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.

541 Comments

  1. Many thanks for all of this detailed information. I´m a HUGE fan of your site – yes, you have Brazilian fans too!
    Please help me to solve a quite simple issue – I´m planning to buy a Samsung PN64″D8000 plasma series and I have a sofa 9″ away (from a wall). Do you think that will be comfortable to see HD TV? I did my homework and used your charts (perfect and VERY detailed!, however my wife (!) still think that could be too close for this size!
    By the way, just to you guys know in Brazil we must pay an outrageous US$ 5.5K for this TV. Taxes, taxes and more taxes…Thanks in advance! Best regards from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
    Andrew

    1. Author

      Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. I was in Sao Paulo just a couple of weeks ago for work. The downtown area was amazing – so was the traffic! We are fortunate that the import tariffs/fees on electronics are pretty much non-existant in the US.

      You will have absolutely no issues 9 feet away from you HDTV. For reference, my first row is 11 feet away from my 123 inch projection screen and no one has every commented that they were too close. Gook luck with your room!

  2. great site!!!!!
    very professional and easy to read….

    i’m planing to instal a projector in a dedicated room (fixed curved screen)
    The distance beteween the back wall and the screen its 12′

    What size (screen) do i have to use?

    Thank you

    Paul

    1. Author

      Paul, at 12′, I’d go with at least a 123″ diagonal screen, assuming you complete light control.

  3. Hi Carlton,

    First of all, congratulations for beautiful home theater room and setup. I have couple of questions,

    a) If I want to build my own screen, what kind of material should I use ?
    b) Are there any golden rules for room size proportions in LxWxH ?
    c) Why do need to do lot of room modifications to absorb sound d) What material I should use to absorb the sound ?

    Please let me know.

    Thanks in advance !

    1. Author

      Avi, you can either use screen material or just paint your wall and put an empty frame up. Screen Goo is popular for painting. But I recommend going for home theater specific material. Check out the DIY Screen Forum at http://AVScience.com.

      There are no golden rules for room dimensions. It really depends how many rows you want, and how many chairs you prefer in each row. If everything is equal, I’d go for wider with more chairs in the front row instead of narrower and more rows. Just make sure people on the edge still have a good view of the screen.

      Sound absorption is extremely important. You need to cover about 60% of your wall surface to absorb primary reflections. The front wall is the most important wall to cover. You need to use acoustic fiberglass. “Acoustic” Ceiling tiles are too dense, wall insulation filberglass is not dense enough. Acoustic fiberglass comes in 2 ft x 4 ft panels.

      Hope this helps,
      -Carlton

  4. I have a media room of 12X10 Ft. So my viewing distance would be 8-9Ft. Can I go for 90 inch wide screen for 8-9Ft viewing distance?.

    Your website is a great tool for someone like me, who is new to this home theater stuff. Thanks very much for sharing such valuable information online.

    1. Author

      DM: 90″ wide is a good screen size for 8-9ft viewing distances. Sounds perfect for your room size.

  5. Carlton thanks for taking the time and effrort to create the home theater calculator. I found it extremely helpful in planning my home theater which turned out great!

    Mark, Toronto Canada

  6. Firstly I have to say great site, credit to you. I am a quadriplegic and I have a large trophy room that is 46 feet long and 33 feet wide, it has a cathedral ceiling which is about 20 feet high in the center.
    I practically live in this room, from the time I am in my wheelchair to the time I go to bed I’m in my trophy room 90% of the time. Dead center of the room I have a pillar that goes all the way from the floor to the ceiling, on this Pillar I will be putting a OPTOMA HD83 on it as I love 3D and I will be getting a 150 inch fixed screen.
    My father made a frame out of 3″ x 1″ pine just to use as a template to see how far the screen should be lifted from the floor and we are thinking about having the screen 16″ from the floor.
    Acoustically speaking I know my trophy room is not the best but I have been told that once I get a digital Amp this will help a great deal. I have just purchased a INTEGRA DTR 70.3 Amp and a OPPO BD95 Blue-Ray.
    I want to get this as perfect as I possible can before I start and this weekend my cousin and my father will be laying all the cable.
    I cant go HDMI cable because the length of cable I need to run is between 82 to 98 feet, so I have purchased some Cat/6 cable and will be running that along with HDMI extender over the Cat/6 as I have been advised that this will work best when transmitting the signal.

    I will be happy to send you photo’s of my Trophy Room and try explain everything as best I can via email, any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Regards
    Dean

    1. Author

      Dean, it sounds like you planned everything perfectly and selected some great components. How did your room turn out?

  7. Super work, thanks a lot. Just what I needed to calculate the platform dimensions for my new HT. Only comment I have is that in the second part of the sheet (Universal throw, room size calculations, etc)it would be great if one could select metric units.

  8. Thanks for a great design aid.
    Although I have searched, I have not found an answer to this common problem.
    With about a 5 ft difference between rows ( to allow for recline and aisle), it seems 1st row seating at recommended THX parameters, e.g 9 ft for 80″ 16:9 display, puts the next row is beyond SMPTE and THX max viewing distances. Should one size for the rear row on not worry optimizing the recommended distance (36 deg view angle for THX) I did note your tool does not compute/display recommended distance- perhaps there is a reason you can share. In very personal terms if my seating is at 9 and 14 ft, what size screen is best? Seems like I would want to upsize from 80″.
    Thanks
    Dan

    1. Author

      Dan, my first thought is that you should select a larger screen size. You really can’t have a screen that is “too big” for the THX spec, only one that is too small. The only reason you’d want a smaller screen is if the room isn’t wide enough or if ambient light is too bright, so you need the increased brightness of a smaller screen.

      The second row is always going to be the lees used and less preferred seating position. It’s OK for it not to be perfect. If you have to choose, make the first row the best you and compromise on the second row.



  9. Hi Carlton,
    Awesome site.
    Building room on second floor that has dimensions of 20ft x 15’8″. Sent you an email with a PDF of the room. As you can see, entry door (which need not be double opening door like in pic)is along 20ft wall in the upper left corner. THere is a door along the far right 15 ft wall that is merely for legal purposes to have an egress from the room. I am trying to decide what is best way to configure theater, what size projector screen and where to put the screen. .It can go on any of the 4 walls. I believe I can cover that door to prevent light with the ability to remove it in case of emergency thus making the wall on the far right 15 ft sized wall usable even for a screen. I would like to have 10 seats although that may be pushing it….any thoughts?
    thanks,
    dan

  10. Hi Carlton: I have a media room size of 11.9 X 16. What is the best projector screen I need for a 2 row seating of at least 7 people? You response is greatly appreciated.

    Thank You
    Ramesh

  11. Hey,
    Looking at designing a theater into my new house I have a space that is 14 x 18 for a theater. At the end of one of the 14 ft sides I have a 4 x 8 area that could be used. Should I go 14 or 18 ft wide??? thanks

    1. Author

      It depends on how many chairs across and how wide the screen. In general, I think wider and shallower is better. It allows better (wider) picture and better sound (more channel separation).


  12. hello, i have question about the home theater screen size. my room size has two options one is 24 x 18 feet and one more is 24 x 14 feet. can u suggest me which is the good size and also what is the side of the screen for both the room sizes

    1. Author

      Either room size will work. I’d go with the larger option, especially if you will have 5 or more seats across.

  13. Ok. Thanks. What would you suggest as far as seating and screens size in both cases? I would probably do 2 levels if only 14 feet wide, but could I have 2 levels if the room is only 14 feet deep? I am trying to make sure I do it correctly since I am building from scratch. Thanks

    1. Author

      I think you should start entering measurements into the calculator. Your questions are too specific and there are too many variables.


  14. Carlton,

    Great site, Thank you!
    I have a few questions for you, looking to set up our HT room.
    Here are dimensions: 250”x174” wall on which we would like to position a screen is 144”x90”. Ceiling is white and the current walls are mocha. I’m debating either epson 5020 or panny AE8000u. Would like to position the projector on the rear wall. What screen size do you suggest? Any particular screen you would recommend? What’s your take on SI screens? Your input is greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks!

    1. Author

      I’m not completely familiar with either projector; look at the manuals and check the zoom ranges to see if they will be mount on your back wall for your screen size. I don’t think there is a huge difference in the screens; price if more of a factor than differences in materials between brands.

  15. Hi Carlton,
    I have learned a lot from your site. Thank You!!
    I have a question about cinemascope screen (2.35:1) My room size is 24ft x 13.5ft.
    What is the best screen size (Diagonal) should I use?
    I intened to watch movies only in this room. using Cinemascope screen is it a good dicesion?
    What Project on Epson range I should use?
    Many Thanks,
    Sam

    1. Author

      Sam, there is no one single “best size”. It’s a trade-off of many parameters, all of which are in the home theater calculator. In general, bigger is better as long as the projector is bright enough.

      I like wide 2:35:1 screens, but don’t personally think the complications are worth it because the native aspect ratio of the projector doesn’t match. So you either have to buy an expensive anamorphic lens and move in in front of the existing lens based on the source material aspect ratio, or you have to zoom/crop top/bottom pixels for widescreen material and reduce effective resolution, or permanently stretch and then lose resolution/crop edges for 16:9 widescreen. In a dark room, you won’t notice the bars around the picture (especially with a gray screen), so I suggest getting a big screen that matches the aspect ratio of the projector. But if you have the time, money, and don’t mind messing with the setup, widescreen looks nice.


  16. Hi Carlton

    I have been an admirer of your site for along time and am now using it to plan my HT. I have a question on ideal width. My theatre has two rows – 13′ and 19′ from the screen. For 13′, for a 2.35:1 screen, your calculator says I can have a diagonal all the way upto 235″!!

    Using Stewart’s guidance, they are much more conservative. They say divide the distance by 1.2 (aggressive) or 1.5 (conservative) to get the maximum recommended screen width, and then multiply that by 1.085 to get the diagonal. That gives me a maximum diagonal of only 113″ (conservative) or 141″ (aggressive).

    What would you recommend? Thanks


  17. Hello Carlton iam building a room with controlled light and a viewing distance of around 11 feet. what size screen would you recommend for upscaled dvd and bluray viiewing. Regards Mark.

  18. hi,
    I’m planning to purchase either a 55 inch plasma or led TV how many feet should I be away from the either TV.

    What would you recommend Thank You, Ron

  19. Hi!! Were currently in the process of designing our own home, we plan on having a “theatre” room, Im guessing the screen will be aprox 100inches? Trying to figure out how big the actual room will need to be to be comforatable with 2 sets of seating. A friend recently built her theatre room but miscalculated her seating and now the front seats are WAY too close and its too late to do anything! I dont want to make the same mistake!

    The way i’m working out my seats is like this, the room will have 2 rows of seats – so row 1 will be the front row of seats and row 2 will be the back row.
    I figure each seat fully reclined requires aprox 2.5m – so about 1/2 meter behind the seat so it wont hit the wall, then the actual length of the seat another 1.5 meter im guessing and then another 1/2 meter in front so that your not kicking the person in row 1.
    So then position the row 1 seats at the end of that 2.5meters + another 1/2 meter? Does that make sense? Do i need to give that extra half a meter? Also then how far does my screen need to be from the 1st lot of seats?
    Thanks for the help in advance!!
    Faye!

  20. Hi!! is it possible to include the effects of zoom lenses on image brightness in you calculator? I know it is somewhat projector and lens specific – but are there general ballpark parameters that could be used?
    Thanks – Steve

    1. Author

      Steve, in general, brightness will decrease by 10% and contrast ratio will increase by 10% at max zoom. The two somewhat cancel one another out, because you lose something and gain something at the same time. For that reason, I haven’t included it in the calculator.

  21. Hey I am building my house and have a dedicated media room. Surround sound, total light control, all the goods. I do not know much about projectors though and want to make sure i have a good setup for movies, games, sports everything. Seats will be 10-11 ft back from screen. What size for 16:9 ratio would be best and also how far should the projector be mounted “builder needs to know so he can run wires” Really need help!!

    1. Author

      Jordan, you should start with a 110″ screen and go from there. You’ll need to pick a projector and look at the owner’s manual online to figure out mounting location options.

  22. Hello my names Ryan. I have a the issue for my room. For a 16:9 setup and backlit 5ft Through on the projector, how big does my screen need to be?

    1. Author

      It depends completely on the projector. You’ll need to look at the owner’s manual for the projector you choose.

  23. Hello. We want to convert our kids playroom in our basement into a theater. room is not big, 16’x11.5′. have a pretty limited budget. plan on having a sectional couch for seating with some bean bags, etc., on the floor for kids. do you have a recommendation on screen size (92′ diag too big?) and a economical projector. the room has no windows so should lighting isn’t an issue. we aren’t looking for something to impress anyone, just want a nice viewable larger screen with a good HD picture. room will be easy to install speakers in the wall. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

  24. Hello, my name is wambai, we intend to set up a local theater of about 350 seating capacity. Can you pls advice us on the kind of projector and screen size to give our audience a cinematic viewing experience. Thank you

    1. Author

      Wambai, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can help. You are asking about more of a commercial theater and not a home theater.

  25. i have 17×17 living room 8feet height ceiling, and a 96″ wide wall i wanted to use for the screen .i was going to paint the wall a flat white to use as a screen. do u recommend this? i wanted a 3D hd projector but i am confused with lumens and color brightness (contrast ratio) which alot of projectors do not reflect the amount they have in color brightness. which amount should i be looking for so i would be able to get a good picture quality in which i am looking for?. i do not want to buy a projector that when set up , picture quality is no good.please advice.

  26. hi i have just got a epson eh-tw6100w and i have got a 110 screen whats the distance i put the projector i am going to put it on the ceiling
    thank greg

  27. hi carlton …….i just wanted to know , im doin a HT room size of about 26ft (W) x 30ft(L) x 10ft(H) ………looking at seating 14-18 people …2-3 rows …….viewing distance from first row being apprx 16ft . .. i want a 2:35 ratio screen .what screen size (in ft or inches) should i be looking at , and if i do go for a 2:35 will it be a problem with 16:9 content? also how to setup a 2:35 screen in projectors ..i have a jvc x90 projector without any added lens. your expert comments will be appreciated

    1. Author

      Madhav, I’m not a big fan of screen ratios that don’t match the native projector ratio. Mostly because it’s a pain to mess with. 1.78:1 content is very common and will have bars on the side of a 2.35:1 screen, and will use only a portion of the available resolution. Moving the panamorphic lens out of the way is a pain. Masking of the screen is a pain. Keeping everything setup and working becomes a part-time job. If you want to spend the money and time and like to tinker, it could be ok. Otherwise, I think it’s better to match the projector and screen aspect ratios, turn off the lights, and enjoy.

  28. Hi Carlton,

    I have a media room (width 10ft, depth 15 feet), Viewing distance will be 12 feet and only one row of seating. Do you think 120 inch(diagonal screen) will work fine or will it be too much for the room size. I am debating between 100 in – 120 in screen size for the room and the projector is going to be 3D. Will that make a difference from a viewing distance perspective. I bought a Sony 70 inch 3D TV for the same room but have changed my mind and planning to go with a bigger screen and a projector.
    Any inputs from you will be highly appreciated.

    1. Author

      Kunal, I think 120″ is the right size, as long as it leaves enough room on the sides for speakers. It will be close to the sidewalls…

  29. Hi Carlton,

    I want a 120 inch screen (16:9 format) with the closest viewers being 10-11 feet away and the farthest people sitting 17 feet away. Is the screen too big for that set-up. Also, I only have 7 ft ceilings so should I opt for a smaller screen instead so the screen isn’t too close to the floor. Thanks

    1. Author

      Vik, that’s the screen size I have in my room. When the lights are out, it will be the perfect size.

  30. Need some help on screen size choice. I have been going back and forth for months on screen size. I will have 2 rows (3 seats in front 4 in second row). Eye to screen of first row at about 11 foot 3 inches and back row at about 16 foot 3 inches. Their is some play in those distance that I could move them back or forward a bit(second row is on a movable platform that is 6 foot 3 inches deep and is in the center of the room). I was looking at a 120 diagonal 1.78:1 screen. My concern is whether that screen is too big for the front row, too small for the front row?

    1. Author

      I’d say 120″ is about prefect. I have a 123″ screen and an 11 foot front row viewing distance.

      1. Carlton,

        I have a about the same set up, 17 X 17 room with a front row about 11 – 12 feet from eye to screen. Would a 128″ diagonal 1.78:1 screen be too big? Would a 135″ work. My wife wants total immersion. FYI using a Epson 5020UB. Thanks

        1. Author

          Yes, 135″ will work, but be sure the projector is bight enough. You may want to downsize for more brightness, but no other reason to do so.

          1. Thanks,
            Brightness should not be a problem, total light controlled room.

      2. Hi Carlton would a BenQ W1070 be ok for a 120″ screen? The ceiling is 7′ high and we would be 10′ away if sitting on the couch. I look forward to your reply. Thanks.


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