How is it that GRAY screens show better contrast? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 11-23-2001, 12:18 AM - Thread Starter
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I am looking for a screen type that will give me better contrast and I have been seeing several threads that refer to using a GRAY screen or paint to increase contrast. I think I will be doing this, but I would first like to know why GRAY improves contrast.
I have a 1000 lumen projector so I have plenty of brightness for the type of viewing I do.

As far as paint, what shade of gray is recommended? Is there a specific paint that I could buy at Home Depot?

Thanks,

Tito Aguirre
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post #2 of 24 Old 11-23-2001, 02:04 PM
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If you had a gray screen in a totally light absorbing room, I don't think that it would improve contrast at all.

However, if your room reflects light (ie white walls) then a gray screen makes sense. Basically, the ambient light in your room will have less effect on your screen if it is gray than if it is white.

Think of the other end of the spectrum. Imagine that you had a black screen and a projector bright enough to display a nice image on that screen. Even in a room flooded with ambient light, you would still have a nice black level.
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post #3 of 24 Old 11-25-2001, 12:26 PM
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I am not soooo sure 1000 lumens is enough for a Gray screen
I have the Infocus LP350 rated 1300 lumens [probably 1000 in video mode] 500:1 contrast.
projecting onto Da-Lite High Contrast 80x45in 0.8 gain PermWall screen
The Math as I understand it:
1000/{80x60/144}*0.8 = 24 lumens/sqft in theory
At nite with no ambient light showing a SuperBit or InFiniFilm newer transfer DVD this looks just AWESOME
But in the daytime with any ambient light the picture quickly washes out.
Recently I saw the Yamaha->Stewart 1.5gain, even with the rated 800 lumens and 900:1 contrast the PUNCH was dramatically better than what I have, and there was some ambient light in the viewing room (light colored walls to boot).
So NOW I want to see what mine would look like with 1.3/1.5 gain screen material.

Another DIY screen idea is Da-Lite's Cut to Size material:
http://www.shopcousinsvideo.com/dalcutmat.html
A little extra for Borders and Snaps
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post #4 of 24 Old 11-25-2001, 12:49 PM
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Hello Tito.

If you want to try a DIY screen then look for the DULUX brand. They are worldwide, checkout www.dulux.com for your country if needed.

In the UK it is a specialist colour mixed paint, mixed by the shop assistant in front of you. Find a Dulux mixing point. The colour is Ice Storm No.6, 5 or 4. Six is light and four is dark, some mix colours to get a better shade for their projector. Spray or roller it on. You may find several thin coats will be better than one thick coat.

Miro.
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post #5 of 24 Old 11-25-2001, 04:50 PM
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In fact, I don't believe that gray screens improve contrast, rather they improve absolute black levels by making the dark areas of the picture blacker. They also darken the bright areas by an equal amount. If you have the typical room with lighter colored, more reflective furnishings and imperfect ambient light control, AND a bright digital projector (whether it be DiLA or LCD or DLP), it's a good tradeoff to make. However, in a dedicated Home Theater room with all dark furnishings and perfect ambient light control, not so much benefit from the gray - you could use a CRT projector and a medium gain screen and have an even better result.

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post #6 of 24 Old 11-26-2001, 12:35 AM
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I think there is a bit more to the Grayhawk than just the color.

David
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post #7 of 24 Old 11-26-2001, 03:47 AM
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Hi guys, thought i´d show you my homemade screen, here are some pics:

www.hitechplace.com/screen

Its made of mattegray MDF, thickness is 6mm, will use it with an Eiki LC-VM1 lcd projector due to arrive this week.

The price for the screen materials was about 22$, so it was a a cheapo option eh?

Will post some impressions as soon as i get to test it throughly.

Regards:
Mika
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post #8 of 24 Old 11-26-2001, 12:33 PM
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I more or less agree with Gary. The contrast and brightness of a displayed image are functions of at least the projector irradiance, (projector plus screen size +/- ISCO), the screen reflectance, and the nature of ambient light. The objective is to co-optimize all the elements that contribute to contrast and brightness in order to produce the largest range of gray scale (black to white), and the reflectance of the screen helps to do that if the whites are "blown out". Whereas a DILA plus Grayhawk may be the ideal answer for a 96" screen, that combination may fail for a 180" screen, particularly a microperf. Since I'm about to order a screen, I've been puzzled for some time how one goes about selecting the proper reflectance without accurately knowing how the rest of the elements in this equation impact image quality. Trial and error isn't going to work.

Joe
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post #9 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 01:12 AM
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This is a question that has been argued for quite some time.

The answer is YES.

In a lightly colored room, a gray screen will improve ANSI type contrast

This has to do with how light is ultimately absorbed in a room.

In many rooms the maximum contrast ratio that can be obtained for an ANSI checkerboard is determined by the room itself and not the projector. What happens is the light from the white squares leaves the screen illuminates the walls of the room and that light comes back to wash out the black squares. Quite often in a bad room the ANSI checkerboard can be as low as 100:1 even though the projector can do 500:1+ in perfect room conditions.

A crude example would be the following. Suppose you had a situation where the use of a 1.0 gain screen in a poor room gave the following intensity readings for the white and black squares coming off the screen.

White squares = 100 ft-L
Black squares = 1 ft-L

The resulting ANSI contrast ratio is 100:1 even though the projector is capable of much higher than that (to keep the math simple lets assume that the projector itself has an ideal ANSI contrast ratio 1000:1+). However it is the room interaction that is putting the 1 ft-L at the black squares from the 100 ft-L white squares not the projector (and this is with the room lights off).

Now instead of the 1.0 gain screen you decide to use a .5 gain screen. You take the readings again and now they read:

White squares = 50 ft-L
Black squares = .25 ft-L

This now gives a 200:1 ANSI contrast! Hey, what the hell happened? Why aren't the black squares .5 ft-L? The reason is, that not only does the screen absorb half the light hitting the black squares, the light leaving the white squares is now half of what it used to be as well. The intensity of the white squares was reduced by 1/2 but the black squares got an additional 1/2 reduction to make them 1/4 the orignal intensity Think about it... Now, think about it some more. If the projector isn't the limiting factor and the room has no other light source fouling things up, the contrast improvent granted by a grey screen over a white one can be aproximated by the equation 1/G where G is the gain which in this case is has to be less than 1.

This is of coarse a crude example. Some minor caveats:

1. In my math, I have only done one bounce back of the light but that should be fairly accurate unless the room is extremely white in color in which case a gray screen will help even more with each subsequent reflection as compared to a typical 1.0 gain screen.

2. In the math, I am also using an ideal high contrast projector in a non-ideal (but quite typical) room. A perfectly black colored room wouldn't have any measureable benefit with the gray screen. Similarly, some projectors can't do 100:1 ANSI even in a perfect room. The benefit of a gray screen would be less or much less with such a projector.

3. My analysis has nothing to do with ambient light from other sources such as lamps or other lighting that would be potentially washing out the screen. If ambient light is washing out the screen, that light will set the contrast ratio and a gray screen won't have a measurable benefit.

4. My analysis has nothing to do with on/off contrast ratio measurements where a light measurement of a completely white image is divided by a seperate measurement of a completely black image.

5. Both screens mentioned are "flat" screens with no gloss. screens with a glossy finish or "gain" can also be done with similar analysis but it adds another mathmatical wrinkle.

6. These numbers mentioned here are light meter type numbers. Individuals perception also plays a factor here for ultimate increase in image quality.

But these caveats are minor or don't apply for those individuals that are using a good projector in a poor lightly colored off-white HT room.

If you still don't believe me, consider that all professional installations of circular or dome theaters use some form of gray screen. Omnimax has a .5 gain screen. The Disney 360 degree theater, that Stewart made a screen for, was gray. And the planetarium that I work at has a .55 gain surface even though we would love to have a brighter image but not at the cost of lower contrast.

In all cases, a gray screen helps reduce light contamination and thus improve image contrast

Q.E.D.

-Mr. Wigggles

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post #10 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 06:42 AM
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Mr. Wigggles, thanks for the very detailed response; I'd like to pursue the discussion a little bit further.

You comment that in your planetarium you've sacrificed desired brightness for improved contrast. I assume that at some point loss in brightness will become the dominant factor in determining image quality. How did you arrive at a screen gain that optimizes contrast vs. brightness? Or is this a matter of individual perception?

Joe
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post #11 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 10:29 AM
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Jmanthey,

We didn't elect a .55 gain screen; that is the way the dome came. However, we did decide not to change it for current projector set-up.

We use 6 Barcos to illumintae the 50ft dome. That is 3925 sq-ft of projection surface. With each barco capable of 1000 peak video lumens, we are probably at 1 ft-L for peak white! The obvious way to increase the output to 2 ft-L would be to repaint the surface with a 1.0 gain white paint. Sounds good on paper but in reality the crossreflections would be increased to an unsatisfactory level.

So that is where we are. Hopefully a digital product will eventually be able to full-fill our needs but it will need a super high on/off contrast ratio to allow for proper blending. The resulting image is quite nice once your eyes get dark adapted.

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post #12 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 11:43 AM
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The lowest gain that I have seen is the Da-Lite at 0.8. The GrayHawk is only 0.95 (I think). Where can one buy a 0.5 gain screen? I guess you could make one yourself.
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post #13 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 01:34 PM
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Pultzar,

My 5th caveat was that the screens used in my calculations were "flat" with no gloss.

The Grayhawk is actually about 1.3 gain screen on about a .7 gain gray "substrate". The result is a screen that has contrast improving gray properties without any real loss in brightness.

Using my formula above, the improvement in ANSI contrast in a bad room would be 1/.7 or 43% over a pure flat white screen.

The result is a win-win situation.

Please keep all the caveats in mind. I think the Grayhawk will get any good digital projector up to the 200:1 ANSI checkerboard contrast area. This will help very bright to medium bright high contrast images look their best. Anything over 200:1 ANSI will be tough to notice improvement on. However, the quality dark images is generally determined by a projector's on/off contrast ratio; this where ANSI contrast and any gray screen contrast improvement don't really apply (and CRT's are king for that matter).

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post #14 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 05:26 PM
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Mr. Wigggles, I'd like to rearrange your points into a situation that more closely approximates my proposed theater and see if you agree with my conclusions.

My HT will feature a calibrated DILA projected onto a flat Stewart microperf in a dedicated room with no windows, total light control, and dark (burgundy) walls. Based on comments from these forums the DILA contrast will be ~500:1.

Unlike your curved screens with their significant cross-reflections from the projected image, the only light scatter I face is largely directed back perpendicular to the screen (depending to a small extent on the screen surface texture) and will be almost totally absorbed by the room. Under these circumstances, projector contrast will be maintained to a much greater extent than your hypothetical example, and I conclude from your remarks that a low gain screen will have only a small impact on system contrast.

Consequently, the benefits of a gray screen reduce to an optimization of the gray scale, i.e., brightness. Which brings me back to my original dilemma of deciding the "best" gain without having the system assembled.

Joe
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post #15 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by jmanthey
Mr. Wigggles, I'd like to rearrange your points into a situation that more closely approximates my proposed theater and see if you agree with my conclusions.

My HT will feature a calibrated DILA projected onto a flat Stewart microperf in a dedicated room with no windows, total light control, and dark (burgundy) walls. Based on comments from these forums the DILA contrast will be ~500:1.

Unlike your curved screens with their significant cross-reflections from the projected image, the only light scatter I face is largely directed back perpendicular to the screen (depending to a small extent on the screen surface texture) and will be almost totally absorbed by the room. Under these circumstances, projector contrast will be maintained to a much greater extent than your hypothetical example, and I conclude from your remarks that a low gain screen will have only a small impact on system contrast.

Consequently, the benefits of a gray screen reduce to an optimization of the gray scale, i.e., brightness. Which brings me back to my original dilemma of deciding the "best" gain without having the system assembled.
You are correct on all points. The only benefit a gray screen could possbly have is if your lumens were too high which I doubt will be the case. You proposed room is an ideal room therefore the gray screen won't raise your ANSI contrast any - you'll be getting the projectors maximum ANSI from the start which in the case of d-ila's is about 150:1 (which is quite good). It is the on/off that is about 500:1 after calibration.

A calibrated G11 will have about 500 lumens average for its lamp life. I would recomend getting your whites to have an intensity of betweem 20-30 ft-L. So if your screen is 18 sq-ft or less I would recommend a gray hawk. If it is up 35 sq-ft I would recommend a studiotek 130 or cinemavision. Higher than 35 sq-ft and I would recommend some form of high gain which is another issue.

If your are getting a G15 you'll have 750 lumens average during your lamplife so you can multiply the mentioned screen sizes by 1.5.

Good luck.

-Mr. Wigggles

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post #16 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 08:27 PM
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Thanks. I'm talking about a 125 sq. ft. screen and a JVC M2000SC, if it ever appears. This combo is at the extreme end of the HT's discussed here, which is why I'm asking all the questions. I've been thinking Studiotek 1.3 rather than Grayhawk, and I think you're suggesting that still may not be enough gain. I'll get Don Stewart's opinion at some point.

Good to have you back.

Joe
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post #17 of 24 Old 11-27-2001, 09:26 PM
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Joe,

125 sq-ft. You the man!

Yes, I think you are definitely are going to need some gain IMO.

I would suggest Videomatte 200 (1.8 gain) for ceiling mount or Da-lite high-power for table top.

-Mr. Wigggles

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post #18 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 06:43 AM
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Pulled from another thread on grey levels and screens:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The overall CR (contrast ratio) will be crushed as the screen gets bigger, and the eye will have less light to deal with per sq. foot of screen. The screen will require less grey in it, as the light output won't support the grey required to turn that 'grey level' to a 'black level'. Remember, the black level is mostly perceptive in nature,and has very much to do with:

1)ambient lighting,

2)contamination of the room from projected light from the screen,

3)reflection of light back on to the screen (from the room, or originally from the screen..getting back to it),

4)cross reflection on the screen surface itself,

5)reflective gain characteristics of the screen itself,

6)contrast ratio of the PJ itself.... and how linear that aspect is

7)max lumen count of the PJ in question

8) how many feet of screen you are using

9)YOUR eye's (not someone else's eyes!!) dilational (responsive) behavior to the given light situation. Involves light per square ft, vs area seen by your eye, and, of course, the room situation....everything counts.

10)and, of course, proper set-up of the above mentioned screen

11)Linearity of the internal components (in terms of Gamma, brightness, and contrast scaling...all rolled into the entire equation of your projector-eye-screen/type/design/greylevel -room-setup.

No simple answers there, but the criteria for getting the right screen should at least be known.

The perfect screen for a given situation, for a DIGITAL (ie, not perfect black level PJ type) projector is MUCH harder to get to than that of a CRT type. Each individual situation is different, and no one single screen design will do. Granted, some grey will help, the question is that.. how do you get to the perfect level of grey for your particular situation(so as to maximize the characteristics of your given PJ?

Answer: through experimentation, and understanding.

In conclusion, you would probably still benefit from a grey screen with the 125 sq ft screen.. it is just that it will have to be custom.

At 125 sq ft of screen material.. mistakes in choices are like shooting yourself in the foot, and very expensive to boot. (hah! no foot left!) There are other more 'perfect' options out there, which will only serve your situation better, and at FAR lower cost to get it right.

More work to implement compared to a checkmark beside a screen choice, but much more likely to be optimal.

It depends on how determined you are to get the finest presentation you can out of what you have for a PJ choice.

Ken Hotte

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post #19 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 01:08 PM
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Ken,

I assume you're hinting at using paint, but I must have a microperf screen unless I put the LR speakers 16+ feet apart! My sound will then be far from optimum. I suppose I could use paint to determine the best reflectance and then convert that into a Stewart screen, but I don't think paint will get me into gains of 1-2 in order to do the proper experiment. Gains of less than one seem out of the question in this particular case.

However, you're absolutely right with the foot-shot analogy. I would liken this decision more to Russian roulette. Ain't this hobby great?

Joe
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post #20 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 03:57 PM
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Sorry.. I'm an audio person first. The thought of micorperf, and putting glorious sound behind the screen. Ug. Not for me, anyway. I want the speakers out in the room..and they are.

My day job is loudspeaker design. World class loudspeaker design, ie: Wilson, Jm Labs, dynaudio, or better, at a minimum.

Ken Hotte

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post #21 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by KBK
Sorry.. I'm an audio person first. The thought of micorperf, and putting glorious sound behind the screen. Ug. Not for me, anyway. I want the speakers out in the room..and they are.

My day job is loudspeaker design. World class loudspeaker design, ie: Wilson, Jm Labs, dynaudio, or better, at a minimum.
Cool, another fellow audio person! I'm starting to think that it is impossible to get a large screen without compromising audio quality.

My speakers are tall (6.5') and they are about 6' into the room as this is where they sound best. They are about 6 feet apart. This means that for somebody sitting off axis (basically in front of one of the speakers) the widest my screen can be is 6 feet before it starts to get blocked by the speaker.

Since I sit 12-14 feet back (I have to measure for sure) I would be over 2 screen widths away.

Maybe screen size isn't everything? I've considered an LT150 on a 5 foot wide screen. This would give me 30-50 lamberts/ft which should provide a stunning picture... wouldn't it?

My friend has his LT150 on an 8' wide screen and it is too dark and washed out for my taste.

Okay, enough rambling!
Scott
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post #22 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 05:58 PM
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The LT150 on an 8' wide screen is a little too dark for my tastes as well. A high gain screen is definitely needed in my opinion.

Now 5' wide should be perfect. Grayhawk or Studiotek 130 should work well there.

Sounds good.

-Mr. Wigggles

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post #23 of 24 Old 11-29-2001, 10:59 PM
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Ken,
Pour it on!
Decades ago,discerning audiophiles(including best designers)couldnt stand wide open grille cloth on the their louspeakers.They altered the sound.Now,on this haven for excellence,they tell you firing behind screens is ok-just tilt up the treble a bit.Mind you keep that speaker away from(tv/sidewall/end wall blah blah)or its all downhill.Lets just jam them behind this large screen with holes in it.Hmm how far back from those holes?

Well lets hear from audio people.Have any compared?or should the burden be on the perfs to prove its not a factor.
:) PS Peter is onside with Ken(thats 3.)

Ron
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post #24 of 24 Old 11-30-2001, 04:41 PM
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Putting the speakers behind the screen does definitely add to the realism, but in my case.. the room is an audio/video room. And it is clearly audio FIRST.

Maximal sound quality.

Death before sonic disruptives.

I don't have a dining room. I have another audio room. i don't have a coffee table, it interferes with the imaging.

I don't even have a place in the house to sit and eat. If I had a full kitchen, then I would have a kitchen table. I don't, so no kitchen table in a dining room. Just more A/V!

Suprisingly enough, I don't watch TV or Sat, and there isn't even an NTSC device in the house.

Great tunes, though.

Ken Hotte

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