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When it comes to choosing the best material for your screen, you have quite a few options. In fact, there are so many that you may need to consider other variables like projector style and price to fully make your decision.
While most people say the electronic portion of your setup is the most critical to keep dry, you still need to worry about the projector screen itself. If your screen is set up outside, and it starts to rain, make sure you immediately fold up your screen, dry it, and store it somewhere safe.
Choosing the right home theater screen is important. There are many factors that go into selecting a screen, but this article focuses on determining the best projection screen viewing surface for your home theater. The viewing surface is what the audience will spend most of their attention on, so choosing a surface that provides brilliant colors and contrast is vital to making the best home theater experience. There are three major areas to consider when thinking about a projection screen viewing surface: the screen material itself, the environment, and the projector.
Movie theater chains and home theater professionals all typically choose to project on a specially-designed vinyl materials for the best theater experience. Projection screen vinyl is widely used due to its extraordinary durability and flexibility. A high quality projection screen vinyl can be stretched and held tight without tearing in order to provide a perfectly flat viewing surface. This ensures that there are no puckers or wrinkles interfering with the projected image. Projection screen vinyl materials are manufactured with many different qualities some of which can result in higher picture contrast or brighter color reproduction.
No two home theater setups are the same so it is important to consider what the environment is like where the viewing surface will be placed. In areas where lighting is easily controlled, many agree that the best picture comes from a white projection surface. White projection surfaces tend to preserve the true color of the projected image, resulting in a more vibrant, life-like image. Higher gain values have the advantage of increasing the amount of light reflected back to the viewers or alternatively allowing you to turn down the output of the projector to extend the life of expensive projector bulbs.
Areas illuminated by ambient lighting (for example light from windows or light fixtures) can easily result in image washout, where the projected image appears dull due to undesired light reflecting off the projection surface. In order to remedy this issue use a high contrast projection screen material. This raises the black levels in the projected image to make up for the clarity lost due to image washout. Another alternative to combat ambient lighting washout is to increase the projected image brightness by either using a higher lumen projector or higher gain screen.
Choosing the right projector can make a huge difference in the quality of your home theater experience. Modern home theater projectors are typically designed for dark rooms and tend to favor high contrast ratios rather than high lumens. Rooms with controlled lighting are best paired with a dedicated home theater projector and a white projection screen material. Ambient-lit rooms are best paired with high-lumen, high-contrast projectors and high contrast screens to compensate for the extra light in the room.
Regardless of how much you spend, know that screen technology is not some fast-moving tech sector like smartphones or tablets. The screen you buy today will likely last through multiple projectors before needing replacement. For example, Stewart has made the StudioTek 130 for more than a decade with various incremental upgrades. Many professional reviewers have used the StudioTek 130 since the age of CRT projectors, and it still holds up today.
Unlike TVs, projectors are actually one part of a multipart system. The screen, room, and projector all play a role in the final image you see. A projector can be perfectly accurate (more on this below), but the image can still look wrong because of how the screen is affecting it. The main factors we considered when testing a projection screen were: gain, color accuracy, viewing angle, and texture.
Gain is a measurement of how much light the screen reflects. A gain of 1.0 means it reflects the same amount of light as an industry standard white magnesium-oxide board. Screens can reflect less light and have a gain of less than 1.0, or more light and have a gain higher than 1.0. A lower gain will produce deeper, darker blacks but reduce overall image brightness. In the early days of digital projection, this was useful because projectors had terrible (read: grayish) blacks. But that is less of an issue now with most decent projectors.
A higher gain, made possible by special screen materials, reflects more light back toward the center of the room. This creates a brighter image, but it also reduces viewing angles and can introduce hot spots (areas of the image that are noticeably brighter than other areas). It used to be that a higher gain was necessary, but as projectors have gotten more powerful, today a gain of 1.0 is often sufficient.
The Stewart and Screen Innovations screens are much more expensive models that are often sold only through custom AV retailers, but we still included them in our tests as references for comparison. Stewart is the best-selling screen brand for custom home theaters, and the StudioTek 130 is the company's best-selling material. It is the reference standard for a home theater screen and the one most reviewers are likely to recommend if you ask for a single suggestion; I use it when testing projectors. In our tests of screens, we wanted to make sure to pit everything against this reference to see how well they performed.
To test the contenders, every screen was assembled and tested in my home theater room. I used an Epson 5020UBe projector combined with a Lumagen Radiance 2021 video processor to make the projected image as close to reference accurate as possible. Using a spectrometer and a colorimeter along with Portrait Displays Calman color calibration software, I measured the images off the lens, then off the screen, to see how much of a color shift each screen introduced, and to calculate the gain. A variety of content was viewed on each screen to look for sparkles, hot spots, texture, or other issues.
At its current price of about $200 for a 100-inch 16:9 screen with white material, the Silver Ticket is the cheapest overall option tested for a prebuilt screen, but it performs as well as options that cost up to seven times as much. Moving up to a 120-inch model adds $50, and there are many other sizes available from 92 inches up to 200 inches. It is also available in 2.35:1 aspect ratios for people who want the CinemaScope experience at home.
The image on the Silver Ticket is very good for not only its relatively cheap price, but also any price, period. With content through the Epson, the screen does a very good job of showing the detail and texture in a 1080p image. The material itself has neither sparkles nor hot spots during viewing, and it has a very wide viewing angle. It does introduce a bit of blue tint to the image, but less than other screens do. To most people it will not be visible. It maintains the contrast ratio of the Epson projector and looks much better than any cheaper material. The Stewart screens are the only ones made of materials that offer a clear step up from the Silver Ticket line, but they also cost seven to 12 times as much.
Error levels between the projector (reference) and the screens. An ideal screen will produce the exact same numbers as the reference. Any difference means the screen is affecting the color of the reflected image. Numbers use the Delta E 2000 formula, where lower is better. Measurement data from Calman 5.3.6 provided by Portrait Displays.
If the Silver Ticket is sold out, the Elite Screens SableFrame 2 is a suitable replacement. It sells for a bit more money, and the assembly is harder, but the screens' performance levels are very close. The surfaces of the screens are close to identical, the main difference being in how the screens attach to the frames. The Silver Ticket comes together much more easily, and although the material doesn't look as taut as Elite Screens' model during use, there is no functional difference.
If you are OK with a semi-DIY approach, Goo Systems' GooToob system delivered the best color accuracy of any screen material we tested. The package includes a rolled sheet of paper that can make a screen as big as 128 inches in a 16:9 format. If you want something smaller, or even a different aspect ratio, you can trim the screen to a more appropriate size. Everything you need to attach it to the wall is included, along with gloves for handling it and a felt border for the edge.
We pulled out far more data from the Calman color measurement software than just the numbers presented above. Everything is compared to the light directly from our reference projector, the Epson 5020UBe, calibrated off the lens using an i1Pro Spectrometer. Calibrating directly from the lens prevents the screen or room from interfering with the measurements and shows what the projector can actually do. The RGB balance of the projector can be seen below. What we want is every bar to be at 100 with as little deviation from that as possible.
The Stewart Cima line is the company's most affordable line, and the Neve 1.1 material is the closest product to the Silver Ticket. It also measures superbly but costs about seven times more than the Silver Ticket. The StudioTek 130 has the extra gain and pop that make it look better in use, and the GooToob offers almost identical performance at a fraction of the cost. It is a very good screen, but others offer more value or better performance.
Da-Lite makes screens and is second to Stewart when it comes to top screens for custom installers. Their most affordable 100-inch 16:9 screen with material is close to $500, making it too expensive to compete with our picks, and their high-end materials rival Stewart in price. 59ce067264