Panasonic PT-AE4000 - Projector Screens
11/14/2009 - Art Feierman
General Screen Recommendations: 16:9 Diagonal
The PT-AE4000 with its really good black levels, has the performance to work with a variety of screen surfaces. For the most part, you'll be matching the characteristics of the screen to your room. The Panasonic PT-AE4000U, thanks to the blacks, still keeps black levels very nicely low, even with a white surfaced screen with some gain.
If you are a black level fanatic, you may still want to go with a high contrast gray, like the Firehawk G3, Grayhawk RS, Elite HC Gray, or Da-Lite HC CinemaVision. That is especially true if you are going with 16:9 screen sizes under 100 inch diagonal.
From my extensive viewing, for a typical gray surface screen, I would recommend a maximum screen size of 110 unless ceiling mounting close, in which case you can go a bit larger. I have really enjoyed the PT-AE4000U's performance on my Firehawk G3, and I've done just about all of my viewing at about 110" diagonal, in the calibrated Color 1 mode. That presumes the projector is placed not far past the mid-point, which me
If you choose a white surfaced screen, with moderate gain in the 1.3 to 1.4 range (such as the Stewart Filmscreen Studiotek 130 or the Carada Brilliant White), you can push the screen size a little larger, say to a maximum of 116 inches to 120 inches (depending on what the manufacturer offers). I also viewed the PT-AE3000U in my testing room, filling all of my 106 inch diagonal Carada Brilliant White screen. The Carada, thanks to gain, white surface, and being about 4-5 inches diagonally smaller, appeared much brighter than viewing on the Firehawk.
I would say that 110" diagonal is the critical size for transitioning from a high contrast gray to a plus gain white. Translated, that means that when watching movies on the PT-AE3000U at 110 inch diagonal on the Firehawk, I found brightness to be acceptable, but little to spare. On the Carada, there was simply more pop and wow factor due to the brightness. At the 110 inch size with the white surface, black levels will still nice and dark, though not as dark as with the gray surfaces. Let's put it this way. You'll still have noticeably blacker blacks on a typical white surface screen with the PT-AE4000, then you would get with a HC gray surface with almost any projector that isn't "ultra-high contrast" (which is basically just about everything that costs less).
Another trade-off to consider, relates to dealing with room ambient light. The HC gray surface screens can really make a difference there, so for those with some side ambient light, I'd say stick to the gray screens.
If you don't mind that narrow viewing cone (how far to the left or right of center you can sit), of course you can go with much higher gain screens - 1.8 to 2.5, and select a larger screen size. Personally I'm not a big fan of the higher gain screens (over 2.0 gain), as even in the center, I can see a bit of roll off in the corners, when you are looking at a relatively even large area such as sky.
When watching sports and HDTV at 110" diagonal on the Firehawk, I had no problem at all, with the brightness in Dynamic mode. Plenty of sizzle, and good performance with enough ambient light to properly watch sports. Consider: Who wants to watch with friends, in a pitch black room?
Ultimately, because the PT-AE3000U is average in brightness in both best and brightest modes, that roughly 110" maximum viewing size recommendation (excluding really high gain screens), should hold well whether you are strictly a movie person, or a sports fanatic that also likes movies.
2.35:1 Cinemascope Projector Screens
Time to open up a new can of worms. Thanks to the pseudo anamorphic lens emulation abilities of the PT-AE4000, you have the option of purchasing a 2.35:1 screen, instead of a 16:9. This will make sense to most movie only viewers, and some that primarily watch movies, as it gets rid of those pesky letterboxes on all those Cinemascope shaped movies (the vast majority of movies). Oh, you'll have those letterboxes back for HDTV and regular TV, but at least the choice of screen shape is yours to make, with the PT-AE3000.
First, if you go with a 2.35:1 screen, I'd say forget those really high gain screens (1.8 to 2.5). Since the screen is wider, there would be even more roll-off of brightness in the corners and far left and right sides of the image in general.