What the Hell is Wrong with the Projector & How to Fix It

Meet a hero. This is Kailen Brooks. Kailen

A few months ago, I was giving a workshop on data visualization to about 40 people at the AEA Summer Institute when pretty much everything that could have gone wrong almost did. Someone’s spilled drink ran dangerously close to my computer. My mic suddenly gave birth to terrible feedback sounds. And the projector started wiggling the image, nearly causing epileptic seizures among my audience members. Kailen and his crew to the rescue.

As I set up for the second day of workshops, Kailen came by again to run me through basic projector troubleshooting in case I don’t have such support on hand in the future (who does?). Next time, before I start muttering “What the hell is wrong with this projector?” and pressing random buttons, I’ll check against these common projector problems and how to fix them:

The image is too light/ looks washed out.
Time to turn down the contrast. Locate the contrast controls by pressing the Menu button on the projector.
Then use the arrows on the top of the projector to navigate through the options on the screen until you find Contrast.

Crank it down.

The image is too dark.
Use that same path to crank the Brightness up. If that doesn’t work, the projector bulb is bad and you’ll need to call IT or, more realistically, go on with your presentation and a dark screen.

The image is not crisp.
On the outside rim of the projector lens is a dial you can turn in either direction, which will adjust the focus and bring your slide into better focus.

The image is not sitting square inside the screen.
Adjust the feet on the bottom of the projector to raise up one side so the image is parallel to the bottom of the screen.

The image is parallel to the bottom of the screen but not the top.
This is solved by adjusting the Keystone. Here’s a slide that needs keystoned, bad.


Hit the Menu button and then arrow through the options on the screen until you find Keystone. Adjust the settings there until the top of the image and the projector are as close to parallel as possible.

The image doesn’t fill the screen size/shape.
Adjust your screen resolution on your computer. I get there by right-clicking on my desktop and selecting Screen Resolution. In that menu, Kailen advised lowering my resolution to 1024 x 768, which is best for most projectors. I wouldn’t have thought that screen resolution would also affect the size but it does, making the image more square in my case.

The image is wiggling violently.
Cycle through the source options for the projector. It should be on Computer because it is connected to your laptop but press the Source button until it goes through all options and returns to your computer. Kailen said that should do the trick.

If all else fails, he said, turn the projector off and turn it back on again. Sometimes the order in which everything powers on makes a difference.

And I say, get to your presentation room at least 20 minutes early so you have fighting chance to hook up your computer and navigate any problems.

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