As clear as Crystal

70A new projection screen built on holographic technology could give integrators cause to rethink video walls. Paul Skelton reports.

When people talk to me about holographic technology, my first thought (like it so often is) is Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. In the show about teenagers with attitude, the team’s morphological pal Zordon presents as a holographic head inside a giant tube.

In the real world, however, most of our experiences with holography have actually been ‘fauxlography’, which is a term that describes illusions that have been incorrectly classified.

The truth is there has never really been a practical example of holographic technology that has been a commercial success.

But that may be about to change.

Los Angeles-based Crystal Screens has recently entered the front projection market with a new screen that is built around holographic technology. It marks a significant shift away from the traditional fabric construction that integrators are so familiar with.

“Screen technology has pretty much stayed the same for the past 100 years,” Crystal Screens marketing manager Mary Ann Giorgio says.

“For this reason, projection screens are not that exciting of a category, for dealers or end users. But our product is very different to everything else on the market.

“Of course, every screen maker says that. They all say they have the best gain, the best viewing angle or the best ambient light rejection material. What makes Crystal Screens truly different though is that we use holographic technology in our products.”

Crystal Screens’ parent company, Luminit, is a high-end optics company that specialises in custom and standard holographic diffusers.

“About five years ago, our scientists were experimenting with angles for our LED products. Our scientists do that, they like to experiment,” Mary Ann says.

“Purely by accident, they made an angle that wasn’t appropriate for the lighting industry because it was far too bright but it turned out to be ideal for projection.

“After a couple of years, and many, many prototypes, the scientists produced a full front projection screen. They hung it in our conference room and that was going to be the end of it, but people started to comment on it and we quickly realised that we were on to something.

Mary Ann says the screen was so bright that it projected an image that was as if the company’s board room was blacked out.

“Screen technology has not really changed in the past 100 years; screens have always really been constructed from coated fabric.

“Crystal Screens’ screens are not fabric, they are actually a mineralised substrate with embedded holographic technology.

“By using holographic technology we are able to manipulate photonic energy, which is a fancy way of saying we manipulate light. This leads to a lot of characteristics that the other screens don’t have, in particular when it comes to brightness.

“Traditional fabric screens, in our opinion, are not a good match for the advancements in projector technology, especially when you look at new 4K models. As resolution increases, fabric screens tend to rely on the projector to do all of the work. We don’t do that.

“Further, our black levels and saturation are very good but where our screen really differs is a viewing angle and brightness. Also, because it’s not fabric there are no hot spots.”

Mary Ann says that while the screen is great for residential installations, it’s the commercial and pro AV markets in which she believes it will thrive.

“In houses of worship, conference rooms and stadiums alike, ambient light has long been a problem.

“The integrators we have spoken to who work in these markets have said they want to avoid video walls because of weather issues or leaky roofs, but front projection screens aren’t bright enough. A Crystal Screens screen solves this problem.

“It also has a really wide viewing angle. You can stand almost perpendicular to it and still see the image.”

Being just one year old, Crystal Screens is understandably still in the start up phase but, Mary Ann says, the company is very interested in international distribution.

“We see projection screens as a very important category with great growth potential.”

Crystal-ball gazing aside, holographics is set to make a very serious mark on the custom installation channel so integrators would be wise to get an understanding of the technology sooner rather than later.

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