The Integration Guide to Projectors and Screens

This Integration Guide was sponsored by Elite Screens, Grandview, Microlite Screen, and Vutec as a supplement to Residential Systems, October 2016
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This Integration Guide was sponsored by Elite Screens, Grandview, Microlite Screen, and Vutec as a supplement to Residential Systems, October 2016

Defining a custom home theater has become a broader task then just a few short years ago. With consumers catching on to the idea that a great projector and screen can enhance most entertainment spaces in the home if planned correctly, the industry’s full embrace of 4K and UHD has an attentive consumer support base keen to have an enhanced viewing experience no matter where their home theater is installed.

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An undoctored photo of EPV Screen’s Polar Star eFinity screen with blue backlight.

“Just like all great technological breakthroughs, they start off expensive then the price bottoms out so that everyone can have one,” noted David Rodgers, marketing manager for EPV Screens. “It can be said for cell phones, DVDs, 1080p resolution projectors, and now 4K/UHD is next. A screen company that is not preparing to accommodate a majority demand for UHD product is setting itself up for failure.”

Today’s integrator-grade projectors and screens, while adhering to progress in producing high-definition images, still has to focus on other aspects of high-end image generation.

“I believe the main challenge in that is the choice and implementation of 4K technology,” said Tim Sinnaeve, managing director of Barco. “Too often we see 4K resolution as the dominant element being considered. However, resolution is only one of several critical elements [such as] image brightness, contrast ability (or ‘range’), frame rates, color accuracy, and image uniformity. These elements make up what we call the ‘image quality puzzle.’ It is, therefore, not so much a question of 4K, but rather the “right 4K,” without compromising on any of the other critical elements of image quality.”

With CEDIA 2016 recently providing a staging ground for the next evolution in custom home theater creation, we take a look at how 4K technology is influencing the production of screens and projectors.

Projection Screens

“One of the major challenges we face is the fact that a screen looks like a screen,” said Melissa Rone, senior product marketing manager for Da-Lite. “The naked eye can’t necessarily see the difference in the surface formulation to [understand] why one surface performs better than another. So many consumers understandably believe that there aren’t differences.”

For custom integrators and their clients, however, the differences show in the lack of image definition and color depth. Da-Lite, a company that abhors generic vinyl projection screens, has a team of in-house chemists that have studied how surfaces interact with the physics of light, Rone explained, and has developed specific formulations to match projection technology, including 4K.

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Left, Vutec’s Stiletto “Floating Edge” frame is designed to resemble a premium 4K LED TV but with a much larger viewing area. Right, Grandview’s Edge frame is so lightweight that one person can lift it up and hang it with ease.

Consumers doing their homework are gravitating toward Parallax because of its performance, and it is becoming very popular as the word about it gets out,” Rone said of the company’s most popular screen.

EPV Screens, which manufactures a popular line of ambient light rejecting (ALR) screens, takes this aspect of screen production seriously.

For EPV Screens’ dedicated installers, the company’s DarkStar and Peregrine 4K projector screens are the company’s primary 4K options. A retro-reflective material, DarkStar’s ALR format, makes it a good choice for color temperature, contrast, and performance, backed up by its ISF certification, while the Peregrine 4K offers finely woven AcousticPro 4K material to deliver color neutrality for superb color reproduction along with wide diffusion uniformity design handle 4K (4096x2160) and 1080p (1920x1080) projectors.

Stewart Filmscreen is also tackling ALR with the introduction of its HALR technology at CEDIA last month. It combines rear and front projection compositional attributes to deliver an HDR-ready, “16K-plus” resolution-capable screen that can installed in sizes up to 40x90 feet, as well as rolled and perforated for acoustic transparency. Currently however, it is the company’s large format ElectriScreens, along with their fixed frame models and Directors Choice four-way motorized masking systems, that have the most traction with their dealer base.

“These unique models create differentiated opportunities that dealers are clamoring for and that help them deliver exceptional entertainment experiences, every time,” said Vijita U.G., marketing manager for Stewart Filmscreen. “So, it’s not really about which screen is a current hit, it’s more that the two-piece category itself is again gaining momentum, and because Stewart Filmscreen enables a larger, more dynamic, and far more immersive experience, we’re seeing greater interest in all of our screens and as a result, our dealers are poised for growth in the category.”

Microlite manufactures true optical screens that it says offer 180-degree horizontal viewing angles even on 1 to 1.3 gain materials. The ISF-certified screens provide ambient-light rejecting capability in sizes up to 132 inches diagonal in 16:9. Custom sizes and 2.35 are also available. With just Microlite Motorized, you can choose between three different fabrics from Microlite F1.8, Microlite F3.0, and Microlite F1.2. Microlite Screens currently are available in Fixed Frame, XL, No-Edge, Cinema-Curved, Motorized, and Panorama configurations. The company is in the process of hiring reps to sell direct to its dealers.

Vutec tests all of its screens with 4K projectors, including its high-performing 4K-Ready SilverStar, VisionX, and SoundScreen lines. Anticipating the demand for larger screens will drive the market as projector technology and projection in general become more affordable, Gabe Vasquez, Vutec’s director of marketing and communication, predicted the segment will eclipse flat panel technologies and has produced a screen to cater to that vision.

“Responding to the demand, Vutec has introduced the thinnest visible bezel fixed frame to the 4K market,” he said. “The Stiletto ‘Floating Edge’ frame is designed to resemble a premium 4K LED TV but with a much larger viewing area, and is an excellent option to both home theater and commercial venues. Utilizing our ‘SoundScreen, Grey Dove (ISF Certified), Grey Dove SoundScreen, or Bright White Opaque’ materials for maximum viewing conditions is a snap with Vutec. High-quality LED lighting (optional) will be available shortly.”

GrandView’s UHD 130 texture-less ISF Certified 1.3 gain fabric is a genuine hit for the manufacturer, who has coupled it with their best-selling projection screen, the fixed-frame Edge Series to achieve a flat-panel-like look.

“As shipping remains one of the biggest problems in the industry of projection screens, the frame of the Edge is designed so it can be broken in half for packaging, which cuts the risk of shipping damage and makes it more cost efficient,” said Grandview’s CEO and president, Robert J. Grawet. “Making installation easy is one of the top priorities for any Grandview product; with the Edge it is no exception. The Edge is designed to be a one-man installation job; its frame is so lightweight that one person can lift it up and hang it with ease. As the industry is shifting toward high-definition standards, Grandview offers the ISF certified UHD 130 fabric with 1.3 gain and a viewing angle of 160 degrees, which is 4K ready.”

Screen Innovations’ Skyler Meek points to his company’s Black Diamond range of screens, as popular choice among dealers, especially as they are all HDR ready.

Seymour Screen Excellence’s Enlightor 4K AT film screen offers a premium ultra-fine weave that is certified for use with 4K resolutions. Its surface is used in conjunction with either lateral or horizontal automated AT motorized masks to create SSE’s True Aspect Masking (TAM) fixed-frame AT screens.

Draper’s TechVision screens are designed to be viewed as close as five feet away, with Amy Madden, residential marketing manager, noting that “even if the screen is big enough to require a seam, we take it back if the fusion or flaws can be seen whether or not it’s under projection.” These are requirements, she explained, that are more stringent than the ISF requires for an 8K system.

Using either micro-perforated vinyl or a tightly woven fabric, Severtson Screens manufactures its 4K-compatible screens, including its line of thin bezel screens created last year to complement its Deluxe line fixed-frame screens.

For customers that desire a more traditional look, the Severtson’s Deluxe line of screens remains appealing. Both of these frame lines are enhanced by the availability of a wide variety of screen materials, including Severtson’s acoustically transparent 4K screens.

Projectors

On the projector side of the 4K equation, progress has been strident with many integrator-grade projectors debuting or enhancing 4K offerings. Among them, is Barco, whose renewed vigor within in the custom integration channel is underscored by the popularity of its Orion Cinemascope projector.

“The differentiation from off-the-shelf 16:9 consumer products with native Cinemascope aspect ratio and 3D combines particularly well with masked projection screens, delivering a ‘wow’ factor that adds excitement to the home theater experience,” Sinnaeve said.

Sony, which started selling commercial cinema 4K projectors in 2005, recently added the VPL-VW5000ES to its lineup. A home theater projector with 5,000 lumens of brightness, the VPL-VW5000ES also features HDR capability, BT-2020 color space emulation with 4096x2160 pixels resolution, and stands alongside the CEDIA 2016 debut of the VPL-VW675ES, which will provide hybrid log gamma capability to allow users to watch 4K HDR content from broadcast sources that will be used in the future for live sports and entertainment events.

“The challenge of developing 4K projectors is creating imagers with high enough resolution and quality at a small enough size to be appropriate for home use,” said André Floyd, Sony’s product marketing manager for projectors.

Sony addressed those issues with its SXRD (Silicon X-tal [pronounced Chrystal] Reflective Display) imagers in the early 2000s, resulting in the reduced size of the 4K imager to fit a home cinema-sized chassis.

Epson’s new Home Cinema 5040UB replaces the Home Cinema 5030, the company’s top-ranked model by revenue over the last several quarters, reported Epson America, Rodrigo Catalan, senior project manager, projectors. The new projector has been completely redesigned to integrate 4KE and HDR support at a friendly price point.

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Epson’s Pro Cinema LS1050

With a focus on 4K and UHD projectors, JVC’s well-known D-ILA projectors offer dual full-speed, full-spec 18Gbps HDMI inputs with HDCP 2.2, allowing them to handle any video signal, including 4K 60p, 4.4.4. Each projector also has a 4K display method (e-shift technology), according to Fred Zecha, general manager for JVC’s custom installation sales, that provides “4K performance consumers demand, at prices far below competing designs.”

JVC will soon launch a new flagship model to complement the current line, but its DLA-RS400 and DLA-X550 have been the company’s best-selling projectors.

At CEDIA 2016, Digital Projection showcased two different takes on mid-market 4K projection: the E-Vision Laser 4K 1-chip projector (8 million pixels to the screen, long-life laser illumination, 4K UHD resolution) and the HIGHlite Laser 4K 3-chip projector (20,000 lumens of brightness along with 4K UHD resolution).

SIM2 also utilized its CEDIA 2016 platform to introduce the NERO 4 DLP 4K UHD projector, the SIM2xTV LASER-powered close-proximity display system (up to 110in. image from 12in. distance) in both stand-alone and built-in versions, and an HDR Projection System, touted as the only one available in the market.

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.

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