Info & Answers
15 Ultimate CinemaScope Projectors
The benefits are significant, but so is the investment. Use this overview to get the basics on this big-screen technology.
CinemaScope
October 01, 2006 by Dennis P. Barker

When I was a kid growing up in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, I experienced awe and excitement when I went to the movies. I especially remember those larger-than-life films such as “This Is Cinerama,” “The Robe,” “The Egyptian,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “How The West Was Won,” “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” They were in CinemaScope, VistaVision, 70mm and even the awesome Cinerama—on three separate screens. It was like blinders were removed from your eyes and your vision expanded from 90 to 180 degrees. You could see what was happening on the screen to the left and right of you, instead of the action being limited to the center.

Unfortunately, we don’t see many movies like that today. Though we have film technologies like IMAX, it’s just not the same. The good news is that this is changing—though not in most commercial cinemas.

Where widescreen is becoming true widescreen again is in the home. Sure, you can view a CinemaScope (or 2.35:1) movie on a TV, but you’ll also encounter those annoying black bars (called letterboxing). Only some front projectors are capable of displaying a 2.35:1 aspect ratio without wasting screen space for letterboxing. These front video projectors use internal scalers and anamorphic lenses.

Scalers let the widescreen CinemaScope image be placed properly on the screen without distortion. However, even with the scaler there are still black bars at the top or bottom of the screen. You can zoom in or zoom out with the lens provided with your projector, but doing so will distort the image, making everyone taller and skinnier. To overcome this problem, the anamorphic lens takes over. An anamorphic lens stretches an image horizontally, making all those unnaturally tall and skinny people normal once again.

If your projector doesn’t offer an anamorphic lens option, there’s a company called Panamorph that sells lenses to convert 16:9 (HDTV widescreen) to 2.35:1 without the letterbox bars. It works with an external scaler that stretches 2.35:1 content to use the entire resolution of the 16:9 display. The Panamorph lens optically compresses the image back to a 2.35:1 format. The picture can be enlarged to fill a bigger 2.35:1–format screen. Optional anamorphic lens technology from Panamorph has been designed to work with 16:9 projectors that have a 2.35:1 mode. For more information, contact www.panamorph.com.

As for screens, quality film screens can cost upwards of several thousand dollars, depending on the type and size. Most screens purchased today come with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and some use electronic or manual masking to display images in 2.35:1 mode without letterboxing. Screens can be purchased with a 2:35.1 aspect ratio and use masking for other modes, including 16:9. For example, Stewart Filmscreen’s CineCurve screen is specifically designed for the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and maintains a constant vertical height that eliminates horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The curved screen limits the amount of light reflected onto side walls.

Da-Lite Screen Company has also added 2.35:1 CinemaScope sizes to five projection screens. Other companies selling separate screens in various types and finishes include Draper, Elite, Screen Research, Screen Innovations and Vutec.


15 CinemaScope Projectors

The projectors listed below that are capable of anamorphic enhancement (no letterboxing) are shown with * (lens included) or ** (lens package sold separately). All other listed projectors can display 2.35:1, but with letterboxing. These projectors can be paired with a Panamorph or some other anamorphic lens to show CinemaScope without the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

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BenQ PEB8720
MSRP: $799
www.benq.com



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Christie Digital HD 1080p Series
HD5K (pictured), HD5Kc, HD8K, HD8Kc, HD12K
MSRP: $59,995-$99,995
www.christiedigital.com


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Digital Projection dVison 1080p
MSRP: $29,995
www.digitalprojection.com
** Lens package sold separately.



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InFocus SP777
MSRP: $14,999
www.infocus.com



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JVC Professional DLA-HD10K SYS ***
MSRP: $21,995
pro.jvc.com
*** With processor.



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Merdian/Faroudja DILA1080MF1 **
MSRP: $25,995
www.faroudja.com, www.meridian.com
** Lens package sold separately.



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Mistubishi HC3000U
MSRP: $1,995
www.mitsubishi-presentations.com



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Optoma EP910
MSRP: $4,299
www.optomausa.com



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Panasonic PT-AE900U
MSRP: $3,199
www.panasonic.com



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Runco Reflections Series RS-1100 *
MSRP: $11,995
www.runco.com
* Lens included. All other Runco projectors have CineWide with AutoScope options.



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Runco Video Xtreme Series *

Models: VX-2000D, VX-4000D, VX-5000D, VX-6000D
MSRP: $16,995-$34,995

Models: VX-2c, VX-2i, VX-2dc
MSRP: $38,995-$59,995

Models: VX-40d, VX-50d, VX-60d (pictured), VX-80d
MSRP: $68,995-$109,995

Models: VX-22d, VX-44d, VX-66d
MSRP: $44,995-$99,995

Model: SC-1
MSRP: $265,000

www.runco.com
* Lens included. All other Runco projectors have CineWide with AutoScope options.



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Sanyo PLV-HD150
MSRP: Price not available
www.sanyo.com



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Sharp XV-Z20000
MSRP: Price not available
www.sharpusa.com



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Sim2 Grand Cinema C3X **
MSRP: $15,995
www.sim2.com
** Lens package sold separately.



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Vidikron Vision 100 *
MSRP: $29,995
www.vidikron.com
* Lens included.


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Dennis P. Barker - Contributing Writer
Dennis has been involved with Consumer Electronics forever it seems. His 25+-year career includes a 12-year tour of duty at Consumer Reports magazine, as well as stints as a product reviewer, market analyst, technical editor, and consultant for the electronics industry. He lives in Ossining, NY with his two children, one demanding cat and piles of A/V equipment.

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