Are mini projectors really the perfect solution for field environments?
In 2018, CartONG decided to invest in 3 mini projectors with the assumption that they could more easily be used in a field environment when we give trainings, organize workshops or implement new tools:
- M1 Portable Cinema ViewSonic Projector
- Cube Mobile Projector RIF6
- QKK AK-80 Projector
A comparison of the functionalities of these different tools will give you a brief overview of the equipment in question (click to see in full).
In May 2019, the QKK AK-80 Projector and the Cube Mobile Projector RIF6 were first used during an associative event in the Lyon region. It appeared that the QKK projector worked well enough in a semi-dark environment, while the Cube Mobile Projector RIF6 was only performing well in a dark room. In June 2019, CartONG then conducted a two-week mission in Haiti in support of the local team of CARE in Jérémie, during which several workshops were given and for which we used the M1 Portable Cinema ViewSonic Projector. This experience proved more challenging that we had anticipated.
Mini projectors seem unsuited to field conditions
At first glance, the advantages of mini projectors for field missions are obvious. They are lightweight and most of them run on batteries, which is absolutely essential when one has limited or no access to electricity. However, in both Lyon and Jérémie, the brightness of the rooms quickly became a challenge.
In particular, during the Haiti mission, our staff was providing a one-and-half day of training to the local CARE team followed by 4 days of participatory training workshops with local inhabitants. Both activities involved the use of PowerPoints, OSM map backgrounds and satellite imagery on Google Earth.
As it can be seen below, the premises used for the activities were not only luminous (due to the type of buildings, the absence of shutters, etc.), but the projection surfaces (bright walls, white fabrics, etc.) made it even harder to obtain a good quality image in such a context.
Ultimately, the mini projector that our staff had brought from France to Jeremie proved to be completely unsuitable for the mission. She thus ended up using a standard sized projector provided by CARE, which perfectly fulfilled its functions but that she would have been able to bring with her for the mission to due weight limit for a plane journey – bearing in mind that she was already travelling with other tools and equipment with her!
Checklist for choosing the “right” equipment for a mission
Mini-projectors are not at this quite as much a game-changer as we initially thought (though this could rapidly evolve as technologies improve), so here are the key findings from our personal experiences that can be used before buying one:
- Check the technical features of the equipment, pay a particular attention to:
- The weight limitation if you are often travelling by plane,
- The battery life of your equipment,
- The types of ports available to connect your mini projector to other equipment.
- Test the mini projector at home/in your office with different settings (dark rooms, semi dark, in daylight), just to see in which conditions the projector will do well; and make sure to communicate with your partners to find out if it is useful to bring the equipment along or not – given your findings.
In fact, most of the mini projectors will not do well in daylight or even partially dimmed rooms can be a challenge in a tropical/subtropical setting where the sun can be brighter than in other parts of the world.
Given the current state of the art, our advice would be to only opt for a mini-projector if there is no standard projector available in the field settings, unless your field counterparts can assure that there is a possibility to adequately darken the room.