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Home Theater Video Projector Screens Video Projector Screens
Written by Brian Kahn   
Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Today’s AV news is filled with information on the newest projectors and how they are breaking new performance / price barriers. Yet the press does not spend much time with the other major component of a front projection system, the screen. While perhaps not as sexy as the projectors, screens have come a long way as well. Manufacturers realize this and in fact, SIM2, a long recognized industry leader has recently announced that they will be distributing SmX screens in Europe.

Over the past decade I have used some excellent, solid surface screens from Stewart and Da Lite. However, with my newest system I needed to use an acoustically transparent screen to accommodate in wall speakers. As their name implies, the goal of an acoustically transparent screen, in addition to providing excellent video quality, is to allow the speakers to be placed behind the screen without degradation of sound quality.  In order to allow the sound to pass through with the least amount of interference most acoustically transparent screens are either woven or perforated. As you would suspect, this does have some impact on picture quality. Generally speaking a solid screen will have better image quality than an acoustically transparent screen, but the differences can be minimized by selecting the proper screen for your system. The benefits of an acoustically transparent screen include the ability to put the speakers behind the screen for better localization and being able to acoustically treat that area as needed. In rooms with acoustic problems this can be a huge benefit.

In my system the front row is just over 9 feet from the screen. At this distance I could easily see the holes of a perforated screen. Of the woven screens, SmX had the right amount of gain for my system.

The specific screen I selected was a 110 inch, 16:9 ratio, fixed frame screen with SmX’s White CineWeave HD screen material. Smx makes both flat and curved screens in a variety of sizes and screen materials to accommodate nearly system. The frame is made out of a heavy gauge allow and covered in a thick black velvet trim. I notice other thoughtful details in the frame design such as the frame cavity is insulated to minimize acoustic interference form a resonating frame, the radius bevel to absorb light bleed, the frame also accommodates a black backing and the ability to change screen materials. The CineWeave HD material is a white woven material with a gain of 1.16, 160 degree viewing angle and appears to be extremely strong and durable.

The Setup
The SmX Pro-Line frame came unassembled. I would allow at least an hour or two for assembly.  While the frame was not as easy and quick to assemble as some of the others on the market, the instructions were clear and well written and more importantly the frame was extremely solid upon completion. The frame is made out of four straight pieces that are held together with two brackets in each corner. Once the frame is assembled there are two grooves in the back of the frame to insert the screen material, and if needed the black backing.  The screen ships with an oversize piece of screen material which allows the user to install the material at an angle that eliminates moiré. This is usually determined with a smaller, sample piece of material that is also included. Once the proper angle is determined the material is laid over the screen frame, (back side of frame facing up) and methodically inserted into the grooves using a special tool and “T” splines. The procedure appears a bit daunting a first but just follow the instructions and all will be fine. Once the material is secured, mount the bracket on the wall with the built in level and simply hang the screen on the bracket. All in all it is a simple, secure and well thought out system.

Viewing / Downside
While I have not yet been able to install the in-wall speakers, I have spent many hours watching this screen and find the picture to be quite good.  When compared side by side with the industry standard Stewart Studio Tek 130 G3 (a solid screen), the CineWeave HD is slightly softer.  Also, with certain light, solid backgrounds such as sky or the white start up screen of my computer, there is a slight herringbone pattern that runs on an angle opposite of that of the weave in the screen material. This pattern is very slight and none of my guests ( including home theater aficionados) have noticed it without my pointing it out.

Screens need to be carefully matched to your projector and room. For those seeking a fixed screen, the SmX screens are extremely well made and competitively priced both in solid and acoustically transparent models. The CineWeaveHD has proven to be a fine match for my system and fulfills my needs. If you are seeking an acoustically transparent screen material for your system I would recommend obtaining a swatch of the CineWeaveHD and trying it out in your system.

SmX Theater Solutions, LLC
6601 Lyons Road, Suilding E-4
Coconut Creek, FL 33073

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