“Is this 3D?”
This is a question we hear surprisingly frequently at Screen Goo demonstrations, even from hardened veterans of the audio video industry viewing our system at trade shows and professional conferences. That’s how strong the impression of depth and dimensionality that watching a Screen Goo based projection system can create.
So, what’s a fair answer to that question? Technically, no it’s not 3D or, more specifically, it’s not stereoscopy. The viewers are not presented with content meant specifically for their left and right eyes nor are they provided with any kind of filter to ensure that each eye sees only the content intended for that eye. They’re not likely to experience the classic “Monster Horror Chiller Theatre 3D” effect of objects in the content appearing to project outwards from the screen towards the viewer, at least not without glasses and specific content.
A more accurate description of the effect would be that the viewer has the sensation of looking out of a window at three dimensional objects in space. Nothing in the content “breaks the window” or appears to pass the front plane of the projection surface but, the surface itself seems to disappear in the same way that really clear glass does when we focus on objects on the opposite side of it.
How do we this? Well, we don’t do it by ourselves: as always, content is king. Everything starts with high quality imagery. On the reproduction side the important factors are resolution, black level retention, contrast, image geometry and, last but not least, a bit of “magic”. Let’s look at these one at a time:
Resolution is a product of the projector’s available pixel count. 1920 horizontal pixels x 1200 vertical pixels (16:10 aspect ratio used in computer displays) and 1920 x 1080 (16:9 HD aspect ratio) projectors are relatively common and affordable. Projectors featuring 3840 x 2160 pixels (so-called 4K) are increasingly common but considerably more expensive.
Permit us a brief digression here on the subject of screen compatibility. Many screen manufacturers are claiming “4K Compatibility” for their products. This is reminiscent of the great “digital” craze of the 80’s when there was near limitless flim-flam around the marketing of audio components as being digital ready. Nevermind that digital audio was essentially a different storage methodology and that it required no change to the characteristics of the audio components of the day; consumers were still told that they had to “upgrade” to “digital-ready” products.
The concern about screen compatibility is straightforward: moire or interference patterns in the image.
A projector’s pixels are arrayed on a grid. If the projection surface also has a structured pattern, as is the case with screens employing a lenticular element or screens having embossed surfaces, the overlay of the projector’s pixel structure with the structure of the screen will result in moire. Screen Goo surfaces are random and, as a result:
SCREEN GOO IS COMPATIBLE WITH ANY PROJECTOR RESOLUTION!
Resolution is important in creating an impression of depth as it allows the viewer to see more detail, further “into” the picture. Good definition, especially of background details, greatly assists in creating an impression of depth.
The ability of the playback system to retain black level is also important. Any image detail that is lost in playback due to the inability of the system to distinguish subtle changes in the range of dark grey to black will cause the image to appear foreshortened and lacking in depth.
Contrast and black level retention are related in that the system’s ability to hold black level will have a major influence in determining the ultimate contrast ratio achievable. This in turn will impact the system’s ability to create an impression of depth. Poor contrast will result in a flat looking image, whereas good contrast allows for the possibility of creating a solid impression of depth.
The content can be terrific, the playback system have excellent resolution, contrast and black level retention but if the geometry of the image is incorrect, the sensation of looking out of a window and perceiving depth and dimensionality will be ruined by a wrinkled or otherwise less than flat vinyl screen. It’s worth noting that virtually all roll-up screens, tab-tensioned or otherwise, will be less than ideally flat.
What about magic?
Now, take two near identical playback systems, differing only in that one system uses a Screen Goo screen surface. Both systems are displaying the same content with the same high resolution projectors; both systems are correctly calibrated and have identical black level retention and contrast ratio and we’ll go so far as to assume correct geometry for a vinyl screen. Even under these circumstances, the Goo surface creates a far more convincing sensation of depth and dimensionality than any of its competitors. The difference can be likened to looking out of a window at a scene versus looking at a poster of the same scene.
Why is this? The absolute truth is that we don’t know for sure and as Arthur C. Clarke famously said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
We have our suspicions that the fact that a Goo screen is in effect a laminated structure using opaque reflective layers and semi-translucent diffusive layers, coupled with the optical conditioning components present in our Finish coats, creates a kind of a lenticular effect which occurs repeatedly at a microscopic level. This is just a hypothesis; we’re happy to entertain readers’ ideas about the how this works. Regardless of the “why”, this phenomenon is very easily observable and we encourage you to see it for yourself by requesting a pre-painted sample for your evaluation.