This is my second home theater. In my first I made my screen in a 4:3 aspect ratio but quickly discovered that I was waching a lot of DVD's and converted it to 1.85:1. This was great if movies were in that ratio but the black space above and below the image (actually gray space) was always something that I could do without.
In my current HT I made a 1.85:1 screen to maximize the image size when watching HDTV, something I did not have to consider on my first HT 5 years ago. Now that I have a 1.85:1 screen I love it with HDTV and Blu-rays and DVD's that are in that ratio. But as you all know most movies these days are 2.35:1 or it seems even more common 2.40:1.
So for the last year I have been thinking of ways I could maintain my 1.85:1 screen for HDTV and movies in that ratio but also rid myself of the gray space above and below the image when viewing 2.35 or 2.40:1 movies.
Today I finally solved my problem. I got the bug to conquer this late last night and by the morning I could not get to Home Depot quick enough. My plan was to buy some foam that I could cut a couple of masks out of and then cover the foam in velvet. It turns out I had exactly enough velvet left over from when I built my DIY screen that these masks are for.
So I went to Home Depot and took a lok at the foam, it was immediately obvious that the foam was too flimsy and I would barely even be able to put the velvet over it, let alone pull it tightly. So after a quick browse around HD for alternatives I hit the road to Lowes hoping for better.
At Lowes I found the same flimsy foam, my hopes were dashed. But alas! There was another type of foam at Lowes, it was blue rather than the white that all of the other foam was. This foam was MUCH sturdier yet it almost seemed to weigh less, it certainly did not weigh more. It comes in a 2ft x 8 ft sheet for $7.50 give or take a few cents. I picked out a clean one with sharp edges and headed to get some more supplies. Standing in Lowes I started to formulate the plan in my mind. I would cut each of the 2 masks from each of the 2 long ends of the foam, that way the factory cut edge would be my edge that the movie will end at hopefully keeping the image lines sharp on screen.
But how would I keep these masks in place? My first thought was that it would be great if they fit inside my screen frame tightly by friction alone. I grabbed some Velcro just in case and then got a roll of masking tape to secure the velvet onto the foam, and a utility knife to cut the foam.
I got home and projected a 2.40:1 Blu-ray on to my screen and measured the bars, they were approximately 5 inches tall each. So I cut the 2 masks to 5 1/4 inches tall each and exactly 77 3/4 wide which is the inside dimensions of my frame. I figured the velvet on top of the foam would ensure a tight fit even if I made the mask the exact same width as the inside dimension of the frame. Next I covered the mask with the velvet left over from covering the frame when I made this screen, of course this added the additional benefit of the masks matching the frame exactly. I used masking tape to pull the velvet tightly around the foam and secured it to the back of the mask. Once the mask was covered in velvet I test fit it, about a quarter of an inch too wide. I could force it in but then it bowed in the center. So I opened the velvet up and cut off a tiny amount of foam and recovered it. THis time, BINGO! It fit like a champ, no Velcro needed the friction was more than enough to hold it in place. I tried it on the top and the bottom and both stayed in place beautifully.
Finally I repeated the process to make the second mask. So how did it turn out? A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!! I was flabbergasted and giddy when I projected my first 2.40:1 movie on it, it was beyond belief the improvement that the masks made. Besides that the masks completely blended into the surrounding frame due to the matching velvet and it was as if I had a 2.40:1 screen hanging on my wall! Colors pop a lot more now and I am totally unaware of bars or any other distractions, just the movie the way it was intended to be viewed.
Would I change anything or do anything different? Well the velvet does not fit as tight around the masks as I would ideally like. This is due to the fact that I had to use masking tape to secure it, I could not think of a better way to attach velvet to foam. Still it looks 95% great with a few areas along the edges of the mask that are less than perfectly sharp.
Overall I am thrilled with this mod/upgrade and highly recommend it to all DIY screen builders. Total cost for this upgrade was $7.50 for the foam, $2.50 for the masking tape, $1.96 for the utility knife and the original cost of the velvet that I bought a year ago. So I guess I spent about $20 total including the velvet but I think I am overestimating.
This is the screen as it was in 1.85:1 ratio with no masks. You can really see those gray bars above and below I was targeting.
This is the screen with the masks in place now in 2.40: 1 ratio. The masks can't even be detected, the screen just looks like it is a 2.40:1 ratio screen.
This is a shot with the lights out of the screen without the masks. On my laptop the gray bars are very obvious, on my desktop computer they are hard to see. If your computer makes them difficult to see, Trust me the bars are very visible in person and annoying.
This one is a shot in the dark with the masks installed.
If interested here are links to the 2 images above of the screen in the dark with the masks installed:http://members.cox.net/docprego/ScreenHR-masks.JPG
And without the masks installed:http://members.cox.net/docprego/ScreenHR-no masks.JPG
Warning those files are huge and it is still difficult to see the gray area on my desktop but easy on my laptop. If you look hard enough you can see the gray bars in the no masks shot. The giveaway though is the pause icon on the lower left corner of the screen. On the masks image you can't see it, the velvet completely absorbs the light but on the no masks image it is clearly visible.
Here is a shot with the lights on of the masks uninstalled and standing up against the screen.