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Moving Projection in Houses of Worship
By: Joel St-Denis

Imagine your pastor walking across a stage, talking about faith and the changing seasons, as isolated visuals of rising gardens and falling leaves track behind him.

Picture a darkened stage, with different visuals appearing, moving and dissolving, seamlessly in different sections of the backdrop as the choir sings.

Consider the story-telling impact of a pair of soft beams of light taking shape, becoming images, and blending into a compelling scene that fills the stage as a sermon begins.

Theatrical lighting has long been part of presentations in houses of worship, highlighting focal points and setting the mood and tone of the proceedings. As digital projectors have increased in brightness and capabilities, and video production has moved from edit suites to laptops, multimedia projection has also found its way into services and other events that fill the calendars of faith centers.

These presentations have grown increasingly sophisticated and powerful, and with shaped light, rapid color and image changes, and the use of video, the lines between stage lighting and projection have now started to blur. That's most evident by the emerging use in the worship sector of moving projection.

By introducing systems that can precisely direct and control projected light and move visuals around with the flawless grace of a ballerina spoken words and song are having even more impact on congregations, holding attention and stirring emotions.

Called digital luminaires, this emerging technology enables audiovisual and lighting directors in the worship sector to place projectors in motor-controlled yokes, and then choreograph and run presentations from the back-of-house AV and lighting desk, using familiar, existing tools.

Moving systems also get more out of capital budgets at facilities, by creating multiple visual positions that would typically each require dedicated projectors.

The Venue as Digital Canvas
A moving projector and lighting system means big, vivid visuals can be placed on just about any surface, from just about anywhere, within a house of worship. Then they can move as needed, even in sync with the proceedings. Instead of fixed positions for screens, digital luminaires let a production designer shoot visuals to those screens and any other light-colored surface, whether that's the surrounding walls, ceilings or the stage floor. The venue itself becomes the digital canvas.

Software and controls allow presentations to be choreographed and programmed, and adjustments can be made on the fly, to counter distortion effects like keystoning.

The immediate market for this technology are the mega-churches that have proliferated in North America in the past decade, which have transformed services into live celebrations that blend worship with elements of concerts and musical theatre.
Broad Applications
Moving digital projection is a tool to both present and engage, at the same time. It is really ideal for faith organizations that invest in high production values. While early adopters will likely be the biggest faith venues, this same technology will find its way to smaller venues and youth ministries, because of the visual impact and flexibility.

Along with enabling venues to get more out of a single projection system, the multiple visual positions and flexible mounting options possible with these systems means projectors can be rigged and manipulated even on a ceiling allowing visuals to be shot on a broad canvas, including the stage floor and church aisles.

The highest-capacity moving yokes can even handle and direct ultra-bright projectors, allowing production designers to beam visuals people see even amidst bright concert lighting.

These systems can serve as both digital projectors and lighting. Masks in the media server/projector setup can help illuminate an area, and beam shapes, doing things like transitioning a single, bright yellow star and pulling back to reveal a full night sky.

Best Practices
These systems require insight and experience to maximize the investment. Operations committees should ensure the equipment mix is right, objectives are being met, and the design allows some flexibility as future needs evolve.

In putting together a moving projector project, the decision-makers should ensure that:

The people who will operate the system have the necessary skills and experience to work with DMX controls and media servers. This is more than a conventional lighting system.
Movement and control of the lighting equipment and video projectors are integrated and managed off the same console.
The content created for these presentations makes the most of the visual opportunities and uses moving technology to its potential. The limits of static imagery and lighting are no longer obstacles.
Experienced systems integrators specify and install the project.

Meeting House of Worship Needs
Moving projector systems are still relatively new, but there are a few visual systems industry leaders investing heavily in the technology and its possibilities, to address varied marketplace needs for digital luminaires. 
Products may include, but are not limited to, single and dual-arm yokes, built for small to medium-sized venues (6000-10,000 ANSI lumens range), where ambient light is restricted, to units (up to 20,000 ANSI lumens) designed for venues requiring more brightness to overcome other lighting sources, or venues the size of mega churches and arenas. Units can be easily installed at ground level or rigged to truss systems to shoot from eye-level or overhead.

While many systems ship as a single unit yoke, projector and media server, the most flexible of solutions are modular providing you with a choice of yoke size, projector type, media server and lighting control board. A modular system can be a cost-savings benefit for organizations with existing media servers and lighting control equipment since only the yoke and projector need to be purchased. However, for the AV team supporting a weekly service or seasonal event, the digital luminaire system becomes just another part of the equipment mix that can be controlled by a single operator.

Moving digital luminaire technology introduces many new and creative possibilities for leaders of congregations to use digital video and lighting effects to reinforce their messages and inspire their people in ways that are a lot deeper than the simple "wow" factor.

Joel St-Denis is the value-add product manager of business products at Christie and has more than 12 years of video/broadcast and projection expertise, www.christiedigital.com.

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Religious Product News