My DIY masks with an Elite 106 screen - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I made a series of posts about this over in the 5030ub thread, but I thought I'd put all the info in one place so folks could see how I made masks for my fixed-frame Elite screen.

From original thread:
There's been a lot of CIH talk in this thread - lenses, zooming, stretching, oh my - but nothing (other than a few thousand dollars you may have laying around - check your couch) beats a cheap set of DIY masks to help rid you of those unsightly "black bars" with scope material so I thought I'd fill those interested in on my journey to making new masks for my screen.

Years ago I had masks for my old 110'' but I never got around to doing it for my 106'' screen. Now that I have a 5030ub I care about such things again, but not enough to spend more than the projector cost on a lens, scaler, and 2:35 screen. Making these masks cost me $44 (including beer) and an hour of my time and resulted in a much nicer picture with scope material.

There are better, sturdier ways to do this, but none cheaper or quicker - if you want to try out masks and see if they are for you (hint: you will probably find that to be the case) then this is as easy as it gets. Caveat: The method I describe below works with 16x9 screens up to 110'' diagonal. Over that, you'll have to use a couple pieces of backing board/cloth and attach them together, which will take a little more time and effort but nothing too onerous. If your screen is under 110'' you are in luck because it's easy as pie.

Reference notes: A 106'' screen like mine is 92 inches across, horizontally. A 110'' screen is 96 inches - 8 feet exactly. 8 feet happens to be the largest size you'll find for most backing material, so keep that in mind. MEASURE your inner screen dimensions before you set out, and don't forget to project some 2:35:1 and 2:40:1 material so you can measure the dreaded "black bars" too - mine are 7 inches high top and bottom.

Part 1: Buying the mask material (on the cheap)!

First, you need some good black velvet cloth. In the US, Hobby Lobby sells this by the yard, so for a 106'' screen 2.6 yards will do. They have a 40% coupon going right now for any single item, so this ended up costing me $18. It's nice cloth too - thin, but not too thin, super deep black, nice texture. It'll match whatever you have for your screen now just fine.

Second, you need some good fabric glue. Don't use Elmer's or wood glue, get the good stuff, also at Hobby Lobby. Some folks like fabric tape but I find tape to be a PITA for this kind of project, at least on a permanent basis - use it to adjust the fit then use glue to set it right.

Third, you need some backing material. Home Depot or Lowes are your friend here - get a 4x8 sheet of foam insulating material. It's stiff enough for the job while being lightweight and easy to cut/work with. I used 1/2 inch thick stuff since I didn't want it to be too deep but looking at my current screen frame I probably could have gotten away with 3/4 if I wanted.

For masks that are "heavy duty" and made to survive years of being put up/taken down you might want to consider a more solid substrate - particle board, maybe - but the foam will get the job done. It's also $12 for a 1/2 inch 4x8 sheet. And - don't forget this step - those big box stores will cut it for you. I had them cut me two 92 inch long 7 inch high strips from the material on the big table saw they have there - it's free, and unless you have a (huge) table saw of your own you will never get it as straight as they will.

10 total minutes and $12 later I left Home Depot with two perfectly cut strips:

Part 2: Making the masks.

I had Hobby Lobby cut my velvet fabric too, though they did a crap job of it. So I laid out the foam backing and got to work with some scissors. 5 minutes later all was right and I carefully wrapped the fabric around the foam board, holding it in place with fabric tape until I had a perfect edge, then I went along and glued it.

20 minutes later (most of it time for the glue to set while I had a beer) I had a pretty perfect, straight mask:

Repeat for the bottom one and you're almost done.

Part 3: Attaching the masks to the screen:

This is the part I'm doing now - given the holiday I probably won't get back to it until Friday, when I'll update the post. At first, I am simply going to use a couple pieces of double-sided Velcro tape - EDIT - see part 5 below, ended up making some padded "hooks" which 1 month in still work great.

Again, if you want something a little sturdier - something that will last you years of use without worrying about breaking the foam - go with a sturdier substrate. However, this method is as easy and cheap as it gets and looks great.

5030ub masks part 4: Up and ready.

So I finally got around to finishing my masks today. Right now I am attaching them with little velcro strips on the frame however that's the shortest of short term solutions - I don't recommend it. Later on I am taking a trip to find some good magnets since the little ones I have aren't quite strong enough. I think the magnet route is the way to go with something like this - 3 of them across so they snap in place - EDIT no they weren't, see part 5.

Here are some pics. We'll start with the mighty 5030ub powering all this:

Excuse my iphone 5 camera - not the best at low light (what camera phone is?). Here's the screen with the lights on and masks in place:

Same image lights off:

Here's the same image masks removed, lights off:

My camera phone may not be showing off the difference as much, but trust me, it's night and day (pun intended).

You'll also notice from these shots one of the drawbacks of masking (and zooming) - menus get cut off. I paused it on the same scene for all these shots, and it's pretty easy to see how much light those masks absorb - you can barely tell the menu is there with them on. Sometimes subtitles (if they are coded to appear below the picture) appear here too - it's just something that you have to live with. The only way to properly "rid" yourself of black bars and not have the occasional issue like this is to spend the money on a scaler/scope/screen and go full on CIH.

Me, I'm happy with this. If I end up doing it a lot I'll either find a way to make my masks flip on/off or buy the Monoprice screen that has them built in. Masks really do make a tremendous difference for 2:35.1 and above material on a 16x9 screen.

Screen masks pt 5: The final hanging solution.

So where we last left off I had made a nice pair of masks to rid myself of the "black bars" with scope material. The masks themselves came out great - and cheap - but coming up with a way to easily mount and unmount them when needed was more of a challenge.

Velcro was out - didn't stick well, high potential for the backing to mess up my nice frame, overall it worked but no way was it a long term solution.

Next I went with magnets. These worked, but proved trickier to attach, and worse yet, caused dimples in the screen where they attached (to the plate behind the screen). If I had a hanging screen and could just snap up a pair of magnets when needed I might have considered it, but not a good solution for a fixed screen. The folks I have read about here that have done it made their own frames and mounted the magnets in them.

What to do, what to do? Browsed around hardware stores and the like until I came across these:

Monkey hooks. Really it's just light-gauge wire that is pre-bent and thick enough to hold it's shape, but hey, it was $3 for a pack of ten.

Took them home and got to work. A small pair of vise grips and some fiddling and I had some nice little hooks. I bent the ends in as you can see because that's how I am attaching them to the foam board under the velvet - it holds better. Put a little drop of glue in with them (to keep the foam core from disintegrating over time) and some black electrical tape over the ends (to keep them from popping out) and they will hold all day.

I made 3 for the top mask as it hangs, and two for the bottom, as they "clip" in from the sides. See the pics below.

Last, there was the color problem - that's bare metal. In the dark you won't see them however I wasn't going to be happy with that, fortunately that's what flat black enamel spray paint is for:

My final little innovation, such as it is, was to take some of the leftover velcro I had, cut it in to tiny strips, and attach it to the "hook" part of each hanger like so:

That provides a little extra grip and more importantly protects my frame from scratches/etc.

Here's the top:

You can probably barely make them out in that picture - which, of course, is the point.


These are a little trickier but work - need to do a little more vise work here to shape them right but the idea is sound.

Finished product with masks installed:

Again, notice how you can barely even see the hooks, and they are completely out of the way.

Took a bit of work to get the hook shape right for my frame, but in the end it made for a pair of masks that are very easy to put on and take off - maybe 10 seconds. Including the time it takes me to get up off the couch smile.gif

EDIT: After a week I discovered that for the top mask I didn't need the "hook" at the end at all - in fact it made them harder to remove since my screen is hung high. I snipped off the ends and found they hang just fine without them.

The bottom masks still need the hooks to hold in place wrapped around the back of the frame, however since they are (natch) at the bottom they are much easier to remove.

Still takes around 10 seconds on or off. The only problem I am left with is where to store them out of the way! smile.gif

Overall I'd say this entire project was about $50 and a six-pack of beer (for me) however knowing what I know now I could have done it for under $30 and 3 beers (though I would have drunk the other 3 anyway).

Hopefully some of you find this useful.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:39 PM
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Thanks man looks great!

I am planning on doing the same for my own CIA setup next year, and so Im grateful not only for your pics, but also the detail into how long they are to remove and so on. Awesome work!
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Old 12-30-2013, 12:03 PM
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I was going to go with a 2.35:1 screen. Now that I see this, I am on the fence again about the 16:9. Thx. smile.gif lol

Looks good.
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Old 01-02-2014, 02:11 PM
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This is pretty cool. I may try this over the weekend!

That's wasn't flying... That was falling with style!
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Old 01-03-2014, 05:29 AM
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