I attended Stewart Filmscreen training this past week. Stewart has long been regarded as the industry leader in projection screen technologies and has been a family owned business for three generations. While touring their seven acre manufacturing facility in the LA community of Torrence, I saw how the screen material is created from raw materials and is continually inspected in a rigorous quality control process that extends through all phases of assembly. It’s nice to see that some things still are truely “made in the USA.”
Some of the other things I saw were a 33 foot wide motorized drop down screen in the final phases of construction, special application screens being built inside globes to accurately display global weather patterns using a projector inserted inside the globe, and their in-house testing facilities where they inspect and test every material batch for color consistency, material thickness, optical uniformity, and other properties including how the material will age over time in various conditions.
Later in the day, Don Stewart taught us how to accurately measure projector brightness and calculate the resulting image brightness as well as true contrast ratios (never rely on the projector manufacturers marketing specs). This resulted in some discussion of real-world screen brightness and contrast values in various settings. What works in a blacked out movie theater probably won’t meet the requirements of the viewer who wants to watch football with his friends with the lights on. There are many inter-related factors to consider in order to produce the best image: room lighting, projector brightness, viewing angles, and the size, color and gain of the screen to name a few.
Projection screens have long been associated with dedicated theater rooms and near total darkness but thanks to advances in screen material design and construction, projection screens are more affordable and versatile than ever before. By assessing the ambient light and the viewing area, SoundVision can provide the right projector and screen material combination to provide a fantastic viewing experience for any area, even outdoors.
What makes a projection screen system better than a flat panel LED display? Image quality and aesthetics are the first two reasons that come to mind. The quality of the image in a projection system is far better than that of even the best LED displays. This can be seen in the contrast, color saturation, and uniformity of image in all screen sizes but becomes especially noticeable in seventy inch and larger displays. While the dark room demonstrations were impressive, I was especially impressed by the demonstration of the Stewart FireHawk screen material in a brightly lit restaurant. Watching day time sports or movies in a well lit family room would be another application for this particular screen material.
Stewart Filmscreen also offers a product called Starglas which can be used indoors but lends itself equally well to outdoor installations, even applications where it gets wet. Stewart showed one amazing installation where the glass was hidden behind a waterfall which flowed into the pool. The water feature became a media feature!
The aesthetics of projection screen systems is also something to consider. The days of fixed screens on the wall are long gone. Screens can roll up into housings recessed flush into the ceiling, raise up or down in custom cabinetry applications, or roll up into stylish surface mounted aluminum enclosures. Stewart Filmscreen can provide these enclosures in custom colors (including two beautiful wood grain patterns) or they can be painted on-site to match the rest of the room exactly.
Stewart even has screen systems that employ movable panels in order to accommodate a wide variety of seating scenarios while maintaining the proper aspect ratio (screen shape) for the content.