Church Executive asked several church A/V experts to answer one key question: Under what circumstances can a church’s video projection setup fall short of effective?
By Donnie Haulk
When looking at getting started with a video projection system, there are some key considerations for pastors to keep in mind.
Line-of-sight. You don’t want to position the screen too high or too low. The bottom of screen should be at least eight feet above the stage.
Additionally, you need to be able to see the screen from a side angle, yet ensure it doesn’t pull people’s attention away from the pastor, speaker or choir. So, projector placement is a big consideration. To get maximum performance from your projector, it needs to stay within the same plane as the screen.
Distance between the projector and the screen is another main consideration when aiming to produce a quality image. Generally, most front-projection models perform optimally when placed 20 feet to 26 feet in front of the screen. If you decide to add a custom extended lens — if the plan is to mount the projector on the balcony or back wall, for example — you’ll lose some lumens. And, if you double that distance, you’ll lose at least 25 percent to 30 percent of the projector’s intensity. In the latter case, a brighter projector is the solution.
Lighting. Generally, you need to make sure you don’t create projection quality issues by aiming lights directly onto your screen.
A second important factor is natural light. If your worship space features stained glass or clear windows, be very careful to note where the sun comes in; placing your screen anywhere close to natural sunlight won’t produce the quality projection results you want. (God — the creator and the owner of Light — will win that battle every time!)
On the up side, you do have options if your worship space has an abundance of natural light. LED and plasma projection will do just fine. In fact, some new screen products on the market are designed to reject light from specified angles — aside from the angle the projector is using.
Wiring. A common, yet often overlooked, video projection problem is installation and wiring. Electricity and connectivity are critical; when you spend what it takes to produce an amazing video image, you need to make certain you’re actually rewarded by your investment.
“Dirty power,” or poor connections with improper cable, will rob you of your best end result. Not all cable is created equal, and neither are the connectors on the ends of the cable. You can do everything else I’ve recommended above, but still not achieve the full impact of your investment, if you don’t pay attention to this detail.
It’s very important: Get the best cable and connectors your budget will allow.
Donnie Haulk is president and CEO of Charlotte, NC-based AE Global Media, Inc.
Expert advice: do’s and don’ts
By David Kennedy
Understand the relationship between lumens and ambient light. In terms of visibility, large projection screens can be a better choice than small screens. But, without enough projector lumens, the image won’t look bright enough.
Ambient light — created by windows and house lighting — tends to wash out a front-projected image. This eliminates the contrast, or black/dark parts, of the image. Rear-projection systems tend to be better choices in terms of visibility when there’s lots of ambient light to contend with. But, there’s a caveat: A large amount of dark space must be available behind the screen(s), which must be designed into the building itself. On the up side, however, rear-projection equipment is easier to hide.
A third option is high-brightness/high-contrast screens and displays. Comparatively, this is expensive equipment.
Know how to navigate the choice between a 16:9/10 widescreen aspect and a 4:3 aspect ratio. A 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio projection system allows for a possible split screen, image magnification (I-MAG) and text can share the screen space.
DVDs are typically produced in a 16:9 widescreen format versus the outdated, almost-square 4:3 ratio. A 16:9 screen can be used to create a video backdrop (upstage); again, however, stage lighting tends to wipe out contrast/black tones — especially on the bottom of the screen — in a front-projection setup.
Also, 16:10 is the commercial standard for computer displays. But, this ratio conflicts with camera’s aspect ratio, so the intended uses need to be evaluated.
Don’t mix the type or aspect ratio of screens and/or TVs. Mixed-screen formats in the same view will have noticeably different image quality. Due to space constraints, some churches use a front-projected 16:9/10 screen upstage, combined with rear-projection screens angled across the room — sometimes with 4:3 aspect-ratio screens on either side of the platform. All systems today should be high-definition, or HD, but we still see pastors trying to save money with standard-definition (SD) systems.
Know how to avoid a poor-quality I-MAG system. To ensure onscreen image quality is as good as the live action going on, several common mistakes must be avoided: improper use of smaller distributed TVs to increase viewability; ambient light problems; inexpensive cameras/lenses; using a PC to play or switch video sources; systems too complicated to use; projector noise and/or poor cabling; wrong screen size and/or gain; stage lighting for live video; camera placement issues; and old and/or dead lamps.
As a projector lamp ages, its light output is reduced — as much as 50 percent. A clogged filter will shorten its life even more. So, even though replacement costs for lamps can be high, spares need to be on hand.
For the complicated work of performing the calculations necessary to design and install, or upgrade, their projection system properly and safely, pastors should consider hiring a professional.
David Kennedy is the founder and president of Carlsbad, CA-based David Kennedy Associates.
3 common gaffes
By David Taylor
Based on our firm’s experience, there are three common areas where projector/screen mistakes occur.
- Screen size. In an effort to reduce costs, it’s common for a church to choose a screen that’s too small. To verify it’s large enough, measure the distance from the screen surface to the furthest viewer, and divide by six. The screen height should be no less than that number. The optimal width is based on the aspect ratio you choose. (See below)
- Projector brightness. Today’s projectors are getting brighter and brighter; however, once spread out over a large area, the image can quickly become insufficient. Many environmental conditions in the space can affect how bright the projector needs to be, including ambient light. The general rule is to multiply the area of the screen by at least 50, and select a projector of that brightness (ansi lumens) or greater.
- Screen format. Excluding custom screen sizes, most common projector/screen solutions are either 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratios. Almost all video projectors under 7,000 lumens produce a native 16:10 aspect ratio, but most computers and video players are now 16:9.
Factors in choosing which format to use include:
Matching existing displays (confidence monitors, signage in lobby and so on)
Source output — Some computers are 16:9, and some are 16:10. This can changed in the computer settings.
Architectural requirements and restraints.
If a 16:10 format is selected, and the source is 16:9, viewers will see a small black line above and below a video playback if the projector shows the signal in its native form.
David Taylor is the house of worship sales coordinator at Ford Audio-Video Systems, LLC, with division offices in Oklahoma City, OK; Dallas; Las Vegas; Austin, TX; Tulsa, OK; Denver, CO; and Houston, TX.
Proper implementation pointers
By Duke DeJong
Video projection has become a vital part of communicating the gospel in weekend worship services. Regardless of how you use projection — whether for Image Magnification (IMAG), or to display worship lyrics, scriptures, images, or all of the above — projection systems can dramatically increase participation and retention, if used correctly. Used incorrectly, however, it can serve as a distraction and regret.
To ensure your church’s projection system serves you well:
Know what you’re using it for. Projecting full-screen backdrops with large lyrics in the middle of a screen is a very different use than live camera shots with lyrics projected over the bottom one-third of the video. Whereas a backdrop with an image and lyrics tends to be more beneficial if it’s centrally located, IMAG can be awkward if it’s positioned “center stage.”
Additionally, if lyrics will be projected on the lower one-third of the screen, you might need to increase the screen size to ensure people in the back of the sanctuary can read them.
Don’t under-power your projector. With video projection setups, few things are more disappointing than getting your screens looking great, only to turn on your stage lights and find your hard work “washed out.” Too often, I see church clients buy smaller projectors to avoid the high cost of getting the right ones. Inevitably, they hate the images produced.
In worship environments, ensuring the projector is brighter than the stage lighting means a target of between 40 and 60 lumens per square foot, after allowing for some loss of brightness. (Projector lamps lose brightness every time they’re used; we factor in a 20-percent decrease.) For example, a 7-by-12-foot screen should have a projector in the 4,000- to 6,000-lumen range under average stage lighting conditions. The equation is as follows: 7 x 12 x 1.2 x 40 = 4,032.
Provide adequate ventilation and maintenance. We all believe in good stewardship. However, aesthetics sometimes lead us to jeopardize the longevity of our tools.
Projectors have lamps that get very hot. If you want a projector to last, you must give it adequate ventilation space. To this end, every projector has its own minimum recommended clearance. Find out what your projector needs in terms of space, and resist the urge to hang it against a surface or in an enclosed space.
Also, take care to properly clean the projector and replace its filters. A well-maintained projector can last more than five years without issues. But, a poorly maintained projector might only deliver a few years of use.
If you’re going to make the investment in a church projection system, be sure you give it every chance to serve you for years to come.
Duke DeJong is church relations director at CCI Solutions in Olympia, WA.