Following the unity gain test, I went ahead and watched for a moment in the ambient light conditions. Black detail was shockingly good, even with some lights on, allowing me to see fine details on the track's surface. Image, or should I say light uniformity, was incredible. With other curved screens I've demoed in the past, I've found the outer edges to be a bit duller than the center of the screen, which was not the case with the Supernova Epic. Keeping in mind that the lights were largely still on, there were no visible signs of shimmer across the Supernova's surface, nor did it impart any visible texture of its own to the image the way some fabrics or coated materials can. There was a level of dimension, sharpness and contrast I simply wasn't expecting, given the conditions. Not only could I watch the film in ambient light, I was able to enjoy it.
Lastly, I had the house lights brought all the way down, plunging the room into almost complete darkness. In the dark, the Supernova Epic's performance didn't elicit so much of a wow as it did a DAMN! The whole image seemed to figuratively float in space, thanks to the Supernova's ability to absorb and trap the light, as opposed to letting it spill and bounce around the room. The image was so vivid, so naturally sharp and punchy, it was better than even the best cinema I've seen in a long while. Blacks were inky smooth with tremendous detail, composure and dimension. White levels were brilliant without being harsh or aggressive. Colors, especially primary colors, simply popped like nothing I'd ever seen before. Everything, every little detail and texture, was brought into supreme focus and presented in such a larger-than-life, truly cinematic way that I was simply floored. I began to laugh.
Now I know many of you are thinking or perhaps even saying out loud, "Let's not overlook the projector." It's not like Digital Projection is a bargain basement brand. It is not. In fact it is, as we call it here at HomeTheaterReview.com, "super premium" - a grade of the best of the best. Yes, the projector is a factor in any front projection set-up; however, the screen is half of the equation as well. In the Supernova's case, it may be more than half of the equation. Even in a completely dark room, when I redid the unity gain comparison, the unity gain material appeared washed out in comparison. It was not subtle, I assure you.
Now, CG-animated fare like Cars is prime demo material, for it is overly saturated, punchy, sharp and clearer than what you're bound to see with live action fare. To be sure that the Supernova material wasn't just making already stunning source material look even better, I cued up a series of live action trailers for comparison. The trailer I focused on was for Enchanted (Walt Disney Home Entertainment). The film features several fairytale character clich�s trapped in real-life New York. The live-action footage looked as good as the CG images from Cars. Skin tones were presented faithfully and realistically, with the same detail and dimension that again popped off the screen. Black levels were again extremely good, though more organic in nature, so not as inky smooth as what I observed with Cars. Edge fidelity was superb, giving the presentation true to life depth. Again, the Supernova material didn't inject any of its own character, be it color shift, texture or shimmer, to the projected image. I hate to use the window analogy when evaluating video performance, but due to the Supernova's ability to trap and hold onto the light from the projector, the image did appear to be a true window onto the cinematic event. It only took a few seconds, regardless of what was presented on screen, for me to become completely immersed in the experience, which is the best praise I can give any product, especially a projection screen.
I had the house lights brought back up to near-full (leaving the overhead fluorescents off, of course) and sat in silence as I gathered my thoughts. Ambient light-rejecting screens are nothing new; I use one in my reference home theater. However, none that I've encountered to date check all the appropriate performance boxes quite like the Supernova Epic. As a filmmaker, I spend a lot of time watching my content, as well as other filmmakers' content, on a wide variety of screens. While unity gain-based screens have served as the standard for many postproduction houses that I've frequented, I myself like to use ambient light-rejecting screens when screening or color correcting. There are a few things, such as texture and shimmer, with which my post team and I have simply had to make do. Not the case with the Supernova Epic. Furthermore, the Supernova Epic doesn't impart any color of its own, nor does it shift the color of the image, which is critical when considering a screen for postproduction applications. Because of this, the dnp Supernova Epic is quite possibly the only screen available in the home market that, when used with a high-end, properly calibrated projector will allow you to see an image that is closer, if not equal, to a director's intent than any other screen you can buy today.
As far as I'm concerned, the Supernova Epic has no real downsides if you have the means and the room to accommodate it. It is one of the best, if not the best, projection screen I've ever laid eyes on. That being said, it's not going to be for everyone, for it is as its name implies: epic. The Epic's installation demands are not subtle, even if you're planning on placing it on dnp's own stand or something a bit more custom. This is a large screen no matter how you slice it and it should be installed in a dedicated media room or theater.
Furthermore, I don't think the Epic is the type of screen a novice or first-time front-projection consumer is bound to buy or consider. This is not an entry-level product. In order to take full advantage of its native 2.40:1 aspect ratio, you're going to need to outfit your projector with an anamorphic lens adapter, which isn't always compatible with budget or fixed-lens projectors. Clearly, consumers considering a screen like the Epic aren't rocking sub-$3,000 LCD projectors.
If you're looking for a native 2.40:1 screen that is more suited for a living room, dnp makes that, too. It won't have auto-masking, but it will be considerably cheaper and easier to install. Thanks to the Supernova surface, I'm not sure the absence of auto-masking will be an issue for the letter or pillar boxing that will appear along the sides and will blend seamlessly with the Velvet frame of the screen itself.
Lastly, you'll have to decide if a native 2.40:1 screen is right for your viewing needs. The vast majority of films coming out of Hollywood are 1.85:1 and most HD broadcasts are 16:9, meaning a standard 16:9 screen will more than fit the bill. Obviously, if you purchase a 16:9 screen, you're going to get letterboxing with native 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 content but you will save a few bills even if your 16:9 screen has auto-masking. However, if you want the real-deal Holyfield experience, a true, native 2.40:1 screen with auto-masking, like the Supernova Epic, is the way to go.
Let's not split hairs: the Supernova Epic from dnp Screens is, in fact, epic and designed for the enthusiast looking for the ultimate cinematic experience in the home. With a starting price of around $16,500, the Supernova Epic is not cheap. The Supernova Epic is designed to be the perfect all-around screen for the discriminating videophile and quite possibly the last screen such a person would ever have to buy. Its auto-masking system is the best I've seen, regardless of price, and enables the Epic, with its native 2.40:1 aspect ratio, to seemingly become four screens in one. Its ambient-light and even full-light performance is stunning, far superior to any ambient light or light diffusion screen currently on the market today. Turn the lights off, however, and the Supernova Epic's performance begs belief. If you can afford the dnp Supernova Epic and have the room to support it, I can think of no better screen to recommend for a dedicated home theater or media room.