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.

502 Comments

  1. Hi carton, thanks its really great to read your post a lots of information. I just started researching on this, we are building a dedicated home theater room with site of 15 X 24 feet. Just wonder what is the best fixed screen I can go with along with the projector you can recommend. 3 row, each of which are 5 feet apart. can you please help.

    1. Author

      John, with 3 rows, the first will be extremely close to the screen. Maybe too close. You should be ok with a 123-inch screen. JVC projectors are awesome, Sony and Epson are good alternatives.

  2. hello carlton
    I have a small room of size 10ft in width and 12ft in depth can I make a home theatre in this dimensions for a four seater pls suggest me weather to go for ohp or tv of which sizes
    murali

    1. Author

      If you want a big screen and have complete light control in the room (no windows), then go for a 110 inch or larger projection screen.

  3. i am using 325 inch diagonal screen (285 x 160 inch) first row is 28 feet away ,last row is 8t feet away, is it ideal screen size or what will be ideal screen size

  4. I have a room that is going to be 19’6” wide and 28″ long with three rows. First row 14′ back, 2nd row 20′ back and 3rd row 24′ back First row is in a sunken area that is 24” below basement level, then next level is 8” below, and finally the 3 level is basement level but the seating will be bar height. what would you recommend for screen size. I would also live to have my speakers behind the screen, so I would take a brand recommendation also!

    thanks in advance!!!!!

  5. What screen size would you recommend for HT 16′ wide x 18’Long with 3 row seats. Viewing distance to first row seat is 8 feet away and there after an increment of 4 feet. I have the Epson 5030UB and I am torn between 110″ and 120″ diagonal screens. Thanks!

  6. Hello Carlton. I have a Media Room and am considering adding front projection. I have been going back and forth with the idea of 2.35:1 or 16:9 for a projection screen. Thanks for the most excellent Calculator as it allows me to populate a screen size in 16:9 and utilize the image width to estimate the size of a 2.35 image projected on to the screen. Pretty nice!! BTW considering SI Series 5 Slate and Sony VPL-VW600ES would go with 350 if it had Lens Memory function.

    Thanks Again

    David

  7. Carlton, i have a room of 12ft wide x 30ft length , and height of 10ft ,i wanna accomodate approx 4 seats each in 3 rows ( total 12 person seating capacity). Can u suggest me a projector for viewing 2d and 3d content . Projector should be such thaT a viewer sitting at 30 ft distance from the screen can see crystal clear 2d and 3d video images similar to he one sitting at the first row.
    First row will be at a distance of 10 ft from the screen .
    The projector will be used for commercial purpose daily 8 to 10 hours of viewing.
    I wish to go for domestic range of home projectors for commercial use and not for professional range costing thousands of dollars.

    Thank you

  8. Hi Carlton, we’re building a home and have dedicated a 10’H x 15.5’W x 16.66’L room for a media room. A good friend is telling me that these dimensions will be horrible for standing waves. Can I pull it off?? How large off a screen do you recommend?

    Great website with lots of great info! Thanks!

    1. Author

      Nandesh: That’s interesting advise for standing waves…because every room is horrible for standing waves! The size of the room changes the frequency of the standing waves, but there is no ideal room size. I suggest you check out this post for acoustics: http://carltonbale.com/home-theater-room-acoustic-design-tips/

      For the screen, enter your details in the calculator and see for yourself. I think 123″ or larger screen would be appropriate, assuming you have proper light control.

  9. I have a small room like 9×15 I am only having two rows what is the distended I can place the chairs if my screen is 1080 and 100 inches

  10. Hello my name is Sam and I very much new to Projectors. I have a screen installed in my home that is 135” diagonal. I wanted to know what all things I need to consider while buying projector.

  11. my room size is 13feet width, 17 feet deep and height of 10feet can i go for home theater ? is so what size of the screen

  12. Hi,
    I have a room that is 2.65 meters wide and 3.8 meters long. I have bought a glass bead projector screen at 100″. I am worried it is far too big for the room. I have used your great calculator tool and it seems to say the front row (that is 7.5 feet away from the screen) is ok but I am worried it will look far too big. Any comment son the size of the screen?

    Thanks,

    Justin

  13. What’s the standard height for a movie screen off the floor?

    1. Author

      The ideal height for a screen is where the center of the screen is at eye level. Typical distance from the floor for an average screen is 14 to 18 inches, but can vary based on seating, number of rows, room aesthetics, etc.

  14. Thanks Carlton! From the Philippines.

  15. Hi Carlton I just purchased a 110 inch screen with an Epson 3500 projector. Can you please tell me how far back I can ceiling mount the projector? I’m hoping I can mount it above toward back of the couch where it won’t be so visible and out of the way. Thanks

  16. Hi! I’m a teacher, and use a projector in my classroom. I’m trying to change my projector set-up, and you are so knowledgeable, I’m wondering if you could give me some ideas. I have a very inexpensive projector, and it sits on a cart, and I’d like to move it across the room so it’s not in the way, but I don’t want to distort the image too much. Do you know if I can add something to my projector (some kind of telescoping lens) so I can put my projector across the room, but still get the image the size I want? Does anyone make a product like that? Thank you so much!

    1. Author

      Lisa, there are lenses that do this, but they are more expensive than your projector. The only cheap solution would be a cheap ceiling mount and a long cable, available from sites such as monoprice.com, partsexpress.com. Unfortunately, this option requires a fair amount of manual labor to install, but is the cheapest option.

  17. Please suggest me screen size. my room 16.4 wide and depth 19 ft. first row seat to the wall 12 ft

  18. having room size 14′ x 23′ what size of screen required and how much distant it can be viewd. pl. guide.
    kirti i shah advocate

  19. hi Carlton,

    our room size is 29′ width x 42′ length x 10’3″ height
    Screen size: 5′ x 14″ (2.80:1) 3360px x 1200px (2′ overlap por edge blending)
    Twin projector setup. Each is WUXGA (1960×1200)
    first row actual seating is 10′ and last row is 22′

    Would I be able to calculate this custom setup in your spreadsheet?

    1. Author

      Yes, the spreadsheet will accommodate this. You will need to enter a custom aspect ratio on the far right group of cells (may need to scroll to the right to see the aspect ratio input options.)

  20. Hi carlton,

    we require a home theatre for 16 ppl. what is the optimum size of room we should plan and no of rows. your information will help us take a key decision.

    regards

    1. Author

      Kalyan, I can’t really answer that question. You need to figure out the type of seats, if you want to do risers for multiple rows vs. a single row, etc. A place to start would be 2 rows of 8 seats, 24 feet wide, 30 feet deep, 130 inch diagonal screen.

  21. hello,
    i have a room 29 feet length ,13 feet width,9 feet height.can u please tell which is the best audio for and best projector

  22. Hello, Thank you for the article and an intelligent website. Maybe I am backwards, but in general, there seems to be little discussion anywhere on upscaling, Specifically I still have much SD content such as DVDs and even some old VHS tapes (not all content made it to the digital universe). So how well do 1080p/1080i TVs upscale SD content compared to 4K TVs? is there any brand that generally upscales SD content better than others? thank you.

    1. Author

      For SD content, upconverting is not going to significantly improve quality. The bigger the screen, the more obvious the resolution deficiencies will. It won’t make a difference if the TV is 1080p or 4k, the SD content is going to look pretty much the same.

      Some upconverters are better than others. I can’t say for certain which brands of TVs have the better upconverters, but none of them are going to be as good as a stand-alone video processor. TVs are extremely price competitive and are not going to spend as little as possible on the upconverter chipset. Your best best is to look for a receiver or video processor with a high-end graphics chip, such as the Marvell Qdeo. Hope this helps!

  23. Hello, may I use picture in this post on our portal Mujsoubor.cz in article about choosing right TV? I would link to this post with recommendation for our readers to visit this page. 🙂 Thanks!

  24. Carlton is a great resource. I ordered the JVC RS600. The theater is 16′ wide and 23 ft long. First row viewing distance is 9 1/2 feet from the eyes to screen. Need to place the LCR’s behind the screen. No windows in the room but want to watch sports with some dim lighting. Projector will be hung around 16 ft from screen.
    Do you have any recommendations on the best screen/screen material for this application. Also deciding between 125″ or 138″ diagonal screen in 2:35

    1. Author

      John, for your JVC RS600, I’d recommend a 125″ screen as brightness will be a concern with 138″. High gain screens don’t offer a huge benefit, and tend to hot-spot in the middle during bright scenes.

      My recommendation would be to use a 16:9 screen instead since it matches the aspect ratio of the projector. I find about half the movies are that aspect ratio anyway, and all TV shows. You have to mess with things much more when the aspect ratios are different between the screen and projector, and I’ve found it to be more trouble than it’s worth. The black bars disappear in a dark room with the JVC projectors, and I saw no need for masking.

      For screen material, the lower priced options seem to be about as good as the higher priced versions. Somewhere around a 1.0 gain is a good target. I haven’t tried the monoprice screens and would recommend looking into the http://carada.com/ Criterion series.

  25. hi Carlton,
    for a 1000 audience outdoor space, what would be the screen size required?
    what would be the projector specification? The set up is required for educational ppt & occasional movie screenings.

    1. Author

      Ila, I have no idea what projector your would need, beyond very bright, which means very expensive. This would be more of a commercial application than home theater. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

      1. Ok, may be you could help on an indoor issue, would a 5000 lumen, 1080p, 16:9 aspect ratio projector be correct for an audience of about 200 i.e say a 30ft by 60ft indoor area? Epson 1975w model or benq sx 912 model.

  26. This site is awesome and very useful calculator. I am curious how you would design this theater. The room will be 21 feet wide and 17 deep. My throw distance is about 10-13 feet (the room isn’t demo yet). projector will be wolf cinema 4K with JVC as backup. Looking to do 2 rows of seating with the second not being able to recline and on a desk. I was thinking of 96″ diagonal. Can I upsize to at least 110 or 115? This is my first dedicated theater project, so I am very green on understanding what I can do but make it look awesome. Floor to ceiling is only 8 feet.

    1. Author

      David, a 96-inch diagonal screen is very small for 21-foot wide room, even if you put a lot of “decoration” along either side. I recommend going with about 133-inches diagonal (or even larger) at a minimum – but only as long as you have enough projector brightness.

  27. Thank you for the excellent resource. I am building a dedicated home theater in my basement. The room is 15’w X 18′ deep. The back of the room has a walkway. The seating location is going to be at 14′. I have chosen a Screen Innovations 110″ 7 Series LED screen and a Sony VPL-VW350ES 4k projector. Due to the lack of width I am going to put in 4 narrow home theater recliners with a walkway on only one side. With all of your experience do you have any suggestions. I can only afford to do this project once 🙂

    Thanks again.

    1. Author

      Gary, same advice as I gave David, I would recommend a larger screen as long as you have complete light control and a bright enough projector (which you should.) 123-inches would be the minimum screen size I would go with, and even larger to get the full benefits of 4k at a 14-foot seating distance.

      Do a scale drawing of your front wall and the screen to get an idea of how much wall the screen will cover. The more wall covered, the better, as long as you leave enough space along the side for speakers (and have enough projector brightness.)

  28. Thank you for the advice. Based on your sound dampening article I also purchased some fabric covered insulation panels. Thanks again for your great Hime theater info. Great stuff

  29. Hi Carlton, I bumped into the website and found its really helpful. Hope you would explain briefly some of my hesitation. How far is the standard seating for 120 inch 1080P 16:9 screen. And if my ceiling height is 10 feet high, what would be the ceiling distance to the mounted projector ? M new bie , just hope can get some novice advice. Thanks

  30. Hi there, I am building a dedicated home theater room with 12′ wide and 17′ deep. What screen size would you recommend? I was thinking using a 115″ screen, but my room isn’t very high (only 92″ in height), so it will put my screen almost near the ceiling in order for me to place a TV stand below the screen (as a component holder) and a center speaker (7″), so wondering if the projector (3500) is able to handle this screen OK?

    Many thanks for the help!

    Eugene

  31. Hi Carlton, I am trying to decide on a projector screen size based on a conference room that is roughly 28′ wide x 40′ deep. Ideally, we are wanting to project from behind the screen so that we can walk infront of the screen. This isn’t a permanent solution because it’s for a conference. Right now we have a 120′ projector screen, but we don’t feel as though this works well enough. There is also no raised seating, everyone is level on the floor. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

  32. hi carlton, i have a dedicated home theatre size 15’×17′. 4 seats with viewing distance of about 16′.please suggest screen size (diagonal)and position and also the placement for projector and speakers.

    1. Carlton, just one quick ques, got 120 inch screen, throw distance at 13.5 ft, is it will be good watching a HD projector sitting at 12ft? Plz advice , thanks

  33. Hi Carlton, Just a question – before I start really diving into figuring out how to build a home theater, I just want to make sure it is even a possibility with my space.

    I have a 16ft (L) x 12.5 (W) x 8 ft (H) room that I want to convert into a home theater. I want a projector an two rows of reclining theater seats….Is this possible with such a small space?

    Thanks so much! Last question – the floors are hardwood, would you suggest I rip them up and replace with carpet?

  34. Ok so i have optima 1080 dlp projecter and my screen is 120 inces and i have it set up in my bed room so needless to say i dont have verry much room and im unable to get the projecter to use the whole screen. is there any thing i can do so that the whole screen is being used?????

    1. Author

      Jacob, you need short throw projector or converter lens to fill the screen from a short distance away. Neither are inexpensive options.

  35. Hi Carlton. We currently have a 100″ screen thrown from 15 ft away using an aging Panasonic projector. Tried to replace it with the BenQ W1070 but using the current mount (15 ft away, sits on the back wall of theater on an almost to the ceiling platform) the screen was thrown way too large. We would like to use the same mounting platform (instead of ceiling mount in middle of room) and liked the price of the BenQ, but having difficulty finding a machine that will fit our setup. Would love your input/suggestions. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Nicole, same reply as the others, you’ll need a converter lens to somehow fit in front of the projector lens. Given that is a low-cost projector, I think the most lens options are going to be a fairly large % of the projector cost, so not sure about it being worth the time and expense.

  36. Hi Carlton
    I am planning on installing a projector and a big screen outside by the pool area
    the projector will be on one side of the pool and screen on the other side a distance of 22 ft away. I want to use a 150″ screen for comfortable viewing from anywhere on the pool deck. Any suggestions how to fit the picture on the screen from that far away? any help would be appreciated.

    1. Author

      Nick, please see the comment I just posted about long-throw-ratio projectors. You’ll need a converter lens. Either a dedicated projector converter lens (expensive) or a generic camcorder 2x teleconverter lens (relatively inexpensive, but might be hard finding the correct diameter.)

  37. Carlton, thanks for a great website and for sharing some of your knowledge. Wish you were in San Antonio to design and build our media room. I have a 14′ W by 14′ deep room with a 12′ ceiling where I am going to mount an Epson LS10000 or similar ceiling mounted projector and use a Screen Innovations Black Diamond 108″ Screen (or whatever size you recommend). I have total light control and will be going with Dolby X sound set-up. I promise to follow your acoustic panel recommendations!

    Your spreadsheet is amazing however some of the responses as far as viewing distances I have read here don’t seem to match up with what the spreadsheet produces. I want two rows of 3-4 seats each but am a bit cramped if my first row has to be 12 feet from the screen. Does the 1.5 X Screen Width formula change in the 4K arena? What suggestions do you have. As a side note I was going to mount 2-40″ TV’s to the side of the big screen for football season so my big screen will be offset to the right however the projector will be centered with the big screen.

  38. Very nice spreadsheet. I was wondering if there would be an update for 4K or should we just use 1080p as a basis?

    1. Author

      Robert, I just updated the spreadsheet to include 4k and 8k resolution hints, but the older spreadsheet worked fine if you entered the resolutions manually. For 4k (3840×2160) resolution. For 8k (7680×4320) resolution.

  39. Hey I have a very easy installation location in my room at 20 ft but I can only fit a 120″ screen (diagonally), is there any way to make this happen with today’s projectors? I would like 1080p resolution and I don’t really watch anything in 3d. Thanks!!

    1. Author

      Ben, you need a long throw ratio projector, but most won’t offer that distance without an optional long-throw ratio lens. Your lowest-priced option is a regular projector with a camcorder 2x teleconverter lens in front of it. You’ll need to make sure the lens is wide enough to not clip the edges of the projected image. Sorry, I don’t have any more specific details than that.

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