Earlier this year I installed a new projection screen in the brand new building of The Salvation Army Parramatta. After some research, I settled on the VisuLax 150″ Elite Fixed Frame Screen. I’m pretty impressed with this product and wanted to share my experiences here.
The main auditorium in this building seats around 250 people at capacity. The truss line across the back of the stage had a DaLite Fast-Fold screen, which had been on loan since the building opened. I needed to replace it with a permanent screen, and didn’t have much of a budget to work with. As this screen was going to live in the one auditorium all its life, going with another fast-fold screen wasn’t necessary.
After a fair bit of research, I stumbled upon VisuLax which sells a variety of budget fixed-frame screens. Research revealed a few other screen manufacturers on Alibaba with a very similar product, but the advantage of VisuLax is some local stock in Australia (via Class A Audio’s website, and eBay page).
I went with the 150″ size as it fits comfortably in our auditorium and looks pretty good with our 6000 lumens projectors. I opted for the white surface (grey is also an option), with a 1.1 gain to give us as much brightness as possible.
Buying from smaller brands, sight unseen, is a bit risky (albeit a calculated one in this case due to a local seller and the relatively simple construction for this type of project), but thankfully this risk paid off.
The screen arrived via specialised courier as the box was very long. It contained a number of metal strips, rods, screws, tensioning springs, a special assembly tool, and the surface nicely itself rolled up. Packaging was good and it was well protected in transit.
Assembling the outer frame and the vertical supports is pretty easy and can be done by one person. You simply need to follow the pictograph instructions and slot each component together in the right order before screwing it all up. Make sure you have a nice big floor space to work with.
Getting the screen surface installed is slightly tricker.
Firstly, make sure you lay down the supplied foam on the ground below the screen to protect the surface from dirt.
Then, unroll the screen surface in position.
Take the rods, and gently feed them through each of the four edges. The edges are sewn over so the rods can slide inside neatly. However, the plastic of the screen is a bit tight and you need to be careful not to tear it as you feed the rods through.
As you feed the rods through, I found it impossible to get the long edge rods to sit perfectly. This is because the screen surface will be stretched as you tension it.
The hardest part is tensioning.
Firstly – this special tool (supplied) is very handy. Don’t be a fool like me and start the process without it. The cut out on this tool is used to hook through the springs and make tensioning much easier and saves your fingers.
The end goal is to get the screen to sit perfectly behind the frame. To do so will take a bit of trial, error, and patience.
What I suggest is starting by putting in most of the springs on a short end. Then, work your way down the long ends. Do one spring on either long side at the same time. You’ll need to slide the springs in the metal tracks towards the furthest short edge, because the screen surface needs to be stretched through this process.
Once you’ve gone both long edges all the way down, you probably will find the far short edge still won’t reach. That’s okay. Go back to the beginning and start sliding the springs down the metal tracks again towards the short edge where it needs to reach. Repeat this process a couple of times and the screen will slowly stretch.
In the end, the furthest short edge will still be a bit fo a struggle but it should be possible to make it work.
The final product will look a bit like this:
Once all this is done, you’re ready to fly your screen. While this can be done with one person ( ♂️), I’d suggest finding a friend at this point as you risk damaging the surface if you loose the balance.
I choose to fly this screen on my truss line with lamp safety wires. These hook neatly around two of the upright supports on the back of the screen. You could use right angle brackets and/or screws depending on where you want to attach it. These screens are typically installed flush on walls, but flying it from truss has worked out well for me.
Overall, I’m very happy with this screen. Especially for a purchase that only cost me around AU$500, it looks great:
The velvet borders are very handy, as I have slightly overshot the projection screen by a couple of centimetres on every edge to give me a slight safety margin of anything slips or moves. Our truss lines are motorised and go up/down regularly as we change set designs throughout the year – so this edge makes it very easy to re-align everything again.
In fact, I’d say the velvet borders absorb more light than the black borders on our old DaLite fast-fold screen.