Posted on October 31, 2017 By Nikki Kahl
Bright rooms with ambient light have been a problem for projector fans for what seems like the dawn of time. Whether you’re using the projector for primarily home entertainment, home theater, business/education/house of worship applications, or just trying to project a slideshow at your baby’s first birthday, washed out images are never desirable. But what can you do when there’s no more shades to draw (or worse, no shades) to combat the remaining ambient light blasting your screen?
Art loves to talk about pairing the right screen with your projector, and for good reason. The right screen can mean the difference between a dull image and the vibrant one you deserve. Elite Screens has an angular reflective front projection screen material called CineGrey 3D that is designed to reject ambient light. That’s right. Your screen can mean the difference between an ambient light nightmare or your projector dreams come true. The CineGrey 3D screen material is the subject of this review, and we’ll get into that in a second. First – some background.
Elite Screens is a major player in the projector screen market. Their screens are lower cost than most “big names,” making them an affordable solution for your screen needs. The company does a lot of their manufacturing in China and Taiwan, and also uses Japanese and European-made screen materials for their top-of-the-line products. Da-lite, Stewart Filmscreen, Screen Innovations, etc. are US made, and that always costs more. Though manufacturing overseas does save on costs, it’s not what gives Elite such a distinct advantage on pricing: Elite Screens mass-produces the most common screen sizes and aspect ratios, and leaves the made-to-order market entirely to their competitors.
We rarely review screens, so treat our screen reviews as more of “end user reviews,” in that we don’t get to compare screens side by side. That said, enjoy the review!
The fine people at Elite Screens delivered me a 92” diagonal frame (the right size for my space) and the CineGrey 3D screen, along with a matte white screen for my reviewing needs. I really only needed the matte white, as I am constantly reviewing business and education projectors that are short throw and ultra short throw, which the CineGrey 3D screen will mistake for off-angle ambient light, and reject it.
ALR screens are able to reject that ambient light by absorbing light from off-angles, rather than reflecting it back into the room. They do not absorb light coming from head on, or the back of the room, because that is where the projector is. Thus, ALR screens are effective at absorbing light from the sides, and also steep angles up and down. That’s how these screens manage to look good even with some overhead lighting almost right above the screen.
The CineGrey 3D material is designed to work with projectors that have a “normal throw,” which means projectors that sit about ten feet or so back from the screen. This allowed me to compare the two screens, and, while they both displayed a gorgeous image, it was clear that the CineGrey 3D material did its job in rejecting ambient light. If you have a short throw or ultra short throw projector, you’re not out of luck – Elite Screens does manufacture ALR screens made specifically for these types of projectors.
Elite Screens also brought me the wonderful Sony VPL-VW665ES, an 1,800-lumen true 4K projector, to use for the review. They were interested to see how 4K content performed with the screen material, and I must say, it didn’t disappoint. Passengers, Rocky Mountain Express, and even The Secret Life of Pets, all looked really “wow” – even in the face of ambient light.
The CineGrey 3D material uses a diffusion layer over a highly reflective surface that allows direct light from the projector to properly display an image across the screen while up to absorbing up to 65% off-angle ambient light. Sounds costly, doesn’t it? Not so. Elite Screens offers this material for a lower cost than other higher end matte white or grey screen products. How much, you ask?
It depends on the size of your screen. Elite Screens offers the CineGrey 3D screen material in 92”, 100”, 110”, 120”, 135”, 150”, and 200” diagonal in 16:9 format, with varying price points. Want that wide screen look? No problem. Those are available in 103”, 125”, and 158” diagonal in 2.35:1 format. The 100” 16:9 screen is currently going for a mere $504, while the 120” goes for $649. By contrast, the 103” 2.35:1 screen sells for $639, and the 125” screen for $679, at the time of this review. You can expect to spend between $404 (92”) and $1069 (158”) for your CineGrey 3D screen.
The CineGrey 3D material will work for lecture halls, boardrooms, and other business/education environments, as well as in the home theater/media room/family room. For the purpose of this review, we stuck with the home theater vibe, but it will work for many different applications where there is uncontrollable ambient light (and a normal throw projector). In this review, we will go over some of the highlights of the CineGrey 3D screen material (below), assembly, accessories, and performance. By the end, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not this screen will work best for you.
The screen frame came assembled when Elite Screens delivered the CineGrey 3D to me, so I didn’t assemble the metal frame or stretch the CineGrey 3D material over the frame. I did, however, stretch the matte white screen material over it after I reviewed the CineGrey 3D, so I have provided photos of that process here.
The frame itself comes with wall mount brackets that fit easily into the frame’s grooves. A major plus of this fixed frame is that you don’t need to perfectly center the frame with the brackets – you can slide the frame to the left or to the right in order to achieve the perfect position in front of your seating area. So, if you mess up a smidge, it’s really no trouble at all.
Stretching the screen over the frame was oddly satisfying. It’s much like stretching a canvas, but easier. The screen material comes with Velcro on the back, with its matching counterparts on the frame itself. Place the screen material face down on a blanket or clean carpet, lay the frame on top of the screen material, then match the Velcro bits to each other. Once I did one L shaped side, I did the opposite side, taking care to really stretch that screen material. You want it to be pulled super tight so that there’s no ripples or bumps for a smooth surface.
Elite Screens LED Backlight Kit in action - this blue is my favorite, but there are 14 other colors (plus white) to choose from, which you can match to the color correction of the film you are watching, as I have done here. (Secret Life of Pets projected by Sony VPL-VW665ES onto CineGrey 3D screen, taken in my living room)
The LED Backlight strips come nicely spooled for easy application to the frame.
Remove the protective tape and apply LED strips directly to the screen material (below the Velcro, on the angled section of the back).
The light strips have wires that come out of one end. Each spool has one end like this. The strips can be cut, so I placed the wired ends together and unspooled the light strips, cutting them where they met in the upper corner.
Elite Screens' LED Backlight Kit for the Aeon Series screens comes with the LED light strips, a power block, RF receiver and simple remote control.
There is an optional LED strip light kit by Elite Screens that you can purchase separately for $89-$149, price dependent, of course, on your screen size. Elite brought these with the screens and I used them on both. They worked quite well until my new kitten decided the hanging wires looked like a nice toy and proceeded to rip the lights off the bottom of the screen every day until we had had enough of that. Oh well.
I would have really liked these to be smart lights because I habitually lose small remotes, but I wouldn’t expect a screen company to put out smart lights (just yet). I’ll get smart LED strips for my next backlighting attempt, once the kitten grows up a bit and learns boundaries (I can hope, right?). For the record, I really did like the Backlight Kit by Elite Screens, and would often use them for soft colored lighting in the living room with the projector turned off. The slow fade through all the colors was truly quite nice.
Speaking of that small remote, it’s a credit-card type with buttons for each color it can do (15 colors plus white), ones to raise or lower brightness, and buttons with effects (strobe, slow fade through the color spectrum, etc.). We used the lights for when we didn’t want it to be pitch black while watching Netflix and movies at night, such as while eating or getting up to use the bathroom. They’re great for backlighting during home entertainment-type activities, but remember that these are also considered to be ambient light, and will affect black levels, which is why many home theater enthusiasts will forego strip lights altogether.
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