We’ve been using projectors (or beamers) for our flight simulators from the very beginning and you can too. The idea is to fill the pilot’s field of view as much as possible for a more immersive experience. The sky is big, so the screen that displays your simulated sky should be big too.
The trade-off is that many affordable LCD or DLP projectors have a lower screen resolution than comparable conventional computer monitors. As you shop for projectors with better screen resolutions, the prices climb exponentially.
Projector manufacturers prefer to describe screen resolution with cryptic acronyms instead of just telling us what the resolution is. Here are some common resolutions:
SVGA = 800x600
XGA = 1024x768
SXGA = 1280x1024
UXGA = 1600x1200
Here’s a video clip of the Dogfight Club using three flight sims with XGA 1024x768 projectors:
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Another consideration is how many hours the projector lamp will last. The lamps in our Dell 2300MP projectors are rated for 2000 hours. How much is 2000 hours? Think of it like this. If you work at a job for eight hours a day, five days a week for a year, and take two weeks off for vacation, then that’s about 2000 hours. That’s a lot of flight simming!
One more note about projector lamps. We all know that we must allow the internal fan to cool the lamp after we turn off the projector, so don’t unplug the projector while the fan is running. That’s fine, but we occasionally have electricity failures here. If the power failed while a projector is running, the lamp would burn up from the excess heat and we would be stuck replacing a $400 lamp. So we recommend using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for $40 or $50. That will give you enough time to safely power down the projector.
So what is all this talk about buying a projector? We’re Do-It-Yourselfers, right? Well there are websites like LumenLab dedicated to DIY projectors. We experimented with a DIY projector, but found it to be large, heavy, and not as versatile as factory projectors. Not to mention, we had plenty of other projects to work on.
So projectors are a pretty good thing for stationary flight simulators (and home theaters). Stay tuned! The future may bring awesome wrap-around LED screens or high quality virtual reality headsets.