The Con­nected Life: The Big Screen De­bate

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - John Sci­acca

There are lots of cool as­pects to my job as a cus­tom in­staller, but my fa­vorite is in­stalling home theater sys­tems. And when de­sign­ing a sur­round sys­tem with a cus­tomer, one of the first dis­cus­sions is whether they should go with a di­rect-view, flat-panel dis­play or with a two-piece pro­jec­tion sys­tem. Some­times this choice is ob­vi­ous; ei­ther due to room size, bud­get, aes­thetic de­mands, or some con­struc­tion is­sue that dic­tates one over an­other. Other times it’s grayer.

Be­low are some rea­sons why one or the other might be right for you.

The Pros of Pro­jec­tion

No Size Lim­its. With a pro­jec­tion sys­tem, you can project an im­age as large as your front wall—or view­ing dis­tance—sup­ports. Also, un­like a tra­di­tional dis­play, the price dif­fer­ence be­tween a 100-, 110-, or 120-inch screen is of­ten only a few hun­dred dol­lars.

Multiple As­pect Ra­tios. While 16:9 as­pect ra­tio, di­rect-view dis­plays are great for watch­ing broad­cast sports and sit­coms, many movies are filmed in wider 2.35 or 2.40 as­pect ra­tio. This means movies will have the “dreaded black bars” and ap­pear sig­nif­i­cantly smaller. Pro­jec­tion sys­tems can sup­port multiple as­pect ra­tios, ei­ther with screen mask­ing that blocks off un­used por­tions of the screen, lens me­mories that zoom and fo­cus the im­age for dif­fer­ent sizes, or anamor­phic lenses. Ste­wart Film­screen un­veiled its new Gemini sys­tem at this past CEDIA, a screen sys­tem that in­cor­po­rates two sep­a­rate screens—one 16:9 and one 2.35:1—in one hous­ing! [Ed. Note: Elite’s

Osprey of­fers sim­i­lar flex­i­bil­ity, re­view at soun­dand­vi­sion.com.]

3D. Whether you loved it or hated it, 3D in di­rect-view dis­plays has pretty much been aban­doned by ev­ery ma­jor dis­play man­u­fac­turer. How­ever, many pro­jec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers have con­tin­ued in­cor­po­rat­ing 3D into new mod­els, in­clud­ing the new sub-$5,000 true 4K Sony VPL-VW285ES (Sound & Vi­sion, Fe­bru­ary/March 2018). If you have a col­lec­tion of 3D films you want to en­joy, then a pro­jec­tor will be your best—and pos­si­bly only—means of do­ing that.

Con­ceal­ment. Even though it of­fers larger screen op­tions, it can be eas­ier to con­ceal a pro­jec­tion sys­tem than a tra­di­tional dis­play. A mo­tor­ized screen can com­pletely dis­ap­pear when not in use, rolling up into a hous­ing that hides away in the at­tic or be­hind mold­ing. And the pro­jec­tor can be com­pletely con­cealed in­side cab­i­netry or be­hind a sof­fit with just a port­hole for the lens to fire through. An­other hot trend is ul­tra-short throw pro­jec­tors that can be housed out of sight in fur­ni­ture at the front of the room, while pro­duc­ing 100-inch im­ages!

De­cid­ing on Di­rect View

Bud­get. You can pick up a di­rect-view 80-inch UHDTV for un­der $2,500 and a 70-incher for un­der $1,500. That is a lot of screen for not a lot of green. Com­pa­ra­bly, a de­cent pro­jec­tor and screen will set you back a fair bit more. Also, a pro­jec­tor is gen­er­ally more dif­fi­cult (i.e., costly) to wire and in­stall. When bud­get is tight, a flat panel is of­ten the right choice.

Bright­ness. Pro­jec­tors rely on dark rooms to pro­duce the best im­age qual­ity, and if you don’t have ab­so­lute light con­trol in your room, or like to watch with lights on, then a di­rect-view dis­play is likely the right choice. Sure, there are am­bi­ent light re­ject­ing screens like Screen In­no­va­tions’ Black Di­a­mond, but these are pricey and still don’t de­liver the same pic­ture qual­ity as view­ing in a dark room.

HDR. Read any of Tom Nor­ton’s pro­jec­tor re­views, and you’ll see that pro­jec­tors can’t get any­where near the 1,000 nits re­quired to de­liver the full HDR ex­pe­ri­ence, with most top­ping out at around 150 nits. This makes HDR on a pro­jec­tion sys­tem a far trick­ier propo­si­tion. While pro­jec­tors can pull off HDR—with the laser-based mod­els look­ing pretty spectacular—di­rect-view sets will likely al­ways be su­pe­rior in this re­gard.

Smart Fea­tures. Even the best pro­jec­tor is pretty “dumb” by any mod­ern TV stan­dard. No apps, no stream­ing, no Alexa—heck, not even any speak­ers! A pro­jec­tor may be the prima donna of the sys­tem, but it re­lies on a whole sup­port­ing cast of gear to work. If the goal is sim­plic­ity in de­sign, with few or no other com­po­nents, then it’s flat panel all the way.

Which­ever dis­play tech­nol­ogy works for you, make sure you pair it with an equally im­pres­sive au­dio sys­tem for the full movie ex­pe­ri­ence!

Should I go with a di­rect-view flat-panel dis­play or a two­piece pro­jec­tion sys­tem?

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