The Screen Matters
Stewart Filmscreen offers a lot of fabrics. This can be puzzling. The reason we do is because we are driven to optimization. We don’t want to be close to target. We want to be exactly on target — furnishing the best possible image at any scale. Some of our fabrics are tailored to small size screens, some to huge scale screens. Likewise, every venue as well as every projector varies in brightness. We don’t want to leave any performance advantage on the table and we strive to deliver optimum, breathtaking images that are best in class. Backed by our experienced engineering team, we stand ready to guide you to optimal results.
No one but Stewart. We are vertically integrated, manufacturing our fabrics in our U.S. based factory in Torrance, California. We control every step of the QC process from beginning to end. These processes are carefully controlled and monitored as part of our commitment to continuous improvement and borne out by our qualification and adherence to ISO 9001:2015 standards.
Many of our competitors use rolled vinyl made from a calender process (a series of hard pressure rollers) to make their screens. This same vinyl is used to make a host of other products including car seats, window roller shades, indoor and outdoor signage, tarps, tents and pond liners. Our screen materials are made for one sole purpose only; to give you the best possible image resolution, color fidelity, and uniformity — no matter your application or your venue. We pour our heart and soul into furnishing the best possible image fidelity in virtually any size. Our stated aspiration is to leave you completely awed by the picture quality.
Stewart Filmscreen is the only projection screen manufacturer to build unrivaled optical screen materials from the molecular level up. Our proprietary process involves a unique multi-layer system, allowing us to craft the perfect custom screen material for each unique venue. Our screen fabrics can receive as many as 13 optical layers — each providing a specific, optical quality, resulting in a picture perfect image. Our vertically integrated manufacturing process guarantees that you will receive a high performance screen fabric specifically formulated to serve the venue for many years.
We build seamless projection screens because our customers demand them. Why is this important? The longevity and image fidelity of the screen is greatly improved when seams are eliminated. “Virtually seamless” is not the same as seamless. We’ve all seen the opposite result — aging, shabby seams showing up in the content whenever key or brightly lit scenes are shown. With Stewart, you’ll never have any seams.
Tab-tensioning was developed by Stewart Filmscreen over forty years ago as a complement to the development of stressed roller tubes. Stewart’s stressed tubes enabled screen images to go wider than any previously deployed roller screens by employing a process known as tab-tensioning. The Stewart family had a lot of sailors back then and they knew from experience that a clew could be used to pull a sail out to a flat position, pulling against a luff rope. They took this principle and added luff cables and a weighted batten to a roller screen. We now call those luff lines, side cords and we use tabs to luff the screen outward. The side cords are curved so that each tab is equally tensioned from top to bottom. The end result is the widest possible screen image with a flat, even surface in the vertical direction.
The catenary curve forms a “virtual frame,” applying equal tension on all points of the screen. The stressed roller tube suspends the material across the top. The batten tensions the bottom edge. And equal tension is provided on the sides by the curved, tab-tensioning system. The catenary curve provides a perfectly flat image — up to 45 feet wide — with up to 25 feet of screen material descending from the ceiling. The best part? Touch a button and up it goes, freeing the room for other activities.
The determination of the use of front projection versus rear projection is an important early dichotomy in determining screen selection. Rear projection has some basic advantages in contrast rendition in varying, uncontrolled viewing conditions and also provides a unique ability to allow a presenter to stand in front of the screen without interrupting screen content. Rear projection via rigid screens also provides an artful separation of the viewing area from the projector and helps to isolate any noise. The principle disadvantage of rear projection is the need to dedicate an area behind the screen for the light path. Front projection is efficient in that the light path is shared with the viewing audience.
Room lighting varies, and without particular efforts in screen technology, contrast falls rapidly as room light increases. Stewart offers reference materials for well controlled spaces where ambient and re-reflected light is managed. Stewart has also pioneered special products to enhance contrast performance in ambient light. We offer matte gray surfaces as well as intensely-engineered metallic and hybrid metallic surfaces with our Phantom HALR and FireHawk products to provide contrast in difficult lighting environments. It is always important that a candid assessment of room lighting be a key component of your screen selection process.
Throw distance is typically not problematic for matte screens and many rear projection screens that are designed for short throw use. Longer throw distances are synergistic with products tailored to perform in high ambient light as well as for polarization preserving fabrics for 3D use. Longer throw distances normalize and reduce the standard deviation of the angle of incidence of projected light hitting the screen. As throw distance increases the light hits the screen in angles much closer to 90 degrees. This is helpful with the redistribution of light in the viewing area, greatly reducing the penalty in uniformity which a niche specific, ambient light rejecting screen must offer. In 3D presentation spaces, longer throws reduce double bounces of light on the screen surface, preserving stereoscopic vision for content separation and contrast.
The best seat will always vary from viewer to viewer. Some prefer the visual envelopment of the front of the house while others prefer to be more central. Stewart Filmscreen is very driven to make sure that each seat is as pleasing as possible. If compromises in quality from seat to seat must be made, Stewart will predict those outcomes and assist in preparing all vested parties with accurate information and ensure your expectations will be met.
Stewart Filmscreen is technology neutral with regard to projector types. We have the greatest respect for our partners in two-piece projection. We also pay close attention as tech evolves and we frequently collaborate with most leading projector companies. Many projector companies utilize our screens in their Q.C. and product development efforts. Currently, there is a lot of discussion about laser illuminant equipped projectors, and Stewart Filmscreen has been an eager partner for all participants in solid state illumination. We have exemplary products for laser projection — whether hybrid or phosphor wheel — and we have superb products for 3P/6P direct laser DCI compliant projectors.
Screen gain and half gain are measured in reference to specially developed pure white “gain standards” which are optical surfaces which reflect light in hemispheric, “Lambertian” distribution. Just about any surface can be manipulated to deliver specific results on-axis. It is a very different level of sophistication to control what happens off-axis. At Stewart, we hold ourselves to a standard of continuous monitoring and improvement in off-axis performance at all gain levels. Many competing fabrics drop the ball in off-axis performance resulting in hot spotting (a luminous, distracting and non-uniform ball of concentrated light) which follows the viewer regardless of position. Poor off-axis uniformity also results in color shift, a phenomena where colors change depending on viewer position.
Aspect ratios are dictated by projector technology, coupled with the source material to be displayed. At Stewart we furnish an endless array of screen configurations including retractable systems upon which any aspect ratio can be displayed. We also offer the world’s most advanced precision masking screen systems which include digital memories, allowing the viewer to select not only the proper aspect ratio, but also the capability to display that ratio at the scale most appropriate to the resolution of the content.
The world comes to us in a wide variety of content. Aspect ratios vary because we now have so many sources for content. For a cinephile, or anyone who is detail oriented, an image area that is not optimally matted at the correct aspect ratio is unacceptable. Stewart furnishes polished, full-featured, fully automated four channel masking systems that are best in class. We build reliable systems for customers who insist on having the best masking system on the market. We also manufacture simplified systems which offer dual aspect ratios. Whatever the work flow of your professional or private space, we have a matching feature set. We work continuously in partnership with fabric producers to guarantee that the masking fabrics we offer are best in light absorption and sound transmission and optimal for the scale and the audio in your specification.
We take color very seriously. We have to. Our customers will not tolerate anything less. Our goal is to do no harm to the color space defined by content creators. We constantly measure our fabrics with exacting instruments to verify that proper color rendition is just a projector calibration away.
Stewart Filmscreen serves the most particular and demanding customers in any given niche of the audio visual market — the filmmaking industry. These professionals are not shy about what they expect and require from a projection screen. Filmmakers need to do their work without having any concerns that the screen itself is altering or skewing the results of their work. Post-production and presentation work is very costly and the screen needs to be a constant factor of quality which can be relied upon throughout the post-production process. We have carefully listened and have developed a unique grouping of reference quality, front projection screen fabrics in response to the continuous dialog we maintain with our most exacting customers. These screens are the reference screens for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Matte white screens offer reference quality pictures in environments where ambient and re-reflected light sources are controlled. Not all matte screens are created equal. Variations in texture and surface gloss separate the high performers from the average offerings. Stewart Filmscreen makes matte white screens tailored for post-production clients who work long days in front of screens. These customers are an important, core market for Stewart Filmscreen. However, you don’t have to be in the movie business to enjoy reference viewing. We can help bring reference viewing to your own home.
Gray screens were pioneered by Stewart Filmscreen. Our early GrayMatte line was specifically engineered to preserve contrast in circular theme park and simulation environments. GrayHawk was developed to offer a near unity gain gray screen with enhanced contrast for home theater, calibrating properly for color rendition. Stewart has continued to improve these products and develop additional versions for larger formats. In rear projection, FilmScreen 100, offered at unity gain, and FilmScreen 150 which is 50% above unity, are both category leading screen fabrics for contrast preserving performance.
Stewart offers FireHawk G5, FireHawk LS, and Phantom HALR screen fabrics in high and ultra-high ambient light categories. These unique products are quite capable of preserving black levels and contrast. Stewart can offer these stellar fabrics in anything from a small, borderless version to a 45 foot wide retractable, perforated screen. The image to the right shows a 50/50 screen with Phantom HALR and SnoMatte 100 as shown in a room with high ambient light. We take great pride in the careful production of these charcoal screens and have found great success in their continued, high demand for venues which have uncontrollable levels of ambient light.
Silver screens are produced for 3D presentations utilizing polarized light to maintain separation between left and right eye content. Stewart Filmscreen offers two superb performers in this segment — Silver 3D, a higher gain iteration with exemplary stereoscopic separation and luminance recovery, and Silver 5D, a lower gain, wider viewing cone version which works best with shorter throws and with wider seating arrangements.
We offer optional screen perforation for realistic sound so you can place speakers behind the screen to create big theater sound in your own personal theater. During post-production audio film mixing, soundtracks are assigned to designated speakers with left, center and right channel speakers in the front, and surround sound speakers behind the viewer. As a result, the sound comes from where you expect it and the audio is aligned with the action sequences seen on the screen.
There is a lot of talk about 16K resolution. But, what really matters when we talk about 16K is the size of the display and how far away the viewer is from the display. The resolution ability of the human eye is constant. However, the eye’s ability to see intricate details changes significantly as you create distance and move away from the display. For instance, the level of detail you can see on a phone or laptop screen is very different from the level of detail you can see on a projected screen surface when viewed from the appropriate viewing distance. For front projection, all Stewart fabrics are capable of resolving in excess of 16K on a ten foot wide screen which is at least double what the human eye can resolve when viewed from the appropriate distance. For rear projection, Stewart Filmscreen serves simulation clients who are aggressively combining multiple projectors on single screen surfaces resulting in astounding pixel densities, reaching a minimum of six line pairs per millimeter.
Stewart Filmscreen was founded in Southern California — the home of the movie industry and the home of theme based entertainment. We embrace custom applications and we always have. We look forward to challenging custom designs because it’s in our DNA. We are a trusted partner for the most particular clients in the world. We execute and honor non-disclosure agreements with government contractors as well as private sector entities who are at the cutting edge of possibilities in imaging and color science. This is not a stretch for us, it’s everyday business. We can make it happen for you.