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.

Sony VPL-FHZ75B
WUXGA Conference Room Projector

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.

ViewSonic PX706HD
1080P Home Theater Projector
ViewSonic PX706HD
1080P Home Theater Projector

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.

Shootout:
Stewart Studiotek 100 versus Da-Lite JKP Affinity

Not too long ago, we reviewed the Da-Lite JKP Affinity, which is Da-Lite's entry into the HD screens category. When comparing the Studiotek 100 to the JKP Affinity, there are several points of differentiation worth commenting on. Incidentally, all of our testing of these screens was done with the very high contrast JVC DLA-RS20 projector.

Gain. The JKP Affinity has a gain rating of 0.9, while the Studiotek 100 has a gain rating of 1.0. As mentioned previously, the Studiotek 100 measured an average of 0.97 gain over five measurement points, with a maximum of 2.04% variance between the different areas of the screen. The JKP Affinity measured an average gain of 0.80, with 7.08% variation between the minimum and maximum readings. So the Studiotek 100 is closer to its stated gain than is the JKP Affinity, and it also has an edge in white field uniformity.

Half-Gain Angle. The JKP Affinity has an extremely wide half-gain angle of 78 degrees. However, the Studiotek 100 does not have a half-gain angle, which gives it a slight edge. Practically speaking, this is a moot point; anyone sitting at 78 degrees off-center will not be able to see the picture very well no matter how bright it is. So, realistically, the two screens are tied in this regard.

Brightness/Contrast. Viewing the Studiotek 100 and JKP Affinity side-by side, one can see that the Studiotek 100 is slightly brighter. This should come as no surprise since the Studiotek 100 is pure white, the JKP Affinity is a light gray, and neither screen has any positive gain. Nevertheless, while the JKP Affinity is not as bright as the Studiotek, it does have greater dynamic range in typical viewing conditions. 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. For home theater consumers who cannot create a black, non-reflective viewing room, the JKP Affinity will produce better contrast performance. Stewart would readily acknowledge this, which is why they don't promote the Studiotek 100 as a home theater product. Indeed, the most appropriate comparison for home theater users would be the JKP Affinity against either the Studiotek 130 G3, or the Grayhawk RS G3.

Construction. Both screens are exceptionally well built, with aluminum frames covered in black, light-absorbing cloth and snap-on screen fabric. After putting together several screens over the past year for individual reviews as well as our budget screens shootout, it's very easy to appreciate the snap-on system. It's easy on your thumbs and goes together quickly with a minimum of fuss.

Conclusion

A perfect projector screen does not change the way the light from the projector reflects. It does not cause a shift in color. It does not cause a loss of detail. It does not appear brighter or dimmer depending on where you sit. A perfect projector screen, in other words, is invisible.

Simply put, the Studiotek 100 comes closer to perfect neutrality than any projector screen we've ever seen. It has perfect color balance, near-perfect 1.0 gain at all points, no half-gain angle, and a smooth, pristine HD surface. It is a professional screen for use in absolute light controlled rooms. It is ideal for situations in which you want to see exactly what the projector is delivering, with no interpretive nuance being added by the screen. We have given the Studiotek 100 an Editor's Choice Award. It is highly recommended for professional use in absolute light controlled conditions.

Since Stewart's popular Studiotek 130, a 1.3 gain white screen, has been widely recognized as a leading home theater product for many years, the introduction of the similarly named Studiotek 100 might lead consumers to imagine that this product may be appropriate for home theater as well. 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.

Buy a Screen

Projector Central has a list of screen dealers that we work with that can answer your questions and sell you a screen at a great price.

Comments (6) Post a Comment
mike Posted Apr 5, 2009 11:34 PM PST
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.
Evan Powell, Editor Posted Apr 10, 2009 1:42 PM PST
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.
mark haflich Posted Apr 11, 2009 6:26 AM PST
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.
Evan Powell, Editor Posted Apr 11, 2009 10:21 AM PST
Evidently we should have written a textbook on screen design rather than a simple review. Sorry to have disappointed you Mark.
filecat13 Posted Apr 12, 2009 7:43 PM PST
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.
RobertS Posted Apr 28, 2009 9:08 AM PST
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.

Post a comment

 
Enter the numbers as they appear to the left