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If there’s one enduring problem with using a projector in a normal living room environment, it’s not being able to get the room dark enough. It just isn’t usually practical to have a main room of the house submerged into the total blackness that a satisfying home cinema viewing experience really demands.
This is especially true if you’re using a fairly cheap and cheerful screen or even - shudder - a matt white wall to play your projected images on. For such surfaces just don’t have the reflective properties to compete with even small amounts of ambient light, leaving the images that appear on their surfaces looking dull and lifeless.
You would fare slightly better with a high-gain screen (as in, a screen with material that 'amplifies' the light hitting it from your projector), or maybe at a push a wall painted in gloss white paint (shudders again). But such surfaces tend to cause other problems of their own, especially if the walls of your room are painted white or some other bright colour. For normal high-gain screens reflect their light across a wide dispersion pattern, causing the ceiling and walls of your room to be bathed in light to the extent that it can ironically create a whole new level of ambient light for the projector pictures to compete against!
In short, we can understand why some mega rich types opt to spend £50k on a 100in plasma TV rather than fork out potentially vastly less money on a projector system that would give them the same screen size.
Or at least, we could understand this until we clapped our eyes on the Black Diamond II projection screen from Screen Innovations. For this remarkable bit of home cinema kit seemingly defies the laws of physics to deliver brightness and contrast-boosting reflective properties that rewrite the home cinema rulebook - for a tiny fraction of the cost of one of Panasonic’s 103in plasma screens.
Not that its revolutionary nature is immediately apparent, mind you. Basically, in the fixed frame arrangement we tested, the Black Diamond II just looks like any old projection screen. A motorised version is, we believe, going to be available very soon, and this might provide a more appropriately swanky setting for what’s actually a potentially game-changing projection technology.
Mind you, once you’ve clocked the bit of the Screen Innovations marketing blurb where it says the Black Diamond II can improve the contrast of your projector by as much as 300 per cent, then in some ways the sheer ordinariness of its design becomes extraordinary. Not least because it’s a soft, rollable screen, rather than the rigid glass-based high-reflectivity Planar XScreen Monaco screen we saw a few year’s back.
Screen Innovations doesn’t want us giving away its trade secrets by going into precise details of just how it’s managed to get a flexible projection fabric to deliver the exceptional levels of brightness and focus we’re going to describe in more detail later. But we are allowed to state that the non-polarising fabric comprises no less than seven optical laminations, including, most importantly, a proprietary reflective layer system.