Many traditional church sanctuaries/auditoriums have a common challenge. To create a warm, beautiful space for worship, large windows are a desirable feature. But when these churches choose to introduce video screens and projectors into this space, the result is often less than inspiring. When windows allow in a large amount of ambient light, or uncontrolled lighting in the room spills onto the video screens, most affordable projector options can't produce a bright enough image to overcome the light in the room.
Projectors that are able to create a bright enough lighting level can cost as much as $50,000, and lamp replacement and maintenance costs that accumulate over a projector's five-year lifetime for this level of projector are significant: it could add up to as much as an additional $40,000-50,000.
However, there are now alternative solutions that are becoming more cost-effective for churches wanting to overcome the brightness challenge once and for all.
Brighter than Light
"LED video walls produce very high brightness levels with high-definition video resolution, have natural color, are easy to maintain, have lower maintenance costs, can be configured in any size or shape, and have better image quality," states Ewa Tsai, sales manager for Absen American Inc.
In fact, LED video walls are so bright that many churches find they need to run them at 15-30 percent output levels to keep them from being too bright. And this means that you will likely experience a longer usable lifespan than the panels are rated for.
"In the LED industry, lifetime' simply means the time until the display is half as bright as it was originally," states Marty Gregor, sales manager for Houses of Worship for Daktronics. "We've had displays last well over ten years, so this poses a great benefit in not having to worry about replacing lamps in projectors and overall maintenance costs over the years."
So, if you are running your LED video wall at 20 percent brightness levels, as the LED panels' output lowers over those ten years, you can increase the brightness level you are running the display at to keep the brightness levels up and extend the usable lifespan of the display.
In addition to the brightness benefits, LED video walls provide other advantages. "LED video screens are modular, scalable and can be easily re-configured depending on design requirements of a system," states Elation Professional Sales Director Eric Loader. "On average, LED screens pull 50 percent real power vs. projectors. This is because LED's only use power based on the brightness of the content being displayed, whereas projector lamps are always on and running even when the screen is blacked out."
LED video walls can also be created in unique shapes and sizes. "LED video walls offer churches unlimited options with respect to size, brightness, and shapes," comments Justin Mack, VP and general manager for Aeson LED Video Displays. "LED video displays can be straight or curved inward or outward. They can be configured in many shapes. They can be separated and reassembled depending on the specific needs of that week's worship service. The can also be reconfigured into multiple smaller displays and therefore be used for multiple events simultaneously. LED video displays are also very low noiselarge, bright projectors require high-speed fans for internal cooling which can be very noisy.
An LED video wall allows for unlimited creativity enabling the design of visually stunning worship environments."
For churches with high ambient light challenges and would otherwise be willing to invest in a projector the size needed to overcome them, an LED video wall can actually save you money after a few years.
"When compared to projectors that would achieve a similar image quality, LED video walls cost about 20 percent more than a projector," states Tsai. "But when you factor in the high yearly maintenance costs of the projector vs. the low maintenance costs of a video wall, the break-even point is usually as quick as two to three years after the initial investment. And after that point, the church will save money by eliminating that costly projector maintenance as well as eliminating the need to replace the projector at the five-six year point."
Flexibility in Placement
LED video walls can either be stacked on the floor, hung form a wall, or flown from the roof structure, providing lots of flexibility in placement. And you have the added benefit of not being limited in placement by what might fall between a projector and screen that would obstruct the projection of the image onto the screen, such as HVAC ductwork, catwalks, or house lighting fixtures.
"Special rigging by qualified engineers is required but once installed, units can be easily serviced while installed either from the front or rear of the screen depending on the model," states Loader. "We usually suggest customers install a motorized control rigging system to allow easy installation and service if you are hanging the screen."
A Case Study
North Madison Christian Church in Madison, Indiana (NMCC) installed a video wall system two years ago as part of building their new auditorium. What was surprising about this installation is that NMCC is a church that seats 750, with an average weekly attendance of 900.
"We wanted to create a video backdrop to our stage so that we could create a more interesting environment not only for worship but for preaching," says Pastor Bob Hicks. "Mankin Media Systems [based in Franklin, TN] ran numbers for us on both a projector-based system and an LED video wall system. When you looked at installation costs, with the projector needing an enclosed, air-conditioned room for noise purposes, and the cost of maintaining that large a projector over time, the LED video walls were actually less expensive in projected total cost of ownership. Additionally, we try to be an environmentally-conscious church, and the LED video walls used far less electricity." NMCC installed not only a large video wall backdrop to the stage but also video walls for their side screens.
With the video wall backdrop, Pastor Hicks was able to put up an image of the empty tomb and preach from that setting this past Easter. The church takes great advantage of using video instead of investing time and money in creating physical props like they used to.
"Also," he continues, "we wanted to create a space that would be tech-ready for the upcoming generation."
Are LED Walls for Everyone?
While the brightness of LED walls makes them very compelling, they are an expensive display option, and are recommended only for churches that need the brightness levels they offer. Smaller churches that have lower membership probably won't be able to justify the expense, and if you have good options for ambient light control, a lower-brightness projector will likely be more cost effective. A qualified AVL contractor can help you work out the projected costs over time to see if a video wall might be the better stewardship decision for your facility.