The Right Screen for Ambient Light-Residential Settings IN THE “GOOD

The Right Screen for Ambient Light-Residential Settings IN THE “GOOD
White Paper–September 2015
The Right Screen for Ambient Light-Residential Settings
By Amy Madden (MBA, CTS, LEED®
AP) Residential Market Manager,
Draper Inc.
IN THE “GOOD old days,”
when a projection screen was being
installed in a home it was mostly for
a dedicated theater room. After all,
it was called “home theater!”
In those situations, viewing surface
choice was fairly simple, because
ambient light was controlled and
the screen was almost always being
used in the dark. Put up a 1.0 gain
matt white surface and you were
ready to go.
This illustration shows how angular reflective Ambient Light Rejecting grey screen materials—
such as Draper’s TecVision MS1000X Grey—work in rooms with ambient light. Light that is too
close to the screen is being reflected to the floor while projected light is reflected to the viewer.
Illustration by Draper, Inc.
But over the years the concept of
home entertainment has advanced.
Sure there are still plenty of dedicated home theaters,
but now people are also wanting to use their screens
for more. If you’re throwing a party to watch the big
game, for instance, you want the lights on. In addition,
there may not be room for a dedicated home theater
so the screen is going in a multiple use space. Which,
again, means more ambient light.
Because people have been using 1.0 gain white projection screens for so long, however, we still see them in
use—even in those multi-purpose rooms with ambient
light—and a room with uncontrolled light is definitely
not where you want a white screen. They’re very diffusive and spread light in a very wide pattern, and they
do this with both projection light and room ambient
light. That means both types of light are competing
at the viewer’s eyes, so the image on the screen looks
“washed out” when the light is not controlled.
There are other options available to the homeowner.
One option is to use a higher gain white screen, such as
Draper’s TecVision XT1300 White, which has a gain of
1.3. Using a higher gain white screen will improve the
brightness of the image, but there are two major drawbacks to consider. Contrast can suffer and the seating
arrangement to view the screen should be as close to
on-axis as possible. Even higher gain white screens are
best used when the ambient light can be controlled.
That’s why if ambient light is an issue in your room, you
should be looking at an ambient light rejecting screen.
The usual assumption, when dealing with uncontrolled
ambient light in a multi-purpose area, is to handle it
With the right screen surface, ambient light need not “wash out” your
viewing enjoyment.
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(continued on next page)
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with a grey screen. However, simply “going
grey” isn’t necessarily the right answer. Not
all grey screens are ambient light rejecting.
While their black tints allow some of them
to improve contrast, they are still mostly diffusive surfaces and don’t “reject” or “reflect”
off-axis ambient light away from the audience. Traditional grey screens also tend to
have very low gains. That means that they
will eat up your projected light, again forcing you into a brighter projector.
That’s why the best choice for a room with
a good amount of ambient light is an actual
ambient light rejecting material. The best
ones are typically darker grey, which helps
Grey tints help ambient light rejecting screens do their job.
with image contrast, but they are more
angular reflective than diffusive. Reflective
the contrast, and no projector can compete with good
components in the vinyl surface reflect off-axis ambient old sunlight! Today there are more ambient light rejectlight away at the same angle as it is hitting the surface,
ing surfaces on the market, which means less expensive
essentially bouncing it away from the audience.
options have become available. You can get better
There is a caveat here. You can take it too far. Materials
that are the most ambient light rejecting are so reflective that you can sometimes see hot spotting. They also
typically have narrow viewing cones. The best choice is
an ambient light rejecting material with a good balance
of angular reflectance and diffusion.
A quick word about color. Remember that grey tints
reduce gain in most ambient light rejecting materials,
and they can tend to “muddy” bright colors. This means
a brighter projector to sufficiently “light up” those
colors, or better ambient light control. Even with that,
however, ambient light rejecting materials provide the
best solution in lighted rooms, especially when proper
selection tools are used to find the right material.
Not all ambient light rejecting screens are the same.
Go for one that gives you the best of all the characteristics needed for good design – the right grey tint for
contrast, the right gain for brightness and wide viewing
angles, Imaging Science Foundation-certified for true
color reproduction, and 4K ready. Don’t settle!
Besides habit, cost is another reason we still see matt
white screens being used instead of ambient light
rejecting materials. Ambient light rejecting surfaces
have traditionally come with a higher price tag, so the
cheaper matt white screens get used with a brighter
projector. This doesn’t really solve the problem. Throwing more brightness at a white screen doesn’t enhance
performance by evaluating the lighting conditions and
combining the right projector and surface. Plus, the
higher cost of an ambient light rejecting screen is actually less expensive than upgrading to a more powerful
projector to handle ambient light.
Draper offers grey TecVision solutions for high ambient
light situations. TecVision MS1000X Grey has an onaxis gain of 1.0, and superior contrast, and is certified
by the Imaging Science Foundation for color accuracy.
TecVision XH900X Grey provides high contrast at a gain
of 0.9 on-axis. XH900X has a wider viewing cone than
MS1000X, is also ISF-certified, and resists moderate to
high ambient light. Both surfaces are 4K ready.
So how do you know which material to use in your situation? There are a couple of questions you need to ask.
Assuming you know the screen type and size, you also
need to know ambient light levels and the widest off
center seating angle in the room.
At Draper we use an online calculator called the “Projection Planner” (
login.aspx) to calculate system brightness and contrast. Without a tool like this, you are guessing at image
quality. To use Draper’s Projection Planner you must
register, but it is free. We’ve developed a tutorial on
using the Planner:
To learn more about Draper screen products, check out
our website,
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