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Mann, Highland, Village, Church, environmental, church
A view of the worship space at Highland Village Church for the for the church's Tabernacle series.

Environmental Projection: To Do It Well, Requires More Than Projectors

Don't rely on YouTube videos as your main tool to learn about environmental projection, because of the overall expense you will put into this endeavor, to do it well.

When discussing environmental projection, what we are talking about is using projectors to project an image or a series of pictures on a wall within a worship space.

In particular, I would like to talk about how projection can create an environment for people to meet God.

While we should be open to do anything in our church, I want to say this upfront: If your lights or environmental projection is proving to be more of a distraction, turn it off.

Remember that we are not here to make a show, but rather to create a place where people can meet their creator.  All the technology I am going to share in this piece, and all the things we do at our church, Highland Village Church, is just a way for people to meet God. I love the saying, “We are the salt of the service, not the meat.”

When you are looking to begin using environmental projection in your worship space, you need to ask yourself a few things.

• Why do we want to do this?
• What are we trying to accomplish?
• How do we do this?
• How much does it cost?
• Is this an ideal match for our church, or are we just looking to copy someone else?

Each of these are great questions that you need to ask yourself, before embarking on this journey.

The first thing you’ll need to do to proceed in the right direction, is to find an expert to guide you through the process. At Highland Village, we turned to Cameron Ware, founder of Visual Worshiper.

Ware visited our church and showed us examples of what our backdrop could look like within our worship space, and what we needed to do. This was very helpful to us, because we didn’t know where to start.

For what might seem as another viable option, and as tempting as it might be, I wouldn’t rely on YouTube videos as your main tool to learn about environmental projection, because of the overall expense you will put into this endeavor, to do it well.

In our case, there was that initial step that involved Cameron consulting our church tech staff. But you then have to realize that there will be that next crucial step: buying the equipment to achieve environmental projection.

While we have the right equipment to achieve environmental projection at Highland Village, realize that there is even better technology out there right now at your fingertips.

For starters, you will need to purchase two, likely three, projectors to adequately handle the workload of environmental projection. At Highland Village, we opted for three projectors to cover the back wall.

The projectors we purchased were a trio of lamp-based Hitachi CP-WU8700w projectors, each offering 7,000 ANSI lumens, and WUXGA resolution (1920x1200).

The three Hitachi projectors were used side-by-side, to project onto the church’s back wall, where our singer is positioned during services.

At Highland Village, we currently have the projectors on a platform, positioned to-project on the wall, but celling mounts can also be used for projectors, so they won’t move over time. To see the various ceiling mounts that are available on the market, check this link here.

After you figure out where to position the projectors, I would recommend stringing SDI cables to the projectors, or VGA cables, whichever type of cable your projectors take. This will require a converter to convert the signal from your computer, with an excellent option being the Matrox TripleHead2Go. The TripleHead2Go takes three signals and converts them into one big output, or breaks them up to be sent individually to each projector. Make sure you get the TripleHead2Go with VGA or DVI outputs, knowing that we originally had purchased the wrong one without those outputs.

Once you have the TripleHead2Go, you will need a computer to run the full setup. At Highland Village, we currently use a MacBook Pro to run our environmental projection system. You will need at least 4GB of RAM, as well as a minimum of 2.3 GHz of processor speed. I would recommend, though, in getting a faster computer, because if you don’t, the motion backgrounds created for environmental projection, with jitter and pause. I would recommend purchasing an iMac used, which can be found online through various websites. Most of the equipment at Highland Village we have bought was used, which resulted in significant savings.

Once you have all the projectors, cables, mounts, and related equipment in hand, .you will need to use Renewed Vision's ProPresenter to project the graphics on the wall. In addition, you will need the necessary drivers on the computer, for the TripleHead2Go to work through ProPresenter. Click this link to see which items would make up a quality environmental projection system.

When it comes time to line up your projectors, you will need to use the mapping tool in ProPresenter. This will display a graphic that can be projected on a wall, after which you can roughly line up the display from each of your projectors manually. From there, you will need to go in and move the lenses and then shift the image over, until it all lines up.

Setting up your projectors in such a way will take a significant amount of time, but if you hire Cameron, he will come to your church, and do it for you. This is a big help, when you’re first getting all the things up.  Cameron will also provide some graphics for you to use to get your environmental projection started. If you want to purchase more graphics to utilize in your setup, you can always go to triplewidemedia.com. They have graphics that are specially made for this task. In addition, if you have a Ignitermedia.com account, you get TripleWide graphics, with your subscription. At Highland Village, we use the Igniter Media items all the time to get out graphics fresh.

To achieve a quality environmental projection system, the budget you’re probably going to have to spend should be around $10,000 to $20,000. This may seem expensive, but it will last you a very long time one installed.

When it comes to using media for the environmental projection, I would always recommend using stills, when first starting out. This helps the congregation to not be so overwhelmed when they are first introduced to this new element within their worship service. As time goes on, one can start to use slow motion backgrounds as part of your EP graphics. Anything fast will be a distraction to those in the congregration, and sometimes will make dots look like craters. At our church, we only use motion for songs and we use stills for when someone is talking. This way the background isn’t a distraction from the message being offered by the speaker.

If you’re looking for additional advice on how to use environmental projection, and how to use it well, visit TripleWideMedia.com and read up on their blog articles.

All in all, remember that environmental projection is meant to help create a place where people can meet God. It’s not to look cool or trendy; it has to be more than that. If you’re looking to totally change your environment, this is a solid option worthy of consideration.

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