Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 100 Screen Material Reviewed

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Ideally, when one is viewing a projected image, or reviewing new film or video projection technologies, it is desirable to use a known and neutral viewing surface that makes comparisons equal and repeatable for decades on end. Designed specifically not to have any particular visual character of its own, such a surface material should be as close to an optimal Lambertian diffuser as possible. A Lambertian diffuser (for those wanting to be technically accurate and pull a whale of a topic out of your hat the next time you are at a party) is one that diffuses a point source (a concentrated beam - like a laser or other coherent light source) of reflected or transmitted light in a cosine law or circular pattern. This is similar to an idealized target sample of calcium carbonate, featuring a unity gain of 1.0 with light coming at it from any angle. Such screen materials act to reflect light with near-perfect hemispherical distribution, allowing an observer to see all characteristics of a projected visual presentation as accurately as possible.

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Normally, such highly specific screen material is not recommended, except in post-production or optical lab facilities, because it requires a room to be painted completely in non-reflective black paint - all walls, floors and ceiling - in order to work optimally. However, in such an environment, which today is being embraced more and more by certain home theater enthusiasts looking for the ultimate last gasp of quality from their projection systems, the advantages over conventional screen materials (both made by Stewart and qualified others), much less white paper or a simple white-painted wall, are immediate and life-changing, where the utmost perceived image quality is the goal.

Stewart Filmscreen, in its various guises, has been making commercial motion picture screens since 1947, earning two Academy Awards in that time for technical innovation. It is most likely that you have been viewing your favorite (and not so favorite) movies on their products for years at your better local multiplexes, most likely a commercial product known as UltraMatte 150. They also have the distinction of supplying viewing screens (both front- and rear-projection) to the vast majority of the telecommunication, military and large-venue worldwide markets, as well as offering numerous award-winning home theater products, such as their economical Luxus Deluxe fixed Screenwall, the popular CineCurve, outdoor retractable Oasis weather resistant screens and their newest Director's Choice Series of 2.00:1 aspect ratio fixed wall screens with four-way motorized masking systems. Additionally, they offer no less than nine different types of screen materials, capable of addressing practically any projector type, front or rear, from CRT to DLP, LCD or even SXRD, to the newest LED-based projectors in just about any ambient room lighting conditions known to man. They also offer an optional CinemaPerf or MicroPerf X2 pinhole process that allows for speakers behind the screen, duplicating the true movie-going experience.

Although Stewart has had a product known as SnoMatte 100 available in its commercial and laboratory divisions for decades, StudioTek 100 represents the same optimal Lambertian diffuser, but it is an altogether new product, designed from the ground up and certified for home and office environments. However, be warned: your viewing environment must be nearly pitch-black in order to take full advantage of this screen material. Your reward is one of the most three-dimensional, highest perceived contrast, sharpest images you will ever likely see, with what appears to be completely even coverage from corner to corner. Gone are the days of hot-spotting and color-shifting from one side of the screen to the other. Here is a near-perfect screen material, capable of demonstrating almost everything about a particular scene in a movie, variation in projector technologies, even drawing attention to limitations or variability in one's own eyesight, for example, the accuracy of color perception from the left eye to the right. Everything is made clear and nothing can hide, which is great, given a projector that has very good resolution and is set up and calibrated properly to SMPTE & ISF standards. Details that would normally be missed because they are normally obscured by the screen material (or lack thereof) are thrown into sharp relief - and this is why such a screen material as Stewart SnoMatte 100 has been the only choice of seasoned professionals for more than half a century. The downside is that lesser projectors will invariably and instantly show any and all warts, from uneven focus and shading to poor or nonexistent black levels and/or clipped white points, to the trained eye. A less than perfect viewing room will destroy both the stunning contrast ratio and the splendidly neutral color nearly completely. Of course, for those cases, clearly one should pick a screen among the many other choices Stewart offers, such as FireHawk, GreyHawk, UltraMatte and GreyMatte, each designed to address the specific strengths and weaknesses of a variety of different front-projection technologies and installation situations. There is also AeroView, LumiFlex, FilmScreen, StarGlas, AeroPlex, LumiPlex, TechPlex and GraPhite for rear-projection applications. It becomes easy to see why StudioTek 100 is the king of accuracy and neutrality where screen materials are concerned, easily deserving only the finest projectors and dedicated viewing rooms, designed together. Still, it's nice to know Stewart offers a wide list of exceptional choices.

As with most Stewart Filmscreen screen materials, you can have StudioTek 100 created up to 40 feet by 90 feet seamlessly and installed on any of their many available screen frames or motorized retractable screen lifts, each of which are exceptionally well built and very nearly a snap to assemble and install, even when gigantic (again, only for the trained professional). Fixed Screen frames are wrapped in VeLux finish or a black-matte finish (at an additional cost) to absorb any stray projector overscan and perfectly frame your image. Some retractable screens are now even being outfitted with optional LED ambience lighting across their tops, capable of rendering a multitude of pretty designer colors and hues to show off your Stewart Filmscreen Dream Screen, even when it's retracted. I can say, of all the products I review and use in my daily viewing and listening schedule year in and decade out, it is the Stewart Filmscreen that is the best value, and remains the longest item in continuous service to me. It likely will be for you, too.

Read about the high points and low points of the Studiotek 100 on Page 2.

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