Screen Innovations Visage Screen
The Screen Innovations Visage promises to "take projectors out of the dark." It delivers on about 75% of its potential. It will not replace a plasma or LCD monitor in an extremely bright room, but it does make it possible to successfully use a medium or high light output projector in a multi-purpose room. During the recent Winter Olympics I could watch events while my wife read next to me on the couch. I sure couldn't do that with any other screen I have on hand.
The Visage screen came packed in a large heavy wooden crate. Screen Innovations assumes that most of their screens will be wall-mounted, and the appropriate hardware comes standard. Since I could not do a wall mount, I requested a stand, which SI fabricated from square aluminum pipe-stock. The stand's mounting holes did not align properly so I had to don my metalworker's cap to make it work. Fortunately I can still measure twice and drill a hole once.
Properly setting up the Visage screen requires the projector to be within a very specific angle to the screen. If it is too high the screen will reduce some of the projector's light output. I had to lower my projector about 1.5' to accommodate the Visage. Fortunately the Chief universal projector mounting system I use the makes it easy to substitute a longer pole to lower a projector from the ceiling.
I chose to review a relatively small 60" diagonal (52-inch wide) 16:9 format Visage screen with a basic black velvet frame. I opted for a small screen because my viewing distance is only 6' from the screen and I was using a 720P LCD projector. Viewing a much larger image on a bigger screen at this viewing distance would have been a sure recipe for screen door effects. Also, since the Visage is aimed at the same market segment as flat-screen direct view monitors, in most situations users will not be employing a huge screen and will be sitting closer to the screen than in a dedicated front-projection home theater.
Although the Visage screen does an excellent job of ignoring stray light coming in from the sides, bottom and top, its design does little to block light coming from the front. If you have a window or skylight directly behind your projector the Visage can't block its negative effects. I found that even small amounts of light in front of the screen noticeably reduced image contrast. In comparison, the screen tolerated substantial amounts of ceiling light and side light without much in the way of reduced contrast or image washout.
Unlike sonically transparent textured or perforated screens, the Visage doesn't suffer from any moiré effects or sharpness loss, but it does have some unique surface characteristics. If you are sitting in the center seat of your home theater and look carefully during dark scenes you will notice that the Visage has a slight glow near the center of the screen that appears to be a surface reflection. A small-ish, classic hot spot, it moves if you shift to the right or left. The Visage's surface is just glossy enough to have a bit of "bounce" similar to what happens when you aim a concentrated light source at any shiny object. While not too distracting, this glow does rob some low-key scenes of inky blackness.
While not a complete panacea the Visage screen does make the previously impossible goal of watching a front projector in a medium level ambient environment possible. Is it as good as a standard screen in a dark room? No. But for those of us who like to watch TV or movies with members of our household doing other things the Visage screen sure delivers the goods.
Highs and Lows
Improved image quality in environments with medium amounts of ambient light
Durable screen surface
Does not degrade image resolution
Slight screen material glow
RPTVs still provide higher contrast image in a bright room