Carada Masquerade CIH Review- A Motorized Masking System For Your Projector Screen
6/28/2011 - Art Feierman
Carada Masquerade CIH Masking System - Overview
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.
Above, with the Mask fully open (2.35:1), from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
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.
Above, Mask closed to 16:9, HDTV shape
Editor's note: There's not much more frustrating than trying to photograph a Masking system, especially one mounted to an extremely dark wall
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
Masquerade CIH Masking System Highlights
- Eliminates visible letterboxing via motorized masking panels that slide in from the sides
- Good, easy to use remote control
- Masks a standard 2.35:1 screen (or 2.37:1 or 2.40:1)
- Masking for 4:3, 16:9, and 1.85:1 aspect ratios
- Very good installation documentation!
- Available in standard sizes from 80" up to 136" diagonal, in increments of 8". Other sizes optional
- Manufacturer direct - reduces cost
Carada Masquerade CIH Specifications
MSRP (by diagonal inches):
80" 2.35:1 $3951
88" 2.35:1 $4009
96" 2.35:1 $4076
104" 2.35:1 $4151
112" 2.35:1 $4231
120" 2.35:1 $4338
128" 2.35:1 $4459
136" 2.35:1 $4601
Note: Masquerade pricing does not include screen.
Power: Choice of 120V no power cord, 120V with cord (wall plug in), or 240V no cord.
Outside dimensions - example: For 120" diagonal: 123" wide, 59.5" high, 3.8" deep, for others, consult Carada's site
I find it refreshing that their pricing doesn't all end in 99, 98, or 95.
Normally figure $100+ for shipping, however Carada has run free freight promotions, and is running a free freight summer special as this is written in late June '11.
Above: The car image, retaken, with significant light hitting the upper right side of the screen, washing out the scene. This allows you to get a look at the Masquerade's shape, up against a dark navy blue, flat paint.
Masquerade CIH Installation
I don't like installing things. I've given it up. I've torn a hip ligament, messed up rotator cuff, etc. I leave that to those younger or more foolish than I. I normally pay someone to assemble screens that I'm reviewing.
In the case of the Masquerade, I thought I'd try something novel. We had recently moved into the house (which also houses the company), so I asked my general contractors if they wanted to tackle it, as long as they were painting the room. These are two good guys that do impressive work. It must be noted, they never installed a screen before, nevermind a masking system, they're more of the travertine floor, ceiling fan type contractors.
They opened a box, looked at the instructions and said sure.
Above, small Masquerade logo on lower left side. Sliver of screen surface above it provides some perspective. The blue is the room's flat navy blue paint.
Now, I've read through the instructions for assembly, a couple of times now, and it seems to all be there, and well laid out, but I didn't see the Masquerade assembled.
I can tell you two things. I came back a little more than two hours after I had left (which was as they were unboxing the first box). At that point they were just finishing up.
All the instructions I gave our guys amounted to: Exactly how many inches off the floor I wanted the bottom, and How far from one side wall.
Above: Masquerade's upper right corner. Mask is set to 16:9. You can just make out where the frame ends and the mask begins.
When I returned they plugged it in, handed me the remote, and it worked as promised. I can set to one of four aspect ratios at a push of a button.
So, our contractors, two guys, fully capable of using standard power tools, a level, etc, can follow instructions and assemble and mount in 2 hours. If you aren't using Carada's "MMS" screens, which seem to be their usual surfaces on a mount that makes the installation with the Masquerade especially easy, I assume a little extra time may be needed, with most fixed mount screens. Our contractors didn't report any difficulties. Now that's the way I like my installations done.
For those into some heavy reading, here's a link to the installation manual. As I said, it seems very thorough, and there was nothing apparently missing, to slow my inexperienced (at screens) contractors, from getting it right the first time.
One more thing to add: After several months, and hundreds of aspect ratio changes, it still works smoothly with no strange sounds, scrapes or squeals.
Carada offers a one year parts and labor warranty. That's not as long as the 3 years they offer on their projection screens, but not an unreasonable warranty for a product of this type. Still we always like to see longer warranties.
NEXT: Summary of the Masquerade Review