by Grant Stewart, CEO and president, Stewart Filmscreen
Choose a bad projection screen, and you’ll likely have a bad home theater experience. On the flip side, choosing a good screen will not only enhance your experience, it can compensate for high light levels, low projector brightness and other factors that could hinder your system’s performance. So it’s important to choose a screen that optimizes the picture quality in your space. How to do that? Start by knowing which fabrics, materials and gains are right for your home entertainment area.
– MATTE WHITE materials are ideal for rooms where lighting is easily controlled and where people will be viewing from wide angles (like in a dedicated home theater).
– GRAY SCREENS help reject ambient light and deepen black levels and contrast, making them well suited to multipurpose media rooms.
– GAIN is a measurement of a screen’s reflective properties. SCREENS WITH GAINS ABOVE 1.0 do a good job of distributing the light from the video projector across its surface. A high-gain screen can optimize the brightness of the video projector, allowing for a larger image area. A high-gain screen also allows you to use a projector that may not be as bright, or as expensive, as a high-lumen projector.
– HALF GAIN ANGLE is the angle from the center of the screen where the brightness of the image is half that of its peak. The wider the angle, the better the viewing from the sides. This measurement becomes more important in bigger rooms and rooms that sit more people.
Image courtesy of DSI Entertainment Systems.
Masking, Hiding and Other Options
Manufacturers such as Stewart Film-screen offer projection screens in a variety of fabrics, sizes and features. Stewart’s Director’s Choice DC-100, for example, is designed for use in dedicated theaters and supports both horizontal and vertical masking to eliminate black or gray bars. Then there’s the Cabaret screen, which features FireHawk G3 material made for multipurpose rooms with ambient light. Consider these options as well:
HORIZONTAL MASKING—Fabric deploys from the top and bottom of the screen to alter its aspect ratio from 16:9 to 2.35:1 (CinemaScope), for example.
VERTICAL MASKING— Fabric moves in from the sides of the screen to alter its aspect ratio.
MICROPERFORATION—Thousands of tiny holes in the screen make it “acoustically transparent,” so sound can be heard from speakers concealed behind the screen.
BRIC (BINARY RECIPROCAL INTELLIGENT CONTROL) —A system that enables a screen to be controlled from a home automation system.
DESIGNER HOUSING— Functions as storage for a screen when it’s not being used.
TENSIONING—Ensures that a screen lies smooth and flat.
STAND-OFF BRACKETS— Allows the screen to be mounted over a flat-panel TV.
For more info about screen types and how lighting and room conditions impact a home theater screen’s performance read Light Matters.