One of the best things about two-piece projection systems is that they are very flexible. They allow you to watch different types of source material in various aspect ratios, such as 16:9 (widescreen) and 2.35:1 (CinemaScope). Nearly all flat-panel displays are 16:9, so when it comes time to enjoy a movie that was shot in 2.35:1, you will inevitably see black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. This means that you are using less of your plasma or LCD screen’s real estate.
Many projector and screen manufacturers offer solutions that let you enjoy more of the screen size for which you paid. Take anamorphic technology, which maintains a constant vertical height regardless of aspect ratio, meaning no horizontal black bars are displayed above and below the image. Screens like Stewart Filmscreen’s Director’s Choice, for example, feature motorized fabric “masking” panels that move over portions of the screen to eliminate black bars from being projected onto the screen and to improve contrast. “Viewing in the content’s native aspect ratio without annoying black bars gives a much more compelling experience,” says Joaquin Rivera, vice president of sales at Stewart Filmscreen.
Today’s projection systems also allow for more flexible placement of the screen and projector within a room. If your room is long or short from front to back, long-throw and short-throw projectors are available. If there is room behind your screen, you can opt for a rear-projection system where the projector shines on the screen from behind. Projectors can even go in a separate room and fire through a piece of glass. They can be mounted on the ceiling, in cabinetry at seating level or even from below the screen. And despite being very large, projection screens can be installed to disappear from sight when they’re not being used. Most manufacturers offer electric models that can descend from the ceiling or ascend from the floor or cabinetry.
Likewise, projectors have very small footprints and can be easily hidden. This feature, combined with the fact that projectors and screens are now advanced enough to create a bright image even when the rooms lights are on, means that more and more people are installing these systems in spaces other than totally darkened basements. “The world of projector possibilities is really opening up,” says Jennifer Davis, vice president of marketing for Runco. “Some people think you need total darkness to do projection. Not so, if you have proper lighting control.”
Screen manufacturers are also making projection systems more compatible with traditional rooms by creating products specifically designed to combat ambient light, such as Screen Innovations’ Black Diamond screen, which uses “ambient light rejecting” technology to reduce light scatter, according to the company.