Posted on June 28, 2011 By Art Feierman
The Masquerade CIH (constant image height), is designed for working with Cinemascope shaped screens, those with 2.35:1 aspect ratios. (Carada does offer custom for other Cinemascope ratios.) With the Masquerade installed you get your maximum viewing area when watching typical Cinemascope shaped movies.
The masks come in from the sides so there is no visible letterboxing when watching HDTV and other 16:9 content. The system also offers a mask for 1.85:1 aspect ratio sources. Of course, good old “old style” TV 4:3 content is still plentiful so naturally, the Masquerade masks down to 4:3.
You can just hit a button on the remote for the aspect ratio you want, or, if you have the need, you can control the left and right masks separately. Since the system has a remote, it can be controlled by any room control system with an IR capability.
Masquerade CIH systems run from $3900 to $4600
Carada also offers a Horizontal Masquerade system for users of 16:9 screens. For example, you use that system with a standard 16:9 screen, and it masks off the top and bottom so there is no letterbox when watching Cinemascope shaped content (which includes most movies). The Horizontal Masquerade systems run from about $2500 to just over $3500, making it the lower cost systems.
You can use the Masquerade with most fixed wall screens (we are told), and of course, you can use it with one of Carada’s. I’ve been using a 106″ diagonal fixed wall Carada Brilliant White surfaced screen as one of my two main screens for the last 5 years. Carada sent me this completely new system, the Masquerade and a matching 110″ diagonal 2.35:1 screen (again, Brilliant White surface), which were the specs I requested.
Very cool! It looks good, and almost everyone passing through also thinks it’s cool.
If you’ve the budget for a whole home theater, with the fancy chairs, etc. Then most certainly, if you were planning on a fixed screen, the Masquerade may be for you.
The Masquerade with Brilliant White screen is now my primary screen system in the testing room. I use it for all my side by side work, some 3D, and for a lot of close observation of different projectors. I use both this Masquerade CIH with BW screen and the Studiotek 130 for photo shoots.
When I was working with the recently reviewed Runco LS-5 in the testing room, it was wonderful not having letterboxes visible when viewing 16:9 content. It made me sorry I didn’t configure my theater so I could use one.
Our theater, for those curious, now has a motorized Studiotek 130, that comes down in front of a 3D screen. I’d love to have instead, a fixed Studiotek with this masking system.
A masking system is perhaps the most costly accessory for your projector, or certainly up there. Carada’s CIH masking systems start just below $4000 and go up to $4600, depending on sizes from 80″ diagonal to 136″ diagonal. I do not know the cost of custom sizes in inches or aspect ratio, but expect to spend a few hundred more I would think.
That’s going to be logically a bit out of the question for those buying under $1500 projectors, but going up from there, consider. A good screen system will last many years, and for most enthusiasts, outlast several projectors. I got 7+ years out of my Firehawk before moving, and it was still in excellent shape. before switching to the Studiotek 130.
Thus, in your theater or other dream setup, like a good screen, the Masquerade should provide many years of a slightly better viewing experience regardless of your projector, for some significant portion of your viewing time.
Since no projector does perfect blacks, there’s always at least some visible light hitting
that letterbox area. The picture just looks better if that part of the screen isn’t lighting up, and masking materials are picked for their light absorbing abilities. The flat black and flat navy blue paints I use reflect back far more light than this Masquerade’s surfaces do.
I’ve always found a visible letterbox annoying at times. It’s one of the reasons I’m am a huge fan of projectors with excellent black level performance.
If you have a projector who’s black level performance is merely good to very good, then this Masquerade masking system will provide even more viewing improvement, since it will be effectively eliminating light that would be fairly noticeable when watching dark scenes. And since its absorbing that light, instead of reflecting it back into the room, it’s reducing the overall ambient light.
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