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Simple Rules for Effective Worship Presentation

First, let's tackle text, which is the most frequently used kind of media in most presentations so frequent, in fact, that most people don't even consider it "media." But, as a medium conveying specific ideas and information, text delivers with a clarity that pictures can't beat.

Yet, we see lots of ministry presentations with great pictures but poorly formatted text. Their creators seem to forget that text intended for display requires a different kind of formatting from text that's intended to be read up close in documents, e-mails, online, and so on. And, since that's how most of us create our presentations up close, on our own computer monitor what looks good in preview may not look that way on the big screen when it counts.

It doesn't have to be that way. Use these simple tricks to make sure the text in your presentations' message support, lyrics, and announcements looks great and reads well to the audience.

1. Keep text big.
The minimum readable font size depends on display resolution, room size, lighting, and other factors unique to your venue. So, the only sure way to determine what's too small is through a real-world test.

Display a screen containing several lines of text of descending size, over a typical background. Set the room's lighting to match less-than-ideal conditions, and then sit in the last row to read it. Note the size of the smallest readable line, and then increase that number by about 10 percent. That's the minimum font size for your room.

2. Go easy on fonts.
On any given screen, and among multiple screens in a series, pick a solid header font and a simple, crisp, readable body font, and stick with them. Stay away from abstract and ornamental fonts, which are harder to read and may not hold up well when displayed at a lower resolution or in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. With very few exceptions, using more than two or three simple, readable fonts just clutters up the screen and makes readers work too hard to decipher the message.

3. Let words breathe.
We humans are a sympathetic bunch. Just looking at a picture of someone standing in a snowstorm makes us feel cold. Even stranger, just looking at a page or screen of crowded words makes us feel crowded. (A handy trick if you're illustrating a message about anxiety or, say, the lack of personal space in Hell.)

But, if you're trying to inspire a sense of God, a boundless faith, a hope eternal, then give the words some breathing space and your audience will breathe easier, too. You can do this with wider margins, fewer words per line, and fewer lines on the screen.

Keeping Backgrounds in Their Place
Even the best text formatting won't help if the words get swallowed up by the background picture. Here are some tricks for keeping the words separate and safe from big hungry backgrounds.

1. Shadow
Let's face it, the foreground and background layers aren't really layers in the physical sense. They appear together on the same flat display surface, their light reaching our eyes at the same time and angle, so the brain's primary depth-perception triangulator thingy (yup, it's a medical term) perceives no difference in distance.

But our doodling ancestors figured out another way to convey depth. When an object (say, a saber-toothed tiger) stands between a light source (fire) and another object (cave wall), it leaves a silhouette of itself on the second object. After changing his loincloth, an observer of this phenomenon figured out that if he added a silhouette to a painting of the object, said object would appear to jump out from the surface he painted it on. The fake shadow was born.

Adding a shadow effect to text can do the same thing. The silhouette of the letters help the brain perceive the letters themselves as separate from background the shadow is cast upon.

2. Outline
Like real ones, fake shadows don't help much if they and the objects they mimic don't sufficiently contrast with the background. When a shadow effect isn't enough, you can add contrast by outlining the text or softening the background.

The text outline effect is an easier fix, but it's also easier to use poorly. Choose the thinnest width necessary to make the text readable above the background. The wider the outline, the harder it is for the eye to see differences in similarly shaped letters. The color should contrast with the text and the background.

Go with black if you can, and avoid bright colors that call steal attention from the characters themselves. And don't forget that what looks good on your computer's display may be a blur to someone sitting in the back row trying to read that billboard-sized display.

3. Picture
Many great pictures are just not meant to play a background role. Even effected text gets lost in the details, and characters that stand out in one place disappear in another. If you can't use a more text-friendly picture, try tweaking the one you've got, using your favorite image-editing tool.

For example, if just some of the words are hard to read, reduce the contrast. If the readability problem spans most of the page, try darkening it by placing a semi-opaque layer over it, and then adjusting the opacity till you get the best look.

If this causes the picture to lose important details or changes its mood too much, you can use another trick to get some of it back. Assign the original, unaltered version of the picture to a blank page that appears before the first page of text, which uses the text-friendly version. Even if the blank page appears for just a second or two, the brain will continue to "see" what's obscured in the altered picture.

Another trick can work if your display is large enough. Resize and position the picture to one side of the frame so that the cue's base color appears as a fat margin next to it. Adjust the text margins to fit the text within this space. With the picture on one side and the text over a solid color on the other, the words will remain readable without taming the picture into dullness. 

This article is courtesy of MediaComplete, www.mediashout.com.

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