If you've contemplated using or are already using environmental projection, or EP, in your worship environment, then you're familiar with all the positive attributes of using this technology.
Color, texture and tempo matter tremendously to creating an atmosphere where the visuals enhance, rather than distract.
If you're completely new to the technique, I'd highly recommend checking out the book, "Environmental Projection: The Collision of Modern Technology and Sacred Spaces," as it's a comprehensive guide to EP. In this article, though, I want to specifically attack the most common oversights or mistakes that people make with environmental projection, and how to avoid them.
As someone who has seen a number of EP pictures, and one who has personally set up EP more than 40 times, I have learned a few tips and tricks to avoid the most common oversights.
Masking is the process of removing (or preventing) light from being projected onto certain areas of the room. Maybe you have a choir or a side screen that you don't want the EP to hit, so you create a mask to project black in those areas. This is one area that seems to get overlooked during the setup process. When you try to make a mask too last-minute, or try to make it while the lights in the room aren't completely out, then it becomes difficult to mask with excellence.
Find two hours to fine tune your mask, by projecting all white in a room with all the lights completely out, so you can see where you are and are not projecting, and you can perfect that EP Mask. Masking out the right bad stuff, makes the EP look so much better.
Practice with the Band
When you use EP, you likely have the most impactful visual canvas in the room. Consider this to be one really large visual instrument. Color, texture and tempo matter tremendously to creating an atmosphere where the visuals enhance, rather than distract, so you need to begin practicing with the band, like any other instrumentalist would. This is another oversight for most EP setups.
Try to program all your looks before the band rehearses, so you can practice with the band during band practice. In doing so, you'll be able to fine tune speed, color, brightness, etc., and make it feel like an integrated part of the band.
Not Bright Enough
I know what you're thinking, that brightness means I need to buy a new projector! And for some of you, my response would be, "Yes, you may need a new projector." However, brightness can also be controlled by lowering the amount of ambient light or haze in the room.
The reason haze is so popular, is that it helps light fixture beams to be seen in the air, because it displaces the light with fine particles in the air, causing the light itself to be visible. Without getting too scientific, haze is actually preventing some of the light to get to its destination, by being dispersed in mid-air. Which means the more haze in a room, the less bright the light is at when it hits the surface it's pointed to.
Try to eliminate all excess haze and ambient light, and keep your stage wash really controlled to allow the environmental projection to pop. If the EP is too dark, it is likely to distract, because people have to work to figure out what's on the walls.
Media is Too Fast
Let's imagine this scenario: you're in a creative meeting and someone finds the perfect particle motion background on their iPad, shows it to the team, and you all agree to purchase to use this coming Sunday morning. That particle background is a seemingly slow particle that moves across your 4-foot screen in about three to four seconds. But when you download that cute, slow particle motion and place it on your 100-inch wide environmental projection, it's now a massive meteorite crashing into earth because it's moving 100-inches in that same three to four seconds. A massive oversight is playing media that seems too fast!
Purchase and download media that seems too slow. You can almost always speed up media and not affect playback quality, but trying to slow a clip down to less than 70 percent of the original speed, can cause a stutter effect as there are not enough frames per second to create smooth playback.
As I close this article, I want to encourage you to push yourself to become better visual worship leaders of your immersive visual environments.
Figure out ways to tell powerful visual stories, connecting with dynamics of music to lead powerful God-connecting moments. I hope this helps you find ways to overcome the most common oversights of environmental projection, so you can maximize the technology and tools at your disposal.