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Why is Anamorphic Projection Chosen over Zooming in High End Home Theaters?

If your home theater is primarily for movies then you’ll want the 2.4:1 UltraWide format screen of a commercial theater (2.35:1 is an older format from before 1972 but close enough). Letterbox zooming refers to using the projector’s lens memory settings for zoom, shift and focus to zoom up a letterbox movie to fill your UltraWide screen, while then zooming back down to place 16:9 content in the center of the screen.

This approach is an economical way to keep the black bars of UltraWide movies off the screen by projecting them onto the walls above and below. Almost every high end home theater projector has this capability and yet every high end home theater projector also has the anamorphic modes for using an external Panamorph lens.

Which should you choose, and why? Let’s start with the bottom line: Anamorphic UltraWide projection dramatically improves the brightness and clarity – the visual performance – of your entire home theater movie experience.

That’s really what this all boils down to – performance. After all, your UltraWide image is the visual focal point your cinema is built around. If you’ve got a 4K projector then you want to be using that entire 4K for the largest movies – not just the 3K performance you get with letterbox zooming (since 1K is used to create the black bars on the walls).But of course pure performance is just the big picture.


The Top Eleven Reasons for ANAMORPHIC

1. 30% greater brightness (even more with the Paladin DCR). A big UltraWide screen needs a bright, high contrast image for the most impact from today’s movies. It’s that simple. Even with typical optical losses, using the 33% extra pixels of your projector with a Paladin lens gives you around 30% actual additional light on your UltraWide screen compared to a zoomed-up letterbox image, delivering the absolute best experience from major motion pictures and especially that critical boost for today’s HDR content.

2. 33% greater picture detail (even more with the Paladin DCR). If there’s one thing that has been proven with today’s image processing technology it’s that more pixels can lead to dramatic improvements in picture quality (yes, even if the original content has limited resolution). For example, it’s well known that Ultra HD displays with upconverted HD Blu-ray movies look almost as good as the original Ultra HD movie content itself.

The same applies to upconverting letterbox movies with 33% more vertical pixels. Those pixels (over 2 million from a 4K projector) represent greater flexibility and potential for image processing algorithms to make the image look as good as it possibly can.An anamorphic projection system lets you watch even HDTV content in the UltraWide format.

3. You can now watch ALL today’s content with maximum performance to fill your screen 100% of the time with no black areas at all. You may have not seen this one coming, but many people use an anamorphic lens to watch smaller format movies and HDTV content stretched out to fill their UltraWide screens. It’s actually a very simple thing to do. Just input any 1080p or 4K (UHD) content to your projector and include the anamorphic lens. Absolutely no electronic processing is required.

 The anamorphic lens effectively stretches the full image out to almost or completely fill the screen. And if that’s not the look you prefer then you also have the option of turning on the anamorphic mode to crop a bit off the top and bottom of the image so that the image looks completely normal. And of course, you still have the option of watching smaller content, well, smaller – with black “pillar boxes” on the sides – at the push of a button. But these first two options mean you can get the immersive impact of the UltraWide experience even with all today’s movies and any HDTV content from sports to entertainment. To see these options in action check out the How This Works article. 

4. Convenient menu visibility. If you use the zoom method to watch an UltraWide movie, any menus brought up by the player (such as pause, scene change, etc.) or projector will partially show off the screen and on the wall above and below, making them difficult to see. To bring the full menu onto the screen means the projector needs to be zoomed down each time the menu is engaged and then zoomed back up to frame the movie on the UltraWide screen, often taking 5-10 seconds each way just to use a menu feature. With anamorphic UltraWide this is much simpler because it’s immediate: Just turn the anamorphic mode off using the remote and the entire menu will be instantly visible.

5. Less noticeable pixel structure. The reason you chose projection for your home theater is to go large, but the larger you go the more you can see the individual pixels that make up the image. In reality, it’s primarily the vertical dimension of the pixels that we notice the most because video content has more horizontal motion. As an example, if you create an UltraWide image on a 48” (1.22M) high screen with an HD projector, you are only using 810 rows of pixels for a pixel height of about 1.5mm. Alternatively, the full 1080 pixels provided by the anamorphic approach on that same screen are much less visible at a height of only 1.1mm.

6. Knowing you’re using the full performance of your projector. While this is somewhat overlapped with the other reasons, there’s just something “right” about seeing major motion pictures with the full performance of your projector rather than restricting them down to 75% of that performance. It’s like driving a car at the peak of its torque curve and knowing you’re not riding the brakes at the same time. Everybody is talking about 4K these days. It’s just not right getting 3K from your 4K investment when you’re watching blockbuster movies on your UltraWide screen.

7. No unnecessary heat build-up in the projector. If you are zooming up a letterbox image then all those pixels used to create the black bars on the wall above and below an UltraWide screen aren’t actually turned off. In reality they’re set to “black” by absorbing 25% of the lamp’s full intensity inside the projector and turning it into heat. Of course, since anamorphic UltraWide uses those pixels to form the image then this unnecessary heat build-up is eliminated.

8. No moving parts. These days most anamorphic UltraWide projection systems operate with a fixed anamorphic lens so that no mechanical adjustments are ever needed after installation. On the other hand, letterbox zooming requires adjustment of zoom, lens shift and sometimes even focus every time the content aspect ratio changes from UltraWide to smaller formats (including those times you need to see the full menu), creating mechanical wear that may require periodic maintenance, especially if the image is no longer returning precisely to its programmed configuration with each change.

9. Greater projector setup flexibility. Using a zoom lens with an UltraWide screen means one zoom setting is used to fill the height of the screen for 16:9 content and then another zoom setting is used to fill the width of the screen for UltraWide content. The projector must therefore be installed in a position where both these zoom settings are within the available zoom range of the projector at that position. With a fixed Paladin lens your projector only needs to fill the width of your screen for all content so there is a much greater range of possible installation locations.

10. No pixels wasted on your walls. Many of today’s projectors can project the black bars above and below your UltraWide screen so black that only a ghost of those bars remains. But since anamorphic UltraWide puts ALL your projector’s pixels on the screen the purist in us loves knowing there will never be ANY type of black bars on our walls, ghost or otherwise.

11. Your cinema is a real cinema. Most UltraWide movies created in the past 50+ years were both filmed and projected using anamorphic lenses to provide the maximum performance in commercial theaters. Their use in home cinemas was directly inspired by this same use in the motion picture industry. It’s nice to know that your home cinema uses projection technology that goes all the way back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.



With HDR tech we really thirst for light output. We used to need 14+ foot lamberts of light return, With HDR we are looking for 40! Contrast performance in projectors are hugely improved. This means a high gain 1.3:1 white screen is a great way to roll. ISF and certified products ensure you are receiving the results for real. Solid screens will deliver the greatest light return (great) and acoustically transparent screens ensure the best sound (great).

So depending on the overall design as per which is best. I love acoustic screens but if you are going BIG you may need a very powerful (and expensive) projector to boot. If you can sit closer to a smaller screen… this may save you 10s of $1000 to hit the same light targets.

There are several types of screen installation options. If you are planning to construct or use a room as a dedicated home theater room, you have the option of installing a screen on the wall permanently.

These types of screens are usually referred to as "Fixed Frame" as the actual screen surface material is placed within a solid wood, metal, or plastic frame so that it is always exposed and cannot be rolled up. In this type of screen installation, it is common to also install curtains in front of the screen to hide and protect the screen surface when not in use. This type of screen installation is also the most expensive.

Screen Aspect Ratio: 4x3 or 16x9 or 2.35:1

Due to the popularity of widescreen content sources and display technologies such as DVD, HD/Ultra HD TV, and Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, the trend in video projection screens also mirrors the trend with the use of the16x9This type of screen design accommodates widescreen programming display on all, or most, of the actual screen surface area, while the 4x3 design will result in a larger unused screen surface area when viewing widescreen programming.

However, the 4x3 design will allow the projection of a much larger 4x3 image, which would fill the entire screen surface.Also, some screens are available in very wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio and some screens designed for custom installation use can be "masked off" to display a 4x3, 16x9, and 2.35:1 Aspect ratio.

It is also important to point out that most video projectors designated as Home Theater or Home Cinema Projectors project a native 16x9 aspect ratio image. However, they can be configured for 4x3 display, and, in some cases, can also be configured for a wider 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Perforation needle vs loom Woven

Perforated screens use a strong PVC material that has been perforated with thousands of holes, typically less than 0.3mm in diameter. This allows sound to penetrate the material while stopping light from passing through to illuminate the wall behind it and create a double projected image that will ruin the presentation.
Weave, however, is made on a loom similar to the way a bed sheet is woven, except the weave pattern must be at a certain diagonal angle. Most acoustically transparent materials are not THX certified.

Some people consider woven materials to be superior to the perforated materials in regards to damping. Weave materials (when done right) tend to be less prone to suffering from moiré than the garden-variety perforated screen does.Although there are finely made perforated acoustic projection screens that do carry a THX certification, they tend to be prohibitively expensive, as in “if you have $10,000-$15,000 laying around to buy a projection screen then it's not too expensive” kind of way.

As for the other 98% of us, the weave should do its job perfectly, allowing for sound to breathe through it with less damping than punched material does.That being said, there are three primary issues with woven screens that can be argued – light penetration, moiré, and poor colour temperatures. Since the white part of a woven screen is actually clusters of white thread, there is an opportunity for a shift in colour temperature leaving the screen a touch too far on the yellow, green, blue or red end of the visible light spectrum. 

As for light penetration, it creates two possible issues: double-imaging and low gain reflectivity. A double image is a phenomenon caused when the projected light imparts its image on a fabric (un-backed) screen and then makes a second image on the wall behind it that is bright enough to be seen by the viewer. Because of the offset difference between the projection surface and the wall behind it, a highly distracting double image is made that ruins the video side of the presentation. The solution is to include a black-backing comprised of acoustically transparent black fabric.

Although it does little against light loss, it does prevent double-imaging. Finally, moiré is caused when the weave is too loose or if it is woven at an incorrect angle. Either way causes a pattern conflict with a digital projector creating vertical, horizontal or diagonal line patterns. Most woven screens are made to accommodate 720p to 1080p resolutions but it's worth exercising caution in buying one for the new LCOS projectors.

Take the time to discuss performance with screen manufacturer first.Although many people lean favorably toward woven acoustic material, perforated material is not necessarily the terrible choice that it's sometimes made out to be. It does have its benefits. There are a few THX certified brands that will perform well in most media room environments. 

Also, the average perforated acoustic material usually works fairly well with a 720p projector. It even has an advantage over woven screens in regards to not suffering from double-imaging.

The drawback is that only the most expensive perforated materials perform their roles in a universally acceptable manner. Entry-level perforated screens tend to easily fall victim to moiré effect. Also, the typical perforated material just does not deliver the acoustic penetration that many people want to hear.
The small perforations that comprise up to 10% of the screen surface are what is relied upon to get as much sound through as possible, without damping too much, but it's hard not to imagine how much bounces back, even before acoustic testing is done.

Screen Material, Gain, Viewing Angle

Video projection screens are made to reflect as much light as possible to produce a bright image in a specific type of environment. To accomplish this, screens are made of various materials. The type of screen material used determines the Screen Gain and viewing angle characteristics of the screen.
Also, another type of projection screen in use is the Black Diamond from Screen Innovations.
This type of screen actually has a black surface (analogous to black screens on TVs — however, the material is different).