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Projectors in the Church

Industry Roundtable


James Chan
Director of Product Marketing
Projector Displays
Presentation Products Division
Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America

Debbie Descheemaeker
Director of Marketing
Barco Visual Solutions, LLC

Darren MacDonald
Shepherd Ministries
Leading house-of-worship dealer for Hitachi America

What are the current trends in projectors in use by churches?

Chan: Projectors in use by churches as well as all other bigger venues are continually improving.  They not only get brighter and brighter, but many projectors are giving extra features such as dual-lamp redundancy systems that ensure the projector virtually eliminates a chance of going completely dark. They're also emphasizing more on color saturation and contrast.

Descheemaeker: Houses of worship are competing with the secular world for parishioners' attention, and projectors are becoming a standard tool for communicating an effective message. Today's society is very visual, and we are used to seeing and processing lots of information; therefore, video projectors provide an effective way of invoking feeling through a visual effect. Some trends we see in churches are video feeds for campus church facilities, large screen display of pastors during services, visualization of scripture or worship text during a service, and using projectors to create a mood through use of special effects. More and more churches are looking for ways to be creative with their technology, so flexibility is important.

MacDonald: High-end SVGA works the best for small to mid-sized churches because they mainly use low-resolution images and video. But since these products are becoming hard to find, they are having to move to XGA. Large churches are looking for 5,000 to 7,000 lumens.

What are the most important considerations for churches when evaluating and selecting projectors for their worship facility?

Chan: The most important consideration for churches when buying a projector is the organization they are buying the projector from. Churches have special needs that are uncommon to most schools or corporate boardrooms, the other big users of projectors.

Would the reseller be able to support the projector during its time of use, typically on Sunday worship? Would the reseller have the technicians and the knowledge to help the church select the proper projector for use in their sanctuary given the rather unforgiving light situation often present in the worship area? 

Other than that, the reliability of the projector and its visual display performance should be seriously considered.  It is not practical for a church to play "keeping up with the Jones'."  Buying a projector and giving the sanctuary's AV system a facelift is not an affair a church organization is engaged in as often as a business or educational institution. So the church should really look beyond the price as long as the value provided is reasonable and competitive. Instead, the church should focus on how a projector has been known to perform, try to find out if there are reliability data, and, if not, find out what kind of warranty is provided by the manufacturer and what kind of support the AV reseller is going to enhance the manufacturer warranty with. This will give you a good gauge on how reliable a projector is, because even if the warranty provided by the manufacturer is good, ultimately, the AV reseller is the one who's going to perform a lot of the support work. If they are completely pushing the warranty service to the manufacturer, they are giving you a good clue of the kind of service you can expect from them, and the kind of reliability you can expect from the projector. 

Visual performance is very important because a lot of projectors look good on specs, but performs horribly in real life.  And always remember, try to get a unit to shoot out in the place you plan to install it. don't buy it blind. It may look good in a demo room, but it may look very different from the church's sanctuary. There's nothing to lose when you do a visual check before you commit.

Descheemaeker: Most churches must consider ambient lighting, so brightness of a projector is usually very important. Some compare technology such as DLP versus LCD in relation to the applications. Having an upgrade path as new technology is introduced is also important, and features such as picture-in-picture, dual lamp design and edge blending are also considerations.

MacDonald: One, the units have to look good on the screen. Two, they have to have a cosmetic look that matches the ceiling. Three, they need hard-wired remotes. And, four, they need a long lamp life.

What mistakes can churches avoid when and selecting projectors for their worship facility?

Chan: One of the biggest mistakes a church can make is to shop the projector via its specs and buying it without requesting for a demo or a shoot-out. Like I said earlier, every projector will sound like the greatest thing since slice bread when you read their specs on the brochure or online. But getting to see how it will actually perform in your own intended place will be key to having a successful installation. 

Descheemaeker: Churches should consider their projection needs during the early stages of church design, considering space for front or rear projection, viewing angles, and flexibility needs of the stage or pulpit. Churches should partner with an integrator early in the process so the best technology can be proposed for the applications required. Once basic needs are determined, churches should consider over buying a projector by 50% to provide for more flexibility and to accommodate growth. Churches that don't have the capital resources to obtain the best solution should consider leasing or financing rather than compromising on technology. Lastly, churches should consider the serviceability of the projector and the support provided by both the dealer and/or manufacturer: does the design of the projector provide a solution that will last and is easy to maintain (easy to remove lamps and filters) and does the manufacturer and/or dealer provide a competitive and comprehensive warranty program?

MacDonald: Buying too high end of a DLP in hopes that it will look better. Churches usually spend more than they need to.

What impact do churches have on the projector market today? How has this changed over the years?

Chan: A superb church implementation of a projection display is like a showcase of the technology like no other.  The house of worship welcomes a lot of different people from different walks of life on a weekly basis not just to witness the magic of faith, but also to see what technology can help in the communications process. Having said this, the church inspires the development of a lot of high-end projectors, and it raises the bar to make manufacturers rise to the challenge of coming up with a projector that strives to be the best. The church market has grown to be a very good forum not only to show what AV technology can do, but show it successfully as well in a venue big and challenging like no other can.

Descheemaeker: Many churches are growing at a rapid rate and have more budget than ever before to spend on technology. Churches are striving to captivate audiences and, as a result, more projectors are being purchased than ever before in this market with larger, more sophisticated projectors being acquired. More and more churches are also relying less on volunteers to manage their worship and video production needs, and hiring full-time production staffs, which has played a role in the greater use of projectors.

MacDonald: Right now I see manufactures making more high-end DLPs and LCDs to address that market with hard-wired remotes. How has this changed over the years? More churched are using projectors than ever before, and they have the budgets to afford quality units.

So, what's ahead?

Chan: Brighter, smaller, more fault-tolerant, easier-to-maintain projectors.

Descheemaeker: Use of projectors for live streaming video to remote facilities will continue to grow. We'll see a movement towards recently introduced HDTV resolution, and fully integrated networked projectors will become standard to distribute content and to diagnose and repair fleets of projectors remotely.

MacDonald: Products that offer greater than 5,000 lumens with basic functions and more units that are stackable.

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