An outdoor theater featuring a Starglas 60 projection screen in a Dallas, Texas home. Photo by Starlight AV
Roam the annual Custom Electronic Design & Integration Association (CEDIA) Expo, and high-end home theater is everywhere. At the recent Expo last month in Denver, oversized seats were surrounded by strategically placed speakers, with gigantic screens showing stunning hi-definition content in impressive doses. They made commercial cinemas look like a joke.
Why should homebuilders care, especially if you can pass the home theater decisions off to that techy A/V guy? Screens are vital, and often require careful architectural integration, pockets for motorized screens, motorized draperies, electrical, sightline and construction considerations.
The right home theater projection screen for the right purpose can make or break a family’s home entertainment experience—and builders should have a clearer view of what’s out there in screens and what’s coming.
Stewart Filmscreen had several of these scenes at its booth. Stewart Filmscreen is the first manufacturer to build screens for 4K (also known as Ultra HD), which they were showing. You could practically feel the breeze through the palm trees of the content they were playing. According to the company’s website, a 4K projection screen is one that has a perfectly planar surface, with perfect high resolution performance, using advanced automotive coating technology, to put each pixel in a perfect setting.
The front projection Director’s Choice, shown above, has horizontal and vertical masking, which maximizes projected images by covering the unused bars produced on all four sides of the screen. It can mask from any aspect ratio needed.
“The customer wants to be able to watch a movie in the right format,” says Shane Bala, owner of Starlight AV. He notes that the Director’s Choice is good for the movie buff who likes not only modern day films like “Mission Impossible,” but also older films like “Casablanca.” “It has the right format for the right experience.”
The unit shown at the CEDIA Expo was a 15-foot-wide screen with material GrayMatte 70, using Quantum Media Systems. A Christie projector and 4K uncompressed material was used for images.
“Front projection is all about the wow effect,” says Bala. “It is tough to get a 120-inch screen in a rear projection application in any economical way. It is ultra expensive. The only way to do achieve that is via front projection.”
The three major projector brands, Epson, JVC and Sony, all use different technologies, namely LCD, D-ILA and SXRD. Technically, D-ILA and SXRD are forms of liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS), a reflective technology that uses a liquid crystal layer on top of a silicon backplane instead of individual mirrors. Each technology has its own pros and cons. Bala says that D-ILA promotes deeper colors and contrast while SXRD promotes brighter colors and is good for gaming applications. LCD is still popular as well.
“They all in my view still beat single chip DLPs, however 3-chip DLPs take the spot to be the best high -end projector in the marketplace,” he says. “Digital Projection offers those solutions and best match typically with the Directors Choice Stewart screens.”
The company also showed off the world’s largest black screen, the Starglas 60. The 12-foot-wide rigid screen uses rear projection and was showing 4K footage of one sexy looking car. Builders can go from floor to ceiling and up to 17 feet wide with the screen. It is also weather resistant, which makes for a great outdoor movie viewing option. Bala has the Starglas 60 in his own home, and has done several projects with this product as a request from clients for an immersive experience. Builders for these homes include Bellavita Custom Homes and Cooper Custom.
For serious home theaters, rear projections are typically the way to go as they provide a better image. However, they eat up a lot of real estate behind the screen, even with mirror systems, and seating needs to be located at the right angle. They also require short throw lens projectors. Front projection is best for a room shrouded in complete darkness. As for cost, it depends on who you ask.
Bala says it is important to educate the buyer on the technology and options available. One option is for AV specialists like Bala to educate the builders so they can give answers to the client right away.
“We want them to be our spokesperson,” Bala says.
Another option is for the homebuilder to put the buyer in touch with the integrator directly so they can show the products available.
Draper had screens galore, such as the TecVision. TecVision screens are individually formulated and manufactured to offer wider viewing cones for better off-axis viewing, lower and more consistent gloss levels for less picture distortion and supposed big cost savings. At the booth, Draper’s home theater sales manager Bob Hadsell explained how ambient light can affect a projected image on a white screen versus a gray screen with TecVision projection technology. This was demonstrated with a split screen in ambient light showing extreme skiers. The gray side added more contrast of the skiers and environment against the snow, while the white side’s color washed out.
Five of the TecVision formulations have been certified by the Imaging Science Foundation for excellent color reproduction and fidelity. They are also 4K ready, and can offer a solution where laser projection is used as well. TecVision is available on tab-tensioned and permanently tensioned screen models. The tab-tensioned roll-up models can be controlled via wall switch, remote, home automation systems and more.
The company also showed its new Profile permanently tensioned projection screen, which was playing “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise. The Profile is a thin 3/8-inch bezel screen with a solid structure underneath to provide more stability. It also uses a patented Fabric Retention System, which keeps the viewing surface flat without snaps. It is available in standard sizes in HDTV (16:9), 16:10 and CinemaScope 2.35:1 aspect ratios, and can be ordered in custom sizes and aspect ratios up to 156 inches (396 cm) wide. The Profile was the winner of the AV Technology Best of Show Award at Infocomm 2014.