While HDTVs have continued to get larger and larger, not to mention cheaper and cheaper, it must be said that in order to achieve a true cinema experience in the home, one has to go with a front projection video system. If front projection is the goal, then having a true Cinemascope or 2:35:1 aspect ratio screen has to be considered the Holy Grail. The only problem with native 2:35:1 screens is that HDTV broadcasts are traditionally 16:9 and nearly half of the films released theatrically are 1:85 or 16:9 when they arrive on DVD or Blu-ray. What this means for any front projection enthusiast, especially one who is looking to acquire a native 2:35:1 screen, is that you either have to invest in an auto-masking screen or live with black bars (or sometimes grey bars) on either side of your image. Oh, and let's not forget that you'll also have to invest in an anamorphic lens attachment/adaptor in order to properly view native 2:35:1 material - aka no black bars top and bottom.
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It's because of these factors that the majority of front projection enthusiasts ultimately end up buying a standard 16:9 aspect ratio screen, for the initial costs are far lower. How much lower? Well, fixed 16:9 screens can be had for as little as $300, with motorized drop down screens starting at around $400. In comparison, native 2:35 fixed screens start at around $700 without auto-masking, with motorized drop down screens opening at around $1,000. Auto-masking screens, be they motorized drop down or fixed, start at around the $5,000 mark for a cheap one and can reach prices in excess of $20,000. Of course, all of the prices I've just quoted increase the larger your screen gets and the more features you add to them. It doesn't take a man in a white lab coat and suspenders to see that sticking with a traditional 16:9 screen is the more cost effective way to go.
So does that mean die-hard enthusiasts, like myself, have to go broke in order to achieve true 2:35:1 viewing bliss? Not anymore. For there's a third option, one that affords viewers the convenience of being able to watch both 16:9 and native 2:35:1 aspect ratio material without the need for auto-masking or incurring the added costs associated with it.
Say hello to the Osprey Tension Dual Series Screen from Elite Screens - leaders in affordable front projection screen technology.
The Osprey Tension Dual Series Screen is an ingenious design, in that it gets around the auto-masking issue and its associated costs by simply housing two separate screens in one chassis. When I first learned of the Osprey's existence I had one of those "duh" moments, for Elite's solution seems so simple, yet no one has done it. They just took the two screens needed to enjoy both 16:9 and 2:35:1 aspect ratio material and put them together. It's freakin' genius, I tell you. And the cost for this fit of brilliance? Prices start at $1,999 for an Osprey screen containing a 78-inch diagonal 16:9 aspect ratio screen and a 97-inch diagonal 2:35:1 aspect ratio screen.
The Osprey Tension Dual Series Screen, as its name implies, is a dual, motorized drop down, tensioned screen system that ensures both its 16:9 and 2:35:1 aspect ratio screens remain taut and free from wrinkles when viewing. Both of the Osprey's screens feature Elite's own CineWhite 1.1 gain screen material and are black-backed for image uniformity. Both screens have a reported 160-degree viewing angle. Sizes start at 78 (16:9) and 97 (2:35:1) inches diagonally and go up to as large as 106 (16:9) and 133 (2:35:1) inches. The screens themselves are housed in a semi-gloss black aluminum case featuring an Enamel Coating that is moisture resistant. The Osprey comes with all the necessary tools and hardware needed to mount the screen to your wall or ceiling. There is an optional in-ceiling kit for those wanting a more stealthy installation. The Osprey's case houses a dual tubular motor that is not as quiet or as fast as some, but definitely gets the job done. There is an adjustable vertical limit switch to aid in setting the screen's proper drop/rise limits if need be, though the Osprey ships from the factory with proper rise settings in place and the drop set to max. Speaking of drop, the standard Osprey screens feature a 6-inch black drop, but Elite does make the Osprey with a 24-inch drop as well. Of course custom lengths can also be ordered and are built on a case-by-case basis. The entire Osprey system and all of its parts carry a two-year manufacturers warranty.
No motorized screen would be complete without a remote and Elite ships the Osprey screen with two: a standard RF remote and one IR remote to accompany the included low voltage wall switch. That's right, the Osprey screen comes standard with a wall plate and switch kit as well as a separate IR remote. Now the wall plate isn't what I'd call a standard switch plate; instead it's more of a black "puck" that sits on top of your drywall and connects to the Osprey screen via an attached cable. The wall plate features the same controls as both remotes, individual buttons for up, 2:35:1 and 16:9. Press any of those three buttons on either of the remotes or the wall plate itself and the selected screen will begin to drop or retract. If you have the 16:9 screen engaged and you hit the button labeled 2:35:1, the 16:9 screen will begin to rise as the 2:35:1 screen drops below it and vice versa. Obviously hitting "up" on the remote will retract whatever screen is engaged without lowering the other.
Since the ceilings in my new home are roughly nine feet high, I wasn't going to be able to get away with the standard Osprey screen with its 6-inch drop, for it would have positioned the screens themselves far to high for proper, let alone long term viewing. Elite was kind enough to ship me their smallest Osprey Tension Dual Series Screen with the 24-inch drop in order to accommodate my needs. The screen I was sent was model number DTE97C78H-E24 (E24 stands for "Extra 24-inches of drop) that housed a 78-inch diagonal 16:9 screen and a 97-inch 2:35:1 screen. Since the case has to be large enough for the largest screen, in this case the 97-inch 2:35:1 aspect ratio screen, the aluminum chassis was a bit longer than I was anticipating at 104 inches. In total the case measured 104 inches long by six and a half inches tall and nearly five inches deep. The nice thing about the Osprey case is that its height and depth remain the same regardless of screen size so you only have to contend with length and weight when planning your system. As for weight, my review sample weighed just a hair under 50 pounds.