Archives for category: projection

I’m a Mac guy. I own all sorts of Apple products.

I will admit right now that I am severely caught up in the “coolness” of exclusively purchasing Apple products. There is something affirming about sitting at a table at a coffee shop with an over-priced cup of ethically-traded, shade-grown coffee and opening up my laptop so that the soft glow of the Apple logo bursts forth from the brushed silver casing of my MacBook Pro.

With that said, I want to share my opinion on something.

Over the years I have used a variety of different technologies to display words at a church. When I was a kid I changed transparencies on the overhead projector that shown on the white walls inside our sanctuary. I’ve used Powerpoint. I’ve used SongShow. I’ve used MediaShout once or twice.

I have never used a program that had an interface that worked quite as well as ProPresenter loaded on an Apple computer.

At the church I used to work at I purchased an iMac loaded with ProPresenter. For years we had used a PC running SongShow. That method worked well, but there was a pretty long learning curve for volunteers running the software. I would make a volunteer do at least 3 “practice runs” with SongShow before I let them use it on Sunday morning.

With ProPresenter I can give someone a 3 minute tutorial on Sunday morning before a service and trust them to do a decent job of running the slides.

It’s just a lot easier to navigate in a live setting.

Take it or leave it.

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First of all, the title of this post happens to be the name of a web-app development company run by a friend of mine. Less Everything creates programs that are meant to be clean, simple, and as user-friendly as possible. They also happen to operate on a philosophy that is quite similar to what I am about to talk about.

You should use less of everything.

Stop cluttering your websites with too many links, too many options, and too many colors. It is distracting and frustrating.

Stop filling your bulletins (or “worship guides”) with too many announcements and too many fonts. They are losing their effectiveness.

Stop putting so much junk on your projector screen. Your cheesy graphics, clip art, and pointless photos make it hard to take you seriously.

When it comes to design, less is always better. Don’t let your desire to convey more information get in the way of conveying ANY information.

In case you aren’t aware, there is a program called ProPresenter. It is the undisputed champion of all lyric projection software. Version 4 is now available on PC, so you have no excuse to not get it. It is only slightly more expensive than MediaShout, SongShow, or EasyWorship.

For years I used SongShow at my church. I hate hate hate it. It isn’t user-friendly at all. It regularly crashes or freezes. It has caused me a lot of grief over the years.

What programs have you used? What do you think about them?

Contributed by Nicholas Rivero

The Don’ts of IMAG.

Last time we looked at what IMAG (remember, Image Magnification) is and why we use it. This time around, we’re going to look at the when not to and why not to IMAG.

There are great reasons to delve into the world of doing IMAG at your facility. Adding cameras and projection screens can seem like an instant fix to add greater visibility and an increased presence of onstage personalities to a large room. But as great as this seems, it doesn’t come without some strings attached.

COST.
If you’re facility or church currently has projection screens, you are one step closer to doing IMAG, but if you’re starting from scratch, projection is one of the biggest steps. Projectors vary in cost quite a bit depending, mostly, on how bright a unit is. While the cost barrier is getting lower these days, you can expect the average projector, assuming one that is decent for a venue of about 1000 people, is about $5,000 to $10,000 each, on average. Along side that cost should also be factored in projection screens as well as replacement light bulbs for the projector. A screen can cost anywhere from about $750-$2000/each and bulbs could be $350-500/each.

Following the projectors, comes the cameras. You can spend as little or as much as you want here, but realize that quality comes with cost and investing in quality here is a key to making IMAG succeed. Cameras on the lower end of the spectrum generally merit lower quality due to cheaper electronics, optics, and construction. A consumer-quality camera can be purchase for less than $1000/each but higher-end ones can easily cost $10,000 or more. Going out and buying the top-of-the-line model isn’t necessarily the thing to do; it depends on a person to person basis.

Finally, the key piece is what’s called a video switcher; this is what lets you mix the cameras together seamlessly. What causes switchers to vary in price is their ability to mix either standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD) signals. HD demands the premium right now and will set you back in the price range of $10,000-$20,000, easily, but on the flip side, SD ones can be found as cost effectively as $500-$1000.

PERSONEL.
To make IMAG happen takes people. Every time you will want to use your IMAG system, you will need to have operators behind each camera in addition to a director, the person who is looking at the whole show and making the decisions on what is visually happening. You need to keep in mind that your crew will also need days off, vacations, and sick days, so don’t forget that having multiple people capable of all of doing all of these positions is key. I would imagine that you need at least two full crews of camera operators and two to three people who can direct.

QUALITY.
Don’t jump into the IMAG world expecting to be shooting like U2 on day one. It takes time, patience, and especially training to pull this together. You need to institute a system of training volunteers within your organization. Setup days to invest into your crew by training them in how the equipment works, how to care for the equipment, and even how to train others to use the equipment. You want to strive for quality, not quantity! If there has been one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that investing in your crew has the greatest return. If they know they are valued, they will put forth better effort and want to give you better quality.

Hopefully this has given you some insight into what IMAG is and isn’t. Feel free to find me over on twitter @nicholasrivero I’d love to answer any questions you guys have!

This post was contributed by Nicholas Rivero. Nick was the video director for Student Life for several years. He has worked for artists like Steve Fee, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Riddle, Leeland, and Casting Crowns. We also graduated from the same Media Production program at FSU.

I Must Appear Giant. Or IMAG, as they call it.

That’s how a good friend always describes it to me at least. You might be wondering what I mean, but if you’ve ever stepped foot into a church that has video screens with someones face enlarged on it, you already know exactly what I’m talking about. IMAG, for short, but it’s proper name is Image Magnification.

A simple definition of IMAG would probably translate to the use of video cameras to hone in on personalities standing on a stage and then project them onto a screen, making them appear larger than they are in person. The idea as a whole would be to help people seated far away gain a better idea of what’s happening up on stage. This is the theory at least.

With this post, I’d like to start of with talking briefly about what IMAG should be and when you should use. In the next post, we’ll jump into some of the problems and reasons to why you shouldn’t use it. Ok good. Lets go.

The WHAT.
I find myself breaking down IMAG into two categories: logistical and artistic. Logistical is the primary form of IMAG that we are talking about here. This is when you put someone up on a screen to increase visibility. This ultimately helps people connect to what they are seeing because they feel closer and more attached to the person they are looking at. It psychologically simulates the idea of standing in front of a person and talking to them. When you look up at the screen, it typically looks very clean. Camera shots that are steady and fairly tight, highlighting from above the stomach to above the head of the person on screen. You don’t want to see sudden movements or distractions, but rather cameras that follow the personalities back and forth in a very clean manner. Cameras are typically setup on tripods to aid operators in keeping their shots steady.

On the other side, you find what I call artistic IMAG. This is the type of IMAG that I reserve for using only during concerts. Think of going to a large concert, say U2, and what you’ll find here is the same idea as logistical IMAG, but typically, with more handheld cameras than tripod cameras, and much more of an in-your-face feel. You still want to convey tighter shots that help people see, but shots that are shaking, moving, or even out of focus, are not out of the ordinary. The idea behind this is to simultaneously increase visibility but follow the mood and tone of the band as well.

The WHEN.
You will never get a straight answer to when you need to or should use IMAG; It is always a personal question that you have to ask yourself. The main premise is that you need to help people see clearer and more easily. I usually find myself asking, “If I put someones face up on a video screen, is it really helping everyone see this person better?” What you want to do is make them appear larger on the video screen then they are standing in person. You also have to take into account how large your video screens are and where they are located in retrospect to the seated audience. If someone sits down in the back of the room, do they have a clear view of the screen? Is the screen going to be large enough that they will gain a greater view than just looking straight at the person standing up on the stage? My general rule of thumb is not do it in less than a room of 1000 people. Rooms that are any smaller than this usually keep people close enough to the stage that an added image on a video screen actually becomes more distracting than enhancing at this point.

But why not?
Stayed tuned as I detail why the reasons not to IMAG. If you have any questions until then, feel free to find me on twitter (www.twitter.com/nicholasrivero) or over at nicholasrivero at gmail dot com.

The last 20 years has seen a remarkable evolution (sorry, I shouldn’t say that word… ummm… transformation?) in the way that a congregation interacts during a worship service. A big part of this is the use of projectors in various forms. It all began with a transparency cart (inevitably operated by a woman over the age of 70 or a child under the age of 13) that projected song lyrics on the wall. If the transparency sheets happened to make it to the illuminated surface in the proper order (which they rarely did), they would likely have misspellings. If someone caught the misspellings beforehand, there would be thick sharpie lines through the phrase: “Shout to the Lord all the erth let us sig”.

Later we discovered that a computer could be hooked to a projector and that we could use this magical program called PowerPoint. Of course, we consistently ran into the problem of the operator getting lost, then frustrated, then publicly humiliated by a perfectionist blended-worship music director (“umm… could you put up the words for ‘Awesome God’?”). That’s just awkward for everyone.

Then there were programs specifically designed for churches to easily project lyrics. But no, we had to screw that up too. Rather than using a simple, solid-color background, we just HAD to use a looping animation of waves crashing onto a beach during sunset as the backdrop to “How Great is our God”. I’m sure that I’m not the only person that would stare at that loop until I could find the point that it repeated.

When we thought that we had grown beyond that, we started using IMAG to put video of the worship band up on the screen in the background of the leaders. Now we are distracted by the fact that everyone in the band has a faux hawk and that when the camera operator gets a shot of the screen, you can see a dozen tiny little screens that repeat forever.

The point is that when using projection to communicate, simplicity is usually the best option. You don’t have to add a touch of excitement to everything. Oftentimes a black screen with white text is the best way to project your lyrics… if projection is even really needed in the first place.