HIGH POWER a Review! Part 1 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 3787 Old 12-21-2006, 09:20 PM - Thread Starter
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High Power The name says it all!

Over the years I've had the privilege of reviewing dozens of screens. It started out with my personal quest to get a screen for my own home theater environment and viewing habits, to now getting the best possible image for movie viewing.





If you've read my original High Gain review, you would have seen how important viewing angle is when dealing with higher gain screens. The constant challenge is how to get a big bright robust image from a dim sub 1000 lumen projector. When I talk big, I'm referring to screens 9 feet wide and up. The answer: higher gain. The second part of this challenge is how to get a great image at most viewing angles. This is where things start to get tricky. As you know, the more light you reflect back in a certain direction the less light you get reflected off to the sides. A perfect lambertian screen diffuses light equally in all directions. Low gain is ideal for good brightness uniformity across the screen and the best for really wide viewing angles. This is fine if you have a high lumen projector. Unfortunately, the manufacturing trend over the last few years has kept the best image and affordable projectors in the 400-800 lumen range. If you're interested in a big bright screen you have to go with higher gain. As with any screen, there is always a tradeoff. With higher gain screens there are even more! But if you can live within these limitations you can achieve images beyond what any other screen can do.


Why high gain?

Many people discount the benefits of high gain. These are usually people that either can't look past the drawbacks of a higher gain screen, or don't want to take the time to consider how higher gain can be your friend. I love to talk about higher gain screens, because that's where the performance is! Many sit around pondering the difference between 1- 1.3 gain screens; but the reality is that hardly anyone can tell the difference between any of them at normal viewing distances. Throw up the brightness performance of a 2.8 gain screen and everyone will know there's a noticeable difference. People love brightness! It's very seductive, and like someone living with a gutless car for years and then going to a car with plenty of power, they are not going back. It's all about the power. High Power!


What are the benefits?

- Higher brightness
- Increased perceived contrast
- Ambient light rejection


Higher brightness


Yes, higher gain screens can take a dim projector and make it a real performer on a big screen. But it's more than that. You can use a higher brightness screen to get more performance out of your image! With some projectors, longer throws yield better contrast, but at the expense of lower brightness. Problem solved with the high gain screen. Many projectors also have lower bulb setting or economy modes. The high gain screen allows you to deliver a bright robust image in economy mode, lengthening the life of your bulb and still giving you the image you like. Finally, an additional benefit of having brightness to spare is through the use of neutral density filters. You can get these at most camera shops for fairly cheap and then use them to deliver a consistent light output from your projector over the life of your bulb. Put a neutral density filter on your lens when the bulb is new, and then remove it later when your bulb has aged and you can still achieve the same light output you started with.


Increased perceived contrast

A screen does not change the contrast ratio of an image. This on/off ratio doesn't change, even with ambient light in the room. But there are many things you can do to allow your eyes and brain to think you are seeing more contrast. Masking, painting your walls darker, and backlighting are a just few of the tricks that people use to accomplish this; however, the easiest is to just use a higher gain screen. No, its not going to help your absolute black levels, but when you increase everything by a multiple of around 2.8, like with a high gain screen, the whites are so much brighter that your blacks, or grays, look even darker. Finally, this isn't just beneficial from the top end to the bottom end. If you increase this separation from the top end to the bottom end you also get larger and more noticeable separation in your gray scale increments. What can this offer? More detail. The lower the gain screen, the more detail you lose in this area because the whole gray scale is compressed together. The more gain you have the more gradation you are generally able to distinguish because it's spread out. It should all still be there, but being able to see this separation with a brighter image becomes much easier.


Ambient light rejection

The reality of front projection is that ambient light needs to be controlled. The more you can do this, the better the image. Unfortunately, a pitch-black environment isn't always the best for hanging out in, unless of course you love caves. So with even a little bit of ambient light in the room, it's important to come up with ways to minimize its effects. Often, we try to solve this problem at the screen. Unfortunately, there simply is no miracle cure. But there are screens that do a noticeably better job.


The Da-Lite High Power


Da-Lite has come up with one heck of a solution for the most demanding environments. Originally designed for boardrooms and business environments, the High Power does an amazing job of reducing the effects of ambient light. First, it's high gain, so it reflects the light back to a controlled location. Second, it's retro reflective, so it reflects its light back to the source; thereby, reflecting other light away from the viewer. If you keep these things in mind when setting up your system, you can reap these amazing benefits. To do this, you simply focus the projected light to your viewing area, and reject the light that doesn't come from the projector. Unlike angular reflective screens, this ambient light rejection ability is only available from retro-reflective surfaces.


Angular reflective vs. Retro-reflective

Which is best? It depends on your setup and viewing environment. Most screens are angular reflective.





Although angular reflective screens work well in a wider variety of conditions, they generally also have less issues at lower gains. Lower gain screens are ideal, because they are very good at diffusing light uniformly. When you get into the higher gain angular reflective screens you need to start thinking not just about the reduction of viewing angle, but also uniformity issues. This is called hotspotting. Hotspotting is caused when the screen surface can't diffuse the light evenly, so you get a brighter image near the center of the screen, or where the angle of the bounce matches up directly with your eyes. The larger your screen, the more you will have to contend with this. Angular reflective screens with optical coatings have a high tendency to hotspot. The more the gain, and the bigger the screen, the more this may affect your viewing. If you're planning on going big, this is something you definitely need to consider. How can we solve this? Retro-reflection.

With a retro-reflective screen, you can have a high gain, large screen and nearly eliminate all possibilities of hotspotting. Because retro-reflective screens bounce the light back toward the light source, they're able to eliminate many of the issues that surround angular reflective screens with coatings.





Some of the best properties of the retro-reflective screen are:

- Virtually no hotspotting
- No seeing waves on the screen (if not perfectly flat)
- Great ability to shed ambient light
- Screen surface is invisible when viewing


BUTlet me caution you. You can achieve all these benefits with the retro-reflective screen, however, you must set it up properly. To achieve the maximum gain characteristics of the retro-reflective screen, you must position your projector so that the light path from the projector to the screen is near your eyes. The closer you can do this, the more gain can be realized. To achieve the maximum gain of the screen, you need to have a zero angle of incidence from this light path. Can this make setting up your system tricky? Sometimes, but it's not impossible. Either table mounting the projector in front of you or lowering the projector further from the ceiling both work very well. Some like to shelf mount their projector on the back wall closer to their equipment. When set up properly, the image from a retro-reflective screen is absolutely stunning. Okay, so who makes these screens and what's the best?


The Da-Lite High Power


The best example of a retro-reflective screen I've seen is the Da-Lite High Power. The first time I saw this screen material I was amazed. The High Power is simply one of the best emulsions available for a screen surface and also one of the best values in home theater. This screen material was made for high ambient light and a bright image. Although this screen is not marketed by Da-Lite as a home theater screen, it has become a darling of enthusiasts for those that are willing to set up their systems to match its properties. In some cases, people don't even set it up ideally and still rave about how much they love it!

The High Power is rated at 2.8 gain. Truthfully, I think its actually a bit more when viewed perfectly on axis. If using the High Power, I recommend trying to set up your system the best you can to capture its gain. If done properly, the images delivered from its surface are nothing short of spectacular. The screen surface absolutely disappears and all you see is what's coming from the projector.


The Viewing Cone

Because of its high gain, this screen also has one of the narrowest viewing cones. The properties that make this screen so good are also what make it have limitations. Don't get this screen and expect to get awesome gain when viewing at 45 degree angles. Generally, you can get 2.5 gain or greater when sitting on a moderately wide couch. The further outside of this viewing area, the less gain you should expect to achieve. As I mentioned earlier, many set up their viewing conditions, even ceiling mount their projector, and are completely happy with the lower gain they get, even though it's not optimal. In some cases you may not want the maximum gain from the screen. Here's a graph I created for the High Power's viewing cone.





Another benefit of the High Power material is that it's not a tensionable material. This means you don't have to bother with expensive tab tensioning setups to get a flat surface. This allows you to get a cleaner looking screen whether it's a pull down like a Da-Lite Model B or the more deluxe Model C. If you want to take it to the next level and get an electric, there are a variety of options including the very cost effective Contour Electrol. This is what I have; and for a few hundred bucks more than the Model C, you'll definitely feel like James Bond without having to be Bill Gates. The fit and finish of the Contour Electrol, like all Da-Lite screens, are absolutely top notch. I'm very pleased with this screen and the Contour Electrol. Whether you're planning a top of the line recessed electric screen, or even a Model B, the High Power material is the most performance you can pack onto a roller. If fixed frame screens are your thing, the High Power material comes seamless up to 6 feet. So if you're thinking about going big, you may be interested in a 6 foot tall 14 foot wide Cinemascope screen. Simply awesome.


How does the High Power do it?

The High Power is a glass-beaded screen. However, unlike the crunchy glass bead screens that are angular reflective, the high power uses micro beads. These micro beads are encased in an emulsion that allows it to be then be applied to a nice durable vinyl backing. The retro-reflective nature of this screen comes from these micro beads. The projected light enters through the front of the bead and gets slightly magnified and focused on the backside of the bead. The parabolic backside of the bead then reflects the light and redirects it back toward the light source. As it passes back through the front of the bead the light is then slightly diffused as it heads out toward the eyes of the happy viewer. This is the same kind of technology that is used in stop signs and road striping paint.





The trick is putting it together in an emulsion with the uniformity that is ideal for projection screens. Da-Lite has does this with the High Power, and with awesome results.


Conclusions

I've been reviewing screens now for a number of years. Every professional screen I look at is very good; and I'm a big fan of companies that have the technology to develop surfaces with optical coatings and that take it to the next level of reflective performance. I personally tend to like higher gain screens and the brightness advantages you can get from them. Of all the screens I've reviewed, there's one screen material that has become my reference standard. That screen material is Da-Lite's High Power. If set up properly, this material can deliver the best images available. If you are able to set up your viewing situation properly you can expect to see an image that:

Gives a robust high brightness image with real to life colors and whites
Provides greater perceived contrast
Has a clean uniform image so that the surface completely disappears
Has no hotspotting or visable waves
Has an amazing ability to shed ambient light






The High Power is simply an amazing screen. When I decided to go to a 12' wide 2.40 Cinemascope aspect ratio, I knew the only screen material that could pull this off and make me happy was the High Power. After having it up for a couple weeks, I could not be happier. The image is spectacular, and if you can set it up properly, you are sure to be happy. If you are thinking of going big, and your projector puts out less than 1000 lumens, there's simply one choice. High Power.

Stay tuned. Part 2 will feature the upgrade, Cinemascope and the secrets behind the choices.

A huge thanks to Blake Brubaker, the Systems Display Manager at Da-Lite for making this review possible. As another Home Theater enthusiast, he allowed me to see the light. I hope that I have been able to let you see it too!

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post #2 of 3787 Old 12-21-2006, 09:23 PM - Thread Starter
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SEE HOW I WENT T0 2.40 CINEMASCOPE...CLICK HERE



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post #3 of 3787 Old 12-21-2006, 09:56 PM
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Tryg,

Great review!

My ceiling recessed electric da-lite HIGH POWER is set to be installed tomorrow.

Thanks for the recommendation and great service.

Ray
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post #4 of 3787 Old 12-21-2006, 11:59 PM
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Tryg, nice review! Good photos and all, but why is the guy in the bottom photo flipping everybody off with his left hand?


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post #5 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 01:52 AM
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Tryg, how far off axis can the viewer line of sight get before there is significant reduction in the gain you refer to?

With tiered seating I can only lower the projector so much before dinging heads on a regular basis.

Thanks for the review.
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post #6 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 03:08 AM
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Since when is 12' wide considered a large screen?

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post #7 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 04:54 AM
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Great review and I couldn't agree more about the HP!!
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post #8 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 06:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MJP View Post

Tryg, how far off axis can the viewer line of sight get before there is significant reduction in the gain you refer to?

The viewing cone chart above pretty much says it all.

It is a smooth transition though as you move away from optimal. Unlike some rear projection units where all of a sudden it goes black.

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post #9 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 07:12 AM
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Tryg, Does Da-Lite make this High Power is an acoustically transparent version?
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post #10 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 09:16 AM
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Now if Da-lite would only market a gray screen with a highpower-like coating. I think there are a lot of folks around here that would be willing to pay Firehawk prices for that, myself included.
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post #11 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 10:06 AM
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This is indeed a great screen; I have an almost new HighPower to sell, but I don't see an appropriate section in the Marketplace.? What am I missing?

ken
thanks for the great info Tryg...
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post #12 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 10:27 AM
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How much for the HP?...and what size is it?
Thanks
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post #13 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 10:45 AM
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Brian - don't think I'm supposed to actually sell outside the marketplace; so in the interest of abidding, send me a PM and I'll get you the info...
the size is 116" wide 2.35AR...

thanks much-
ken
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post #14 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 12:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a few PMs asking me if I still love the Silverstar....yes. But I do like the added brightness and punch from the High Power on the larger screen.

Silverstar good for wider viewing angles, High Power the best for on axis viewing...

Absolutely Stunning!


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post #15 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 01:46 PM
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Tryg, Dalite lists the viewing angle of the HP as 30 deg, which I think is supposed to mean that it falls to half-gain at +/- 30 deg. But your graph above shows that it has fallen to ~ 25% of its max gain at 30 deg. Can you reconsile this diff?

I could possibly mount a HP on a stand just behind our heads, but it would be more convenient to put it on the ceiling. The lowest I could get it would put the lens at ~ 7 ft above the floor (and 15 ft lens to screen), and eye level is the usual ~ 3 ft (sitting ~ 12.5 ft from screen). I calculate the viewing angle to be 14 to 17 deg, depending on what part of the screen the light is reflected from. Your graph suggests the gain would be below 1.5 (and therefore not much better than a Firehawk), while it would be > 2 if I used Dalite's '30 deg half-gain' figure. Any enlightenment you can bring to this? Tx much as always! Bill
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Tryg,

thank you for the informative review.

Do you have any suggestions regarding Stewart's high gain materials? As a matter of fact I own a Luxus Deluxe screen with Studiotek skin. Therefor I would strongly prefer keeping the gorgeous Stewart frame and switch just the skin. Do you have any experiences with high gain options like Ultramatte 150/200, Videomatte 200, Silver 3-D?
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post #17 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 03:30 PM
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Tryg, I've had my HiPower for about 3 1/2 years and it's as great as you say. Do you have any recommendations on how to clean one?

Don't lose sight of the Big Picture
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lylepdx View Post

Tryg, I've had my HiPower for about 3 1/2 years and it's as great as you say. Do you have any recommendations on how to clean one?

I have cleaned my HP screen with just warm water and paper towels. No soap. It worked well and I frequently clean off spots using the the same technique.

I kept drying the screen with paper towels so that no water lines would be formed and left behind.

I rubbed up and down the screen because it seem that there are vertical ridges of the reflectors going up and down the screen. Tryg does not indicate any ridges and seems to indicate there reflection beads have no ridge pattern. I could be wrong.
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post #19 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 08:25 PM
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Tryg:

1. In your screen reviews from a year or two ago I seem to recall you reviewing a Hi Power and giving it good marks but not the rave here. There have been no changes to the screen since then so why the change in opinion?

2. You state that you still like the silverstar but like the added punch and brightness from the Hi Power. But the silver star has a higer gain, does it not?
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post #20 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 09:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Lion,

The Ultramattes from Stewart are good.

QQQ,

The Silverstar does not have higher gain than the High Power as demonstrated by the above photo.

The Silverstar is good in a wider variety of setups and has wider viewing angles. On axis, or near it, I've never seen a better screen material than the High Power. Its a tough call and like the review says...depends on your setup. If setup optimally for the High Power, nothing else competes. That's why I choose it for my 2.35(cinemascope) screen. I'm generally stationary for movie watching.

I prefer the silverstar for sports...I like to move around the room

My HD-A2 images on the High Power are stunning!

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post #21 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 09:57 PM
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Thanks for the review Tryg - I'm in a huge quandry on what to pair with the RS1 I've got on order. I really had my mind set on ceiling mounting the pj with a SS or Carada BW but the HP really has me second guessing that decision. Just not sure I'll get enough ftl with the Carada and the SS sparklies have me concerned. What to do, what to do....

Any other "new" screens rumored with HP capabilities but with SS mounting flexibility???
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post #22 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 11:40 PM
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If that screen is 12' wide, then you must be a giant because it looks like you have a 10' wingspan.
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post #23 of 3787 Old 12-22-2006, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by millerwill View Post

Tryg, Dalite lists the viewing angle of the HP as 30 deg, which I think is supposed to mean that it falls to half-gain at +/- 30 deg. But your graph above shows that it has fallen to ~ 25% of its max gain at 30 deg. Can you reconsile this diff?

I could possibly mount a HP on a stand just behind our heads, but it would be more convenient to put it on the ceiling. The lowest I could get it would put the lens at ~ 7 ft above the floor (and 15 ft lens to screen), and eye level is the usual ~ 3 ft (sitting ~ 12.5 ft from screen). I calculate the viewing angle to be 14 to 17 deg, depending on what part of the screen the light is reflected from. Your graph suggests the gain would be below 1.5 (and therefore not much better than a Firehawk), while it would be > 2 if I used Dalite's '30 deg half-gain' figure. Any enlightenment you can bring to this? Tx much as always! Bill

Tryg, I think many of us are in this boat. It's just not practical in our rooms to shelf or table mount. And we're wondering if we'll lose all the benefits of the HP.

Do you know if it's possible to get maybe a 1'x3' strip of HP material that we could tape onto our current screen to see what kind of gain we might get with our current setup?

Maybe with your connections you could see if Da-Lite could let us pass around a scrap? If I saw a big increase in gain with my ceiling setup, I'd probably replace my Da-Lite HCCV.
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post #24 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 12:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacksonian View Post

If that screen is 12' wide, then you must be a giant because it looks like you have a 10' wingspan.

I notice that right away too.

Mike
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post #25 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 04:51 AM
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Tryg,

I'm not trying to give you a hard time but you did not answer my question. What caused your switch in opinion on the Hi Power versus when you reviewed it the first time and chose the Silverstar. What changed? Because there is nothing new about the Hi Power - it's always been retro-reflective and I assume you knew all about that in your first review and your room has not changed either.

If someone reviews the Pearl and the Qualia, even doing a shootout between them and states that they clearly prefer the Qualia and then a year later writes a review that is the opposite and says (I've replaced the word screen with PJ)"...
Quote:
"Of all the PJs I've reviewed, there's one PJ that has become my reference standard. That PJ is Pearl".

...I would want to know why the change in opinion.

Again, I'm genuinely asking, not giving you a hard time.
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post #26 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 05:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tryg View Post

Lion,


The Silverstar does not have higher gain than the High Power as demonstrated by the above photo.

The Silverstar is good in a wider variety of setups and has wider viewing angles. On axis, or near it, I've never seen a better screen material than the High Power. Its a tough call and like the review says...depends on your setup. If setup optimally for the High Power, nothing else competes. That's why I choose it for my 2.35(cinemascope) screen. I'm generally stationary for movie watching.

I prefer the silverstar for sports...I like to move around the room

My HD-A2 images on the High Power are stunning!

Looking at your apparent seating set-up, it would appear that many seats are outside the screen width (this was even more the case with your prior screen).

Given this arrangement, it seems to me that the HighPowers Achilles heel would be most glaring, as off axis viewing due to the very narrow cone of the HP should render the "side seaters" with far less gain than those sitting at center. Im actually suprised that you are seeing the gain you do at center seating, given the projector mount being much higher than the sofas in your picture.

I realize that specs only tell part of the story, and by the way you are gushing about this screen, I believe it must look quite good!

Consume mass quantities
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post #27 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 06:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Q,

"The Silverstar is good in a wider variety of setups and has wider viewing angles. On axis, or near it, I've never seen a better screen material than the High Power."

my objective has always been to find a high gain screen with wider viewing angles as I wrote in my first screen review 4 years ago

"Why Review High Power Screens? Well, of course I'm trying to solve a problem. I do not like watching TV and sporting events in dark conditions that are necessary for front projection. Movies in darker conditions are ok, but there is nothing lamer than inviting some friends over to watch the Superbowl in the dark.

So how can I solve this problem? Find some magical screen with so much gain that it sheds all ambient light yet at the same time directs all projected light directly to all viewing areas. Hahahahahah. See, this review has already made me gone mad! Yes, I have come to the realization yet again you cannot cheat the physics!

The problem: I have an unusually large seating arrangement with viewing angles from some seating positions exceeding 50 degrees from the light source on one side of the screen and less than 15 degrees on the other side. If you have started thinking about this now you probably have figured out you need to consider the projection angles and type of screen.
"

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=228371

The Silverstar was finally the best screen to meet these criteria. Primarily higher gain and wider viewing area.

As I compared screens through the years I always recognized how impressive the High Power was but it never quite met my overall needs. Now that I'm setting up a 2.35 screen this is specific for movies (although wouldn't the Superbowl be awesome in native 2.35?). Since it was specific for movies I wanted the best and brightest available picture for this situation. The viewing angle issue thus went away.

Also in a wide 2.35 setup I wanted uniform bightness. an angular reflective higher gain screen would surely hotspot. The center of the image would be twice and bright as the edges

In reality I have the best of both worlds now. The High Power for movies and the Silverstar for when I have friends over and people are walking around the room for football games.

Yes the High Power delivers a better ultimate picture when viewing on axis. It's very noticable

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post #28 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 06:52 AM
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Sorry Tryg,

Got it! You actually did explain earlier but I missed it. I completely missed the post where you said you were keeping the silver star for wide viewing angles and using the hi power for movies.
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post #29 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 07:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacksonian View Post

If that screen is 12' wide, then you must be a giant because it looks like you have a 10' wingspan.

Well I am 6'4"


how's this




The problem when I take pictures is I want to get a little more action in the image....in this case me Seriously though my theater room is 32' wide and 40' deep. In the first pic I just was 10 feet in front of the screen so the camera flash would reach me

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post #30 of 3787 Old 12-23-2006, 07:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacksonian View Post

Tryg, I think many of us are in this boat. It's just not practical in our rooms to shelf or table mount. And we're wondering if we'll lose all the benefits of the HP.

Do you know if it's possible to get maybe a 1'x3' strip of HP material that we could tape onto our current screen to see what kind of gain we might get with our current setup?

Maybe with your connections you could see if Da-Lite could let us pass around a scrap? If I saw a big increase in gain with my ceiling setup, I'd probably replace my Da-Lite HCCV.


You can always request samples from companies. The problem is you cant tell much from a sample except how bright it can potentially be. A sample doesn't tell you a lot of things like what the overall image is going to look like. As demonstrated here


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