But not everyone can dedicate a light-controlled room to the experience. For those situations, manufacturers are now offering light-rejection screens that deliver good image quality with some lights turned on. Today I’m looking at a new material from Seymour Screen Excellence called Ambient-Visionaire Silver.
Seymour Ambient Visionaire Light-Rejecting Screen
- Rejects moderate levels of ambient light
- Wide 70-degree viewing angle at 1.3 gain
- Pairs well with Ultra HD projectors
- Nano-mirror technology eliminates sparkle artifacts
- Available in fixed-frame configurations up to 56 inches high
In the past, front projection systems were relegated to dark spaces with fully-controlled lighting. Displays and screens just weren’t up to the task of producing a bright saturated image under any condition besides total darkness. Today, even with the latest advancements in projectors and screens, my favorite way to watch a movie is in an environment without ambient light. But not everyone wants to, or can, devote a light-controlled room in their home for this singular purpose.
Fixed-frame with semi-rigid rollable material
1.2, 1.3, 2.1
80 x 45, 92-inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect
Extruded aluminum covered with Infinite Black velvet
Seymour Series 2, 2.6” wide x 1.3” deep
Price as tested:
Seymour, Seymour Ambient, Seymour Light-Rejecting, Seymour Screens, Screen Reviews
Display and screen manufacturers have both sought to expand the appeal of two-piece systems in recent years. Projector-makers have done this by offering greater brightness at a lower cost. Today’s $3000 models can put out three or four times the light of their far more expensive predecessors.
To combat the image-destroying ravages of ambient light, screen companies have embraced high-tech chemistry to create light-rejecting products. These specially-coated materials contain nano-mirrors that direct only the light coming from the projector back to the viewer. Unwanted photons coming from other directions are absorbed so they can’t taint the picture.
This is not my first review of such a product but it is my first opportunity to check out a screen from Seymour Screen Excellence. Born of a collaboration between Seymour AV and England-based Screen Excellence, they were first-known for their ground-breaking acoustically-transparent materials that allowed sound through with no visible perforation or weave. Now they’ve entered the ambient light-rejecting segment with a brand-new material called Ambient Visionaire. Available in three gains and in both black and silver colors, these screens retain the quality of your projector’s image while allowing moderate and indirect ambient light to be present.
Today I’m reviewing the model with the widest viewing angle, Ambient Visionaire Silver 1.3 in a fixed-frame configuration. Let’s take a look.
Light-rejecting screens have two basic functions. First they must absorb light that comes from any direction other than the projection lens. That means any ambient sources on the sides or above the screen will not be reflected back towards the viewer. Only light that strikes the screen within a few degrees of zero will actually be visible. This is accomplished at the microscopic level.
The Ambient Visionaire starts as a sheet of semi-rigid plastic. It can be rolled up but it won’t wrinkle or fold like the vinyl substrates used in typical screens. That base layer also serves to absorb light. Next comes a layer of light absorbing particles and nano-mirrors. Light coming at the screen from an angle hits the particles and is absorbed by the base layer. Light coming from on-center strikes the mirrors and is reflected back at the audience.
Obviously the angle of the mirrors is key to providing maximum seating width for a screen like this. Typically screens that absorb more off-axis light will have a smaller half-gain angle. That’s the angle at which brightness drops visibly. To have the widest possible seating in your theater, you have to go for a higher half-gain angle. It’s similar to the off-axis viewing issues experience by LCD television users. Better TVs have a wider sweet spot. Light-rejecting screens are no different.
The Ambient Visionaire series comes in three different materials. Maximum light rejection is found with the 1.2-gain black model. It will reject 90 percent of angled light and provides a 45-degree half-gain angle. If you need high gain, there is a 2.1 version silver material that ups the half-gain to 50 degrees but light rejection drops accordingly. For the highest half-gain spec, choose the 1.3 silver screen as I did. It sports similar rejection qualities to the 2.1 gain product but increases the half-gain angle to a very wide 70 degrees. That’s the one I’ll be testing today.
I’ve reviewed other screens like this in the past and one question I often get is, “does it sparkle?” The artifact being referred to is a small spot that sometimes appears in the center of the screen. It can take on various colors and it will move with the viewer. This sparkling is caused by the microscopic mirrors used in every light-rejecting screen. If enough of the mirrors are angled such that light is split into its specular components (like a prism), you’ll see tiny colored highlights behind the image. Reducing this problem has been a goal of screen designers since the concept first appeared.
To combat this, Seymour has made their mirrors really small. In fact every pixel in an Ultra HD image has 5000 mirrors to itself. It’s a pretty good bet that most of them will direct light properly toward the viewer.
The Seymour Series 2 frame I received is made from extruded aluminum and covered with a thick light-absorbing velvet called Infinite Black. It’s of very high quality and will hold the screen material perfectly flat and straight. It has a lip at the back which fits over an included bracket that attaches to the wall. The entire piece is pretty light so wall anchors will suffice if you can’t find a stud.
Ambient Visionaire 1.3 material is subtly silver in color. It’s closer to white than other light-rejecting screens I’ve worked with. It’s more rigid than typical vinyl screens and therefore will not wrinkle. One should be very careful when working with it however because if you crease it, there’s no going back. The mark will be there to stay. (No, I did not test that theory.) Seymour rolls the screen around a foam core which is in turn protected by a cardboard tube. It’s likely to survive all the potential rigors of shipment.
Assembly is quite simple and all the parts you need are included in the box. You even get an Allen key to tighten the corner anchors.
After sliding the anchors in place and pushing the parts together, I tightened four setscrews per corner to lock the frame pieces in place. There were no gaps and everything fit together properly. You can see from the front view that the seam is perfect and the pieces are mitered precisely. The material absorbs a lot of light and even covered up the harsh glare of my camera’s flash.
With the frame inverted on the floor, I unrolled the material face down. Attaching it consists of looping the supplied rubber bands through grommets around the perimeter. These bands are hooked onto already-installed studs in the frame. They are far more robust than typical rubber bands and no matter how ham-fisted I was during assembly, I could not break them. That’s a good thing considering I was supplied the exact number needed. When finished, the material was very taut and completely free of wrinkles. To hang it up I simply caught the edge of my existing bracket with the frame’s lip. Once on the wall, I was able to slide it side-to-side and center the screen properly.
In any two-piece projection system, the screen can make or break the image. Even if you have a reference-quality display, a screen that reduces contrast, adds texture, or is less than uniform can have a detrimental effect. With that in mind, I’m looking for a few things when I watch movies on a particular screen. Texture is the number one item in my opinion. Some screens, especially high-gain models, can impart a visible texture to the image. It’s most visible in the brightest white portions where there is little detail. At its worst, texturing can even reduce resolution. I’m also interested in preserving contrast. In my case, the Anthem LTX-500 I use provides one of the highest contrast ratios of any projector. Any screen I use with it must preserve that performance. Finally, I want to see vivid yet natural color that’s unchanged from what’s coming out of the lens. Just like audiophiles want a neutral speaker to present content unaltered, a projection screen should do the same thing.
I’ve watched Baraka several times of late so I thought I’d start with this familiar title. The transfer quality is unmatched for an all-film production. There is nothing digital here except the final scan to disc. Fine detail abounds in both wide-shot landscapes and facial closeups. The textures of stone, fabric, skin and other surfaces is captured incredibly well. The slow-pan camera work used here makes it easy to see any artifacts introduced by the screen material. There were none. The Ambient Visionaire represents the state-of-the-art in a light-rejecting product. The film looked exactly the same whether I watched it on my reference Stewart StudioTek 130 or the Seymour screen.
Of course I had to try watching with the lights on. The 1.3-gain silver material is rated for moderate light rejection by Seymour. What that means in practice is that no light sources should shine directly on the screen. That will pretty much destroy the image. Indirect fixtures however make only the tiniest impact on the picture. Since Baraka consists mostly of bright scenes, it held up extremely well to the 45-watt lamp at the back of my theater. By directing it at a side wall, I could easily read text while sitting in my chair and watch the movie with no difficulty.
I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage from the deep contrast and almost-crushed black of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. This transfer runs the ragged edge when it comes to shadow detail and sometimes highlights can be overblown. The Visionaire presented the film exactly as I remembered it from previous viewings. The material neither increased nor decreased image depth and color was preserved accurately as well.
There is a fair amount of grain present in darker scenes and that showed up nicely without causing distraction. Turning the lights on during this movie made a bigger difference thanks to some super-low black levels. Depending on the color temperature of your lights, you’ll see a little tint in the darkest parts of the picture. My lamp is fairly warm so I saw a yellowish cast. But the image was still perfectly watchable if not quite reference-quality.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great way to demonstrate a high resolution display. Even though I’m still running good ‘ole 1080p, the fantastic-looking CGI apes in this film were just as real as I remembered from my last viewing. Hair and skin textures are the feature and each ape character looks distinctly different with regards to flesh tones, surface wrinkles and hair color. Once again the presentation closely matched what I normally see from the Stewart StudioTek 130.
The Ambient Visionaire is every bit a reference-level product with perfect detail rendering, neutral color and the correct contrast level for a projection material with this gain rating. By the time I finished watching this third movie, it was easy to forget that I had changed screens at all.
What you have in the Seymour Ambient Visionaire is a screen that performs identically to a reference product that adds light-rejection qualities. There are no visible texturing or sparkle artifacts and image fidelity holds up well under moderately bright lights as long as they’re not directed at the screen. Sources coming from the ceiling or pointed towards the back and sides of the room have almost no effect on the picture.
When I test a projection surface I’m looking for two major things – color neutrality and contrast performance. It’s important to remember when calibrating any projector, one should measure color, grayscale and gamma from the screen to be sure that the entire system is adjusted to spec. If you only measure from the lens, the screen may introduce color errors that are visible to the viewer.
To perform these tests I measured my Anthem LTX-500 projector with an i1Pro Spectrophotometer and CalMAN 5. Patterns came from an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator. Each chart below shows the results from the lens, representing the projector’s native image; and from the Seymour Ambient Visionaire screen. We’ll start with RGB levels which represent grayscale tracking.
Grayscale tracking is pretty close here. The screen increases blue levels just slightly as brightness rises towards 100-percent. This will make the image look a tad brighter though it won’t actually be so. A tweak to the projector’s blue gain control will take care of this minor error.
Expressed as a DeltaE value, the errors are just over the visible threshold from 80 to 100-percent. This is an extremely small issue and one that many users wouldn’t notice. The Ambient Visionaire adds just a little blue to the brightest whites but it’s still within the realm of a color-neutral projection surface.
Gamma tracking is completely unaffected by the screen. My Anthem display doesn’t have the best gamma out there but at least the Seymour screen shows exactly what the projector is putting out. You’ll see below that overall brightness and contrast levels are also identical between the Visionaire and my reference Stewart screen which share the same 1.3 gain.
You can see how the slight rise in blue has shifted the white point a little. The center target represents a 100-percent signal. That has in turn moved the cyan and magenta secondaries off the mark by a small amount. Again this isn’t a big deal and will be invisible to the naked eye. But a tweak-happy calibrator like myself will reach for the color management system and make a couple small adjustments to bring things back to perfection.
These are nearly identical luminance results but you can see that for all colors but red, the Ambient Visionaire provides a tad more punch. A little extra vividness is always a good thing, especially when the image is still well within specifications.
Resulting DeltaE values are still below the visible level except for white which we already covered above in the grayscale test. The Seymour Ambient Visionaire is perfectly color-neutral. It is therefore possible to calibrate the projector from the lens if you wish. I’d recommend a one-click reduction in blue gain but otherwise, there is no need to compensate for this screen material.
My reference screen is a Stewart Filmscreen LuminEsse fixed frame screen system configured with StudioTek 130 material. It has a gain of 1.3 and does not possess light-rejection qualities. Again using the Anthem LTX-500 LCoS projector, I measured sequential contrast values using a C6 colorimeter from Spectracal. The meter was placed 10 feet from the screen and directed at its center.
Stewart Filmscreen LuminEsse w/StudioTek 130 G3
- Peak White – 15.8292
- Minimum Black – .0007
- Contrast Ratio – 23349.3:1
Seymour Ambient Visionaire Silver 1.3
- Peak White – 15.7036
- Minimum Black – .0007
- Contrast Ratio – 21536.7:1
As you can see there is no appreciable difference between the two screens. Each matches the claimed gain value, black levels are identical and contrast is close enough to be a wash. The Ambient Visionaire measures .1256fL lower in brightness but this is not something one would see in a side-by-side comparison. So the Seymour offers all the performance and accuracy of my reference Stewart Filmscreen product and adds light-rejection to the mix; impressive!
An important measure of any projection screen is its ability to display a uniformly bright image from edge to edge. To test this I measured a 100-percent white field pattern divided into nine zones. The center zone is the baseline brightness value. Then I measure the surrounding zones and express those values as a percentage of the center one, either above or below. The average of that number tells us the screen’s uniformity as it relates to the center zone.
Obviously the projector isn’t perfectly uniform so I measured from the lens first. My Anthem LTX-500 displays a uniformity of 88.39 percent mainly due to a center hotspot. When I took the same series of readings from the Ambient Visionaire, the hotspot was significantly reduced and uniformity measured 92.84 percent. To the eye there is no visible hotspot and the white field pattern looks perfect from edge to edge.
An off-axis brightness measurement will tell you how wide you can place your seating in front of the screen. In my theater each seat represents a 20-degree departure angle from the center. At 20 degrees, the light reduction (measured from the center of the screen) was 3.54 footLamberts. At 40 degrees which is as far as I can measure in my room brightness is reduced by 4.67fL. These are miniscule amounts and in actual content you can barely tell a difference in image brightness regardless of the seating position.
THE SEYMOUR AMBIENT VISIONAIRE represents the state-of-the-art in light rejecting screens and performs on-par with the best products currently available.
- Color neutral
- Accurate gain rating
- Displays the projector’s full brightness and contrast potential
- Attractive and well-built frame
- No negatives to report
When it comes to reference-quality screens, there are no bargains; you get what you pay for.
The picture above is similar to the photos we see of most high-end theaters. With normal screens, you’d have to turn the lights off to see anything close to the simulated image shown. But with a product like the Seymour Ambient Visionaire, it’s possible to see a bright saturated picture with good contrast and have the lights on.
When light-rejecting screens first appeared, they did their jobs well but at the expense of color shifting and sparkle artifacts. Thankfully, manufacturers did not rest until those problems were eliminated and today we have the result. This is the fourth such material I’ve reviewed to-date and it is clearly the best so far.
In my tests I saw no visible differences in color, grayscale or gamma. Even the instrumented measurements were within a hair of one another. And in comparison to my reference Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130; brightness, black levels and contrast were so close as to also be indistinguishable. What Seymour is offering here is all the performance of the top reference-level screens with the addition of light-rejection.
It’s not always easy or even possible to turn a room into a light-tight environment. Once you’ve done this, there’s only one thing that can be done there – watch movies. If you are able to do this as I have, consider yourself fortunate. But with a modern bright projector and a screen like the Seymour Ambient Visionaire, it’s now possible to create a multi-purpose entertainment space that supports the big-screen movie experience and other activities that require some ambient light. This product earns my highest recommendation.