I've been lurking on this site for the better part of two months now, mainly learning about the ins and outs of front projection systems. I had been living with a 70" Sony rear projector for the better part of 4 years, and finally decided (actually, interestingly enough, it was my wife who suggested it) to put in a front projection system. The vast amount of information from all of the users of this site is astounding, and certainly very helpful for a FP newbie like me. I figured it was about time to give a little back to this community, so here goes.
Initially, I visited a number of HT dealers in my vicinity, but was less than impressed with their offerings. Nobody seemed to have a properly set up system, and all seemed like they wanted to sell me on a particular product, instead of letting me decide what worked best for me. I eventually decided to check out AVSforums, which was a revelation-- just a ridiculously good source of information on all things HT.
After doing a lot of reading/researching, I decided to leap right into the deep end and go whole hog on a FP system: Anamorphic lens with an automated slide, 2.40 CIH screen with variable automated side masking, and a high quality projector. With the help of Jason at AVS (many thanks to Mr. Turk), I initially elected to go with a JVC RS2 and a Panamorph UH380 with an M380 transport. Those initial choices were relatively easy. However, choice of screen was more difficult-- just a lot of options out there. After a bit more reading, I learned about pincushion with anamorphic lenses and decided to go with a curved screen to minimize this issue. I ended up considering two screens-- Stewart's CineCurve and SMX's ProMaskCurv. After researching these two and considering Ruben's extreme attention to detail in his home theater and in his other screens, I decided to go with the SMX option, sight unseen. In retrospect, I am extremely glad that I made this decision.
In comparing the two, the ProMaskCurv has a smaller footprint than the Cinecurve-- 4" shorter in height and 6" less in width. They both provide multiple aspect ratios and good automated controls with multiple options (IR, RS232, etc). The SMX screen material seems to be one of the finest acoustically transparent screens out there with good uniformity and reasonable gain-- I didn't find as much information on AVS regarding Stewart's acoustically transparent screens. I was not planning to put speakers behind the screen at this time, but I might in the future, and a perf screen would also allow me to acoustically treat the wall behind the screen if needed. Both are pricey, but the SMX less so. Plus, Ruben seemed like a great guy to work with-- which turned out to be an understatement. Decision made...
The screen took about a month to make and arrived in a well constructed crate:
"That's not a crate, it's a space station..."
Unfortunately, I was so excited in uncrating and assembling the screen that I forgot to take photos. Suffice it to say, much like Ruben's other screens, this thing was extremely well packed. The screen was partially assembled and in four parts. All four parts were securely bolted to the innards of the crate, wrapped in foam wrap with plenty of space around each piece. The frame was in two "C" shaped pieces for the sides with a vertical support bar and two straight (well, actually, slightly curved) pieces. Everything (including the vertical support bars which end up behind the screen) was wrapped in fine, "black hole" velvet. The masking system was already installed in the "C" shaped pieces making assembly of the screen very easy. I basically laid the pieces on a padded floor, slid the straight pieces into the slots on the "C" shaped pieces, and secured everything together with the included hex screws (4 connections, 4 screws per connection). Everything was clearly labeled "top", "bottom", "left", and "right". Really idiot proof. Total assembly took about 15 minutes. Once together, the screen was nearly seamless-- just a gorgeous piece of work. Even my wife, who is not HT inclined, was wowed.
Here is a diagram of the back of the screen and where the assembly points are:
This is a shot of one side of the back of the constructed screen, taken out of the assembly manual:
This is the view from the front of one of the seams at the assembly point-- it's really only visible within a couple of feet. Even then, it's not distracting.
The way the screen is attached is really unique. The SMX is already cut the the right size and grommets are placed along the edges of the screen. The screen is then attached to the frame with rubber O-rings looped over grommet pegs on the back side of the screen frame, passed through the screen grommet, and then looped back over the peg. I found this was easiest to do with the hemostat that Ruben so cleverly included with the frame. It took me about 30 minutes to attach the screen. I really like the way of attaching the screen, as it perfectly tensions the material without me worrying if i've pulled it too tight or left it too loose. Again, idiot proof.
Some photos from the manual on the screen attachment:
The screen frame is then hung using a french cleat system (It can also be aperture mounted). Two "top" cleat bars are affixed to the vertical support bars on the screen frame with screws, and two "bottom" cleat bars are then affixed to the wall where the screen is hung. The 120" wide screen I put up probably weighs about 175 pounds, so I used 4" deck screws into finished drywal on wall studs (16" on center) to put up the cleats. I ended up mounting the two bottom cleats onto three studs with 2 screws each to roughly center it on my wall.
I put in a low voltage wallplate behind the screen hanging area to pass the CAT5 cable/connectors from the frame's masking system to the separate control box.
The frame is then just "hung" over the mounted cleats. It's totally solidly fixed, yet allows some easy horizontal adjustment as well as easy removal if needed.
The CAT5 wiring from the masking system is then connected with male/female type connectors (already attached) to the control box, which is handsomely made: