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Stewart Filmscreen Starglas Video Projector Screen Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 April 2008
ImageThe Basics:
During the most recent CES, I was fortunate enough to stand in line amidst the thousand or so spectators all trying to catch a glimpse of Panasonic’s latest larger-than-thou plasma. I believe it was 150 inches. From where I was standing, 20 or so feet back, I wasn’t won over; I didn’t much care for their earlier 103-inch offering. What did win me over was that, the entire time I was getting a sunburn from the reactor it must have taken to power this monstrosity, I kept thinking of Stewart Filmscreen’s display at CEDIA just months before and the plasma they had on display. Except it wasn’t a plasma screen at all. It was a new screen material called Starglas and, when properly installed, the image was larger than the Panasonic in front of me and the picture quality was light years better than the screen saver I had just spent a half hour of my life trying to see.
The Upside:
Stewart has long been an industry innovator when it comes to pushing the boundaries of projection screen technology and Starglas represents the pinnacle of all their knowledge and technical prowess. Starglas is a proprietary projection surface made of glass that can be custom-fitted to almost any size, from a table top up to 204 inches diagonal. It’s designed for rear-projection use, which means a darkened viewing room is no longer necessary. In fact, when I demoed Starglas personally, it was on a fully lit showroom floor and the image was phenomenal, which is quite a feat for any kind of projection system and something many of the large plasmas can’t match. For all intents and purposes, I would have sworn the Starglas display was a plasma screen. Since CEDIA, I’ve seen Starglas in a number of other settings and the results have always been spot-on. I’ve even seen Starglas installed outdoors next to a swimming pool, with kids splashing about, and the image remains absolutely pristine. Trying doing that with a traditional fixed or motorized projection screen. The way Starglas can hold color, contrast and black levels in the brightest of rooms is stunning.  

The Downside:
Starglas is one of those products that has few day to day drawbacks. However, installing Starglas is something that even the most avid DIY’er shouldn’t do. It’s very heavy – it is glass, after all – and must be handled with the utmost care, which is certainly a job for a team of professionals and not your neighbor who helped you with that little bathroom project of yours. You’re going to want to make sure you have the appropriate space behind the glass itself to allow for your projector to fill the real estate. There is no masking of any kind (at least not yet) for Starglas, so choose your aspect ratio wisely. While 2.35:1 is sexy, you may be paying a premium for width you may never use. Lastly, Starglas is only as good as your projector and you’ll want to mate the material with the best the industry has to offer; do so, and you’ll have an image that will beat the biggest, baddest plasmas on the market for a fraction of the price.

With TVs growing in size like waistlines at McDonalds, Stewart’s Starglas is a fresh look at an old problem, but instead of throwing gobs of money (and power) at the bigger-is-better syndrome like plasma manufacturers do, Stewart has taken a different approach. Imagine being able to have the largest plasma in history for a fraction of the cost without draining your city’s power reserves. Now imagine when 1080p is no longer the standard and you have to have a cinema 4K display. Customers of the 100-or-so-inch plasmas are going to be left with mighty fine boat anchors, while you’ll swap out a projector and keep on enjoying the show. This is what makes Starglas truly unique and special. It gives you nearly all the benefits of a larger-than-life plasma or LCD with virtually none of the drawbacks. Thrown in the fact that you can place it virtually anywhere and use it for nearly every application that involves video and you may just have the most versatile display technology to come along in a long, long while. If I had the depth in my walls or the right layout for my house, I’d already own Starglas.

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