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Choosing a Software Program to Project Video Clips in Your Services
By: Craig Webb

When used well, video will add inspiration, clarity, insight, and God-glorifying artistry to your worship services. We see video used in powerful and meaningful ways when we go to training events, worship concerts, leadership events, or conventions.

For example, a worship leader may use a motion video behind the lyrics during a worship song or a pastor might use a movie clip, short film, illustration video, or word-on-the-street video to powerfully illustrate the message.

If you are in charge of the technology for the service, you know the challenges of displaying the clip in a way that adds to the song or message, rather than bringing confusion or merely appearing "showy."

When displaying video clips, your source for video will usually come from a computer, DVD player, or even a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). If you use a computer to generate the display, you will be able to embed your video clip in the software you use by downloading the video file to your computer and inserting it to a presentation program, much like you would insert an image.

Different software programs are available that include the capability to play downloaded video clips directly from the software. Once you choose that software, read the manual or FAQs to find out what type of file your program supports.

How do you choose which software to use?

I think of presentation software programs in two categories. The first category of programs includes business presentation software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Impress for Open Office, and Apple Keynote.

Another option is Internet-based presentation software, where you have access to your presentations both online and offline. One example of Internet-based presentation software is SlideRocket.

While most churches that use programs from the first category (business presentation software) have chosen to use PowerPoint, many do so by default: one, because PowerPoint is an industry standard, and two, PowerPoint is part of the Microsoft Office Suite available with many Windows software packages. What they often find, however, is that PowerPoint does not work well with video.

In fact, Phillip Hardy, lead worshipper at The Glade Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, states, "PowerPoint hates video files." After using PowerPoint for years, he moved to Keynote, because, he says, "Keynote works much more smoothly and predictably with video files, and Keynote seems overall more ‘artistic' to me in terms of how it functions and what can be produced with it."

Keynote only works on Macintosh, however, so if you are using Windows, and not willing to invest in new hardware, you will need to learn to make PowerPoint work for you or consider the second category of presentation software.

The second category is a group of presentation programs created specifically with your church worship services in mind. The developers of these software programs designed them to combine your song lyrics or sermon notes with various types of media backgrounds.

These programs also allow you to control a presentation on the monitor in the sound booth while directing the media and lyrics displayed to your congregation on one or more screens. Other helpful features include a library of song lyrics, a library of motion video backgrounds, and built-in Bible software in order to insert scripture text and references.

Some of your options include ProPresenter (propresenter.com), SongShowPlus (songshowplus.com), MediaShout (mediashout.com), EasyWorship (easyworship.com), and SundayPlus (sundayplus.com).

In our church, we use Apple's Keynote in the main worship center. However, our New Generations team (Birth through High School) uses ProPresenter in the Preschool, Children's, Middle School, and High School worship venues. While this may seem strange, the leaders of these services have good reasons for the direction they have chosen.

Phillip Hardy is the Lead Worshipper for our main Sunday morning worship services. I asked him why he chose to go to Keynote (a business presentation software similar to PowerPoint) rather than presentation software that was designed specifically for worship services.

Hardy responded, "ProPresenter and other programs like it are flexible for worship settings where the leader wants the flexibility of whether or not to repeat a verse or a chorus. The leader may also want the flexibility to spontaneously use an unplanned song. However, for the operator, ProPresenter seems more complex, requires more skill and training to operate, and is less intuitive. For our rotating group of volunteer operators, it simply would not work. Keynote is much simpler for the operator, is better at handling text, and is therefore better for sermon notes. The fact that I create my own presentations seems to me to negate most of the advantages ProPresenter has. I prefer the control and ease of operation that Keynote provides. I can create exactly the presentation I want and have confidence that any of our operators can run it with few if any errors. It may be more work, but I find it is worth it."

Michael Eubanks is our New Generations pastor and leads worship for the High School worship service in a venue at the other end of our campus. I asked him why he found ProPresenter to be a better choice than PowerPoint or Keynote.

Eubanks said, "ProPresenter allows me to assemble multiple types of media content without managing slide count or worrying about printing notes for the tech guy. Since it acts as a presentation conduit for my media (text, music, and video), I am not bound to a static presentation once our programming starts. If we want to change gears midstream, we can do so because we are not tethered to just the content living in that presentation. ProPresenter gives me access to all of our content, even if we are right in the middle of our program. ProPresenter is a vital tool in our student ministry that has saved me time without sacrificing quality."

Here are some final considerations as you choose:

* How much do you have budgeted for the project?
* Is your computer compatible with program you are considering?
* Find the specifications of your video projector's resolution capabilities, as well as your computer's hardware, software, and operating system (i.e., Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.). Then check the website of the software you are looking at to learn if it will work with your system.
* Is there a trial version that you could download and try?
* Once you decide, download a trial version and try it out on your system.

Craig Webb is pastor for vision & purpose, and for adult ministries at Gladeville Baptist Church, Gladeville, Tennesee. This article is courtesy of LifeWay Christian Resources, www.lifeway.com.

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