Ever heard of movies being up on the big silver screen? Movie screens were originally silver to compensate for the relatively dim projection systems of the time. A silver screen is more reflective, therefore brighter than a white screen. However, a silver screen will lose a lot of it's light as you view from the sides... a white screen will be about the same brightness from all angles. Almost all movie screens these days are white, unless polarized 3D movies are being projected!

Movie screens are permanent installations, but many people would like to project 3D images on location. For this, one needs a portable silver screen. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult aspects of stereo presentation, as silver screens are difficult to produce, transport, erect and store!

We have found the Stewart 150 ($$$!) to be quite good, but really expensive.
Da-Lite now has an RP screen called 3D Virtual Black. Looked good on a small demo, good extinction but flat gain. Have heard large sizes can exhibit "hot spotting", but have yet to see sample.

Check out these images for installation of an IMAX silver screen 22 x 27m (72 x 88ft)!

Da-Lite TRIPOD screen frame
Da-Lite FAST-FOLD screen frame
Da-Lite FAST-FOLD screen frame
with drapery

The easiest way to travel with a movie screen is with a TRIPOD screen. The only silver tripod screen we know of is made by Da-Lite, but their "Silver Matte" material has been found by us to be dull and ghosty! (bad extinction characteristics) This is most unfortunate, as previous "Wonderlite" screens made by Da-Lite were excellent (see NOTE). These can be found used on eBay, largest size being 70 x 70" (we have a 96 x 70" example, but it's the only one we've ever seen!). Essentially there is no tripod screen currently being made that we can recommend.

Other than the tripod screen, the industry standard for portable movie screens is based on the Da-Lite FAST-FOLD frame. The "standard" has been complicated by the fact that they have developed a "deluxe" version, which does not match the "standard" version. In any case, the Fast-Fold frame folds down to fit in a relatively small case and is somewhat easy to set up and tear down. The Deluxe version is quite sturdy. The components are: frame, legs and crank screws (attaches legs to frame). An option that is available is for DRAPERY. Velvet drapes (top/valence, sides/wings, and bottom/skirt) surrounding the screen gives a very professional, theatrical look in any venue. The top is hung on valence hardware, sides on wing arms and the bottom on a special skirt bar or on "reverse" snaps along the bottom of the screen. Drapery comes in black or blue.

In order for screens to be stretched to the Fast-Fold frame, fabrics must be hemmed and snaps riveted in so they perfectly match the snaps on the frame. This is much easier and more accurate than the "lace and grommet" style of stretching that most other screen frames employ. It's advisable to get reverse snaps put in at the bottom of the screen to facilitate adding a skirt if needed.


Harkness Roller Screen with
roll-down masking

(rear projection here)
Silver screens have two components: the base, and the coating. Important qualities are brightness, off-axis viewing, depolarization and transportability. All silver screens need to be rolled for transportation instead of folded, which makes for more difficult shipping. The largest size for 4:3 format we have found to be the 9 x 12'. Fedex will take this rolled screen, since the shipping tube (for screen rolled on short side) is less than the maximum 118". There are several manufacturers of silver screen materials. STUDIO 3D has used most of these, and offers the following information based on actual tests.

Many older screens were ribbed vertically and were called LENTICULAR... this was to help distribute reflected light more evenly. These are NOT suitable for digital projection, as they lead to MOIRE patterns.
We know of no modern silver screens with lenticular surfaces.

Da-Lite offers two silver screen surfaces: SILVER MATTE and VIRTUAL GRAY. The MATTE is a canvas base, for use in tripod frames, and is quite bright with good angles. Their "Virtual Grey" is not actually a silver screen, but it does preserve polarization... unfortunately our tests showed it to be quite dark, possibly 2 or more stops darker than most silver screens. I have a hard time believing their 1.85 gain claim! We also found it to be somewhat grainy.

The STEWART SILVER 3D material is generally accepted as the Rolls Royce of 3D screens, with a price to match. Even if you were to fork over the huge money for the material, they will no longer sell material alone (to our knowledge). The frame they supply is their SNAPPER, which looks real nice, but does NOT FOLD or break down (four sides are solid). They also sell the Stewart 150 for rear projection.

Based in England, they now have a factory in the US (Virginia). This is currently our favorite screen material: good brightness, good extinction, and looks to be good portability (though our screen is quite new, so we've not given it the real road testing yet). They have a frame that looks quite like the Fast-Fold, called EASI-RECT... apparently it doesn't match Fast-Fold configuration, so screens are not interchangable. They will put snaps on to fit Fast-Fold if you provide the frame (note: fitting their fabric to a snap frame is not something they normally do, so they may be reluctant to do so.) Not cheap, but about half the price of Stewart. They claim to be the choice of DISNEY for 3D screens. They now have a rear screen material, but it is quite dark. They also offer a ROLLER screen with 3D material that would be produced on a custom basis.

We used Hurley screens for years. It is a seamed vinyl, called "SILVERGLO", but the seams are well hidden. The biggest problem is that the vinyl is very susceptible to "puckering" and permanent marks from improper rolling or storage. Once they are set in, they never want to stretch back out! Harkness and Steward vinyl is more stretchy, more forgiving. And the stiff Hurley vinyl if very sensitive to temperature- if it gets cold, the vinyl shrinks and it's that much tougher to get those snaps on. They have their own frame system, called the "H-Pad", which is built-up from small frame pieces that are fitted together (not as easy as Fast-Fold) with heavy plastic velcro instead of snaps. The problem is that there is a lot of play where the velcro attaches, so it takes a lot of extra time to get the screen nice and flat. Better to snap it to a Fast-Fold frame.
NEWS: Hurley has come out with a new silver material called "Digital Dimension". We've tested a small swatch and found extinction excellent, but compared to "SilverGlo", it's a bit darker and grainier.

This looks like a great screen material! The problem is, there is no US distributor for this German material. Importing something like this tends to get very ugly (and costly). As we have had some real nightmares importing screens, we have been reluctant to purchase a large sheet of the material for snapping to a Fast-Fold frame. The sample we have is a canvas based material which seems to be non-vinyl material available. It doesn't stretch, but it does tend to lay flat

Vinyl-based material from France. We did try a 7.5 x 10' screen from them, but it was very directional and the paint was somewhat uneven. Since then they claim to be using a robot arm for silver application. Their prices are reasonable, but again, no US distributor.

This was a fabric developed by Studio 3D- unfortunately the company that manufactured it won't make any more. They are used to making many, many yards of material for upholstery and clothing... and this material is not easy to make! It was a silver liquid goo coated onto a stretchy lycra material. The 3D characteristics were quite good, and it was SO easy to put up, due to the elasticity of the material! Tended to resist marks as well. Perhaps someone will again find a company that will do this fabric "coating" on a relatively short run. (The other downside was a maximum 5' height~)

An alternate possibility is to PAINT a silver surface. We've tried KRYLON silver paint on a small piece of masonite which worked well, but may be hard to do evenly on a larger surface. A professional sprayer and Silver 3D Screen Goo may be a good option, but we've not seen it yet. Not cheap at $250 a quart plus basecoat (plus hiring a sprayer!) Found another paint that's cheaper, 3D HD Silver ($189 quart) from Paint On Screen. Checked out a sample and it is REALLY bright! Great extinction, too.

PLEASE let us know if you have other sources for silver screens!

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