Even the Black Diamond II screens suffered in the battle with the bright overhead light from the fluorescents, but both still delivered a picture I could stand to watch. There was a lot of glare at the top of the picture, and not much contrast. On the Gamma HD screen, I could barely make out the image.
The opening of Terminator Salvation provided a perfect demo for the Black Diamond IIs. In this scene, John Connor (Christian Bale) lowers himself into a dimly lit chamber. On the Gamma HD screen, the character was visible with the sconce lights on, barely visible with the torchiere lights on, and lost in a field of gray with the fluorescents on. With both Black Diamond IIs, the character was visible no matter what the light level.
I did notice two performance flaws in the Black Diamond II material. Both screens showed a noticeable but not terribly distracting shift toward blue. However, the projector could have been calibrated to compensate for that. Also, both Black Diamond IIs looked a bit grainy compared to the Gamma HD screen. The effect was most noticeable on bright, moving on-screen objects. At close viewing distances of about 6 feet, the grain could be a little distracting. At a typical distance of 10 feet or further, I couldn’t see it.
To the naked eye, both Black Diamond IIs delivered about the same amount of contrast improvement versus the Gamma HD screen. However, the 1.4 gain screen’s image was punchier — the whites looked a lot brighter. On the 0.8 gain screen, JVC projector’s picture seemed a little dim at times. Also, while both delivered a good picture as I walked to the side of the room, the 1.4’s off-axis performance was obviously better — more like what I’m used to seeing with certain flat-panel TV models. I think most people would probably prefer the 1.4; Gustafson agreed, guessing that 80 percent of his customers would go for the brighter picture.
Conventional projection screens often use expensive and complicated motorized masking systems to produce different aspect ratios. These are required because even in the "black bars" at the sides of a 4:3 picture, some light can be seen — so the bars aren't perfectly black, and therefore they can be distracting. Screen Innovations has always claimed that because the Black Diamond material is inherently darker than a typical white or gray screen, it doesn't require masking. In my opinion, this claim was semi-true with the original Black Diamond material — there wasn't as much light in the black bars as there would be with a conventional screen, but it was still noticeable. In the Black Diamond II, though, the black bars are almost completely black. They're not as black as the velvety black material used in a masking system, but they're pretty darned close.
One note of caution: If your light source is coming from somewhere close to your viewing chair or the projector, the Black Diamond II material will reflect it. When I tried moving one of the torchieres to the midpoint of the right wall, about 10 feet from the front wall, its yellowish light washed out the picture on the screen. Thus, you can't just hang your Black Diamond II any old place and expect great results — you still may need to put a bit of thought into the configuration of your room lighting.
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