Brighten Your Daytime Viewing

There are two (actually three depending on how you look at it, but who's counting?) major benefits to owning a front-projection HDTV. The size of the image, ranging from 60 to 120 inches in most home theater systems, makes movie watching at home almost as enjoyable as - and, in some cases, better than - what you'd see at the local multiplex. When it comes to images under 80 inches, of course, you can always rely on a rear-projection HDTV for the center of your home theater. But that's where a front-projection television has its second advantage. Even with the slimmest of the current rear-projection television designs, there's still the issue of the amount of physical space in the room that's taken up. While the amount of actual space is fairly small, the emotional space is still pretty high. ("You're not putting that in my living room!") With a paper-thin screen hanging on the wall or descending from the ceiling plus a small projection unit located across the room, the physical and emotional space used is negligible. What about plasma or LCD flat-panel HDTVs? When it comes to 60-inch or larger televisions, front-projection HDTVs can be purchased and installed for much less than an equivalently sized flat-panel - and, in many cases, you'll enjoy a better quality image.

The caveat here, though, is the phrase "in a darkened room". While front-projection sets retain their size/space advantages, in a brightly lit room - even in a room with an average amount of ambient light - the high-quality image that popped with color, brightness, and detail suddenly becomes faded, dull, and dim. This single issue, more than any other, keeps front-projection TVs from taking their rightful place as kings of daytime TV viewing as well as nighttime movie watching.

A new screen from Austin, Texas-based Screen Innovations could bring front-projection televisons out of the dark and into the light of day. The new Mirage Screen includes a high-contrast filter that covers 60 percent of the surface of the screen. The filter lets light from the projector to be reflected while absorbing incidental light from other sources such as windows and room lights that approach the screen from off-axis angles. Screen Innovations says that the presence of the filter results in a screen that's virtually unaffected by ambient light.

Compatible with LCD, DLP, and LCOS front projectors, the Mirage Screen is said to offer 10x higher contrast than standard front projection screens with images that are 2x brighter. Screen sizes will be available in one-inch diagonal increments starting at 60 inches and ranging up to 100 inches for 4:3 aspect ratio screens and up to 120 inches for 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio images.

The new screen will be officially launched at the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) EXPO on September 9, 2005 in Indianapolis, Indiana.