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Acoustically Transparent Screens: X3ELS' Implementation

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by Branxx, Jul 16, 2003.

  1. Branxx

    Branxx
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    I while ago I decided that acoustically transparent screen is the way to go. I wanted to place (and hide) all my speakers behind the screen (rather than below or above it) and have a more cinematic feel to projected image and sound. This would also enable a larger projected image size, as I would be able to utilise the space on each side of the screen (currently used by left and right channel speakers). The screen size can be up to 2.7m wide (9’), 16:9 ratio.

    In doing my research several points came to light.

    There is only one manufacturer that produces credible and THX certified acoustically transparent screens: Stewart Filmscreen Corp. They apply a micro perforation process to a range of different screen materials with gains from 1 to 2 and above. In my case the choice of material would be most likely FireHawk (gain 1.3). The screen does attenuate high frequencies and requires the use of equalizer to compensate to this (Stewart supplies a dedicated equalizer with each screen).

    Applying micro perforation doubles the cost of the screen. The quote I got from the UK distributor for a fixed Luxus Deluxe Screenwall model SND123H (16:9) exceeded £6,000. The price alone requires serious rethinking of the whole idea of using the transparent screen.

    While talking to people that have good general experience in home cinema, the predominant advice was not to do it as the screen placed in front of the speakers would impair the sound quality, and if I am really bend on doing it I should only consider placing the centre speaker(s) behind the screen.

    The only person to enthusiastically recommends using acoustically transparent screen was X3ELS. His opinion carries the extra weight of a person who has actually implemented such a screen in his own home cinema and has some first hand experience (this is also the only of MicroPerf screen that I am aware).

    X3ELS implementation is a very good example for transparent screens. The X3ELS’ cinema room is in the former garage that by nature is a long and narrow space. Using the transparent screen not only achieves exact positioning of sounds behind the objects on the screen but also maximises the screen size, as the screen can now take the whole width of the room. X3ELS uses Stewart Lexus Deluxe Screenwall model SND092H with MicroPerf Studiotek 130 material.

    Listening to the music material I cannot honestly detect any negative influence the screen has on the sound stage, precision or tonal balance. The screen is permanently fixed, so direct comparison with screen removed was not possible. Speakers are active design, Genelec HT210, positioned in level with screen’s centre line, approx 0.5m behind the screen with left and right channels pointing slightly inwards. The screen perforations are visible on very bright images from the distance of up to 2m.

    Being transparent to sound also means that this type of screen is effectively leaking the light, i.e. not all light reaching the screen is reflected back. Micro perforations reduce the effective screen gain by approx 10% and require the space behind the screen to be constructed from non-reflective material in order to prevent the leaked light from coming back. In X3LES’ case the wall behind the screen is covered with light absorbing black cloth.

    Having recently seen Uncle Eric’s home cinema and now X3ELS’, there are a number of parallels. Uncle Eric’s space is slightly wider. While Eric prefers his equipment to be visible (speakers, sub, most of the cabling), X3ELS space is completely custom decorated with all the speakers hidden. From interior design perspective I prefer the later implementation. Eric uses pull down screen with left and right speakers are positioned on the lower side of the screen and the centre speaker below it.

    However, most of the rest is almost identical:
    Both are garage conversions
    Both use air conditions
    Both use Stewart Studiotek 130 screen material, size aprox. the same.
    Both use CRT projector (X3ELS 9”, Eric 8" tubes corrected) with HDLeeza, SDI moded DVD player and High Def D-VHS tape machine.
    Both use active speakers (Eric uses M&K actives and Velodyne sub) with approx 300W per channel.
    Both have noise coming from the ceiling mounted projector and some noise from HDLeeza’s fans.
    Both use Lexicon MC-12 as A/V processor.
    Both rooms are acoustically treated.
    Both rooms have black walls
    Both rooms have Lutron type light control.
    Both have excellent picture and sound performance.

    So, in conclusion has X3ELS sacrificed sound quality by placing acoustically transparent screen in from of the speaker? If he has, it is certainly not an obvious deterioration and probably amply offset with the benefits of such a set-up.

    I would appreciate the view of the other member’s with experience with acoustically transparent screens.

    I am of course very grateful to both X3ELS and Uncle Eric for letting me in on the secrets of their home cinemas.
     
  2. Jeff

    Jeff
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    I could be wrong but I thought Erics room was substantially larger than Elliots. Also for correctness Eric's CRT uses 8" tubes (G70).
     
  3. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Eric also doesn't use Lutron. Elliots PJ has low noise fan mod that I carried out as well....but it's much closer to you than Erics.

    I'd say that Erics room is twice volume. It's also not a garage conversion but a new building built in the space where there was previously a garage.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Elliots is the best conversion/best home cinema I've seen. I still do believe that a non perf screen and speakers in front would sound better but the whole idea and functionality of the room would be ruined. I'm sure Elliot will comment when he has time. His system inspeired me to throw away my micro-perf prejudice too.

    Gordon
     
  4. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Elliot, Gordon,

    Thank you for pointing to the (small) inaccuracies that have now been corrected.

    As an interior design statement I like X3ELS approach a lot. The projector noise (although less that the original) is still something that is to a degree sticking out of such a wonderful design. Good point is that the colour of the projector box is quite dark and blends well with the rest of the room.

    Eric has equally decided to live with the projector noise and I think is both cases such a decision is influenced by the unfortunate large size of the CRT projectors that make inclosing them in to a hush box impractical.

    In a deviation from the usual American approach to a dedicated theatre room, both X3ELS and Eric prominently display the A/V machinery in an area behind the seats. Elliot even connects the glow lighting of the A/V stand to the room wide lighting control. Another nice touch.
     
  5. Alaric

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    Hi there,

    I'm intending to use an acousticaly transparent screen as well...The room i'm converting to use is about 3.2m wide, it also has a lowish ceiling height 2.3m (approx) and i have large speakers (Mirage OM-6's). Unless you go for a really small screen, where you'd push the speakers very close to the edge walls and compromise sound anyway, i can't see any other option.

    I've been looking at the Harkness hall material as a diy project as they do a couple of mico-pref screens.

    I'm looking at EQ'ing the room anyway, with the use of some RANE equalisers and using ETF/RTA software based analysis as poor eq can ruin things.

    Cya,
    Lee

    P.s. Project is half way through http://www.the-dreaming.com
     
  6. X3ELS

    X3ELS
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    Branxx,

    Glad that the visit was helpful and thank you for the kind compliments about my room. I, like Gordon and Eric am an installer by trade so have seen some great rooms, hence i knew exactly what to aim for when i built my own. Yes i would have loved to have a bigger space, but it was not cost effective and gaining planning permission is nigh on impossible in my area. Projector noise doesn't bother me at all, i guess i am used to it, but with silent air con it becomes the most noticable noise pollution in a soundproofed room. However to put it into perspective it is quieter than a Sim HT300 anyway so it really isn't loud!!

    As for the room, i am yet to hear or see anything better, yes i am biased but i have never been as blown away by the sound and overall presence that my room provides. It is only when you sit down and watch a whole film that you can reality appreciate all of the systems abilities.

    I have a few other bits and pieces i may implement in the near future and i must make the effort to see Erics / Branxx's system at some point (If i am invited :) )

    Finally i must say thanks to G for all his help on the PJ, its thanks to him that the image is SOOOOOO GOOD :)
     
  7. 008

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    I have been using a Stewart microperf 130 for theree years now in my dedicated room. The screen was supplied with a small processing box for the center channel to balance out the high frequencies lost due to the screen. The processor sits between my Lex MC1 and power amp. I am using old THX B&W speakers (you may remember them if you have been in to HC for as long as I have !) IMO having the center spkr behind the screen has vary little impact on the cohesion , and timbre matching of the front three speakers as long as the center speaker is positioned at least 8" from the screen. In my set up I have buried the center speaker in to a stud wall encasing it with 12" of Rockwall and have the left/right speakers on show so that they sit partially in front of the screen. IMO the benefit of vioces placed very close to where they should come from somehow makes the cinematic experiece correct
     
  8. Roland @ B4

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    I have never been a great fan of perforated screens (i'm a video person and concerned mainly with the picture performance) One thing that has not been mentioned so far is the light loss that you will get around 10/20%

    I've never fully understood how putting a releativly thick piece or plastic in front of a speaker won't affect the sound.
     
  9. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Roland: Branx did mention the gain issue "Micro perforations reduce the effective screen gain by approx 10% ". In actual fact I think for Stewart micro-perf it's around 8%.

    Elliots screen is small for a 9" CRT I think and brightness is not an issue. Not only that the light sucking floor, wall and ceiling coverings mean that the screen is not washed out by light being reflected back from those surfaces.

    I agree that the screen obviously does affect sound quality. Elliots still sounds better than many, many home cinema's I've been in. Including those I have done myself with non perf screens and speakers under the screen. It is definately the most Home Theater like by a mile.

    Gordon
     
  10. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Quoting from the opening post:

    "Micro perforations reduce the effective screen gain by approx 10% and require the space behind the screen to be constructed from non-reflective material in order to prevent the leaked light from coming back."

    I am equally concerned with sound quality and with some scepticism. However, the important fact is that the sound quality in X3ELS room is exceptionally good.

    I also keep thinking why commercial theatres are universally constructed with speakers placed behind the screen if that would result in lowering the quality of their performance.

    It maybe the issue with the quality and power of the speakers/amps used.
     
  11. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Branx: I don;t think commecial theatres are remotely concerned with quality the way we are.

    Gordon
     
  12. X3ELS

    X3ELS
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    What can i say.

    All come and have a listen and make up your own minds :)

    I think it sounds the dogs love onions. LOL :clap:
     
  13. Branxx

    Branxx
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    "Branx: I don't think commecial theatres are remotely concerned with quality the way we are."

    Yet, only a few days ago a long discussion was going on Recreating the cinema experience at home, but not one poster even questioned if this is desirable in the first place. This would suggest that although commercial theatres are not awash with quality solutions, the mediocre performances shown there are still generally taken as benchmark for what is desirable at home.

    I ultimately think this is all about the cost. To achieve what X3ELS have done is more about room design, wall treatments, overall positive feeling when you enter the room, and somewhere hidden are the speakers. In the scale of overall cost speakers are probably a small item.

    Absolute sound quality is certainly not lacking in Elliot's theatre room, but the real extra is subjective impression of entering into something created for the perfection of sound and vision, and that is even more pleasing.

    It is for this feeling that I think acoustically transparent screens are one of the most essential construction element.
     
  14. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Branx: Agree'd. The whole solution is the ideal. I'd do it Elliots way for cinema.

    I do not consider any commercial cinema I have been to a goal for picture or sound.

    Gordon
     
  15. X3ELS

    X3ELS
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    I just want to point out to those interested that the room was only ever designed for movie watching. The time and costs spent treating the room correctly was not insignificant especially the fabric, it really was a labour of love.

    Unfortuntaley my fiancee is now expecting the same attention to detail on the redecoration of the rest of the house :rolleyes:

    I know how to build a good sounding hi-fi room and this is not perfect, however it is not far off.

    I would never dream of placing a speaker behind a screen in a hi-end hi-fi installation but that is not this rooms purpose. Also according to all the measurements that i have taken of the room, using ETF and the like (and Genelecs own program) there is no detrimental affect on the sound, it is immeasurable. (once corrected that is).

    Anyone who is thinking of using a perforated screen though beware of alternatives, i have used many screens in the past, DaLite, VuTec, Draper and none come close to my Stewart. It really is worth every penny, just make sure you spec the right surface :rotfl: :rotfl: (Sorry G couldn't resist).:rolleyes:
     
  16. Roland @ B4

    Roland @ B4
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    Note to self read whole thread before posting

    A tennis court at home is not wimbledon. But is the tennis any better for it?
     
  17. uncle eric

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    A few words from me :)

    I've not seen or heard Elliots system but knowing how much Elliot loves this stuff and the tender loving care he put into getting his room together I can only assume it's fab.

    I had a slightly different and (dare I say) more purist philosphy when I put together the Batcave.

    As mentioned by Branxx, with a few exceptions, my equipment is very similar to Elliots and again like Elliots I keep my gear at the rear of my room not at the front. I don't like distracting flashing lights in front of me and anything else that will draw attention to itself while the lights are out. I believe only the screen should be visible in the blackness. The image should appear suspended in mid air with nothing else visibly drawing attention to itself.

    My screen area measures 87" x 49". Like some of my American friends, I believe this size to be pretty optimum (from a maximum point of view) for any top quality CRT projector even up to the Cinemax.
    I'm not saying one cannot go larger and be comfortable, I'm just saying image dynamics for most good CRT's generally start to fall off once past this size.

    I've always said if you want a bigger screen, just move your chair nearer.

    And in fact I follow my own advice because I do sit a little closer than perhaps some of my colleagues would.
    Why do I choose to do this? Firstly because I can :) (read below),
    and secondly, even by moving nearer by a few inches, one would disproportionately increase field of view by a fair amount thus obtaining a far more cinematic image.

    The "because I can" comment is mainly to do with quality of image. The better the image, the closer one can sit without seeing problems. The combination of the HD Leeza and Gordons ISF skills has turned the G70 into an image maker from heaven.

    This leads me to the next difference between my set up and Elliots. Perf screen and speakers behind it.

    I've never been a fan of this solution but think that aesthetically, it can't be beaten. It can look great and is very neat indeed.

    Due to Elliots small screen size, I would say he wouldn't really have a problem with losing a percentage of his CRT's light output through the perfs. Knowing Elliot, he's also squeezed every drop of sonic performance from his sound system even though the front soundstage sits behind the perf screen.

    I thought about a perf screen when building my room from scratch. However, I had two problems with this idea.
    Firstly, while my close quarter eyesight is failing fast, my normal distance sight has always been Hawk like.

    I can sit as far as 12 ft away from a perf screen and see the holes most of the time. For me, very distracting.

    My other problem (and aim of my room) is highest possible sound quality. Most folks talk about losing some of the HF (high frequencies) when speakers are placed behind screens. To great effect, EQ can overide the negative effect of this particular obstacle.

    However, there are other major problems, some of which being difficult, if not impossible to deal with when using perf screens in front of the L/C/R speakers. Perf screens can and do cause sonic refractions that in turn cause phase shifts. These phase shifts can be destructive to overall sound quality in that they generally effect the all important mid-range and upper mid-range area.

    The other thing that's difficult to do is the placement of the front L/C/R speakers in equidistant positions to the main listening position. If one is aiming at ultimate sound quality then all speakers should really be placed around the main listening postion in a circular fashion at equal distances from the listener. In a system with a view to obtaining this high level of sonic performance, it's of huge importance to place the speakers in this way so as to achieve coherent physical time distance relationships. Again, where this is not possible (read 99.9% of all set-ups) delay and EQ can doctor the situaltion. Keyword here is doctor. The system which is physically at it's "organic" optimum should not really be a patient hence will not need to be doctored. (By organic, I'm refering to acoustic treatments which both Elliot and myself use to great effect).

    In the case of my own side and rear surrounds these are nowhere near perfect. However, the all important front soundstage is placed very well. In short, the front left and right are toed in and brought forward by around 16" to achieve equal listening distances at the main seating position.

    If EQ is used, I believe it should be used where it has benifits and not drawbacks. IE, lower frequencies which couple with rooms.



    Difficult to see, the dark side is :devil:
     
  18. X3ELS

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    Blimey. Some very good points Eric.

    Well i could post an even bigger thread than Erics (no offence) about the exact way that a cinema should be built (and read, exactly how it has been layed out to ITU standards). But i am not sure if people would be interested.

    However a couple of key points.

    1. Speaker placement:

    Left and right speakers should be positioned at 30 degrees from the centre and the rears are positioned 110 degrees (+ or - 10 degrees) from the centre. The loudspeakers should then be angled so that they point towards the optimum lstening position.

    My cinema has this exact arrangement for the front 3 speakers to the exact degree, rears are also pretty close to ideal.

    2. Perforated Screens:

    Erics issues with phase shift and refractions do not really apply to a Genelec speaker as they employ a patented DCW (Directivity Control Waveguide). this helps to focus the high frequencies through the screen. This is why they are used in every major recording studio and film screening room (Not M&K as they would like you to believe)

    Most importantly however is the specific placement of the speaker baffle, this should always be angled to avoid being parallel with the screen. This prevents standing waves forming between the screen and loudspeaker baffle.

    A useful by-product of the DCW is that the reflected sound from the projection screen is scattered due to the curved shape around the midrange and treble drivers, thus reducing the chance of standing waves.

    Finally a perf screen has bugger all effect until about 10k which can easily be compensated for with EQ. (I can show you the graphs i have measured).

    As for room treatments.........thats another story ;)
     
  19. uncle eric

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    Interesting Elliot. Have Genelec released a white paper on exactly how this works? I'd like to investigate further.

    Indeed. Most software out there is mastered using Genelec speakers.
     
  20. JohnS

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    Just to calrify is that the centre of the room and if so where should the seating position be?

    Cheers

    John

    This is a great thread with some interesting points being made from both camps.:)
     
  21. Spligsey

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    It's a belter!


    Adzman
     
  22. X3ELS

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    John S:

    Firstly place your Cenre speaker bang on in line with you. The left and right speakers will then be 30 degrees either side from this point.

    Using the Centre still as 0, then place the rears from either 10 - 120 degrees from this point.

    This is the defined placement by the ITU (ITU-R BS.775-1) for the placement of loudspeakers in dubbing theatres. Or, in fact where the films are mastered.

    Interestingly the standard has never been ammended for 7.1 as it is not yet widely accepted. There are several schools of thought on the placement of these channels.

    Subwoofers should typically be placed between the left and centre speakers (or on the right) making sure it is not in the centre of the room, or right in the corner. This will reduce loading effects and hopefully help control the production of standing waves etc. (Although really you need a large bass trap) I have a sneaky solution to this, but its top secret ! I use one in my room but no-one knowa about it he he :)

    P.S. It's now a sticky yay :)
     
  23. JohnS

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    Thanks X3ELS, I take it the the centre radius point is where you sit so therefore the side-rear speakers will end up just behind you as oppossed to the physical centre of the room?
     
  24. X3ELS

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    Correct John.

    Bear in mind these speicfications were drawn up specifically for 5.1 based sytems.

    Best

    Elliot
     
  25. Mark Grant

    Mark Grant
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    Hello Branxx,

    What projector are you going to use with that expensive screen ?

    Your JVC DILA might not be good ?

    CRT is fine with perforated, fixed panel can be really bad, from what I have read.


    Just a thought before you make a very expensive mistake !


    Mark.
     
  26. ReTrO

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    The newer high res fixed panel projectors are much better on a mciroperf screen than the old ones.

    A good high resolution example being the new JVC DLA-SX21 D-ILA machine, as compared to a low res Runco DLP with the old 848x600 4:3/16:9 chip.
     
  27. EvilMudge

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    Would have to agree with Rick on the perforated screen issue. A low pixel fill % will look awful, but DILA should be bearable from a Moire point of view and SXRD should be better. Of course you could always defocus LCD for this.:D
     
  28. Branxx

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    "What projector are you going to use with that expensive screen ?

    Your JVC DILA might not be good ?"

    I am thinking of using my DILA G10. Although it is almost 5 years old it is still one of the highest resoultion digital projector, but that may also be a good reason to think about the upgrade.
     
  29. ReTrO

    ReTrO
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    I've enquired with Sony as to when the Sony Qualia 004 SXRD/LCOS/D-ILA projector will be available over here, no word as to when it will appear yet, but I wait with baited breath.

    I would expect the next gen of JVC D-ILA's to be running at 1920x1080 native res though. It's just a case of when.:cool:
     
  30. Branxx

    Branxx
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    "I would expect the next gen of JVC D-ILA's to be running at 1920x1080 native res though. It's just a case of when."

    I guess it is also 'how much'? This will be a good time to upgrade.
     

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