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Da-Lite Screen Material Review

70179 Views 98 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  mechman
Da-Lite Screen Material Review

Da-Lite is the largest screen manufacturer in the world. With over 90 years of expertise, they offer a wide variety of screen materials that can suit just about anyone’s home theater needs. Those of you that have read the “Gain and other confusing topics.” thread are aware of Da-Lite’s history. For those of you that haven’t read it (you should!) here’s a brief synopsis from Bill’s post:

First a brief bit of history about the ‘Silver Screen’.
At the turn of the century, 1909 to be specific, motion pictures were becoming the rage. One problem that plagued the fledgling theater industry was that projectors and screen materials at that time were extremely limited and crude by today’s standards. This resulted in images being very dim and quite hard to see, but the public was still fascinated with moving pictures.

Adele DeBerri owned a theater in Chicago during this era. She was a unique individual, remember this was an era when women typically did not own and operate a business. Not only was she a pioneer in that respect, but she was an innovator as well. Adele had the idea to paint the screen image area with a silver paint that was highly reflective and therefore would reflect more light back at the viewing audience. That’s how the ‘Silver Screen’ was born. What many may not be aware of is Adele went on to developed a silver painted canvas projection screen that quickly became the standard for the industry. Da-Lite Screen Company, Inc. is the successor to the business founded in Chicago in 1909 by Adele DeBerri.

The reason for high gain screens date back to the earlier example of turn of the century projectors that needed something to focus the light and make the image brighter. Today projectors are much more sophisticated and ten fold better than the old ‘moving picture’ projectors back at the turn of the century. The projectors currently available are so bright that if a person was to look directly into the lens it could cause permanent eye damage. So if our newer projectors are significantly brighter than even projectors made ten years ago let alone turn of the century technology, and gain is to produce a brighter image- why do people still seek a high gain screen? Situation and setting is often the main reason. Excessively large screens also come to mind.
When I emailed Da-Lite for samples they originally sent me the small 6.5”X6.5” sample booklet that they’d send out to potential customers. After finishing my other reviews I had decided against doing a review with samples that small and decided to email Da-Lite again. They put me in touch with Wendy Long, who’s a customer service rep for them. Wendy was understanding in what I wanted to accomplish and agreed to send me 5 samples. The Da-Mat, High Power, Cinema Vision, XX XX. Upon reviewing that list there were others that I wanted to look at as well, so I emailed a request for those as well. Da-Lite was very accommodating in sending what I had requested. If you’re following along so far I think you can see where I’m going with this. Every time I emailed them I had an email back the next day. Customer Service is obviously a very high priority with Da-Lite. They may be the largest screen manufacturer in the world but they haven’t forgotten about customer service!

The Samples

Here’s the list of samples along with the synopsis of each from Da-Lite.

High Power

This screen surface is a technological breakthrough, providing the reflectivity and optical characteristics of a traditional glass beaded surface with the ability to clean the surface when necessary. Its textured surface provides the highest gain of all front projection screen surfaces with no resolution loss. The moderate viewing angle and its ability to reflect light back along the projection axis make this surface the best choice for situations where there is a moderate amount of ambient light and the projector is placed on a table-top or in the same horizontal viewing plane as the audience.
Gain: 2.8 Viewing Angle: 30°

Video Spectra™ 1.5

This screen surface is specially designed with a reflective coating, which provides an increased amount of brightness with a moderately reduced viewing angle. The increased gain of this surface makes it suitable for environments where ambient lighting is uncontrollable and a projector with moderate light output is utilized.
Gain: 1.5 Viewing Angle: 35°


A screen surface with a smooth, white vinyl finish for precise image reproduction. Provides an exceptionally wide viewing angle and no resolution loss. It is a highly flexible fabric that may be folded or rolled. Its versatility makes it a great choice for situations with good control over ambient light and where an exceptionally wide viewing angle is necessary.
Gain: 1.0 Viewing Angle: 60°

Cinema Vision

A unique non-supported vinyl fabric that offers a bright, uniform image with no color shift at any viewing angle. This surface is designed to provide a higher amount of brightness for lower output projector types such as CRT. Its increased reflectivity will help enhance the image brightness in situations where a low level of ambient light is present.
Gain: 1.3 Viewing Angle: 45°


A non-supported vinyl fabric, offering a higher degree of reflectivity and brilliance without loss of image quality or resolution. This surface is a good choice when projecting video images with a lower output projector and where there is a high amount of ambient light present.
Gain: 1.5 Viewing Angle: 40°

Audio Vision

Designed for applications where a more realistic soundstage is desired, this fabric allows for the installation of speakers to be placed behind the surface. With virtually no sound loss and good image quality, this fabric provides the same optical characteristics as the Da-Mat Surface with specially designed perforations to allow sound to pass through the screen material.
Gain: 1.0 Viewing Angle: 50°

High Contrast Cinema Vision

Designed for today's moderate output DLP and LCD projectors, this screen surface is a great choice when video images are the main source of information being projected and where ambient lighting is moderately controlled. With its specially designed gray base surface and a reflective top surface, this screen material is able to provide very good black levels and brilliant white levels. This screen surface provides deep life-like colors and greater detail and sharpness to the image.
Gain: 1.1 Viewing Angle: 50°

High Contrast Audio Vision

With the same optical characteristics as the High Contrast Da-Mat material, this surface is designed to provide the viewer with a more realistic soundstage by placing speakers behind the screen and allowing the sound to be transmitted through the material. This screen surface is best used when there is a good control of ambient lighting and a moderately wide viewing angle is desired.
Gain: 0.8 Viewing Angle: 45°

Silver Matte

A uniquely designed screen surface with a specifically designed silver finish. This surface is perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for a polarized 3-D projection. The matte finish of this surface successfully rejects ambient light. Screen surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Flame retardant and mildew resistant.
Gain: 1.3 Viewing Angle: 30°

The Testing Environment

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again. I’m just an average Joe with a home theater. I do not have any fancy equipment (yet – some of it is on the way though!) for testing these things other than a very good camera, an average home theater and my eyes.

The projector is a Mitsubishi HC3000U which is rated 1000 ANSI lumens and 4000:1 contrast ratio. It is set up and calibrated for my gray screen.

The camera is an Olympus Evolt 500 with a Zuiko 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens. I’ve been an Olympus guy for over 20 years and this camera is no slouch! The cameras is set up on a tripod about 10.5 feet back from the screen and it's raised to about head level when I'm sitting on the couch - about 42 inches. There are a couple of shots in the original shoot that I raised the camera up as high as it would go. This was a vain attempt on my part to squeeze a High Power review without taking my projector down. I realized this was vain very quickly and redid the shots.

The DVD player is an Oppo 971H.

The DirecTV receiver is a HR20.

All shots are taken in RAW format. RAW format, for those that are unfamiliar with the term, is the unprocessed digital image direct from the camera’s sensor. These shots are then loaded into Adobe Bridge and color balanced utilizing Raw Workflow’s WhiBal card. This gives you as accurate color reproduction that I’m capable of at this time.

From Raw Workflow's webpage:

The single WhiBal card is light Gray, certified to recommended Luminance level of L* = ~75, which is optimum for use in all RAW converters.

Having a "GrayCard" reference is the best assurance that the digital pictures that you capture will have the ability to be properly White Balanced. Only with a proper White Balance can you be ensured of proper and accurate color, regardless of lighting conditions. Unlike your eyes, a digital camera does not automatically see whites as white. It sees the color of the light reflected from it, hence blue-ish in Daylight and Orange-ish in incandescent lighting. By photographing a Gray Card reference for each lighting situation that you are in, you are assured of being able to achieve a proper White Balance for all of your pictures.The Gray Card reference picture can be used with today's software to balance the color casts that various lighting conditions produce with all digital cameras. The best method to properly White Balance your digital pictures is by using a Gray Card properly and shooting RAW. RAW Conversion Software such as Adobe Camera Raw and RawShooter can then perfectly adjust all the captures that were shot under the same lighting conditions.
They have a number of videos on their webpage related to neutrality as well. If you want to learn more about the WhiBal card or neutrality and how it relates to both photos and screens I suggest you visit their site.

Here are the various Whibal shots for this review:

I used simple one eighth inch pegboard to hang the samples in front of my screen.

They were attached using brass two prong thumbtacks.

Here’s a few shots of the samples layed out on the floor. Can you guess which one’s the High Power?

And one with some of them hung up.

There are two different lighting scenarios in the following posts, moderate ambient and totally dark. Moderate ambient is a term I'll use for the back five cans being on at around 80%. It's enough for someone to read a book while someone else is viewing the screen. Why? Because more and more people are using their theaters not only for movies, but for television as well. And sometimes the wife and or husband does not care to watch what the significant other is viewing, but still prefers to stay in the same room.

In the High Power review postings there will be three ambient scenarios. No ambient, moderate ambient, and one with all lights on including the two near the screen. This screen is being sold as a moderate ambient light rejecting screen so I had to put it through the wringers! Here's a shot of moderate and high ambient.

In the near future I should be able to measure this ambient light. When I can I'll edit in the values here.

Also I have a couple shots of the High Power setup:

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The original plan was to do as many of these samples as I could at once. However, I realized afterwards that this was not the path I wanted to take. Plus the full 4X8 sheet of pegboard was a bit unwieldy. Not to mention I didn't even realize that the High Power was a retro-reflective screen until after I had taken these shots. Thanks Todd! But since I took a lot of picture this way, I have to post them. You can draw your own conclusions from these.

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

Top row: Cinema Vision - High Power - Da-Mat™
Bottom Row: Audio Vision - Video Spectra™ 1.5 - Pearlescent

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Some RGB shots...

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

Top row: Cinema Vision - High Power - Da-Mat™
Bottom Row: Audio Vision - Video Spectra™ 1.5 - Pearlescent

Thus concludes my original shots. From here on the real review will begin.
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One of things I decided to change in addition to shooting just two samples at a time, was to limit the source material to Bugs only. It provides a lot of color and black level shots and there some white in there as well. This made the whole process a bit more palatable to me as I had quite a bit of shooting to do. It also saved me the trouble of changing DVDs and finding scenes again. I think that you'll find Bugs to be more than enough.

Da-Mat screen and the Audio Vision

Da-Mat close up

Audio Vision close up

DaMat on the left

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

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DaMat Audio Vision Conclusions

Pricing for a 16:9 100" electric tensioned Cosmopolitan screen:

Da-Mat $2,163.00
Audio Vision $2,503.00

These are both unity gain screens which reproduce the colors vividly both on axis and off. Interestingly Da-Lite lists the Da-Mat's viewing angle as 60 degrees and the Audio Vision at 50 degrees. If you look at the off axis shot that I took, It was somewhere between 70-80 degrees and there was no drop off. The Audio Vision is a bit darker, which is to be expected as it has a lot of tiny holes in it!

As is the case with all Da-Lite screens reviewed here, the screens are flame retardant, mildew resistant, and their surfaces can be cleaned.

They both appear to reflect the images accurately and sharply. But bear in mind, as is always the case when selecting a screen, there are tradeoffs. Acoustically transparent screens are said to lose sharpness due to the perforations. But if you have to have a speaker behind the screen than so be it.

Their is a black backing for these screens, however the perforations are all the way through for the Audio Vision.

The performance of these screens in moderate ambient light was commendable. It was barely noticeable until there was a pronounced black area on the screen, such as the horned bugs battling.
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Cinema Vision and the High Contrast Cinema Vision Conclusions

Pricing for a 16:9 100" electric tensioned Cosmopolitan screen: $2458.00

Surfaces can be cleaned. Flame retardant and mildew resistant.

Viewing angles are slightly different here and yet again if you look at the off axis shot there is still no drop off. More than likely due to the proximity to unity gain.

As you would expect the colors are still vibrant and sharp.

The ambient light shots show less of a drop off on the High Contrast Cinema Vision as it is a bit darker and .2 less in gain. And yet the Cinema Vision isn't much of a slouch!
Video Spectra™ 1.5 and the Pearlescent Conclusions

Pricing for a 16:9 100" electric tensioned Cosmopolitan screen:

Pearlescent $2,337.00

The Video Spectra is a bit different in that it is a fiberglass material. For a 16:9 Cosmopolitan 100" screen - $950.

The gain for these two screens is 1.5 making them similar enough to shoot together. They still hold the Da-Lite line as they're both flame retardant, mildew resistant, washable surfaces.

The viewing angles are also similar, yet a bit tighter than those previously reviewed. And again in my off axis shot, they both seemed to virtually no noticeable drop off. Colors were lucid and the images crisp.

Ambient light performance for these two was a bit more noticeable than the previous but still commendable. I thought the Pearlescent did a bit better job than the Video Spectra but it's a photo finish. The Pearlescent is bit darker so that probably accounts for the better performance here.
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High Contrast Audio Vision Conclusions

Pricing for a 16:9 100" electric tensioned Cosmopolitan screen: $2,503.00

This is another vinyl material that is washable, flame retardant, and mildew resistant.

It is also alone as I didn't think any of the other screen samples matched up well with it.

It has a gain of 0.8 and a viewing angle of 45 degrees. This is one angle that I won't argue with. I took a couple shots at roughly 45 degrees and the screen started to drop off. Look at the above photos of the grasshopper head and the bee on the flower.

Colors take a slight hit due to the darkness of the screen and the perforations. Sharpness is also slightly affected by the perforations.

Ambient light performance is just what you'd expect from a gray screen - very good.

Considering how well the Audio Vision did with ambient light, I'd recommend that screen over this except for the most extreme ambient light conditions.
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Silver Matte

Before I decided to do just shots of 'Bugs!', I did a whole set for the Silver Matte. Therefore there will be more pictures for the Silver Matte, as well as the 'heavily acclaimed' High Power. One thing to note as viewing these images is Da-Lite's company line for the Silver Matte:

Silver Matte
A uniquely designed screen surface with a specifically designed silver finish. This surface is perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for a polarized 3-D projection. The matte finish of this surface successfully rejects ambient light. Screen surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Flame retardant and mildew resistant.
Gain: 1.3 Viewing Angle: 30°
I do not agree with this limitation at all but I'll keep a tight lip for now! :bigsmile:

Bugs! and some hockey.

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

That off axis shot is around 60 degrees. There will be better off axis shots later. Including a direct comparison...:sneeky:
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