A Q&A with Toby Severtson, Severtson Screens president and CEO.
RESI: How did Severtson Screens get its start?
TOBY SEVERTSON: Severtson got its start in 1986 when Williams Airforce base contacted Ron Severtson in regards to a paint or coating that could create an immersive experience for their flight simulators. With no such paint available on the market, Ron Severtson took on the challenge to see if he could develop a coating to meet this specific need and use case. After approximately six months of research and testing — most of which was done in his and his wife’s kitchen — he applied a successful coating that almost instantly launched him into a career of coating the viewing surfaces of flight simulators globally.
When and how did Severtson Screens get involved with the home theater industry?
After several years of producing flight simulator screens, IMAX Corporation learned of Ron Severtson and his optical coating abilities, which they needed for their new 3D systems and content. This new opportunity launched Ron into the film industry, and once again he traveled the world — this time coating IMAX screens in preparation for grand openings of IMAX theaters. In the late 1990s, Ron’s sons joined the story to expand capacity for flight simulators and theaters. By early the 2000s, Ron and sons set out to provide quality home projection systems for the consumer market, launching their home theater division. By 2008, Ron and sons would once again expand their business reach, this time producing cinema projection screens for movie theaters globally, taking their expertise and coating abilities beyond IMAX.
What were the home theater trends at that time Severtson entered the market?
In the early days of home theater, projection systems were light on lumens (no pun intended). Screens required higher gain surfaces to more efficiently reflect the light produced by the projector. This was not a new concept to Ron, as that had been a common theme since the early days of his flight simulator work. Providing a bright enough picture comparable to television screens was one of the primary objectives of which Ron and sons provided customers of their fixed frame — and, soon after, electric — projection screens. In addition, in the early days of home theater, 72-inch and 82-inch screen sizes were quite common, but then again TVs were 40-inch and quite expensive.
What major changes have you seen in the screen and projection technology over the past 35 years?
Projector brightness has been one of the major advances over the last 35 years — both with cinemas as well as home theater projectors — opening doors for many new types of projection screens. With regards to home theater screens, acoustic transparent screens have become a popular option. In addition, Ambient Light Rejecting (ALR) screens (for room where it is difficult to block out light) and Ultra Short-Throw (UST) screens have now become very popular options. Also, as TVs have increased in size, so have projection screens. The most popular size of home theater screen is now 120 inches and growing. These are still very significant increases in size when compared to an 85-inch television, however consumers must have a wall capable of these larger screen sizes and distance for a projector to produce the larger images, which is why UST solutions are increasing in demand.
Where do you see home theater technology — and projectors and screens in particular — evolving in the next few years?
Projection screen sizes will continue to increase in size as TVs get larger. TVs can only get so large to still fit through doorways, and panel TV systems will provide solutions for size and scalability as the seams between the panels become less visible, but we believe pricing of projection systems and screens will keep them around for years to come and that they will always fill certain niches that TVs and panels cannot, such as portable and outdoor solutions, temporary projection systems, and so on. In addition, projectors continue to get brighter and prices continue to decrease, creating price competitive and size-appealing solutions to consumers into the future.
How are you celebrating Severtson Screens’ 35th anniversary?
Ideas for Severtson’s 35th anniversary are underway for a celebration later this year. Stay tuned and continue to check in to Severtson Screens’ website and news feeds for the latest information.