Creative Projection: Don't Get Boxed Into Typical Gear Usage

A few years back, I decided that I would take the resources I have been blessed with, and start to think about how to use them in the ways I'm called to, and to then push them to their limits.

Obviously, over the past five years or so, environmental projection has become an ever-growing trend.

One can spend so much time and energy trying to duplicate what someone else has done, because it worked for them.

Here's the thing I kind of hate trends.

I feel like trends are a trap that designers too often fall into, because they see how everyone else is doing it, and it's working for them.

Such a mindset, though, can limit our view on doing what is really the best thing for our church and our congregants.

One can spend so much time and energy trying to duplicate what someone else has done, because it worked for them. Did you take the time, though, to find out if it's the right thing for you to do?

I have fallen into this trap more times than I would care to admit.

As a result, I have wasted so many hours and a great degree of energy developing things I wasn't called to work on.

A few years back, I decided that I would take the resources I have been blessed with, and start to think about how to use them in the ways I'm called to, and to then push them to their limits.

Out of this mentality, I started looking at how to use my projectors in new ways, and began calling it "creative projection," instead of environmental.

Just switching my vernacular from one term to the other, got my brain off the idea that a projector must point at a screen or a wall to be useful.

Let me walk you through a few examples, that we have done over the last couple of years at Trinity Fellowship and why it has worked for us.

I built a set for one of our spaces around two years ago, comprised of corrugated plastic rectangles, surrounded by LED ribbon, to give it color. This worked out great for weekend services in the room, but when it was time for the Men's Conference, it lacked in appeal and ability to transport you out of the room.

Once we looked at the stage as needing to transport you out of the room, we decided that the set should literally be windows to view other spaces from.

From there, we took a projector and spent a few hours generating a mask in Adobe After Effects, then got to work on content, and it came out great! The men entered the room to Pac Man going around the panels, gobbling up dots and being chased, which they found hysterical. They then went right into worship, as we flew them over a local canyon to get their hearts prepared to leave the space that they had walked into.

Another example involved our Women's Conference, which occurred just last week.

Our women's team really knows how to dream big, and I love it. Their budget, though, doesn't always match up to their dreams.

At the beginning, the women's team walked into the design meeting with hopes and dreams of a massive LED wall to display content on. I then spent the next couple of weeks calling in favors and pulling in numbers for an LED wall rental.

Unfortunately, the most I could get the price down to was around $13,000 for the week, but after submitting that number, I was told the women's team had only planned to spend $2,000 on scenic.

Like I said, big dreams.

That meant we were back to the drawing (or rendering) board.

Sketch after sketch got tossed in the trash can, because I didn't have the money to pull off what they wanted, and I found myself that I couldn't get that original idea out of my head.

I had to switch my mindset, and ask, "What do I have?" Not "What do I not have?" While I have projectors hanging in spaces that weren't originally planned to be used for this conference, I then had to ask, "How can I use them?"

I decided to build my own screens, with the available budget, using Unistrut, spandex, and magnets with what I had for funds. We designed the setup using Vectorworks, exported to Cinema 4D, and the video team then went to work creating content.

(Note: We did have to tweak the content once the setup was done, because almost always the plans change when setup happens).

Once this was done, the setup transformed the room, and you couldn't notice that the projectors didn't match perfectly, since the screens weren't touching. We even inverted the mask at one point and used the projectors to serve as quasi lasers, to shoot slow movements in between the screens, creating a very immersive and intimate moment.

My last example also involved a different Women's Conference; one where they wanted bling. The theme for the conference revolved around diamonds, and how they shine out. Achieving this was tricky, because I didn't want to just have a projector displaying a glimmering diamond and call it a day.

These women deserved a something more intentional. One that could get their focus off their lives for a little bit. 

I had one spare projector laying around during this event, and pitched an idea that I truly wasn't sure would work or not.

The idea? To build a 10-foot 3D diamond out of plexi, fill it will haze, and then project into it.

I knew it was crazy, as I had never seen this done before. I really was questioning myself the entire time during the build out.

It was definitely a God idea, so we were going to see it through. The setup and build got done, and then it was time to test it.I It was amazing!

The diamond came to life! It was shimmering, and moving, and emitting light all from one simple projector positioned behind it.

These examples are not meant to show how impressive we are with projectors, but to point how to get your mind and heart in a place to think and pray about how best to use your equipment.

I am blessed to have accumulated a few spare projectors over the years, but it's my limitless use of them that has justified their purchase.

Never once have I bought a piece of equipment thinking about only one use for it; I want to push it to its limits, and know absolutely everything that piece of equipment can do.

I want the maximum use for everything under my authority, because I want to steward my church's resources, to the best of my ability.

Think creatively, pray big, and execute well.

The constraints you have aren't limiting what you can do; they are pushing you to everything you can do, if you really start thinking differently.

Changing your vernacular can change your view, and sometimes that's all it takes.

I will never go back to limiting myself in talking about environmental projection, but will forever instead be thinking and praying about creative projection.

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