Carada "Brilliant White" Projection Screen - Review
02/24/2006 -Art Feierman
This review is a long time in coming. I received the Carada Brilliant White screen over a month ago, but with projectors stacked up to review, assembly required, and a new testing room being completed, I finally got it assembled and mounted days before Superbowl, and have now used the Carada screen for viewing 6 different projectors (5 home theater, and one business projector). Again, this screen is mounted in my testing area/office, and is far away from my standard home theater screen, a 128" motorized Firehawk by Stewart.
And I am finally ready to comment on it.
First I should mention that when I spoke to the folks at Carada, I had originally anticipated getting one of their High Contrast Grey screens. However upon dicussing it with them, they recommended I try the Brilliant White. I also figured that, I know how several brands of HC gray screens work with most home theater projectors, and that working with a high gain screen like the Brilliant White would improve my perspective. Many people have dark walled theaters and no ambient light, and many may need a bright screen with some of the less bright home theater projectors.
Model: Criterion (has the deluxe trim - their standard trim models are called Precision)
Type: Rigid, Fixed wall screen
Surface: "Brilliant White"
Size: 106" diagonal
Aspect ratio: 16:9 (1.78:1) Their screens are also available in the following ratios:
1.33:1 (4:3), 1.85:1, 2.05:1, and 2.35:1. Plus, custom shapes on request
Trim border: Approximately 3 3/8" on all sides, beveled
Trim material: Soft velvet
The first perspective will be for home theater screen buyers, then comments for commercial use.
Two of the most important things that come to mind for home theater buyers, when choosing a screen, have to be price, and image quality. For example there are some truly wonderful screens out there that cost thousands of dollars. If your theater has a $10,000 projector then a $3000 screen might make a lot of sense. But if you are buying a $1000 or $2000 projector, in my opinion, $3000 is over the top for a screen.. Better to spend an extra $1500 on the projector and go with a less expensive screen. (There is a counter argument for that, which I will cover later.)
When it comes to price, Carada has a big advantage on most manufacturers. They sell directly to the end user, not through dealers. That of course saves the buyer money. To put things in perspective I have priced below the selling price of this particular Carada screen, with similar gain, surface, and framed screens from two major competitors, Stewart Filmscreen, and Da-Lite. Carada's prices are what you will pay. With Da-lite you should be able to get a discount - and (though I am no expert), a 20% discount would probably be really good. With Stewart, you can probably find a discount as well, but in talking to dealers, I'm told Stewart has less profit margin in their screens than Da-lite, so the discounts would be smaller
Carada Criterion, Brilliant White surface: 106" 16:9 with Deluxe Trim : $788.85 (price from Carada's website)
Da-lite Cinema Contour Screen, Cinema Vision Surface 1.3 gain:
106" 16:9 with Pro Trim: $1360 + $150 (for Pro Trim) = $1510. (price from Da-lite catalog)
Stewart Luxus Deluxe, StudioTek 130 surface 1.3 gain,
106" 16:9 with Luxus Deluxe trim: $2318 (this price is not confirmed as accurate)
For those of you on a really tight budget, Carada offers the same screen surface with a narrower, non-beveled trim (also in black velvet), for less month. The frame drops to 2" wide (from 3 3/8"), and for this size screen, reduces cost by about $120.
For those requiring different sized screens, Carada does provide pricing for every size, and surface, on their website. (They list pricing for 17 different diagonal sizes from 64" diagonal to 142" diagonal, with 12 of those sizes being between 84" and 126" diagonal, which should cover at least 95% of home theater shoppers.
The Carada screen uses snaps to fasten the screen surface to the aluminum frame. This is pretty typical, although there are some fixed frame screens that use velcro, for example, Da-lite's Cinema Contour also uses snaps, but they have a slightly less expensive Imager series that uses velcro.
I'm not much on assembling screens, and better admit, right now, that I didn't put this one together. I wasn't even here for its assembly. I was having work done mounting my new projector in my theater room, and simply asked the installers to also put together the Carada screen, and mount it. I showed them exactly where I wanted it mounted. It couldn't have been too tough a job, for two reasons. First, they charged me less than $100 for the assembly and mounting, and second, because, according to my wife, one guy put it all together, and the 2nd installer just helped with the mounting. In all, (with mostly one person working), it took less than an hour. Sorry I couldn't be more help with the details.
The image below with four assembly views is from the Carada site. It hopefully will help you since I was unable to take pictures during assembly, having been out of town and leaving the wife in charge.
The assembled screen holds the screen surface taut, there is no sign anywhere of wrinkling, or pulling. The surface, according to Carada is washable, but I haven't looked into the rules and regulations of doing it right.
In a perfect world, any screen will reflect back the same balance of color that hits it. Some screens are better at this than others. While I am no expert on how to best determine the color accuracy of a screen, I came up with a method that should provide a good idea.
Using our Optic One Light meter, and projecting a 100 IRE (white) image on to the screen from a projector, I first placed the light meter directly in front of the screen and measured the light balance. The projector used was the Optoma HD72,
previously calbrated. At 100 IRE the white was off only slightly on the projector from the desired 6500K. The first image shows the measurement diamond virtually on top of the square (desired) target. On the left you can see that the readings are just a little down on red, at 95.42, and almost perfect on Green - 101.40, and blue 99.03.
I then turned the light meter toward the white light reflected off the screen, and repeated the process. As you can see from this image there is a slight shift in the color, but by any standard very slight. The variation of most projectors when measured at different IRE (gray levels, is typically this great or greater). That would indicate that this screen is extremely neutral, and for perfectionists, easy to adjust the calibration of any projector to compensate.
The red value dropped insignificantly to 94.91, the green remained the same increasing only 0.26% to 101.66, and the blue, dropped slightly more than 1% to 97.84. Now that's pretty impressive.
The Brilliant White screen surface claims a gain of 1.4. As with screens with gain, brightness will diminish as you view the screen off access. I again measured the brightness of the projector on the light meter, and then, without the diffuser, measured light reflecting off the screen. This is not an accurate method of measure for several reasons, but the numbers yielded a gain of just under 1.3. Due to the slight off angle of the light meter, I expected the measurement to yield a lower gain than actual. Based on this, I find the 1.4 claim to be very reasonable.
Screens with gain, by nature, focus light. The result is that as you move off angle, you must expect brightness to diminish. A gain of 1.4 generates very modest roll off, and almost no hot spot compared to higher gain screens with gains approaching 2.0 or beyond. Based on subjective viewing this screen rolls off modestly as would be expected as one moves off angle. If you are sitting far enough back, you could easily sit well outside the left or right edge of the screen. With the 106" diagonal screen (92" wide), at a distance of 12 feet, I would recommend best seating to be within 6-7 feet of center (a 12-14 foot wide seating area). With a screen this size, that should easily allow four, wide theater seats (40" wide each) in the first row, or five..
Moving another 2-4 feet to the side, causes only minor additional change, not drastic., So, five, or even six wide home theater style seats is very doable.The center three seats would be almost perfect, but the outermost seats will be virtually as good. . I would say acceptable viewing would be up to 9 feet from center at the same 12 foot distance. In other words, unless you have an excessively wide room, the roll off should not be an issue at all.
Most impressively, there is virtually no hot spot visible. Even when I shine a pure white image, or a blue screen (which makes it far easier to detect a hot spot then normal viewing content) , I could barely detect any. I can definitely state that my other screen, the 128" Stewart Firehawk which is a high contrast light gray screen has noticeably more of a hot spot, as it is expected to. being that it is better at rejecting ambient light from the sides. A fair trade off. And on that note, the Brilliant White surface is not going to be your first choice if you do want to limit ambient light coming from the sides.
Stewart's Studiotek 130 (with 1.3 gain), not their Firehawk however, is the Stewart screen with the most similar properties to Carada's Brilliant White, and is widely considered the best screen in its class - for both image and build quality. I have seen the StudioTek 130 side by side against the Firehawk, so I am somewhat familiar with its properties, even though I don't have one here. It is hard to imagine that the Studiotek 130 could be significantly better than this Carada screen. The Studiotek is also also known for an impressively wide viewing area for a screen with gain.
Commercial Applications: Business, Government and Education:
For commercial applications, the combination of the 1.4 gain, and the traditionally much brighter portable (2000 - 3000 lumens) or installation (3000 - 6000+ lumens) projectors, should allow a sceen of this size (or the 4:3 shape - 1.33:1, more tradtionally used in commercial applications, to work well, even under full florescent lighting.
For the images immediately below I hooked up a 1300 lumen DLP home theater projector (dimmer than the least expensive new business projectors today) to my laptop, and have placed a number of files on the screen, a spreadsheet with color
bars and text, a Powerpoint bar graph, and text files. The room has a window directly behind the projector, and blinds are open. Although daytime, no sunlight is coming in. I addition their are 4 85 watt recessed flood lamps, two, close to the screen. As you can see, even with a not too bright home theater projector this screen helps produce a bright image with rich colors, easy to see, with almost no detectable washing out of the colors.. The second smaller image (to the right) is "overexposed" so you can get an idea of what the room light looks like (although it still appears brighter than that image. (I should have shot the image with the projector turned off, sorry!) Of course that makes the images on the screen completely overexposed and almost all white. I could have had twice the lights in this room, and the projector/Carada screen combination wouldn't have "flinched".
Time for the summary, pros and cons. Click below