Sony VPL-VW70 - Projector Screens
5-18-2009 - Art Feierman
VPL-VW70 Projector Screen Recommendations:
If you are a black level fanatic, you'll probably want a light gray high contrast surface, to lower blacks a little, but, keep in mind that the VW70 is not that bright a projector. Certainly you won't have any problem if buying a smaller screen - 100 inch diagonal or less, with a high contrast gray surface. I found the VW70 to look absolutely killer, when projecting onto my Firehawk screen at a reduced size of about 100 inch diagonal. I could push it to 110 diagonal, but that's about it, and I fear that 110 inch diagonal is probably pushing it a bit, considering the lamp will dim over time.
Consider this: The general minimum guideline for movie theaters is 12 ft-lamberts, that is also used as a good guide for projector based home theater. Assuming a 1.0 gain, 100 inch diagonal screen, the Sony's 366 lumens muster up only 12.4 ft-lamberts. Then consider, that the lamp will continuously dim over time, to about half brightness by end of life. As a result, even with a 100" screen with a 1.0 gain, it may well be a bit dim before you replace your lamp. There are high contrast gray screens out there, including the Firehawk G3, the Da-lite Cinemavision HC, and others, with relative gains of 1.1 to 1.3. Those types of screens should pair well, and help a touch with the brightness.
On the other hand, the VW70's black level performance is one of the best. People wanting larger screens - say 110" diagonal, or a touch larger, may choose to go with a positive gain screen - there are a number available with gains in the 1.2 to 1.5 range. This will increase brightness, but as you get up to the 1.5 gain, you will likely notice a little drop off in brightness in the corners (that's on top of the slight loss all projectors tend to have, just due to optics not being as bright in the corners).
I generally am not a fan of real high gain screens, say 1.8 to 2.5 gain. With these higher gain screens, the viewing cone - the best place to sit, gets pretty small, and there is more roll-off in brightness. If you must go large screen with the VW70, you'll probably need the extra gain, but that's a really good reason to consider another, brighter projector, and there are a number of excellent ones to pick from.
I liked the performance of the VW70 on my 128 inch Firehawk screen (high contrast gray), but it felt just a little underpowered, when I filled the entire screen (and thats with a new lamp). I was more comfortable with it around 110 inch diagonal.
In my testing room, filling just all of my 106 inch diagonal Carada Brilliant White (a claimed 1.4 gain), the Sony looked very vibrant. I like my black levels a little lower, but I can't argue with the match, it looked spectacular on brighter scenes, and did a good job on the darker ones.
Bottom line: Pick your screen based on your room conditions, and whether you are willing to sacrifice some brightness for lower relative black levels.