In front projection, the projector sits in front of the projection surface. Projections are then bounced off the surface and back to the viewers. This effect is achieved by the highly reflective properties of front projection screen materials.
There are many advantages to using front projection. Everything being equal (i.e. distance, projector output, image base size), images on front projection screen fabrics will be brighter than images projected on their rear projection screen counterparts. This also means that it takes less lumen output to create the same images with front projection than from rear projection.
Images produced with front projection are able to maintain their clarity, intensity, and contrast throughout a wider viewing cone. This means that audience members viewing from any left or right off center angle will see the projection just as good as audience members sitting in the center. The use of front projection is especially advantageous when you have a low output projector, as the highly reflective fabrics used for front projection maximize the amount of light being bounced back to the audience.
But front projection has some disadvantages. One must take into account the overall lighting situations, much more so than in rear projection setups. This is a result of the highly reflective properties of front projection screen fabrics, as front projections are more sensitive to ambient light. If the fabric is too reflective, or if there is too much ambient light, images can appear to be washed out. Also, careful preparations have to be made for on stage productions, as performers and props can cast shadows on the projection surface. For some lighting situations, it is fairly easy to hide the projector from the audience’s view. However, other lighting situations will simply not allow this and the projection must be set at audience level, usually at the front for everyone to see. The more ambient light there is, the more reflective the material must be so that the images can successfully display amidst the bright surrounding environment. However, the more reflective the material is the narrower the viewing angle capacity will be and the closer you will have to set the projector to audience level.
There is not a single front projection screen fabric that will do well in all lighting situations. However, matte white fabric will do well in MOST lighting situations. Of all front projection screen materials that are available on the market, matte white has the lowest reflectivity, about five percent and a 1.0 gain. Using this type of fabric will allow for a wide viewing angle, typically between forty to fifty degrees. Plus, you will have more flexibility in where you can place your projector. Expect to pay about five dollars per square foot for this material. As said earlier, this material will suit nearly all situations. However, as with all projector screen fabrics, it will perform best in a pitch dark room with zero ambient light. Now, if your situation is unique, you can read more about other available projection screen fabrics.