Watching films at home has improved immensely since we switched to 16:9 displays from the old 4:3 standard. 1.85:1 films almost perfectly fill the screen, and often the transfers are opened up a slight bit so it does fit perfectly. However, we are still subjected to the often dreaded black bars when watching films shot on 70mm film, or shot anamorphic widescreen on 35mm film or digital cameras. For many classics like Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia, the sense of immersion in the film then disappears and we are left with some of the same problems we had before HDTV became the standard.
At CEDIA I would often see Anamorphic setups being used for demonstrations, but those would have $10,000 lenses, $15,000 motorized screens, and expensive video processors to pull off the effect, which is way past what is realistic for most home users. Now we are starting to see some technologies come down in price, such as lens memory and anamorphic lenses, that can find their way into the home of the home theater enthusiast and not just those that are incredibly well off. Additional features like Electronic Color Correction in projectors, and light rejecting screens, have made this a complete system that can be installed in many rooms and not just a dedicated theater room.
Eager to see how well one of these setups would perform compared to the incredibly expensive systems seen at CEDIA, I put together a setup consisting of a Sony VPL-HW50ES projector, a Screen Innovations Black Diamond 1.4 screen with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and the new Panamorph CineVista Lens. This complete setup should sell for a good bit under $10,000 all together, which is still a good amount of money but far less than this would have cost just a couple of years ago. I had quite a few reservations going into this review, including how well my eyes would notice the scaling required by an anamorphic widescreen setup, as well as the screen and its handling of light, but I came away incredibly happy with how everything performed. The immersive experience of a 2.40 screen could not be understated, as it really did make my basement into a movie theater at home. For more details, you can read the full review at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity today, and see if you want to think about making the jump to an anamorphic widesreen setup.