Aside from a huge, costly flat-panel TV, the easiest way to put a big video image up on your wall is to buy a front-projector/projection screen combo. And with good high-rez front projectors now selling for as little as $2,000, that option can be particularly budget-friendly. The only serious drawback is that front-projector setups need a dark environment to perform best - even a small amount of light leaking onto the screen makes the image look washed out and dull. So what do you do if you don't want to turn your living room into a shadowy crypt?
Screen Innovations is one company that's stepped forward with a solution to the daytime-viewing problem: the Viságe optical front-projection screen. On a regular screen, tiny diffusion elements covering the surface reflect both the direct and off-axis (ambient) light hitting its surface. But Screen Innovations says the Viságe (a screen containing special material from DNP, a Japanese Company that manufactures in Denmark) reflects only the light coming directly from the projector, rejecting indirect illumination from windows or lamps. This precision filtering comes courtesy of a high-contrast shield covering 60% of the screen, which contains millions of tiny lens elements that "focus" the light hitting its surface before reflecting it back. The screen gain for the Viságe (that is, the level at which the material itself acts to boost image brightness directly in front) is 2.0 - relatively high. Accordingly, DNP claims that its material provides an image that's twice as bright as what standard screens provide for daylight viewing, as well as a contrast ratio that's 10 times higher.
The Viságe comes in sizes ranging from 60 to 120 inches (diagonal) in a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio (4:3 screens are also available). For my test, I used a Panasonic LCD projector positioned 10 feet from the screen and set about level with its bottom edge. Even before turning on the projector, I had to admire the screen's beveled, black velvet-coated frame, which looked a lot nicer than the industrial-grade aluminum frame on the fixed-mount screen I normally use for testing projectors.
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