How to Measure Projector Brightness

Hello! My name is Camron Ware and I’m the Founder of Visual Worshiper and one of the biggest question I get asked is, “What kind of projector do we need?”

And that is the big question! However, before we can answer that, there is a big and frustrating elephant in the room that we need bring up: the true brightness of projectors.

I know it seems simple. When your church needs a projector, you simply pull up some spec sheets on a few projectors and buy the one with the highest brightness.  Right?

Not really. For the sake of your tithe dollars, please don’t do that.

The brightness of most projectors are measured in lumens, and often you will see “ANSI lumens.”

ANSI (American National Standards Institute) is an organization that tries to dictate and regulate the brightness of projectors.

The trouble is there isn’t perfect regulation on every little tiny factor and variable that can come into play when measuring the brightness of a projector. Everything can affect the brightness. (Screen surface, distance, ambient light, the source/signal, lenses…etc.)

(Disclaimer: This is based on insider knowledge from a few top projector dealers and manufactures. I did not personally knock on ANSI’s door and ask.  However, the proof is all around us: brightness of projectors do not necessarily match up.)

Add into the mix that no two manufacturers rate their brightness identically.

Here’s an example:

Projector Company A: Released a model in 2006, rated at 4000 ANSI lumens. This company was the designer and original seller of this projector.

Projector Company B: Released a model in 2007, rated at 5000 ANSI lumens. This projector company did not design or manufacture their own projectors, but simply BOUGHT a projector from another company, in this case, from Projector Company A.

The problem: These two projectors are the exact same price…and the EXACT same model.  They simply have a different name on the top. Consumers are naturally drawn to the “brighter” projectors for the same money, when in reality that projector wasn’t rated true.

No two projectors are alike.

Equate lumens to gas mileage: laboratory tests and real-world are two VERY different things.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Get a demo before you buy. I cannot stress this enough. Being a good steward means buying the RIGHT projector for your church, not simply the cheapest or most expensive.

Here are the two main factors that affect projector brightness…

#1: Age

When consulting for churches, many pastors will tell me:

“Camron, we have a 6-year-old, 10,000 lumen projector. We would like to use that for Environmental Projection.”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not 10,000 lumens anymore.  I could walk into your church with a projector I fit in my carry-on bag and it would be brighter than that old projector.

It’s the nature of technology.

Most projectors nowadays aren’t meant to last for decades, but for years.  Once the lifespan is over, it’s time to replace the projector.

#2: Color Engine: PIC 1

The two most popular types of color engines are DLP and LCD.

DLP, or digital light processing, uses mirrors to reflect light toward the screen.  DLP projectors use a color wheel that spins at a very high rate to produce the colors.

Almost all the lower-end DLP projectors are single chip.  They do make 3-chip DLP, but the price is usually prohibitive to most churches. Because of this, most churches get drawn into purchasing single chip DLP projectors without realizing they are sacrificing color brightness.

LCD, or liquid crystal display, uses three panels (Red, Green, and Blue) to create rich and vibrant colors.

LCD is (in my opinion) the best option for churches looking for great color and white brightness, in context of Environmental Projection.

The phrase “color brightness” is becoming more prevalent on manufactures’ websites and product documentation.  Often times you will see a projector brightness listed as this:

White Brightness: 6000 lumens Color Brightness: 6000 lumens

You want to find a projector that lists both of those numbers, and they should be the same.

A great resource to check this brightness rating is  You can search for projectors and see what the color brightness rating is of most projectors on the market.

Bottom line: I usually recommend 3-LCD projectors for any church projector need, but especially when doing Environmental Projection or other scenic projection that requires rich colors.

If you wish to talk more or ask more questions, you can visit me at

Camron Ware Written by:

Camron Ware is the founder of Visual Worshiper, a leader in helping churches transform their worship through Environmental Projection and worship lighting. He is also is a freelance lighting designer and VJ, and enjoys flying just a little bit too much. Camron and his wife, Courtney, live in north Texas, where they frequently get to serve together in worship services and events with Camron running lighting and Courtney running visual media.

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