Steve McConnell Text Banner

 

Home Theater Screen 

The selection of the screen is more important than you might think. Some people get hung up on brands (Da-Lite vs. Stewart, etc.), but I think there are other considerations that are more important than brand. Bad choices can really undermine what you're trying to accomplish, even if you pick a good brand. There are four main considerations.

First, and I think most important, you need to pick the screen material. Different materials have different reflective properties. I chose a "high contrast" material, which means the screen itself is slightly gray. That makes the dark colors look darker, which is good for movies. The tradeoff is that you need either a brighter projector or total control over the ambient lighting in your room. I also wanted to mount my front center channel speaker behind the screen, so the screen material is perforated.

Second, you need to select the aspect ratio (full screen, HDTV, or widescreen). I chose HDTV (16:9), which is a good middle-of-the-road choice. The difficulty with wide screen (and to some degree with HDTV) is that when you show movies that don't take up the full height of the screen, you're going to have a light band of pixels on your projector that are colored black, but that still bleed some light onto your screen. Masking systems would help, but they can cost as much as or more than the screen itself. 

Third, you need to decide the total size of the screen. Of course bigger is better, but you have to consider how bright the projector is, and much ambient light you've got in the room, and the throw length of the projector. If the screen is too big or there's too much ambient light, the image will appear washed out. You also don't want to get a screen that's bigger than your projector can fill, considering the maximum distance it can be from the screen.

Fourth, you need to choose the frame for the screen. I chose the Cinema Contour frame, which is a 4" wide black powder coated frame. If you paint the projection wall black, you probably won't notice any visual difference between the different frames, and the choice will be mainly a matter of style. If you don't paint the projection wall black, then having a wider black frame really enhances the "movie effect" provided by the screen.

I ordered my screen from Ritz AV (now called RTZ). I checked a lot of places locally and online, and this was the only place that had a significantly lower price than anyplace else. They were easy to work with, and the screen shipped directly from the Da-Lite factory.

Email me at stevemcc@construx.com.