Understanding Projector Technology: Contrast Ratio and Aspect Ratio

We’re nearing the end of our Understanding Projector Technology series on the blog. Today’s entry should help to clear up some misunderstandings and help all our Experience Audio Video clients have a better handle on all the necessary terminology.

Both contrast ratio and aspect ratio can be fairly confusing, so let’s shed some light (yes, pun intended!) on these important terms. We’ll start with the simpler term, aspect ratio.

Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio simply refers to the relative dimensions of your projection. There are three in common use.


Standard aspect ratio is 4:3 (four inches horizontally for every three inches vertically). This is the dimension of older televisions and computer monitors. While it’s still in use, it looks dated.


Widescreen format is a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is considerably wider than standard. This is the aspect ratio used by modern TVs and computer monitors, and it’s the same dimension that most TV and movie content is delivered in for home use. We recommend this aspect ratio for most commercial applications.


Otherwise known as ultra-widescreen, this format is used in some high-end home theater setups. Unless you’re doing something very technical visually, you won’t use this in the office.

Contrast Ratio

Simply stated, contrast ratio is the maximum difference in brightness when comparing the brightest and darkest possible outputs.

It’s a fairly important metric in projection environments where the lights are dimmed, like home theaters or some lecture or conference environments. If picture quality matters and the surrounding lights are dim, a high contrast ratio is important.

Contrast ratio is far less important in brightly lit office areas (such as most commercial applications), because the lows of the picture will tend to be washed out either way.

Got Questions? Schedule a Consultation

It’s one thing to read a blog post about it, and it’s another to experience it in person. If you have questions, contact us to schedule a free consultation today.


Understanding Projector Technology: Other Factors

We’ve reached the end of our Understanding Projector Technology blog series. We have just a handful of relevant factors left, so we’re bundling the rest into this final post. Of course, if there’s anything we haven’t covered that you need to know, the Experience Audio Videoteam is always just a message or phone call away!

We have three minor factors left to discuss: throw distance, zoom and keystone.

Throw Distance

Throw distance, or throw ratio, is a measurement of how far from the screen your projector will need to be to produce the right size image. This is a tricky measurement to explain and to understand. But if you’re going to mount your projector somewhere permanent, it’s essential to get it right.

Typical projectors need a healthy amount of space to throw the right size image. Short-throw and long-throw projectors are available as well, perfect for small conference rooms and large auditoriums, respectively.

Make sure to work with an expert installer to ensure you have the proper throw distance/ratio.


Zoom is an important feature for on-the-go projectors. If you’re going to be setting up your projector in a wide range of spaces, you may end up in a situation where your projection is far too small, yet you can’t move the projector back.

In this situation, you want the ability to adjust the image size with lens zoom. The measurement describes how large an image you can get. A projector with 2.0x zoom can produce an image twice as large as the default size.


If you’ve ever seen a projection that was wonky, narrower on one side and wider on the other, you’ve seen a situation where keystoning was needed. If you’re unable to project square on, your image will be off kilter. Keystoning the image allows you to digitally compensate for the distortion. This is another feature that’s most useful in mobile setups.