Continuing our focus on home cinema setups we need to talk about something that I feel is given less attention than it should, the screen. People spend a lot of time finding the right projector and getting the perfect sound setup but often don’t put as much focus on the type of screen they use. In my opinion the screen is one of if not the most important part of the setup.
There are so many options nowadays when it comes to screens and not just the material types you can choose from, there are the types of screens themselves do you go for a fixed screen or a motorised screen? What aspect ratio? Solid or acoustically transparent? The variables are a bit overwhelming. To investigate this further Men's Health partnered with Screen Technics, an Australian manufacturer of screens for over 28 years and distributor for Screen Innovations, Peerless-AV and Connectrac.
The setup that I tested was a bit of a custom one put together by Scott and the team where I had a split fixed screen, comprising of two of their more popular screen types. On the left was the Screen Innovations surface ‘Slate 1.2’ screen which is perfect for when you don’t have full control over the ambient lighting in the room. What the Slate 1.2 does over the Matrix White is improve the blacks by shifting the contrast bands to the darker side. Just think of it like this, we are using a light to project an image onto a screen and trying to project a black image using a white light onto a white screen without a pitch-black room is going to give you washed out blacks appearing more like grey. The Slate 1.2 screen, in this case with a gain of 1.2 allows those black levels to be closer to black even with a not ideal lighting situation as grey is closer to black than white is.
The other half was using their Matrix White screen material. This material with a gain of 1.1 and a microtextured top surface is perfect for dedicated home theatres, thanks also to including optics on the top layer it is able to improve effective resolution and brightness. Even when viewing with not ideal lighting it still looks great however it is subject to that black washout we talked about before.
For the test we used a ceiling mounted Optoma UHD51A (you can check out the review here) 4K, 2400 ANSI lumen projector connected to a 4K Blu ray player. Let’s have a look at the grey screen first.
Screen Innovations Slate 1.2
This is a great screen material, especially when you don’t have that dedicated home cinema space. You really can see a big difference in the black levels especially looking at the black bars you get watching cinema scope aspect ratio video on a 16:9 screen. The contrast is really improved over a matt white screen. One thing you do notice is the brightness level drop off with a lower gain screen. The Screen Innovations Slate 1.2 has a gain of 1.2 so it is only reflecting 65% of the light that the projector is putting out onto the screen, you notice this more at wider angles with the brightness dropping the wider you get. It is still bright enough to view and you keep those improved black levels but in comparison to the Matrix white material it is significantly darker. You don’t lose out on colour reproduction either which is usually a concern with grey screens, the Slate 1.2 handles all the colours I could throw at it with no issues at all. The Slate 1.2 material screens vary in size from 72 inches up to a massive 225 inches (a screen diagonal of a whopping 5.7m)
You can tell that when you are in a light-controlled environment that this is the premium screen material. The extra gain is very apparent, and the viewing angles are huge. I can stand almost next to the screen and still see a bright image. Like I said this screen is perfect for a fully light controlled environment any significant ambient light and you start to get wash out in the corners of the screen. This screen is made up of two layers a microtextured white layer on the top with optical structures which help to enhance the projected resolution. The second layer is a light-tight grey backing which prevents light from passing through improving overall brightness. With the two screens side by side you can see just a slight increase in the resolution on the Matrix side as well. The Matrix material can be used on screen sizes ranging from 72 inches up to a very respectable 180 inches.
The screen was wrapped in a 78mm black velvet flock frame which is great for absorbing light, so you can slightly over scan the image to ensure that it fills the screen completely. The frame base is made of strong but light aluminium and the screen is held in place and tensioned by Screen Technic's CinemaSnap system which was a piece of cake to put together and never needs re-tensioning. The mounting system was also surprisingly simple, and it only took two people to measure, align and hang the 100-inch screen used in the test. The great thing with the CinemaSnap system is it is super simple if you ever need to swap the screen material out. For instance, you go with the Slate 1.2 screen material because it fits your life at the moment but later down the track you choose to create a dedicated home cinema room you can just order the correct size screen material and quickly snap the old screen out and replace it with the new one. The screen's also come with a 3-year warranty so you have that piece of mind as well.
So, should you go out and have a look at the screens from Screen Technics and Screen Innovations for your project? Of course, you should the guys have been in the business for over 28 years they are an Australian company and they screens are manufactured here in Sydney using precision CNC and laser machinery. I tested these screen materials against several different options from cheap fold up screens to projector paint on the wall and the Screen Technics screens blew them all out the water. They are sharp, bright and have great colour replication. They are built well and will not disappoint in any setting. If you are going to the trouble of spending time picking out the right projector and sound system don’t skimp on the screen and do yourself a favour and get in touch with the team from Screen Technics.