If you are really into home theater, then you’ve heard of Stewart Filmscreens. Now, even if you haven’t heard of them, you’ve seen their products before… they provided the huge center stage screens at both the Democratic and Republican conventions and even screens at the Academy Awards shows. In the home theater market they are known for their highest product quality, customer service and for their reference screen material, the StudioTek 130. Think of them as the Rolls Royce or Bentley of screens. I recently became a dealer for Stewart Filmscreens and ordered a 1.78:1 Horizonal Masking Screen for demo purposes. The screen, with masks up, is 1.78:1 (16×9) but can be masked down to a 2.60:1 aspect ratio. I needed a way to control the masks for different content and Stewart’s solutions are a bit to pricey for the home theater market so I decided to prototype my own controller (pictured).

My first prototype is basically a proof of concept design. I wanted to see if I could design a device that would be able to control the two masking motors so I could have a minimum of three presets; 1.78:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1. I’m already starting on my next version, which will be a full control system with an ethernet port that will allow control of the masking via a built-in webserver so I can tie it into my home automation controller. I’m also going to investigate the possiblities of adding a video input that will count the pixels of the letterbox and adjust the masking automatically.

The first prototype masking system controller has four presets buttons, two toggle switches (one for each the top and bottom mask), four relays to control the two motors up and down, a microprocessor, a couple hall effect sensors, and a RF receiver for remote control.

I’m hoping to have my second prototype ready in a few months…

Stewart Filmscreens