Product Review (July 2003) - Stewart Filmscreen Corporation
Looking into the Creation of a Stewart Filmscreen
FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall

Stewart Filmscreen Corporation is a name recognized by those involved in the high-end video display market. A family business established in 1947, Stewart Filmscreen is a two-time Academy Award winning manufacturer of large screen products. They have established an impressive reputation with both installers and end-users. This is largely based on their commitment to designing the best video screens possible with the current display technologies. As the new fixed pixel displays began to emerge, Stewart recognized the shortcomings of the technology and designed their screens to improve picture quality. Several new screen technologies have been introduced in the past several years and videophiles all agree that Stewart is the screen by which all others are measured. Stewart's latest screen called the FireHawk, has been specifically designed for DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors. Aside from the growing home theater market, Stewart provides screens for some of the largest venues in the world. Stewart Filmsceen is located right here in Torrance, California, so we were fortunate enough to get a rare tour of the facility, including areas where the latest products are being assembled for their dealers. With over 100 employees in their Torrance facility, Stewart occupies and a large chunk of real estate with several buildings in and around the area. Despite slow economic conditions in the rest of the country, Stewart continues to thrive in the high-end screen marketplace with the increased popularity of home theater.

Our tour of the Stewart facility began with Manfred Freiberger, Director of International Sales. He was kind enough to take us through the areas where the products were being assembled. Due to the inherent nature of the business, we were restricted from taking pictures in some areas. Obviously for Stewart, intellectual properties play a significant role in their business, so we certainly respected the request. After walking through the plant, Executive Vice President Don Stewart gave us a great demonstration of the new FireHawk screen material. Using a reference Runco DLP projector, Don displayed an image on a split screen with one side being the reference StudioTek 130 material and the other side being the FireHawk material. Both sides of the screen looked very good in the dark with excellent contrast. There were no obvious differences between the two screen materials from where we were sitting. However, when the side door was opened and ambient light entered the room, the advantages of the FireHawk material became very apparent. The FireHawk material maintained good contrast while the StudioTek material took on a washed out appearance. This was an impressive example of the capabilities of this new screen material and its ability to resist ambient light.

Stewart completely manufacturers their own screen material. Screen stock is stored on large rolls awaiting the assembly process. Large sheets are cut to size and then in the case of our FireHawk screen, button snaps are installed around the edges of the material. This design keeps the screen material taut around all edges and results in a smooth and consistent surface. Each and every Stewart screen is hand made by skilled craftsmen and comes with a serial number for tracking and quality control purposes. In addition, a sample of each screen made is stored away for reference in the event a customer has a problem. If there's ever a problem with a customer's screen, Stewart can pull and material out and verify any problems. The meticulous build quality is what Stewart Filmscreen Corporation is all about.

Taking advantage of California's great weather, Stewart assembles larger custom screen frames outside. It's really amazing to watch how these large frames are assembled. In fact, the number of custom sizes and applications is mind-boggling. Seamless screens as large as 90 feet wide by 40 feet tall can be manufactured at this location. We saw huge cylinders mounted on massive holding fixtures where large screens were rolled up to be loaded onto trucks. Many of Stewart's big customers are overseas companies.

Stewart's handcrafted filmscreens require a lot of time to build. The work doesn't stop once the screen is complete. Packaging the product for safe shipping requires a fair amount of effort. Once the screen and associated hardware (frame or motor assembly) is complete, the parts are securely packaged into a heavy cardboard box or crate in the case of larger heavier screens. Our FireHawk screen was wrapped in protective foam and then stored in a large firm cardboard tube. The tube along with the frame was tightly packed into a large box (14"x14"x9') with plenty of padding to survive a long rough trip. The beautiful frame was actually inserted into precut blue foam to prevent any damage. The design of the screen packaging is important and Stewart has taken care in this area. Looking at the number of screens that were being stored for pickup, led me to believe these products are in high demand. Although we could have had our screen shipped to us, we opted to pick it up since we were local and wanted to experience the shipping area.

FireHawk
The FireHawk screen is the ideal choice for today's DLP projectors. The screen material has been engineered to provide excellent black levels and superior color saturation. Image contrast is preserved by dampening cross light reflections as much as 90 percent even with some ambient light entering the room.
The FireHawk screen is available in many different configurations including both motorized retractable housings and fixed wall frames. We reviewed several of our recent DLP projectors using a 100" diagonal Stewart FireHawk 16:9 screen mounted on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall frame (SND100H). The frame is made from an aluminum extrusion material that is very rigid and is finished with black VeLux™ Appliqué material that works very well at absorbing over-scanning from the projector.

Setup
Our 100" FireHawk 16:9 Deluxe Luxus FireHawk ScreenWall came in a large shipping container. The frame was easy to assemble by bolting each of the four segments together. The screen then snaps into place keeping it taut and wrinkle free. Wall mount brackets are included with optional mounting available (Aperture mounts, free standing T-stands and hanging eyebolts). The end product is very professional looking and will even please the pickiest of home theater enthusiasts.

The FireHawk screen has a gain of 1.35 with a viewing angle of 100 degrees and half gain viewing angle of 28 degrees. Stewart recommends a minimum throw distance of 1.6 times the screen width with the projector mounted from the ceiling. Our screen installation was very straight forward and went up on the wall without any issues.

Performance
We had five different DLP projectors that we tested with the FireHawk screen. We calibrated all of our projectors using a Sencore VP300 Video Pattern Generator along with a Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer System. Three of these projectors were based on the new HD2 high-definition (1280x720) DLP. Black levels were excellent and the colors were rich, giving the image a three dimensional look. Our high-definition source material came from several different components during the course of our review. First, we used our old, but reliable RCA DTC100 for both DirecTV HD material as well as terrestrial HD broadcasts. The picture from HD-Net looked the best with low video noise, excellent black level and a mind-blowing image. Since the DTC100 only has analog outputs, we also tried out the Samsung SIR-T165 set-top box using the DVI output. We watched the Tonight Show several evenings and were equally impressed with the video quality. Even our home theater PC using the MIT MDP-100 produced a reference picture from previously record high-definition programs. Next it was time to move to our JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS VCR to watch several D-Theater movies. The advantage of using the JVC is the bitrate is substantially higher that what is used in HD broadcast video. Once again the picture quality was excellent with just a bit of low noise grain in the image commonly seen with movies transferred from film. However, there were no compression artifacts that are often seen on broadcast programs. The remaining two projectors we tested with the FireHawk were XGA resolution and used the double data rate (DDR) DLP. The black level of these less expensive projectors were not quite as impressive as the latest HD2-based projectors, yet the FireHawk screen maximized image quality. The point here is that even if you bought a budget projector, you may want to get the best picture quality by installing the Stewart FireHawk.

Summary
The FireHawk screen material has an amazing ability to maintain contrast even when some ambient light enters the room. The black level proved to be excellent with our projectors and the color saturation and accuracy was impressive. The build quality of this product is as impressive as the performance. The look of the Luxus Deluxe frame with the VeLux™ material is beautiful on the wall. What impressed me most about the Stewart FireHawk's performance was its ability to squeeze the best performance out of any DLP projector we threw at it. After using this screen for the past six months, there's no going back to anything else.
- Kevin Nakano

Special "Thanks" to Lisa Ortega, Don Stewart and Manfred Freiberger




Review System

Projector #1: Toshiba TDP-MT8U High-Definition DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
Projector #2:
SharpVision™ XV-Z10000U High-Definition DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
Projector #3: InFocus ScreenPlay 7200 High-Definition DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
Projector #4: Optoma H56 DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
Projector #5: Mitsubishi XD300U DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
Scaler: Focus Enhancements CenterStage2
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2: RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: Monster Cable M Series M500DVI DVI-D Cable
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 All Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: Eye-One Beamer with ColorFacts

Review at a glance

Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall HDTV Format (16:9 Aspect Ratio)

Part Number: SND100H-FireHawk

FireHawk Benefits:

  • DLP Ready
  • Ambient Light Resistance
  • Increases Black Level
  • Increases Color Saturation
  • Bright, Vibrant Image
  • Washable
  • Flame Retardant

    Specifications:

  • FireHawk Screen Material
  • 100" Diagnal, 87" Width, 49" Height
  • 3-1/4" Frame Width
  • 1.3 Gain
  • Half Gain Viewing: 28 Degrees
  • Viewing Angle: 100 Degrees

    Source: Manufacture loan
    MSRP: $1751
    Shipping Weight: 55 pounds
    Shipping Size: 102" x 14" x 14" (LxWxH)
    Warranty: 1 year parts/labor

    Owner Manuals/Brochures


    Company Information
    Stewart Filmscreen Corp
    1161 West Sepulveda Boulevard
    Torrance, CA 90502-2797
    Phone: 800-762-4999
    Fax: 310-257-9617
    E-mail: comments@stewartfilm.com
    URL: www.stewartfilm.com

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