Screen Innovations Black Diamond II 1.4 Fixed Frame Projector Screen Review
Let’s discuss the Black Diamond II 1.4 screen’s slight color shift first, and then we can delve into how this screen really performs in different lighting scenarios. The Black Diamond II 1.4 has a slight shift towards blue. This was definitely visible, and Screen Innovations recognizes the shift, and discusses it on their site.
SI’s belief, (and it makes perfect sense to me), is that a good calibration of the projector to include the screen, should effectively remove the shift. I didn’t actually recalibrate a projector to confirm. Unlike my discussions about reflected ambient light below, a calibration, taking room and screen into consideration, should do the trick!
SI says the screen has upward of 300% more contrast than other screens. Definitely believable. Over all, in terms of general contrast under ambient light conditions, I’ll give it the edge, for example over my Firehawk, but, it really is going to depend on your room.
We’ve already mentioned the Black Diamond’s shift towards blue. A more significant issue popped up when I set up the screen on its stand, and placed it a couple of feet in front of, and partially below my Firehawk G3.
Now, the Firehawk is also a high contrast surface, but the Firehawk G3’s properties are such that it is very good at “rejecting” ambient light from the sides, but not very good on ambient coming from overhead or below.
In other words the properties of the Black Diamond 1.4 and the Firehawk G3, are such that the Black Diamond is great when there’s overhead lighting (they always look good at trade shows). The Firehawk, is better with side lighting, and that brings us to a key realization:
The Black Diamond projection screen does not like working in rooms where the walls are really colored, such as my primary “theater”. With the rust colored walls in my theater, the Back Diamond picked up a lot of that rust color.
In fact, sitting in my normal seat, about a foot off of dead center, and 12 feet back, the rust color reflecting off the screen (when there’s ambient light present), is noticeable whether I have my shades all the way down (leaking a little daylight at the edges), or a couple of the shades half way open, the rust color is there. In the shots below you can clearly see the rust on the screen. BTW, it’s not going to be even across the screen because the walls are closer to the sides of the screen. That translates into: No way to calibrate it away.
Black Diamond II 1.4 Screen vs. Firehawk G3 screen
Compared to the Black Diamond, my Firehawk is barely affected at all by the rust color of my room. Even with all the window shades open, its only slightly detectable, and mostly at the sides of the screen.
My ceilings are an “off white” – slightly beige, and actually quite a few shades darker than white. I’d say the ceiling is a light medium beige, not much different than the room’s carpet, which is a touch darker still. Because the ceiling and carpeting are pretty color neutral, they have almost no noticeable affect on the Firehawk – only maximum ambient light causes any rust coloration to appear, and that’s nothing compared to the SI’s shift.
This simply means that one of these two screens is likely to work better in your environment, than the other.
To provide a real perspective of how black the Black Diamond (and the Firehawk) get when really hit by ambient light consider these images:
For most people it simply will not be a question of which screen is technically better, but which one works in their specific room and viewing circumstances.
Neutral colored walls
If your walls are pretty much color neutral, and you have no windows on the sides or can fully black them out, when needed, and you do have lights above (maybe even a skylight?) then the SI Black Diamond II 1.4 would seem to be your screen of choice!
Walls with significant color
On the other hand, if your walls are “colorful”, and you have ambient light from the sides (including intentional use of wall sconces), then the Firehawk will prove to be the better choice. Mostly it’s that simple.
As I don’t have a room set up to check it out, I’m not sure, which screen surface would work best for someone with white or near white walls. I know when I had my Firehawk before we painted the theater rust, the white walls still degraded the image just from light from the screen, reflecting off the near walls and back onto the screen. Going to the rust color was a massive improvement of the picture quality.
The SI screen claims to absorb more light than others (including the Firehawk), yes absorbing some of that light energy, not just reflecting it away to the opposite direction. As such my belief is that the Black Diamond II 1.4 will do better in a room with white walls than the Firehawk would. No question about it, the SI does far better than the Firehawk when I turn on the one light in my theater that is designed to hit the screen directly pointing down from just in front, and up high, but since the the Firehawk’s weakness is the vertical plane, it also raises the question of a situation that I don’t have to deal with, and that’s low ceilings. Mine is a cathedral ceiling – the closest any part of my Firehawk gets to any part of our ceiling is a good 5 feet, and on average, the top of the surface is about 7 feet from the closest ceiling (21 ft cathedral at it’s peak).
My point being that the Firehawk isn’t going to do particularly well, in the light rejection category, if you have a low ceiling (or tiled floors), that are white or near white, just a foot or two from the Firehawk’s surface.
In my 2nd theater/testing room the ceiling is again darkened a bit, and the walls are slighly brownish, but medium to medium-dark in color. In that room, with conventional matte screens, the biggest problem in terms of reflected light (from the projected image) is definitely reflection back from the ceiling, which is closer, than the side walls, to the screen.
I mention this, because these are the types of issues you must consider, to chose the better screen – the Black Diamond, or the Firehawk – or any HC gray surfaced screen.
While I can’t move my Firehawk into the testing room, I have a Carada Brilliant White there, and also that Elite high contrast light gray screen I reviewed, and liked as a good low cost HC gray (that’s not too gray).
The Carada has no light rejection abilities – a 1.4 gain white matte. The Elite, is a different matter. It does reject some of the overhead lighting, but it’s not even remotely in the league of the Screen Innovations Black Diamond II 1.4. The SI screen still provided a repectable picture (not great, though) with the pair of 65 watt recessed lights just 20 inches in front of the screen. Impressive.
The Black Diamond performed superbly in that room, compared to the other screens available. If it was a choice of Firehawk or Black Diamond for that room, I would have to choose the Black Diamond.
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