BY THE METER
My eyes were satisfied with what I saw, but my mind craved technical confirmation, so I got out S+V’s Minolta LS-100 luminance meter to run some measurements. I compared the Black Diamond II screens with the 1.1 gain matte screen and with a Photo Research RS-3 reflectance standard. The RS-3 provides a 1.0 gain Lambertian reflector against which other reflecting surfaces can be compared; it’s a white surface that reflects light evenly in all directions.
The contrast ratios I measured tell you just about everything you’d want to know about these screens. The larger the ratio, the better the contrast. On the RS-3 with the lights off, the JVC projector’s native contrast measured 16,690:1. (I consider a contrast ratio of somewhere around 100:1 to be the minimum for comfortable viewing.)
Surface Sconce Torchiere Fluorescent
RS-3 322:1 94:1 3.2:1
Gamma HD 217:1 401:1 2.6:1
Black Diamond II 0.8 2,065:1 1,037:1 31:1
Black Diamond II 1.4 1,576:1 788:1 43:1
Overall, the Black Diamond II 0.8 improved contrast by an average of 904% compared with the RS-3 and 801% compared with the Gamma HD screen. The Black Diamond II 1.4 improved contrast by an average of 890% compared with the RS-3 and 859% compared with the Gamma HD screen.
The RS-3 and the Gamma HD screen’s poor contrast with fluorescent lights on may be a little shocking to see , but it’s obvious that the Black Diamond II screens, while they couldn’t work miracles in the bright light, still delivered a useful amount of contrast. Note that the Black Diamond II 0.8 model did a better job of rejecting the dim, elevated light from the sconces and the more intense light from the torchieres, while the Black Diamond II 1.4 did a better job of rejecting the diffused light from the fluorescents.
To gauge the off-axis performance of the Black Diamond screens, I slowly moved the LS-100 off-axis and continually measured until I reached the angle of half-gain. With the Black Diamond 0.8, I reached half-gain at about 35° off-axis; with the Black Diamond 1.4, I reached half-gain at about 60° off-axis. That’s good off-axis performance — better than most LCD flat-panel TVs can achieve.
At $2,899 list price for the 106-inch 2.35:1 size, these screens aren’t inexpensive. But when you compare them to the price of a comparably sized flat-panel TV, they start to look like an insane bargain. Flat-panel TVs in the 100-inch size range start at about $70,000 and require a reinforced wall for hanging as well as a small forklift to move them. A 100-inch 16:9 Black Diamond II with the JVC DLA-HD550 costs only $7,698 — and two guys can install the system in an hour or two.
You also have the option of an ultra-widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, something not offered in jumbo-sized flat-panel sets. For $1,500 more, you can add a curve to any screen. Plus, Screen Innovations director of sales Blake Vackar told me the Black Diamond II material and frame are waterproof, so you can use them outside.
I think that the more people realize screens like the Black Diamond II exist, the more often they’ll consider video projection for their media rooms — because while everyone loves a big screen, no one loves stumbling around in the dark.
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