 Using Excel 2010.

  2. I have a media room size of 20ft * 14ft but my projector can be placed at 12ft since there is a beam in the middle. I need 135 inch screen size .Can you tell me which project i could purchase for less than 1300$

    1. Hi Manish, there are plenty options for 1080P projectors around 1300$ price range , but if you can spend a little more you can get the latest Benq 2550 4k , its not the best but certainly one of the best 4k in the that price range. I would recommened you to search on AVSForums you would get plenty of information. For a long time i am fan of BenQ projectors for their excellent picture quality .

  3. At what height home theater screen should be fixed from floor.?

  4. Why do American’s insist on Inch’s when sizing – it’s so illogical and hard to calculate with.

    1. Author

      It’s because that’s the way TVs are sold in the US, and the US is a big enough market that there is no way to force conformity to external standards. As you may have noticed, the inputs and outputs on the spreadsheet have configurable units…including metric.

  5. Firstly, thanks for tackling a complicated subject in such a thorough manner! Great presentation, too. My question: I just bought an LG 55″ OLED 4K 3D TV (LG OLED55E6P). Would I still use the “3 ft or closer for 4K” as recommended by the chart, i.e., would the OLED and/or 3D make any difference? (And while 3 ft would be awesome in the theater room on your website, I’m having a hard time imagining it in a living room which is considerably larger and oddly-shaped. Any thoughts or should I confer with an interior designer on that one?…lol). Thank you!

    1. Author

      I think you’re ask the wrong question. You’ll have huge benefits from OLED in terms of black level, contrast ratio, color accuracy, and all other aspects of picture quality. It’s awesome hardware. For the resolution aspect specifically, you may not be able to perceive ever possible detail of a 4k image, but that’s not what’s most important for picture quality. There’s nothing wrong with the setup you have. Unless you want to spend more and have space for a bigger screen, you’re setup is probably ideal for your situation.

      1. Taking this a step futher, I have the same TV as above. Is there a gradient for resolving 4K detail between 3’ and 7’. Or it it a binary choice. Let’s say you sit 5’ away with a 55” inch screen. Would it be reasonable to say that you can resolve some, but not all of the detail or does it all come into focus at 3’ and anything less is 1080p. You have heard the saying, half a loaf is better than none”. How does that apply to your calculator? Although your calculator is widely used and respected, there have a been a few comparisons where a group of viewers, doing an A/B comparison claimed to see a difference between 1080p and 4k, even at 7 or 8 feet. Ie, they all picked the 4K screen as the one w/more detail.

        Off topic here, but the marketing of the 4K Apple TV as 4KHDR is now conflating two different concepts and implying that 4K is delivering more value than it actually is – 4K is now the Trojan Horse containing the HDR payload.

        1. I think a better way to think about it is if you are sitting beyond the maximum for resolving 4k detail, then you may as well have had 1080p (you are paying for 4k but getting no benefit).

        2. Author

          Yes, there is a gradient for resolving resolution detail and you can get some of the benefit at “almost 1080p” distances. In fact, you can get all of the benefit in some situations, such as geometric and high-contrast test scenes. The spreadsheet assumes a “worst case” of wanting full resolution benefit on scenes that are not high contrast. The graph in this post explains it pretty well: https://carltonbale.com/does-4k-resolution-matter/

          You’re absolutely correct on “4kHDR”. The picture looks incredible, but in most cases the gain is because of the “better pixels” from HDR rather than the “more pixels” from 4k.

  6. excel download is not working for older excel versions. make it compatible please.

  7. So I am building walls in my 19′ long by 17′ wide movie theater room. Ive read lots of blogs about setups, but I cant find anything on what the best system is for my room. Should I go 5.1.2, 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 in a 3 rows of seating theater? the Atmos speakers will be mounted in ceiling. Also what is a great speaker set, receiver and projector all within about $5-$7,000 total? thanks love your page

  8. Hi Carlton, First thank you very much for helping us.

    I have a room 23′ X 19′ , I am planing to put 150 inch screen on 23′ wall and viewing distance is 19 feet and adding 2 rows.

    is that enough distance to watch 150 inch screen from 13 to 19 feet distance? is something I am doing wrong.

    can you please suggest right projectors?

    Thanks in advance.

  9. Do not believe the Jobs/Apple hype for the Retina displays which gives you the 60 pixels per degree you’re using here.

    You should change your calculator to the more industry accepted limit of human vision of between 0.3 to 0.4 ArcMin per pixel or 150 to 200 pixels per degree.

    This would make a huge difference on what people could perceive where a 1080p 50″ display could now be noticeable out to 20 feet rather than the 7 feet you’re stating now.

    1. This comment intrigued me, so I did some research, and it is true. Jobs’ claim was based on 20/20 vision, which is a long way from being the best humans can do. Raymond Soneira, a go-to guy for displays, suggested 0.6 arcmin, but most analyses hover between 0.3 and 0.4. Take a look at Clarkvision’s page on eye resolution, or the cultofmac’s article on why retina isn’t enough.

  10. Great tool 🙂
    Could you add recommended ft.lamberts for HDR?

  11. Ok looking at a 60inch 4K TV… The ideal viewing distance is… 46,8 inches??? This can’t be true… You buy a 60 inch to sit comfortably AWAY from your TV not so you have to sit almost NEXT to it!

  12. We have a projector lift placed around 7 feet above the ground at 9 meters away from the screen size of 110inches, the previous projectors throw was good but we are not unable to find a projector which can be placed 9 meters away and can project 110 inches. Many different projectors we tried end up in a very large projection area, can you please assist on what kind of a projector we would require or what is the best solution.

    1. Author

      No standard projector is going to give you a screen that small from a distance that far away. Your best option is a higher end projector that can accept an optional long-throw lens. Search google for “long throw projector lens” and even that may not give exactly what you want.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this – I was using a website to calculate viewing angles but this makes it so much simpler.

  14. Was there a particular reason you didn’t include a screen size calculator based on room size and/or seating distance?

    1. Author

      @Jeffrey, good question. The result is the same, but the starting point is different (enter TV size to get seating distances or enter seating distances to get TV sizes.) The reason that I started with screen size as the input is that it’s not very user-friendly to enter a seating distance and then show a recommendation for a 97-inch diagonal flat panel. For people who want 4k, giant screen sizes would be what is recommended for most seating distances. Most people want a flat panel TV, and most flat panels are 75-inches or smaller. So instead, I start the TV size, because most people know the size they think they want, and then showed resolution detail for different seating distances. And finally, it’s a lot easier to change the seating distance than it is to change the size of the TV you already own!

  15. Hi, my sofa is 375cm from the tv, I wanna see hd, and 4k films, serials. Which size of tv should be recommendable? I was thinking about 65″ to 75″

    1. Author

      @Ikki: at that seating distance (375 cm / 148 inches / 12.3), a 75-inch TV is my recommendation. An even larger screen would be better, but there are not many flat panel TVs in that size range at a reasonable price.

    2. So, I have a 75in Sony 4K and sit 368cm away… Roughly about 12ft…. Get the 75in … Enjoy!!!!

  16. My viewing distance is 7” and I’m looking for the best size 4k HDR tv. Came across this great tv that comes in 49inch which cost just as much for a 55inch. I understand the full benefits of sitting closer to appreciate 4k but we are talking a top notch 49inch tv with so many features compared to a less advanced 55inch. Take into consideration that my viewing distance is 7-7.5” the most (wall to wall). Be an angel and help me out here. Thanks!

    1. Author

      There isn’t a huge difference between 49-inches and 55-inches. But don’t underestimate the impact of a larger screen. Given the continual drop in prices and screens getting bigger, I think the 65-inch TCL is a great option to consider.

  17. I am going to build a new theater room. I would like to purchase 4K projector and size the room accordingly for a 120″ screen. If I do that, I want the front row to be about 7.5′ from the screen which looks good on your room design calculator. My question is that most content will probably be at 1080P. I know the projector will try to upscale to 4K, but I wonder if the picture resolution will look granular for this type of content. To future proof the room, the 4K dimensions seem to be desirable but not if all of the 1080P content will look fuzzy. The other 2 rows will be around 15 and 20 feet. What are your thoughts on the row lengths from the screen in this case?

    1. Any thoughts on the distance for then3 rows? Would the first row be good for 4K and the other rows good for 1080P? I guess upscaling quality will really be based on projector quality, content, …

      1. Author

        BobL: Upscaling gives almost no perceivable increase in picture quality. A 1080p image has only 25% of the pixels of a 4k image. The upscaler would have to accurately create the missing 75% of the 4k image to deliver something that is true 4k resolution. It’s just not possible to do that, especially for video sources with varied and moving content. Upscaled images will always look much more like their native resolution than the resolution to which they are upscaled.

        When it comes to making the most power possible from an engine, there is a saying “there’s no replacement for displacement” i.e. bigger engines will always produce more power than smaller engines of the same design. The same is true for resolution. There’s no replacement for high-resolution source material.

        You should design your seating distances around your primary seating row. Usually, that’s the first row. Every other row will be a compromise, but also won’t be used as often as the primary row, and that’s OK.

  18. Hi. My media room is 11′ x 11′ and my viewing distance is 9 to 91/2 feet away. I’m planning to purchase a 100″ projector screen and the Optima 4K Ultra Short Throw projector for this room. Will the 100″ screen be too big from my 9′ to 91/2′ viewing distance?

    1. Author

      Your screen size and seating distance are great. The screen is not too big. The only possible issue is if you play a lot of fast-motion video games; those are usually better on smaller screens.

  19. The “Minimum distance” or “closer than” statements in your article are factually incorrect. Your calculator gives the distance required to resolve the resolutions for a given TV size fully. You do NOT want to sit closer than this distance because then you will be able to see individual pixels on the TV, this is a BAD thing. In fact the whole range thing is nonsense. As far as visual acuity is concerned, there is ONE optimal distance from a TV. The distance where you can fully resolve it’s resolution, no closer, no further away. Closer is bad because as above it lets you see individual pixels, not the image as a homogenious whole; futher away is bad because then you don’t get the full benefit of the TV resolution.
    Summary, you should never sit closer to your TV than the calculator distance shows, because you will gain ZERO extra detail, (unless your vision is better than 20/20, which is of course possible), in fact you will start to be able to see the actual pixels on the screen which is a BAD thing! So the minimum distance statement is bad advice.

    1. Author

      I initially thought about it the same way as you are describing, where there is only one “perfect seating distance” for resolution. However, I later came to the conclusion that is in fact not correct. The reason is that distance at which the pixel structure starts to break down is much different than the distance at which “eye resolution” matches “screen resolution.” If you don’t believe me, try it out. You won’t be able to see the pixel structure on any modern display at the recommended minimum viewing distance. You have to be substantially closer. This is because the fill ratio of modern pixels is very high – 90%+. So you have to be about 90% closer than the minimum viewing distance to see the pixel structure.

      Also, making viewing distance considerations based only on the screen resolution is also a flawed approach. There are many other factors, such as viewing angle (for immersiveness). Also, room dimensions and setup has more of an influence as well.

      But the big takeaway is to test it yourself and not just look at the numbers.

  20. We are planning to buy a home which has a media room 11.10ft wide and 19.5 ft deep and planning to put a 100″ projector screen. Based on the above, could you please advise if we will be able to have two rows of 3-4 recliner seats each, second row on a riser?

    1. Author

      Yes, no problem. That’s approximately the same dimension as my theater pictured here.

  21. CB, I cannot thank you enough. Your spreadsheet has been envaluable. Question, when calculating first/second row distance to screen, is that based off of the chair, the person sitting, or ??. Also, if row 1 and 2 are fully reclined to max lenghth of 68″, how much distance to I place between the rows? In the event someone wishes to walk past a person reclined with leg extension out. Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Danny, Thanks for the positive feedback! The seating distance is “eyeball to screen” distance, which is almost the same as the distance to the back of the chair when it’s upright.

      The distance between the chairs depends on how big the room is and how much you use the back rows. For me, I didn’t have a huge amount of space in the room and there wasn’t often someone in the back row reclined – and when there is, there isn’t often someone getting up and walking past them. If you’re in a similar situation, then 12-inches between reclined chairs should be plenty. Just enough for a person to walk sideways between the rows during the rare situations when there are 2 reclined chairs in 2 rows.

Leave a Reply to Carlton Bale Cancel reply