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Multimedia in Worship
By: Mike Skorick, Martin Starnes & Jay Leek

The topic of discussion in many houses of worship today is whether or not it is time to update the technology we use for worship service. Oftentimes, when we form a committee and start to decide what we need, many questions arise. So, let's get started and tackle the most common issues regarding multimedia technology in church.

How can we use technology in our church?
Technology can be used in many ways to spread information in your church. Monitors can be displayed throughout the church that show class schedules, church maps, announcements, live video from the pulpit, and much more. Projectors and screens can be used in the sanctuary or auditorium to show Bible verses, video clips, songs, and announcements, just to name a few. The use of one or more cameras mounted in the sanctuary or auditorium to record the service to DVD is another use of technology. Also, DVD/CD duplicators can then be utilized so that copies are available after church for members who wish to have a copy or for those unable to attend worship. Keep in mind that many people also use technology when available for weddings and funerals.

Technology, when used properly, is a wonderful worship enhancement tool. It has been our experience, through installs all around the United States , that churches that are willing to embrace technology are growing, while the opposite is true for those that choose not to.

Do we really need projection?
Don't get projection just because the church down the street has it. Ask some of the following questions to help qualify your needs:

* Would projection help the younger generation to learn?

* Would projection help spread information for visitors?

* Would projection allow a visitor without a Bible to see verses?

* Would projection allow us to show pictures of all new members, so existing members could seek them out after service to welcome them?

* Would projection help enhance our song service?

These questions may help you in deciding if projection is right for you. Remember, God used, and still uses, visual aids. What would you consider the burning bush to be?

How much will it cost?
This is a very difficult question to answer. We have had customers spend as little as $2,000, and some have spent well over $100,000 for a complete sound and video installation. We believe we must be good stewards of the money that God has entrusted us with. We certainly do not want to pay too much for new equipment, but also remember the old saying, "You get what you pay for." Just be sure to work with a reputable business, which leads us to our next question.

Who do we contact for help with design and installation?
Make sure you pick someone with a good reputation and with plenty of experience. Make sure they are willing to come and meet with you and see your needs firsthand. Do not accept a bid from a company that has never seen your building. Make sure they have good references. Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as necessary to feel comfortable with the business you select to do the work. One of the most important questions to ask is, "Do you have experience working with churches?"

Finding a systems integrator who can also upgrade your sound system will allow you to use one company for all of your technology needs. As important as multimedia projection is, it is also critical for your congregation to hear the service clearly no matter where they are in the room.

You can spend thousands of dollars on your technology, but if you do not know how to use it properly, you have wasted the church's money, so make sure training is included in the bid.

Do we have to learn special software to use this equipment?
There are several software choices that are specifically made for using media in worship. These specific pieces of software are very affordable and user friendly. However, you can start using projection in worship with a simple computer slideshow. There are also more and more options for song software with and without notes.

Will it change the look of our sanctuary or auditorium?
The answer to this question is yes. It would be impossible to add video projection without changing the way things look. The important question to ask is if you can integrate this technology into your worship with as little change as possible.

Will it change the way we worship?
We are still using the Holy Bible. We are still using the same hymnal. We are just making the words and pictures available to everyone. As we all have heard, we learn better when more than one of our senses is used.

With multimedia technology, you will be able to have the announcements on the screen before and after services. You will be able to have class schedules and other information for visitors. Just think of the avenue of ministry we open up to those who do not feel comfortable leading a song or prayer but have a real talent with computers. So, yes, we do feel that it will change the way you worship by giving you more tools to reach out to the lost.

Do we need more than one screen?
The main objective is to make sure everyone can see what is being projected. In some cases, one large screen in the center is plenty. In other cases, more than one screen is needed. This will all depend on the size and shape of your sanctuary or auditorium.

How large of a screen do we need?
As with the last question, a lot of this depends on the size of the sanctuary or auditorium, as well as the distance from the screen to the furthest seat away. There is actually a formula for figuring the size screen needed.

How bright is bright enough for a projector?
Many factors come in to play when deciding how bright a projector should be. In almost all cases, we would suggest getting the brightest projector your budget will allow. The amount of natural light and the ability to control it are important factors, as well as lighting control on the lights in the sanctuary or auditorium. Also, keep in mind that any light reflecting off of the screen will diminish the projected image. Just imagine the criticism from some members if you chose a projector that is not bright enough to overcome the ambient light in the room.

How long will it take?
The amount of time it will take to complete an install varies on the size of the church and the amount of equipment being installed. Typically, an install can be completed in a week. However, a small church may only take a couple of days, whereas a very large church may take two weeks or more. Just make sure to coordinate with the business you select to do the install, so that you won't run into any conflicts.

As you can see, deciding to add video projection to your worship service can be a difficult task, but it can also be a tremendous blessing to your church.

Consider the generational aspect of multimedia projection for your church. While it may not be as necessary for the older generation, it is essential for younger generations. It is our sincere hope that the information we have shared with you will help in the process of choosing what is right for you.

Mike Skorick is owner/partner, Martin Starnes is owner/partner, and Jay Leek is collaboration and communication consultant of Four J Pro Sound & AV, www.fourj.com .

Sidebar 1
HD and Widescreen: What You See Is Not Always What You Get!

HD is finally everywhere you look. Every electronics store is pushing HDTVs more than standard TVs, and some of them advertise HD exclusively. Peruse any of the ads for projectors, digital displays, or cameras, and you'll see the same thing. HD is officially all the rage, and there is no question that everything will be HD in the future.

Widescreen is another concept popping up without a lot of explanation. Outside the world of projection, you're most likely to see it on DVD movies offered in both widescreen and full screen. Many people assume that widescreen and HD are the same thing, but they are not. HDTVs are always widescreen, but when it comes to projectors and cameras, HD and widescreen aren't always synonymous.

Put simply, widescreen describes the shape of your image, while HD or SD describes the quality. Widescreen projectors, displays and non-cinematic cameras are generally 16 units wide for every 9 units high (16:9). Their SD counterparts are 4 units wide for every 3 units high (4:3).

HD and SD basically means that there are more pixels or lines within the shape to give your picture more quality. You may have heard numbers like 1080 or 720 thrown around to describe HD. Those numbers tell you how many dots or lines run from top to bottom, and the more, the merrier. By comparison, standard definition is only 480 or 525 lines.

The potential for confusion comes when you have an SD product with a widescreen or 16:9 mode. Manufacturers are still producing SD projectors and cameras, and dealers are still marketing them. Almost all of these products have a 16:9 or widescreen mode. In essence, this mode works the same way as if you were to put black tape on the top and bottom of the lens. It merely changes the shape without adding any quality. In fact, with projectors, you are actually losing some of the effective brightness, since some of the lamp's power is being blocked on the way out.

While this is a bad thing if you don't know what you're getting into, churches looking to upgrade incrementally can use this to their advantage. The ideal situation, if you have the budget, is to make a complete switch to HD and get rid of all your SD switchers, projectors, cameras and displays. Who among us wouldn't want to do that? But wanting to and being able to are rarely the same.

If you know you want to go to widescreen HD in the future, there are some things you can do today. If your projector already has a 16:9 mode, you can purchase 16:9 screens now and upgrade everything else later. You will lose some brightness until you can upgrade, but your screens will at least appear to match everything else in the world.

You'll also have to take note of how your 4:3 content will look on the screen. In 16:9 mode, your projector will stretch everything. For abstract graphics, this isn't a big deal, but pictures and video of identifiable objects and people will look flatter and wider. It may take some work to get your DVD player or computer to display them properly. (For example, adding vertical black bars to the sides of the image is one way to overcome this.)

If you have an older projector without a 16:9 mode, you can probably pick one up for a much lower price than you could a couple years ago. Since you can also get more brightness for your buck than the last time you bought a projector, you might even be able to find one bright enough to compensate for the loss inherent in 16:9 mode.

Whatever you do, talk to a professional who can help you navigate the HD/widescreen waters. A qualified professional will take time to understand your needs both now and in the future and explain the long-term implications of your buying decisions. Look for one who can rent a 16:9 screen to you to test your plans before you buy one. Knowing what you are getting will keep you from facing technical and budgetary surprises down the road.

This information is courtesy of Fowler Productions, www.fowlerinc.com .

Sidebar 2
Keep Them Singing Using Video Loops
By Diana Teeters

One of the most popular and effective uses of video loops is to project them behind song lyrics. Let's assume you already have the computer hardware and software to pull this off. We'll focus on what makes combining video backgrounds and song lyrics compelling. Do this right, and you'll have the congregation's eyes locked to the screen until the last verse is sung.

First, choose an attractive video background that matches the message, tempo or mood of the song. When matching the message, find a background that contains a symbol or image of that message. For example, when using the song "The Old Rugged Cross," choose a background that includes a cross. "Rock of Ages" lyrics would match up well with mountain video footage. Beautiful, awe-inspiring nature footage is always appropriate when singing songs like "Amazing Grace" or "How Great Thou Art." Another way to effectively combine your video loops to lyrics is to focus on the tempo or mood of the song. If the song is a fast tempo, contemporary song, choose an energetic and lively video loop. On the other hand, a traditional song calls for a slow moving, subtle video background.

Second, choose text that is easy to read when projected. Style, size, and color are the main factors to consider. When choosing the style, san serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are perfect for projection. Serif fonts are more difficult to read on the big screen. Also, avoid using italicized text for the same reason. Once you pick a style, use it throughout the song. Consistency will keep your congregation engaged. Changing the style in the middle of the song can be distracting. The size of the text is another important factor in legibility. Always use a font size 24 or higher. Any smaller and your congregation will have to strain to see it. Finally, use color to create contrast between the song lyrics and the video background. Use dark text on a light background and light text on a dark background.

In our increasingly visual society, images and symbols have become more powerful than words alone. You have an opportunity to enrich the worship experience of your church. Combine moving backgrounds and song lyrics properly, and you'll keep them singing.

Diana Teeters founded TriLab Productions, the home of Digital Hotcakes, www.digitalhotcakes.com . Trilab Productions currently offers a 12-volume library of video loops specifically designed for the worship environment.

Product Roundup

Panasonic D5700 Projector
As one of Panasonic's newest DLP projectors, the D5700 provides more effective noise reduction and crisp images while maintaining all of their top-quality functions and capabilities. This projector boasts a dynamic 3D color management system that provides optimal levels of color saturation. This 6,000 lumen projector has full 10-bit picture processing and a contrast ratio of 2,000:1. The projector's AC lamps have a 300W AC system and increased reflector efficiency. The dual lamp system has non-stop 24 hour operation with lamp relay function and achieves high brightness while maintaining stability.

Multimedia Computer Lectern from Amplivox
The new Multimedia Computer Lectern is a fully assembled multipurpose computer lectern cart packed with features to make this your church's "go to" lectern. This lectern has two locking doors and a locking desk with a slide-out shelf with room for a laptop or projector, adjustable shelves for a computer tower, internal wire management grommets, four easy-to-maneuver 4-inch casters that are hidden from the audience, radiused corners, and sculpted reveal lines for an elegant look that compliments any decor. This podium is constructed from high-quality heat-fused wood with a stained pine finish. Four colors are available: Maple (shown), Medium Oak, Mahogany and Walnut.

FaithClipart.com, a leading Christian clipart Web site, has unveiled a full-featured Design Resource Center for professional and non-professional Christian designers. FaithClipart. has provided the budget-conscious church community with the high-quality Christian clipart since 2004. The current site's improved functionality, a new Favorites feature, the addition of a new Design Resource Center , and an expanded archive of art, photos and templates give members the power to go beyond print media, create high-quality materials in house, and embrace Web and presentation options that have previously been the domain of high-budget Christian organizations and mega-churches.

Fowler Productions
Fowler Productions is passionate about using technology in the church to connect with people - not only to hear, but to see and experience the Word. Now besides video projection, churches are adding theatrical and stage lighting to create the environment that reflects their worship style. Technology done well should simply enhance the message and the worship experience. Regardless of your size or denomination, Fowler Productions brings you the latest technology, keeping it user-friendly for staff and volunteers, all within your budget.

Hitachi Software FX Series Interactive Whiteboards
The Hitachi Software Starboard FX Series of interactive whiteboards (FX-63, FX-77 and FX-82) offer larger image areas, faster tracking speed and a powerful feature set, providing an ideal solution for churches seeking a cost-effective yet durable, versatile interactive presentation and collaboration system. Customizable function buttons enable the use of StarBoard software without the constant use of on-screen menus, and a customizable toolbar further enhances speed, flexibility and user-friendliness. Available in a choice of USB wired or Bluetooth wireless configurations, the FX Series offers seamless integration with new or existing equipment, including computers and LCD projectors.

Sports Series from TriLab Productions
TriLab Productions has announced the first volumes in their exciting new Sports Series. Volume 1 Baseball is a retro inspired collection of imaginative animations, while Volume 2 Football captures the contemporary flare. Each volume contains 25 unique animations, including intros, backgrounds, transitions, lower-thirds, and one-of-a-kind sports action silhouettes. File types are AVI and Quicktime movie files. All animations are included in both standard (4:3) and widescreen (16:9) format and feature synchronized sound effects. TriLab Productions is the developer and marketer of the Digital Hotcakes series of affordable motion graphics for video editing.

Mitsubishi XD470U
Mitsubishi has announced the XD470U, the newest projector in its highly successful family of projectors using Digital Light Processing technology from Texas Instruments. The XD470U provides 3000 lumens for bright presentations or videos, an instant shut-down feature for quick exits, and a filter-free design for low cost of ownership. Mitsubishi's new high-brightness XD470U enable users to present in a myriad of lighting conditions, even in rooms with the lights on and window shades open. Instant shut-off lets users make rapid exits after a presentation, using a quick power-down feature to accommodate tight room schedules without damage to the projector.

Seamless Screens from The Screen Works
In keeping with the projection industry trend toward expanded screen sizes and bigger, bolder display surfaces, The Screen Works has announced that they now offer seamless projection screens in sizes up to 12 feet high and widths that span virtually any stage dimension. Available in matte white as well as rear projection, the flexible, seamless material offers an unblemished continuous surface so that projected images are consistent across an expansive image area. The Screen Works is a leader in the manufacturing, sales and rental of custom screens as well as their E-Z Fold brand of portable projection screens.

Christie LX1500
Merging XGA LCDs with a quad-lamp optical illumination system into a powerful 3LCD light engine, Christie has announced the launch of the Christie LX1500. Generating a stunning 15,000 ANSI lumens from the advanced optical engine and four 330W lamp array, the Christie LX1500 projects a fantastic image. The projector incorporates inorganic LCD panels that are longer lasting and deliver an incredible 2000:1 contrast ratio. Coupled with improved 10-bit image processing for smoother artifact-free images, the Christie LX1500 reproduces crisp and smooth on-screen images that make every presentation pop.


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