DIY or Commercial Screen - Need Help - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 3 Old 09-09-09, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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DIY or Commercial Screen - Need Help


This is my first post on this forum. I have spent the last 6 months researching and building my Home theater and have spent a large portion of time reading on AVS and this forum.

This is my setup:

Theater Room - Basement Setup - Enclosed on 3 walls and open on one side to the rest of the basement.

Theater Sitting Area - 13.5 W x 17 D
Walls - Dark Brown (7ft 9" High)
Ceiling - White
Carpet - Dark Brownie Beige

Lighting - Three Zones controlled - Two Basement Windows (Controlled)

Projector - Panasonic AE3000 - Ceiling Mounted 16ft from Screen
Screen - Nothing - Currently Projecting onto Light Beige Wall 121" 16x9 Picture (preferred size)

This Theater Room is multi purpose open to the rest of the basement and used for entertainment and watching movies. I do a lot of Movie watching, but also want to be able to watch alot of Sunday Football with the boys so ambient light levels or moderate light levels are required.

Currently in a black out scenario projecting on the beige wall the picture is superb. The blacks are deep and the whites brilliant. My issue is when some light is allowed on. The picture washes out rapidly, as is a common complaint.

I have tested a number of screen samples from the following companies and will share my opinion:

Stewart - Firehawk G3 - Great picture a black room, very dull with the lights on (missing brightness)
- Firehawk SST - Great pic in black room, decent wth some lights but still missing brightness.
- Studio Tec 130 - Brilliant in Black Room (BRIGHT) - washes out with lights on but still bright.

Carada - Brilliant White - very close to Studio Tec quality (slightly dimmer) - washes with lights on Contrast concerns in ambient light
- High Contrast Grey - Missing brightness - dull dark.

Dalite - Cinema Vision - Not as bright or vibrant as Stewart or Carada - same ambient light concerns
- High Power - Awesome Bright, concerned about viewing cone outside of screen width, loose gain of axis, but awesome brightness in Dark, and even with some light... Gain loss a concern.

With all this testing and weighing the benefits of a commercial screen I began to consider a DIY screen. Given the picture quality I have projected on a simple painted beige wall I wonder if a $1000 - $3000 price tag for some of these commercial screens is really worth it.

I am happy with the picture quality with total darkness black room. What I would like is to improve the quality in ambient light settings.

I am considering the Carada BW 1.4 gain screen based on price, and likeness to the Stewart Studio Tec, although I am concerned I may be disappointed with it in daylight viewing times, or with lights slightly on for football and entertainment. Based on the screen samples and despite what everyone says about GREY screens I have found that in my setup you loose far to much Brightness, although I am wondering if it may be countered by simply adjusting the projector settings.

When comparing the White materials to the Greys, the Greys just seem very dark in ambient light conditions. I can see how the hold blacks, and am wondering if the small 8x11 samples I am viewing are miss leading my eyes. Everyone suggests that the Stewart Firehawk G3 is "excellent" with ambient light, yet my personal impression is that the Studio Tec although the contrast is off is brighter and a better picture. Maybe I prefer Brightness over Contrast?????

Anyway with all this said I was wondering if a few of the members here might offer some insight on DIY setups, paints, and methods.

I think I would probably just paint the wall and frame it in, given the wall appears to be almost flawless. I have read about Black Widow, Silver Fire, and now Sugar/Cream, and am wondering what some experts might recommend with the AE3000 in my setup and requirement for Football viewing.

Or, if I am willing, should I just spend the $$ on the Carada and hope it meets my needs. Will a DIY painted screen even come close to a commercial screen. Am I wasting $$ on a commercial screen if I am willing to do a little work on DIY, are they comparable. Is there a decent Ambient light solution which won’t appear dim or dual compared to the BRIGHTNESS of a white screen.

I very much appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

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post #2 of 3 Old 09-10-09, 09:13 AM
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Re: DIY or Commercial Screen - Need Help

Lots of questions! Some of these questions are the very ones that most everyone looking for a new screen asks themselves, myself included.

I wonder if a $1000 - $3000 price tag for some of these commercial screens is really worth it.
This has always been the big question. And it's one that only you can answer for yourself. When doing a diy screen you have to remember that not only are you paying for your materials, you're also paying for your time. What's your time worth? Are you an on the go always busy type of person? Or are you a person who appreciates doing things for themselves and values this time more so than any other? Or are you a combination of both?

I've said before that if I had known of an Elite screen that was gray, selling for ~$300, I wouldn't have a diy screen right now (full disclosure - I am getting one of these screens). It has always been my philosophy that screen companies do have an excessive markup. Many of the screens that I have seen and have reviewed are not, what I would consider, worth the money. Most should be around the $500 price mark. However, some of those higher priced screens actually may be worth the money. A couple that come to mind are the Supernova and the High Power. The High Power is a very limiting screen though. The Black Diamonds may fall into that category as well.

Will a DIY painted screen even come close to a commercial screen.
This is where I part ways with a lot of the diy folks. And it's a matter of how you define 'close'. Does Black Widow match up with a Stewart Greyhawk? Easily and with better blacks I might add. Will Stewart's screen end up nicer looking than your diy screen? More than likely depending upon how much time and effort you put into it. Are the Stewart's worth what they're asking? My opinion is no.

Now will a diy solution come close to a Supernova or a High Power? No. There's way too much technology behind these screens. And their QA departments are much more stringent than the diy'ers eye more than likely.

All of this being said, you're going about things the right way. Read up and educate yourself and then make an informed decision. Separate hype from truth and you'll find what you're looking for. Keep in mind that there's just as much hype in the diy world as there is in the commercial. Take a look at the Silver Fire review for example.

Good luck and we're here for any more questions!
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post #3 of 3 Old 09-10-09, 09:16 AM
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Re: DIY or Commercial Screen - Need Help

One more thing that I forgot to add! Don't compare white to grays. This is an apples to oranges comparison. I'd first decide which you prefer - better whites or deeper blacks. And then I would compare whites to whites or grays to grays.

Welcome to the Shack by the way!
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