What is FOV (Field of View) and Why is it Important

There are tons of terms and acronyms in the hobby that is home theater. One of the newer ones is FOV or Field of View. This wasn’t something we talked all that much about because, for a long time, screens weren’t big enough. If you are wondering what THAT has to do with anything…read on. It’s not as confusing as it may appear.

Screen Size and FOV

In the heady days of CRTs, a 36″ diagonal (4:3) screen was about as big as it got. They were considered huge and were definitely heavy. Anything bigger? That was the realm of the uber-rich. When flat panel TVs came out (with their 16:9 aspect ratio), 50″ was the size of kings. Anything larger was unfathomable.

Fast forward a decade or so, and things have changed.

You can run down to your Target or Walmart and pick up a 75″ or larger flat-panel TV. Will it suck? Maybe. But suddenly, it is common for people to consider a TV with a screen the size of a projection screen. With these larger screens, we need to start talking about how big is too big. To know that, we have to discuss FOV or Field of View.

What is Field of View

In the simplest terms, FOV is the amount of your vision that is filled by your TV’s screen. This is measured in degrees and there are all sorts of recommendations on how large a FOV you should like. But, as with all things in home theater, these standards are just recommendations. We’ve talked about some ways you can identify your preferred FOV. Regardless of how you get there, you want a screen that fills a field of view that you find comfortable.

projector screen or TV viewing angle

In the image above, the Viewing Angle is the FOV. You can use a calculator to reveal what you prefer (you put in your screen size and distance from the screen) or you can just put in your seating distance and screen aspect ratio (you want a 16:9), and it will give your recommendations based on the various standards.

Why Should You Care

To get that cinematic feel in your home theater, getting a screen that fills your FOV in the same way the screen does at the movie theater is a must. Now that large, flat-panel TVs are readily available, there is no excuse not to have an appropriately-sized screen. For a long time, the only people that had large screens were home theater enthusiasts with dedicated rooms. With 75″ and larger screens readily available, that same cinematic experience is available to the masses.

More importantly, you should care about FOV because don’t want a screen that is too big. An overly large screen can lead to eye fatigue, headaches, and marital strife. If you’ve ever sat too close to the screen at the movie theater, you know what I’m talking about. You certainly don’t want to live in a home with a screen that is so big that you can’t see the action on the screen. Knowing your preferred FOV will ensure you don’t buy a screen that is too large or small for your space.

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