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Solving a Multimedia Dilemma

When a new sanctuary first opened over a dozen years ago, worshipers at First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington, were awed by its beautiful stained glass motif, a massive pipe organ flanking one part of the chamber, and a solid wall of windows on the opposite side. While those windows quickly became an integral part of the worship experience, they also made traditional large-screen video almost impossible to use.  

"Because of the glass wall and skylights in the sanctuary, images from our existing projection system were really hard to see, "said Travis Talbot, the church's communications director. "In fact, during the summer months, enough direct sunlight filtered onto the screen to completely wash things out."

Frustrated by their video technology limitations but unwilling to compromise the aesthetic value of natural light church leaders began seeking new options. With a large display needed for the 800-seat sanctuary, ultra-high resolution LED technology was ruled out because of cost. Plasma screens were rejected because of size limitations and screen glare. Meanwhile, as consulting engineers on the project, the Fowler Design Group was dubious about the prospects of another projection system largely because of the issue with ambient light.

A New Solution for Projection Imaging
In the midst of deliberations, Fowler officials were approached by AccelerOptics, a digital display manufacturer in Carthage, Missouri. During the meeting, they got their first look at the company's CAPTURE screen technology that eliminated the "washout" problem normally associated with projection systems in bright-light conditions.

"After we saw the test in our offices, we had AccelerOptics send one of its display panels for us to try in this project," said Robert Scott, a senior system specialist for Fowler Design Group. "At the church, we ran some programming and used a spotlight on the side of the display hit by light from the big windows. That's when everyone's jaws dropped. While the outline of the spot was visible, the display remained crisp and easy to see."

Jenny Brust, business development manager for AccelerOptics, said the award-winning CAPTURE screen technology is a perfect fit for open, light-filled churches like First Presbyterian.

"This was a great example of how our digital display panels are causing people to reconsider the benefits of projection systems," she said. "Our micro-optic surface structure produces bright, clear imaging that rivals plasma or LED but at a fraction of the cost for comparable large-screen applications."

To accommodate the large space, AccelerOptics custom-built a CAPTURE 160-inch diagonal display panel, which was installed with special mounting brackets directly behind the pulpit area. The display panel is easily visible from both the main floor and balcony level of the sanctuary, and widescreen presentations of hymn lyrics, sermon notes, and video clips can also be comfortably viewed from overflow seating in the church lobby.

Since First Presbyterian was already familiar with projection technology, Talbot said there were minimal issues in adapting to the AccelerOptics system. The multimedia produced for each service continues to be done in-house, uploaded to a hidden media player, and beamed to the screen by two 10,000-lumen Panasonic PT-DW10000U projectors. Because of the high gain delivered by the CAPTURE screen technology, Talbot said both projectors operate on the Economode setting, thus reducing power usage while providing exceptional image results.

"Why didn't we do this sooner?"
The Christmas season is a busy, energized time for all churches, and First Presbyterian is no exception. While the suburban Seattle church has an average Sunday attendance of 3,500, holiday services often boost that number to nearly 6,000. So, when Fowler Design Group completed installation of the new AccelerOptics display panel in late November 2008, Talbot said he was initially nervous about how such large groups would react to the striking multimedia upgrade.

He need not have worried. Over the holidays, Talbot and other First Presbyterian leaders heard rave reviews from church members astounded by the new display's clarity and brightness.

"We did wonder at first if some of the older people would find it too much of a change, but the overwhelming amount of feedback was really positive," he said. "In fact, more than once I heard people ask, 'Why didn't we do this sooner?'"

In addition, the accolades for the CAPTURE display screen weren't limited to members of the congregation.

"In all the years I have worked in video production, plasma has always outperformed projection screens," said Todd Tolton, Fowler's lead engineer for the First Presbyterian project. "In this situation, however, the AccelerOptics projection display blew away what a plasma screen could deliver."

Fowler Design Group:


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