Seeing is believing. With current projectors providing extremely high picture quality, choosing the ideal go-to screen for the right application is more important than ever. And what do clients, with many working from home, ask for?
“That’s easy, they want more, more of everything,” says Lamar Gibson, president, Miestro Home Integration, a Stewart Filmscreen dealer. “Anything for the home these days, especially for systems that entertain the family, is in high demand. We’ve seen a huge uptick not just in media rooms, but in dedicated game rooms, home theaters, and even reference-level home cinemas. And with OLED displays being limited in size, we find that clients are making the move to two-piece projection screens to get that really big bang for the buck.”
Matthew Irvin, president of AudioWorks Technology Integrators, a Draper dealer, says his customers want to add projection screens to their already existing family room setups. “This means installing custom-built motorized screens to drop down in front of the 65-inch panel when it’s time to watch the latest release on HBO Max,” he says. “Draper’s ability to customize their offerings has allowed us to approach these clients with confidence that we will be able to deliver exactly what they are after.”
Decor matters, says The Astrum Group’s Naum Dorkhman, an EPV Screens dealer. “Our customers are asking for solutions that can be easily integrated into their home decor. They do not want to devote the valuable real estate in their homes to a dedicated theater; they want a multi-purpose entertainment environment. This is why Ultra Short Through (UST) projectors and ALR (Ambient Light Rejection) screens have become extremely popular. Consider the fact that Samsung and LG have joined the market. Clients want to have a TV experience with that theater wow factor.
“Customers need to be educated,” he adds. “Projection manufacturers are doing a very poor job creating a demand, and many consumers think that projectors and screens are for very wealthy people only. Many do not know how affordable they can be.”
Dorkhman says 75 percent of his clients consider an upgrade or a new direction for home entertainment after seeing a personal presentation and demonstration. “New cooperative promotional campaigns have to become a way to promote this technology as consumer awareness is the key,” he says. “Powerful social media platforms should be used to keep consumers up-to-date with home entertainment innovations.”
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Greater and Bigger
“We do a lot of new construction projects and have noticed that great rooms and family rooms are getting bigger and bigger,” Gibson notes. “So we are seeing designers and architects asking for larger displays to fill those spaces. We notice that clients are experiencing most of their gatherings and TV watching in those rooms, so an 85-inch TV just doesn’t cut it when the space is well over 1000 square feet.”
A perfect solution, he adds, is a hidden drop screen along with motorized window treatments, ideal for these multiuser rooms. “We always start with the screen. Once we’ve determined what the room will be used for primarily, we select the screen/display and work from there. Everything works better when you start that way and account for your client’s needs first and designer’s direction a close second.”
Gibson says he saw the market pivot a few years back, when it was focused on quick-and-easy solutions with products such as Sonos wireless surround sound systems, and low-cost, big screen TVs. “These products piqued peoples’ interest, but now we see them coming to Miestro for improved performance,” he says. “Our clients tell us that they don’t mind paying more for a premium experience because time with their families is important and makes the cost worth it.”
Irvin’s customers are certainly more open to the idea of a multipurpose room over a dedicated theater room, he says. “Once they see that a full cinema experience can be integrated into the rooms they already have and enjoy, and they don’t have to give up the basement cold storage to get it, they are quick to want to learn more.”
The Perfect Choice
“We have been using Stewart screens from day one, way back to when we were called Memphis Home Theater,” Gibson says. “In fact, Stewart was the first vendor line we signed up with because we knew we wanted to build our brand around products that deliver an uncompromising foundation on quality and performance.”
Miestro uses many of the various models from the Stewart portfolio, he adds, but the all-time favorite is the Director’s Choice four-way masking system with the Sudiotek 130 G4 screen material. “By masking the screen to the appropriate aspect ratio instead of manipulating the video signal, this solution blends versatility with performance in a lot of applications and allows the viewer to experience a movie the way the director intended it to be watched.”
AudioWorks uses Draper primarily for the custom, one-off solutions provided, Irvin says. “They have custom-built everything from a motorized, 217-inch TecVision 16:9 screen for a private 21-seat cinema to custom projector lifts that need to fit within the narrow framing of some very old buildings in our area. Their willingness to approach every project of ours with an open mind and attention to detail has been the key in our success with our bespoke solutions. We love the performance and flexibility of the TecVision materials as well as the many control options they provide for their motorizations.
“There are dozens and dozens of screen suppliers out there,” he adds. “We have found the best success is with those suppliers who will work hand in hand on your projects with you. We love working with those suppliers, as they offer the basic solutions when needed but will work directly with you to make sure the most difficult applications go as smoothly as possible.”
Astrum’s best sellers include the EPV Prime Vision ISF eFinity (Edge-Free), the Polar Star Series, Dark Star UST Series, A4K Acoustic Pro Series, and EPV PowerMax Series, Dorkhman says. “The quality of the material is superb. The Edge free (eFinity) option is a total winner. Our decision to use EPV as a sole screen provider is driven by product availability. EPV maintains a very healthy supply of high-demand products driven by the people who make this a successful journey.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO. She has written about the AV industry from both sides now — residential and commercial — for several years and still finds it most intriguing and fast paced.