There are lots of reasons to want a projection system for your home theater video display. The pleasure of placing big speakers next to or in front of the screen isn’t one of them, which is why commercial theaters put the speakers behind the screen.
Home theaters can be set up the same way, but they usually aren’t. Why’s that? Because for a long time the only way to make a screen suitable for placing speakers behind it was to poke holes in it—these are called perforated screens. Perforated screens, when viewed up close, look just the way you’d think—they’re covered with a pattern of holes. It’s a good idea, but one with several problems. First, to make sure you’re not compromising the sound quality of the speakers, the screen needs to have lots of holes or big holes. But when there are holes, things are going to fall through them. In the case of a home theater projector, that thing falling through is going to be light. The more light that passes through the holes, the less light the screen reflects back toward the audience. In effect, a perforated screen can throw out some of the light you paid a lot of money for.
The other big objection to perforated screens is that they contribute to something called the moiré effect. This happens when the pixel structure of the projector interferes with the pattern structure of the holes in the screen. What you get is something like a criss-cross pattern on your movie. Try looking through two window screens at the same time, and you’ll see what I mean.
The Seymour Screen Excellence Enlightor 4K screen approaches the problem a little differently. Rather than a perforated screen, the Enlightor is a woven material, but not just any ordinary woven material. When you look at it close up you notice two things. First, the weave appears to be random; there’s no discernible grid to the weave. The other thing you notice is that there are no holes. The weave appears to be so tight as to be a completely solid screen even when you put your face up close to it. See photos of the material up close:
So why would you want an acoustically transparent screen? The benefits include the ability to hide your speakers without any acoustic compromise, but beyond that, you can experience the sound from the place where the action is happening. Some people opt for in-ceiling speakers as a way to avoid putting speakers in front of the screen, but in that situation the sound is coming from above the action, not from the picture. Do you want the actors’ voices to come from their mouths or from a space a few feet below their mouths? The difference can be subtle, but noticeable once you’ve tried it.
Seymour also says there’s no minimum seating distance—due to the fine weave. So the seating distance is largely dependent on your room, your preference and your projector. Using a 4K projector will allow you to get closer (or use a bigger screen) before you can see the projector’s pixel structure.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.