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8 Essentials Every Church Should Know Before Investing in Multimedia

First, there are no right answers or simple solutions. Get your leadership team involved in the planning of your system—not necessarily what equipment you want, but start with what you want it to do and then prioritize that list. Know what's important in the short term and long term. Remember that when designing a system, flexibility always equals money, so everyone needs to be on the same page. Ultimately, clear communication is the key to achieving your multimedia ministry goals.

1. Establish a Game Plan
What are your short-term goals and where would you like to be in five years? One of the biggest mistakes churches make when investing in a media system for their church is neglecting to plan for the future. It is important that leadership agrees upon your immediate priorities, but then dream big. What do you want to build toward? What kind of impact do you want to make? Then make sure you discuss these goals with a competent, experienced dealer. They should be able to give a big picture design that can be implemented in phases based on your priorities and budget.

2. Find Your Screen
Many people don't give much thought to the screens, but they are a key piece of equipment for any multimedia system. As such, several things should be taken into account. Where can it be hung? Should it be electric or fixed? Should you go with one screen or multiple screens? Which aspect ratio is right for us? What type of surface is best?

3. Choose a Projector
Once your screen placement and size are decided, you can determine what kind of projector you will need. After that, you can choose where and how you want to mount the projector. Most can be ceiling mounted, and you'll want to place it as close to the screen as possible to achieve the brightest picture. Of course, when mounting to the ceiling, you will need to be sure there is enough attic space above the projector to run cables, plus a structure to attach the mounting hardware to.

There are other options when it comes to projector placement. Projecting from a balcony or from the back of the sanctuary usually requires a projector that offers multiple lens options. This allows you to select the perfect lens for your specific throw distance and screen size. You might also consider a slightly brighter projector because there is some light lost in a long throw application. This option will appear more expensive initially; however, once you consider the extra cost and time required with ceiling mounts, it often comes out to be about the same. Also, regular maintenance and lamp changes are often much easier with a long throw application.

4. Plan for Cameras
Often, the decision to add cameras to your church media system is an afterthought. However, more and more churches want to incorporate cameras into their existing system. If done well, it can greatly enhance the worship experience; if done poorly, it can be a major distraction. There are so many options available, and the decision you make on your cameras will affect other elements, such as your projector, switching, scaling, cabling, etc. So, even if cameras are not on the immediate agenda, but you are considering them for the future, plan now and it will save you money in the long run.

5. Select a Switcher/Scaler
A switcher allows you to switch between your sources. A scaler takes all of your video signals and scales them up to a higher resolution to match your computer's resolution (which should also be the native resolution of your projector). Be warned! There are several consumer-grade switcher/scalers on the market that use low-quality scaling engines; your image quality can be significantly impacted by using one of these.

When using a switcher/scaler, you can choose to go with a single scaler or a dual. Single scalers allow simple dip to black transitions, whereas a dual scaler will allow for all of your effects like cross fades, wipes, cuts, etc. Again, the one best suited for your needs will be determined by the direction you want to go with your system.

6. Develop Your Infrastructure
The infrastructure of your media system is huge when it comes to the quality and success of your entire system. And, a lack of planning on your infrastructure will hinder your ability to add to your system in the future. Your infrastructure may cost as much as your projector and screen, but you want to do it right the first time.

7. Choose the Best Sources
Again, as with infrastructure and screens, this is usually an afterthought. No big deal, someone's donating their old computer or you already have a DVD player you can use. If you are only planning on checking e-mails or doing word processing with your computer, that may be fine; however, in order to display high-end graphics and video, plus store everything your ministry does and display it quickly, you need a computer that is designed for this type of professional application.

8. Know Your Budget
A reputable dealer is not asking for a budget so they can spend every cent you have; they need to know what they're working with in order to put together the best system for your church. It takes serious creativity and hard work to design a great media system on a limited budget. Then, they can provide a big picture design and then work with you to implement it in phases.

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

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