Editor's Choice

Review: Stewart Studiotek 100
Professional Projection Screen

Bill Livolsi, April 2, 2009
Contents
Features and Limitations

Stewart Filmscreen's Studiotek 100 wins Editor's Choice Award

In the world of front projector screens, Stewart Filmscreen is synonymous with excellence. Their products, though pricey, typically offer outstanding, reference-quality performance. So it's not surprising that their newly christened Studiotek 100, is among the best front projector screens we've ever seen.

The Studiotek 100 (formerly the SnoMatte 100) is one of Stewart's "G3" high-definition screens, which are designed for maximum detail clarity when used with 1080p projectors. It has a 1.0 gain for smooth, even light reflection, and it has a half-gain angle that is so wide it can't be measured. The Studiotek 100 is a professional screen primarily intended for use in post-production houses, and it needs to be used in a black, non-reflective environment for best results. Stewart normally does not recommend that it be used for home theater, since most consumers do not have the black viewing space required for optimum performance. The Studiotek 100 is a unique and very special screen that reflects exactly what the projector is projecting, with no biases or gains added to the mix. It is available from Stewart's dealer network at $2329 for a 100" 16:9 fixed frame.

Key Features

1.0 Gain. The Studiotek 100 has a gain spec of 1.0. We measured gain at five points on the screen--the center and closer to the four corners. The average of the five readings was 0.97. Furthermore, there was only a 2.04% variance between the lowest and highest gain measured across the screen, so white field uniformity is outstanding. This is excellent performance by any standard.

No Half-Gain Angle. A front projection screen always appears brightest when the viewer is centered directly in front of it. The brightness you get from this viewing position is called Peak Gain at Zero Degrees Viewing Axis. In addition to Peak Gain, most projection screens have a Half-Gain Angle, which is the viewing angle at which the image on screen appears half as bright as it does when viewing from the center, zero degree axis. On high-gain or ambient light rejection screens, the Half-Gain Angle can be very narrow - 20 degrees or less. That means the picture dims considerable as you move away from the center viewing position. Most quality home theater screens have a wide Half-Gain Angle, say 60 degrees or more. This allows viewers who are seated off-center to have a similar viewing experience as those seated in the middle of the room.

The remarkable thing about the Studiotek 100 is that you never get to a position of half-brightness even when viewing it from almost 90 degrees off center. The Studiotek 100 is a Lambertian surface. In theory, a perfect Lambertian surface will look equally bright from, say, 80 degrees off-angle as it will from zero degrees. And while the Studiotek 100 is not a theoretically perfect Lambertian surface, it has very little light loss when the viewer moves off-center. In fact, light loss is so minimal that there is no measurable Half-Gain Angle. The image on screen only dims by about 30% when standing at about 85 degrees off-axis.

Perfect color balance. Many times, some color shift is apparent on inexpensive or do-it-yourself screens. In our "Screens under $500" review, we noted quite a few instances of blue shift, while our "100-inch screen for under $100" article noted some yellow shift in the paper we were using. These shifts are acceptable in budget class screens and they can be compensated for to some degree by recalibrating the projector. However, a precision high-performance screen will have no spectral shift, and this one is entirely neutral as we've come to expect from Stewart products.

Smooth surface. As an HD screen, the Studiotek 100 has a smoother surface than earlier generation Stewart screens. This is to avoid any possible interference with HD detail from the screen's surface. These HD screens do provide a subtle but noticeable benefit to the viewing experience when used with 1080p projectors. Stewart's current generation home theater screens that carry the G3 designation are all HD screens, including the Studiotek 130, the Grayhawk RS, and the Firehawk. They exhibit the same HD image resolution characteristics as the Studiotek 100.

Limitations

Extreme sensitivity to ambient light. Due to the Studiotek 100's exceptionally even reflective properties, it is very susceptible to the negative effects of ambient and reflected light in the viewing room. With even a small amount of light in the room, black levels take a hit, which has a noticeable effect on dynamic range. To prevent this from happening, you will need perfect or near-perfect light control in your viewing space. This does not just entail turning the lights off and closing the door. You'll need to make sure you have non-reflective surfaces throughout your room. Reflected light is just as bad as ambient light as far as contrast ratios are concerned. Most consumers don't want to go through the hassle of turning their room into a black hole. If you're one of these people, Stewart's screen materials that are intended for home theater use are better alternatives for you.

Review Contents: Features and Limitations Shootout vs DaLite Conclusion

Reader Comments(6 comments)

Posted Apr 28, 2009 9:08:22 AM

By RobertS

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I believe both Mike and Mark have very valid points. I also did not have any problems reading Marks comments.

From the reviews conclusion.

"But for home theater enthusiasts, in all but the rarest cases the Studiotek 130 G3 or the Grayhawk RS G3 will still be the best choice."

This conclusion does not explain why it is made. The review compares the Joe Kane screen to the Studiotek 100.

People with dedicated rooms do have the theater room set up properly which includes taking care of reflected ambient light.

Also from the review..

"In very low indirect ambient/reflected light that is typical of what most home theater users will experience, there was a 15% increase in dynamic range when the image was shown on the JKP Affinity as compared to the Studiotek 100."

Perhaps some readers understand how this was measured. I sure had no idea what the writer did to measure this to make this determination. If I was reading the review on the basis of making a determination of a purchase 15% improvement is a very substantial number. The vagauries of putting in a number with an undefined variable as dynamic range and not discussing what the meaning of this is does more to confuse people than to have them understand what is being stated. It appears to me that of the biggest differentiation in a projector price between brands is the real world contrast levels. So if the JKP screen is notably better in "contrast" isnt this a huge consideration.

Note that others were discussing the benefit of putting in the measurements and wishing to have the equipment that was used for testing. Most respected reviews include this information and it usually is a paragraph or two footnote in the review. It isnt a book these people were asking for. Just some simple explanation of what the tools were that made the measurements.

For the reasons described I have to say this is a bad review. Skirting the issue of not providing the technical information people are asking for raises more questions than it answers.

Perhaps the regular schmo wouldnt understand the equipment or relevance to the review. On this same note let the regular schmo explain what you mean by a 15% improvement in dynamic range. You can't have it both ways if your target audience is uninformed individuals.

Posted Apr 12, 2009 7:43:49 PM

By filecat13

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Evan, if someone does write a book I hope it's you. Mark's syntax, grammar, spelling, and sentence fragments are almost unreadable. His lecturing tone doesn't help either.

Thanks Biil and Evan for a clear, straightforward, and useful report for 90%+ of the people who come here to learn about these things. Don't accept the baiting of those who want to push everything and everybody up to their fanciful standards. They already have plenty of other venues for showing off.

Posted Apr 11, 2009 10:21:39 AM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Evidently we should have written a textbook on screen design rather than a simple review. Sorry to have disappointed you Mark.

Posted Apr 11, 2009 6:26:38 AM

By mark haflich

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Nowhere do you specify how you made your measurements, what equipment and how the equipment was calibrated. Did you do this yourself. I have seen Stewart`s test results for both materials and the a list of the ewuipment used and its calibration including reference standards.

There is so much left out of your article that it become misleading. Mike is right on target and your response is inadequate.

The primary consideration in choosing screen gain is getting the brightness one desires. This might not be possible. Second is getting an acceptable black reference value. This was the reason for the .9 gain of the Da-lite. It was designed in conjunction with Joe Kane and Joe wanted a screen material that on smaller size screens (say below 120~ diagonal 1.78) would give him acceptable blacks with the Samsung SP-A800B projector. This required going to 0.9 gain. For larger screens, a gain of one would be more appropriate.

Now there is more to viewing hangles, half angles, yada other than just overall screen gain. For example, Stewart Firehawk has a positive gain below but fairly close to that of the Studeotec 130, that does a much better job of dealing with extraneous light and screen reflections from walls. But like any other material that is not a perfect flat surface, gain og 1.0, there will be adverse as well as positive effects.

Substrate material and sprayed on coatings. And one must deal with light spread on the screen surface. How does say is a single on\off pixel line look? Sharp clear or is there bleed? There is a lot going on and there clearly is not one correct answer or only one or two parameters that matter.

Studeoteck 130 was developed for CRT front projectors. Gain was despatrely needed for almost any size screen. 1.3 gain was chosen as the limit because any higher gain hot spotted. Certain colors also needed a boost by the fabric.

Everything else being equal, a black pit, a fabric with no sprayed on coating will be best with a well constructed uniform substrate construction. However, if your projector doesn`t have great blacks, most don`t, a negaticve gain substrate may be required. There is a lot more to discuss.

I think the only conclusion one can validly draw from your review has really notyhing specifically to do with the three materials being discussed. If you have light surfaces in your room, do not get a unity gain or close screen. Choose a screen material that will throw less light to the reflective surfaces and accept less light back. What you need to learn about is the effect of sprayed on particulates over the substrate material. Eliminating those is a major benefit of going to unity gain. But you can`t negate the choice of a preoper substrate material and its production tolerances.

Posted Apr 10, 2009 1:42:55 PM

By Evan Powell, Editor

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Mike, the Studiotek 100 is a neutral screen, and the closest thing to a perfectly neutral screen that we've seen. That means it reflects back to you exactly what the projector throws at it, without imparting any gain, brightness differentiation, detail compromise, or color bias. It is designed specifically for this purpose. It excels at being entirely invisible. Thus, any discussion of "how the image actually looked on the screen (sharpness, depth, detail, etc.)" would have been a commentary on the projector in use. We weren't reviewing the projector.

The purpose of the review was to illustrate where it is and is not appropriate to deploy a specialized screen of this nature. Since you are a perfectionist with a bat cave, the Studiotek 100 may be the ideal product for you. However, most home theater users don't want to live with black carpets, black furnishings, and black ceilings and walls. For them, selecting a screen that is more suited to some degree of reflected/ambient light would be the better option.

Posted Apr 5, 2009 11:34:29 PM

By mike

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What a terrible review! Never do you mention how the image actually looked on the screen (sharpness, depth, detail, etc.),I could have read the same info from the spec sheet. Instead you reviewed and compared the screen in a room with some ambient light in it when you and the manufacturer clearly state elsewhere it was never intended to be used under those conditions! So why review it that way??? That's like reviewing a Ferrari off road!

Anyone interested in this screen or the Affinity clearly is a perfectionist and looking for the best image possible, which means he/she probably has a bat cave! I know I do! THAT'S how it should be viewed, I hope some how you guys do a follow up on this screen and the comparison to the Affinity.

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