Elite Screens Osprey DTE110C88H-E20 Screen
Price: $2,699 At A Glance: Gets the black bars out • Solid value • Minor uniformity issues
Elite Screens may be less well known than some of the bigger names in the business, but they offer a wide range of projection screens for every application. Since their products are manufactured in China, they’re more than competitive in price. But this limits their ability to offer customization, such as sizes not included in their standard lineup.
Still, Elite does produce unique products. One in particular caught our eye: The Osprey, which puts two retractable screens in the same case, one of them 16:9, the other 2.35:1. Both screens have the same height, varying only in width, making the arrangement suitable for use in a so-called constant-image-height setup (see the sidebar, “Constant Image Height: The Nitty Gritty”).
Out, Out, Damn’d Bars
Sadly, with a one-piece HDTV, there’s not much you can do about those black bars you see on some program sources. But in the projection world, there are alternatives. The most widely used approach is to hide the bars with variable masking, either side masks or top and bottom. Some masking screens even offer both. Bring money.
Another option is two completely separate screen surfaces, most often a 16:9 and a 2.35:1. That’s the route that Elite Screens chose with the fully retractable Osprey. However, unlike two completely separate screens, the Osprey’s closely spaced, twin projection surfaces roll up or down into the same case. Classic film fans will still have to contend with sidebars on 4:3 films and old TV shows. But the Osprey, while certainly not cheap, is nevertheless a surprisingly affordable option, at least relative to some of its competition.
The Osprey is available in four different size combinations. The smallest is 97 inches diagonal for 2.35:1 and 78 inches diagonal for 16:9; the largest is 133 inches and 106 inches, respectively. You can’t custom-order a different combination—that is, non-constant-height such as 110 inches diagonal 2.35:1 and 100 inches diagonal 16:9, even though such a mix would fit in the same case.
Most of the sizes (except for the 133-incher) offer the option of an extended black area at the top, called the drop, to bring the screen down to a convenient height depending on how high the case is mounted. The extra drop is only available in a fixed height that’s different for each screen size. If you buy a model with the drop but it’s a bit more than you need, there’s a vertical-limit switch that can fine-tune how far the screen comes out of the case.
The Osprey’s model designation may look like a file number for a top-secret government document, but it makes sense once you understand the code. The screen reviewed here is the DTE110C88H-E20. The number 110 indicates the diagonal size of the 2.35:1 screen in inches (for this particular model, the width is 101.2 inches, where width = the diagonal x 0.92 for a 2.35:1 screen). The number 88 is the diagonal size in inches for the companion 16:9 screen (in this case, it’s 76.56 inches wide, where width = the diagonal x 0.87 for a 16:9 screen). E20 indicates an extra drop of 20 inches.
The Osprey is available only with Elite’s CineWhite screen material, with a specified gain of 1.1. This offers a wide viewing angle, but like all unity- or nearunity-gain screens, it provides no assistance to projectors with marginal brightness. The back of the screen is an opaque black to eliminate light penetration.
The screen comes with both an IR and an RF remote. Both look identical, apart from the IR/RF label. The remotes also come with cases that you can wall-mount for convenient storage. The screen has both RF and IR receivers; for the latter, a small IR receiver eye attaches to an RJ45 connection on the side of the case. A wired remote, designed for wall mounting, is also included. Unless you’re triggering the desired screen with a universal control system, in all likelihood, you’ll need only one of these supplied remotes (my choice would be the RF). You can store the others as backups should your chosen one escape into the sofa cushions as remotes invariably do. Note that, since there are two screens that must be selected as needed, a simple 12-volt trigger from a projector won’t work here and isn’t specifically provided or even mentioned in the manual.
There are two separate motors in the case, one for each screen. If the 2.35:1 screen is down and you push the 16:9 button on the remote, the 2.35:1 screen retracts and the 16:9 screen comes down, simultaneously. The motors operate smoothly and without excessive noise.
If you choose to employ the zoom method rather than an anamorphic lens to switch between projected image sizes (again, see the sidebar), make sure the projector’s zoom range is sufficient to accommodate both 16:9 and 2.35:1 images from the planned projection distance. Otherwise you would have to physically move the projector forward or backward when you switch between screens—something you won’t want to do.
The Digital Projection M-Vision Cine 230-HC I used for most of the review has a fairly short zoom range of about 1.3:1. With the projector positioned as close to the screen as possible while still producing a full-width image on the 101-inch, 2.35:1 screen, the smallest zoom for its 16:9 mate was a bit too large, with about a half-inch of spillover onto the screen’s black border on all sides. I could live with that (you’ll see worse in virtually all but the best movie theaters), but not all video fans will want to.