When it comes to projectors, there is no shortage of options or information. When first beginning to write this article, I did a quick search on a site for "projectors" and found 22 pages of results.
I am by no means an expert on projection, but I do work with 12 different projectors in my role as the lighting director at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Okla., so my perspective comes from the day-to-day operation of a variety of projectors.
There are a huge variety of projectors available to you and the first thing you will encounter is the dreaded TLA three letter acronyms. LCD and DLP own the big market share and approach the way they create the image slightly differently. LED has struggled to find the higher output to contend with the big boys and now LASER has emerged to threaten them all.
Obviously, LASER sounds the coolest and given people may confuse you for a Bond villain, it deserves serious consideration!
You should do some basic research on each of these four projector types, but your budget and your needs will quickly move you to the area of the market that is relevant to you.
Any discussion of projectors will involve the following topics.
What will you use your projector to show:
Lyrics, graphics, video, IMAG (image magnification live camera shots)?
This will effect the size and resolution you will need for the image to be clear. The contrast ratio is a significant measure of the quality, but be aware these ratios are often arrived at in very different ways.
What size will your final image be?
The placement of the projector, how close or far away from the projection surface it will be will decide the final image size. What kind of surface will you project on to?
How much ambient light (this is daylight and other lighting fixtures) is in the space you will use?
This effects how powerful the projector must be to overcome this other light. Remember a projector is really a very clever light bulb! This light output is called lumens. Lumens will be a significant indicator of the output of the projector, but don't get too caught up in getting the highest amount of lumens you can, aim to find the right projector for the space.
What's the use?
How you intend to use your projector is the greatest contributing factor in deciding what kind of projector you need. Four of our projectors are rear-projection displays, this radically altered the light output (lumens) we needed to get a clear picture. It also changed the distance between the projector and the screen (the throw of the projector). This changed the kind of lens we needed to use.
Get some help!
All of these terms should be understood, but for most of us who work in churches, we are not experts in these complex and fast moving fields. It is critical if you are spending significant money on a projector, or projectors, that you get the advice and input of a professional.
There are great local audio/video install companies all around the country, who deal with multiple suppliers and end users and can help to guide you in these critical decisions. Understand that the money you spend seeking help from these companies is an investment that will pay off in both the quality and life of your projector. Here in Tulsa, we work with Ford AV and Integrity Sound and Lighting on a regular basis.
Five things you are not thinking about - but, you should be.
So you can look around the Internet and find more information on these ideas. I'd like to offer some more unusual topics for discussion.
Number 1 - Do you need one?
The first question you really should ask: Is a projector the right tool for the job? Technology has certainly improved the quality and use of the projector, but it has also given us huge thin TVs that have remarkable picture quality. Then there are LED screens that continue to drop in price and increase in quality. LED and TVs both allow for much higher ambient light in the room, both have incredible picture quality.
I believe you should ask yourself the question what does this medium of communication (a projector, LED screen or TV) communicate without me giving it content? A projector and the image it creates disappears when it is turned off.
In our main sanctuary, we use five projectors for Environmental Projection, where we display content on the walls that wraps around the congregation. When I stop the projection, this image that engulfed the congregation disappears, and the room is returned to its normal look. If I had covered the walls in LED screens, when the image stopped I have a wall, covered in LED screens. It would be a strange looking environment. TVs surround us, in our homes, in shops, in restaurants, they call us to look at them even when they are off. They fill our lives with images both good and bad, but this familiarity also can create an environment where we feel comfortable. Remember the wise words of Malcom GladwellThe medium is the message.
Number 2 Placement
I mentioned earlier we have several projectors that are rear projection. This means the projector is behind the screen, out of sight. There are advantages the lower levels of ambient light mean less lumens are needed. And of course, there are disadvantages the space needed is usually large or special lens are needed for the shorter throw of the image. The placement of the projector will decide how big your final image is and what kind of lens will be needed. In addition to this, it's important to consider how loud the projectors will be. Projectors get hot and they have fans too cool them down, these fans can make significant amounts of sound.
One additional consideration: do you want the fans to be visible to your congregation? It was important to many in our congregation that the projectors be as invisible as possible, as to not spoil the look of the room with too much technology.
Number 3 Access
Projectors need to be serviced. They need to be cleaned. They need new filters. They need new bulbs. From time to time, they may need to be adjusted. To do all this, you need to be able access them and work on them. I have two projectors that are 40 feet up, attached to the roof accessible only by a genie lift.
These are not my favorite projectors. A significant help in the maintenance of these projectors is the Digital Projection software that allows me to monitor the life of the bulbs and make adjustments while keeping both feet on the ground. I can assure you it is worthwhile to seek out projectors that allow this kind of remote network control.
Number 4 Mounting
Your projector will sit on or hang from something. It is critical that this thing it is sitting on or hanging from, does not move! The troublemaking projectors I mentioned in the previous section are suspended from the roof. When it gets windy in Oklahoma, which is all the time, our building moves, ever so slightly.
This causes the image that the projectors are showing, to shake violently. It only takes a millimeter of movement at the projector to shake the image significantly. We have had to turn them off on a few occasions because of high winds. So be sure that when you mount them, you have taken into account all possible movement.
Number 5 The cost over the full life of the projector
Projectors aren't cheap to buy and so we are always careful to get the best deal available at the time we purchase a projector, but just like a car or a printer, you need to think about the cost over the life of the projector. How often does it need a new bulb and how much do those bulbs cost?
How frequently does it need to be serviced and who is able to service the unit and how much will that cost?
I think it is also wise to give some thought to how long you think you want the unit to last. What is your expectation for how many years you might use it? What might you do with it when that time is up? Will you sell it? Use it in a different context?
This kind of thinking helps to shape your idea of what kind of investment you should make.
I believe a projector is a great investment and a great tool to use in a variety of ways. I suggest you take your time, do your research and seek guidance. I hope I have been able to shed a little light on your decision.