Sam Runco is in the movie business. No, he’s not a hotshot director or actor—he’s the founder and CEO of Runco International, a company that sells some of the world’s finest video projectors. And while he loves movies, he hates letterbox bars—those black strips that often appear above and below the picture when you watch movies on a high-def TV or projector. Not one to sit on his hands, Runco developed a special lens/processing system called CineWide that eliminates those dreaded black bars. Available as an option for many Runco and Vidikron projectors (Runco owns Vidikron), CineWide expands the image horizontally and vertically so that movies shot in the ultrawide 2.35:1 format fill every square inch of the screen with no loss of resolution or brightness (see “CineWide Explained”). The result: No more useless bars taking up precious screen space.
Ever since I first heard about CineWide, I’ve been dying to try it out to see just how close to movie heaven it could take me. My wish finally came true a few weeks ago when a Vidikron Vision Model 70 projector ($11,995) arrived complete with a CineWide lens and AutoScope motorized “sled” that moves the lens into and out of position ($13,000). I also scored a 100-inch-wide, 2.35:1 Silhouette screen from Screen Innovations ($1500).
I know what you’re thinking: That’s a lot of dough. But in the world of high-end video, where $100k+ front-projection setups are not uncommon, a $26,500 rig is actually considered affordable.
With everything set up and configured, I was prepared to be transported to another place and time without leaving Grayscale Studio, and I was not disappointed. From the moment I fired up the first flick, I was blown away by the impact of the large, ultrawide image—especially when watching high-def movies.
Training Day on HD DVD was spectacular—I felt like I was riding along with Alonzo and Jake on their rounds through the gang-infested underbelly of Los Angeles. The Vidikron system rendered all the gritty detail and lifelike colors of the movie, providing a window into that unfamiliar reality (unfamiliar to me, anyway). This was home theater at its best. In many ways, it was better than being in a commercial cinema—no reel-change markers, none of the jitteriness endemic to film projection, and no squirming kids kicking my seat from behind. Movie heaven, indeed.
Switching to DVD, I found that enlarging the image to fill a screen this big revealed the softness of standard-definition material, even though it was upconverted to the projector’s resolution (1920x1080). Still, DVD movies looked as sharp as they could—which is to say, very good, indeed—but they were no match for high-def. There’s nothing that Vidikron—or anyone else, for that matter—can do about this, it’s just the nature of the beast.
To explore the difference between CineWide and conventional projection, I watched some movies with the special lens in place and out of the way. The difference was stunning—without the CineWide lens, there were large black areas on all sides of the image, which looked positively puny on that huge screen. With the lens back in place, the picture filled the screen, making everything much more impressive and immersive. I literally ducked when the huge Imperial cruiser flew overhead at the beginning of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
If you’re a serious movie watcher who wants to bring the very best of cinema home, trust me, you won’t be disappointed with a CineWide-equipped Vidikron Vision Model 70—or, I suspect, any Runco or Vidikron CineWide setup. Once you see a movie presented like this in your own home, there’s no going back—and no more going out to the movies. TPV