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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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Silver Matte Conclusions

The Silver Matte is another fiberglass material. Therefore there's no need for any motors or tensioning. The price for a 100" Cosmopolitan 16:9 screen is $950.

It has the same household attributes as the others - flame retardant, mildew resistant, and washable.

This screen has been touted as "perfect for situations where a silver surface is necessary for polarized 3-D projection".

On that note and in light of the above pictures, I'm going to visit this post once I talk to Da-Lite on Tuesday or Wednesday. Expect something then.
The High Power

2.8 gain - 30 degree viewing angle according to the webpage but the sample sheet states the the 30 viewing angle/cone symbol =
Number shows the optimal width of the ideal viewing cone
These are the shots that will be taken three per image - high ambient, moderate ambient, and no ambient. There will also be an additional six shots per image for some - three at 15 degrees off-axis and three at 30 degrees off axis. Lotsa photos folks!

One other thing to note, There will be no 'Bugs!' shots. I had to take the projector down from the ceiling to do this review as well as move the DVD player. That was enough! :gah: As stated in the descriptions in the first post this is a retro-reflective surface. Don't know what that is? Check out this post. It's in the Gain and other confusing topics thread started by Bill. Why haven't you read that yet?!?!?!?

We'll start off with some space shuttle shots from the DVE Disk. Six shots - three at zero and three at thirty.

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

Moving on to Nemo

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The High Power Conclusions

Cost for a 100" Cosmopolitan 16:9 screen: $1117

The High Power screen boasts a 2.8 gain with a viewing angle of 30 degrees. You've got to be thinking, as i was, "What's the catch?" Well the catch is this, high gain retro-reflective screen with a narrow viewing cone. If you cannot fit within the tight specs than turn around and pick out a Video Spectra, Pearlescent, or whatever.

Retro reflective, let's dwell on that for a bit. This means that the projected image directed at the High Power screen is directed right back along the path it came on. Meaning that your projector has to mounted within the vertical viewing angle of the viewers. In layman's terms we're talking about table and shelf mounts mounted close to the height of the viewers. The High Power is constructed of tiny glass beads 9 microns in diameter embedded into a white vinyl field and covered by a thin elastic top layer. Glass beads = retro reflective. So rule number one - no ceiling mount unless you're going to hang it down far enough to knock your head on it.

Narrow viewing cone. Normally I wouldn't dwell on this but it appeared to me that the picture dropped off quite a bit at 15 degrees off axis and quite a bit at 30 degrees off angle. This is the first of the Da-Lite series that have exhibited this tendency. Now how is viewing angle determined? First let's discuss the difference between viewing angle and viewing cone. Viewing cone is a term for double the viewing angle - if you were to draw it out on paper it would resemble a cone. Viewing angle is the angle derived from axis - perpendicular from the screen. On to how it's determined. Viewing angle is determined from the angle in which gain drops 50%. So with a gain of 2.8 and a viewing angle of 30 degrees, the gain at the 30 degree line is 1.4. My head sits on my couch roughly 14 feet back and the left edge (where my wife sits) is at the edge of the 30 degree cone. Rule number two - This is for theater rooms that are large and have seating farther back than mine.

Ambient light. The High Power with it's high gain is touted as a ambient light screen. Why? Well it's retro reflective. And that retro reflectivity sends the ambient light that hits the screen back along the path in which it came. You can take a look at the pics and decide whether it does it well enough on your own. One thing to keep in mind though, the pictures with max lighting on is so ridiculously bright that no on would ever consider having that amount of light in their room while watching a projected image. It's the middle shots you should look at. And then move down to the next post and you can compare them to Silver Matte.

My overall opinion of the High Power was that it was a limited screen with limited usefullness. I realize that a lot of people have this screen and absolutely love it. I also have to believe that these folks have theater rooms that are much larger than mine.
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[BANANA]The Da-Lite Shootout!!![/BANANA]

That's right folks it's time for a shootout. One is not sold as a home theater screen and the other is a 'highly' touted home theater screen! I decided to do this because out of all the samples that I've viewed from Da-Lite, the one that really caught my eye was the Silver Matte. It had better whites than the white pegboard behind it and it did a great job in ambient lighting. The problem was, they don't sell it as a home theater screen. Why? I'm not sure and it being a holiday weekend I can't ask until Tuesday. So look for added remarks then.

To take side by side comparison shots of two different colored screens would only do one justice. Therefore I have taken two sets of shots one with the projector's brightness and contrast adjusted for the High Power. And one set with my Fashion Gray settings which appeared to work fine for the Silver Matte when projecting DVE's DVD PLUGE w/gray & bars and the reverse gray ramps. The other main thing to note is that for the High Power shots the projector was setup on a end table to take advantage of the retro reflective properties. And the projector was ceiling mounted for the Silver Matte calibrated shots.

There will be six shots per row. The left three are Silver Matte calibrated images. The right three are High Power calibrated images. They are of close to the same image within a second or so.

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image!

30 degrees off axis

15 degrees off axis

On axis

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