All right here is my humble $0.02. I got around to installing the Masquerade unit last evening. I ordered a 110", direct wire (i.e. no attached power cord) unit to go over my 110" BW Carada Criterion screen that I bought last year. When I built the screen wall I had left a pre-wired junction box with a line for the masquerade.
Total time for me to unpack and complete the install was about 2.5 hours, with some of that time involving me trying to modify some minor issues in my construction methods (speaker plates were too high). Anyhow, here's my review:Shipping:
My 110" unit came shipped via FedEx to the house. The box was very long (as can be expected) and rather heavy. Somewhere just north of 110 pounds maybe? My wife and I were able to carry it around the house and down into the basement without any problems at all. If you are trying to carry it down basement steps that have a turn in them you will likely need to take the pieces out of the box to make navigating the turns easier.Packaging:
The unit is very well packaged. Everything is literally either bolted down or taped securely in place. You will need a screwdriver, clippers or scissors (for two zip ties) and a 1/2" socket wrench to free the pieces from the box. An 4" or more extension for your socket wrench will come in handy when trying to unbolt the top from the bottom pieces. Barring a natural disaster, the Masquerade should arrive intact. Put another way, this thing is packaged to take a whooping in transit
The instructions are clear and the pictures are actually helpful. I suggest reading them completly once before starting the install as you can see the big picture before getting started. They make a big point about mounting the top hanger bar exactly X inches above your screen frame (X varies depending on your model) even if your screen is mounted slightly off level you are to follow that since you will want the masking material to match your screen orientation.
Putting up the top section onto the hanger bar is a two man job. It is just too heavy and awkward (and costly) for one person to attempt this on their own. Hanging the bottom piece from the top piece is as easy as threading a bolt from the top section onto a rod coming up from the bottom section. Once that is attached then it can become a one man show for the remainder of the install.
(FYI: The wires to the left in the above pic are speaker wires, not part of the Masquerade unit)
Wiring was simply and almost foolproof. Wiring connections were clearly marked and should be able to be handled by a beginner (just don't forget to shut the power off first
). I ran into some difficulty here because I had put the junction box behind the very bottom right hand corner of my existing screen. I had to modify the drywall to bring the wire jacket around, allowing the Masquerade to sit as flush against the wall as possible. Sorry for the following blurry picture.
Instructions for squaring up the unit are simple and effective. Attaching the side fascia pieces was as simple as sliding them in part way and then giving them a "love tap" with the palm of your hand. They are removed in the same fashion.Construction:
The construction is very similar to that of my Criterion frame. The exterior fabric is nice, light absorbing felt like fabric. The four corners are mitered nicely and show no real visible gap in them. The frame does stick out from the wall a bit to allow for all the mechanicals to fit inside. Keep this in mind if you have your center channel on a wall mounted bracket. The quality of the motor inside is excellent and will likely last a very long time with normal use.
Looking at the unit head on you can see no mechanical parts what so ever. If you stick your head right against the screen and look to the sides (left side pictured here) you see see the metal hanging rods).
If you put your head only 2 feet from the screen you can no longer see any mechanicals (see below, looking to the left again).
The IR port is on the bottom right of the frame. The remote is easy to use since it has only 4 buttons: 16:9, 2.35:1, Jog up, Jog Down. The remote seemed to work easily from about 25 feet away. Holding the jog button down/up allows the masks to move continously. To go from 2.35:1 to 2.40:1 required two quick hits of the jog button.
The motor starts up quickly and is pretty quiet, although I could hear it from my rear row of seats (about 18 feet away). It takes just less than two seconds for the masks to deploy/retract. Looks cool as all heck doing it too
. I did have a brief issue where the left bottom mask was sticking up a little bit upon returning to 16:9 from 2.35:1. It was easily fixed with a little tap on the left edge of the masking material. It has not done this since. Perhaps it was just the material being stiff from being rolled up?Image Performance:
First thing to note is that internet pictures of pre-deploy and deployed Masquerade masks do not even come close
to doing this product justice. I put in a Netflix copy of 10,000 BC (2.40:1 aspect ratio) and called the wife down. Started the movie and dropped all the lights. Let it run for about a minute or two and then deployed the masks without telling her what I was doing. She heard the motor and saw the masking material moving. Her next comment was "Holy cow, that is a huge difference!" This coming from a woman who is usually saying "That's nice dear" if you know what I mean. I believe it to be a large increase in perceived contrast with the masks deployed. However, I do not have any scientific data to back that up. I can asure you though, you cannot mistake one from the other. The image seems to literally pop with the Masquerade in place.What could be better?:
One thing I would like to see is the gap between my Criterion screen and the face of the Masquerade made smaller. It looks to be about 1.5 inches or so. I know the masks have to steer clear of the screen material and that the frame thickness of my existing screen has a lot to do with this. I understand that if one gets the MMS screen with the Masquerade that this gap is made closer to 1/4 - 1/2 inch. Someone correct me if I am wrong. The current gap is not noticeable unless you walk up to the unit and look down the sides. It is something that you will soon forget even exists.
I can see someone hoping for a RS-232 trigger for the unit. I don't personally use that nor would I really have a need for it. If I really desired I can write a macro for my Phillips Pronto remote to deploy the masks when I hit something like "Play 2.35:1 Movie".EDIT
: I've been told by David Giles that the Masquerde can
controlled by RS-232 type automation systems.Conclusion:
It's a well built unit that does exactly what it is designed to do. The resulting improvements on your visual movie experience are, IMHO, impressive. The construction was done very well and shows some serious thought into how it was designed. It's quarks are minor. Some will still balk at the price of the Masquerade but not every piece of AV equipment is for everyone's liking. Compared to the other masking systems on the market this is a well thought out bargain. I am happy with my purchase and would not hesitate to recommend this unit to anyone. Carada's customer service is also top notched and very helpful with any questions that I have ever had.
(... more pics in next post)