Video Accessories Misc

Anamorphic Lenses and Projection Screens: Affordable?


The Affordable Anamorphic System In Use

Once everything was in position, the last film left in my Blu-ray player was the reboot of Star Trek, which was as good a place to start as any. Starting it up, I set the projector into anamorphic stretch mode, and I was off. Quickly the whole screen was filled without needing to adjust the zoom and focus on the projector, and I started looking for issues. Geometric distortions might have been there but I couldn't see them, and the scaling done inside the projector was handled very well. The image was much brighter than when I manually zoomed, as the lens was allowing the projector to use the full SXRD panels and not just a fraction, increasing light output. Overall, this is a very good start for the anamorphic system.

For more worrisome to me is watching 16:9 content on the lens. Because of how it has to scale the image to work with the horizontal expansion, the 1920x1080 content was going to be scaled down to 144x1080. Throwing on The Art of Flight, I was prepared to see artifacts around the screen, and notice the lack of resolution in comparison to without the lens. Sitting around 10' away from the 96" 16:9 image, I didn't notice any of that. The image was clear and detailed, and still very bright. A shot of a runway, with diagonal markings that I was certain would show aliasing, were clear and as detailed as I could remember. I didn't see anything that would make me think this was losing resolution, or that took me out of the moment.

With the Black Diamond screen, the main benefit is you can watch movies with the lights on as well as off. The light rejection properties of the screen make it so your regular lights won't reflect while your projector image does. Testing this out I threw on Chunking Express and left the lights on in my room. Not once did the in-ceiling lights distract from the image, or take me out of the movie. Throwing on The Fifth Element I would switch the lights on and off and am still able to see the image without it being washed out. I found the experience with the lights off to be more immersive, as it replicates the movie theater experience more, but I enjoyed the flexibility of having the lights on. Being able to have friends over without needing total darkness to watch a movie was a welcome change.

After I had used the Black Diamond screen for a few weeks, I swapped it out for the Screen Innovations SolarHD 4K material. Unlike the Black Diamond screen, this is designed only for rooms with total light control, as it will reflect all light. Turning the lights on with this screen will result in a washed-out image unless you have a projector putting out thousands of lumens at once. Since my prior screen material is the previous generation of SI SolarHD, I had a good idea of what to expect from this material.

Watching Looper, the SolarHD material looked wonderful. It was a very neutral image, free of any sort of sparkles or hot spotting, and with a very smooth texture. It gave me the image that I expect to see in a movie theater, but because of that it expects a movie theater environment. If I switched to a 1.85 or 1.78 film, the image was still wonderful but the sidebars were more visible than they were with the Black Diamond, where its color and light rejection help to hide the screen. For the video purist, the image on the Solar 4K material was hard to beat, but it isn't nearly as flexible as the Black Diamond screen is.