The latest technologies with church project application -- from a seasoned multisite church video tech.
For the past few decades churches wanting to incorporate video displays into their worship environments needed to have those spaces specifically designed to incorporate a single, traditional type of lamp-based projection system. In the past few years, however, emerging display technologies once considered out of reach by most churches have begun to drop in cost—bringing more options into the realm of possibility for houses of worship.
For ministries to effectively employ these new tools and methods though, it will be crucial for church designers to talk video display options with church clients at the earliest stages of design. Laser Phosphor Projection
One of the most exciting new trends in video display technology is the move away from traditional lamp-based projectors and towards laser phosphor projection systems. These types of projectors offer significant improvements, both in image quality and significantly improved life span. A real highlight of these systems is that they are rated at an astounding 20,000 hours of illumination. They also offer significant architectural improvements at the design level.
“Laser illuminated projectors are very reliable and versatile,” says Chuck Collins, vice president of sales for Digital Projection Inc., a leading designer and manufacturer of DLP projectors in the metro Atlanta area.
“These projectors can be mounted places where they couldn’t have been mounted in the past, thanks to the fact that users don’t need to access them all the time,” Collins reports. “An innovative designer [can] now hang projectors in portrait display because lasers don’t care at all about the mounting arrangement. Laser illuminated projection also makes edge blending much easier for environmental projection setups.”
One initial downside to these projection systems is that they tend to have a higher upfront cost. Organizations such as churches, however, will very likely save money over the long haul, since laser phosphor projectors don’t need replacement lamps every 6-12 months. LED Video Displays
Another exciting technology that’s quickly moving towards an accessible price point for churches is LED video displays. While this technology is still more expensive when compared to traditional projection, LED displays present tremendous advantages in brightness and image quality, especially on panels with individual light emitting diodes spaced closely together, often described as being “fine pitch.” LED is also extremely power-efficient when compared to other legacy technologies, providing churches with significant long-term cost savings.
“In my opinion, LED will eventually take the majority of the market share from projectors,” asserts Chuck Walthall, founder of Walthall and Associates Inc. in Pensacola, Fla., a design consulting company specializing in acoustic, audio, video and digital technologies.
“If we’re talking 1.9mm spacing, or pixel pitch, from 16 feet away, the individual pixels would virtually disappear. The pitch x8 equals the optimal distance. Depending on the pixel density, a singe LED going bad would be hard to detect,” Walthall reports.
“However, the big question is how well would a replacement panel, or LED, match the others in intensity and color?" continues Walthall. He stresses that churches and AVL designers considering this technology should engage manufacturers early on to ensure color matching between LED panels purchased initially and possible replacement or expansion panels purchased years down the road.
Designers and their church clients considering LED systems for ministry will want to take a few other factors into account, as well. While traditional projection systems allow screens to be mounted flat against a wall, maintenance on LED panels requires clearance of at least a few feet in order to access them from the back. Larger LED displays are created by using a media server to coordinate video signal to entire banks of panels, which means selection of a dedicated media server will need to be carefully considered. In addition, LED panels are often significantly brighter than other systems, so designers may need to adjust the brightness on the systems down in well-controlled lighting environments. Environmental Projection
Another important trend for churches in the design phase is the increasingly creative use of environmental projection, both in sanctuary and lobby spaces. “On the lobby side, you now have interactive touch displays and projection,” states Nick Dressler, national sales manager with Milwaukee-based Clearwing Systems Integration, a company specializing in live production, systems integration, box sales and distribution. “We recently saw one church that created a system in house to actually make an interactive Instagram frame in their lobby. That’s going to happen a lot more with large churches beginning to go multisite in the future. It’s all about organic social media, figuring out ways to help target their audience.”
When it comes to exploring the creative possibilities of environmental projection, Dressler believes churches have only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. “On the auditorium side, people are wanting to get into projection mapping, which is basically taking a scenic element and using multiple projectors and a media server to map video to specific objects … to create specific 3D illusions. We had a church client in the Phoenix area that had a live artist create illustrations on 3D white boxes. The boxes became Christmas presents that eventually animated open.” Video Display Considerations for Multisites
One area where church AVL designers seem to find broad consensus is in the area of designing for multisite venues. Given the wide availability of dependable display technology it’s easier than ever to achieve consistent, high quality results. “Multi-site is just another room,” says Walthall. “Every room needs good video, no matter what. It’s just a matter of scale.”
Dressler adds, “It really comes down to simplifying your design in order to streamline what you’re doing. It helps to have the same consoles and fixtures across all campuses to create consistent experiences with a much smaller design and staff. That consistency saves money in the long term, and your dollar will go a lot further.”Next Steps
The most important design considerations come down to good evaluation and planning based on the specific venue. It’s important to carefully evaluate the ambient light before selecting the right video display technology. LED panels that might be crucial in spaces with abundant natural light may be overkill in darker rooms. In the same vein, while 4K video resolution may shine in very large auditoriums, it could well be unnecessary in smaller satellite locations. What looks great in one space could be completely wrong in a different environment.
After decades of relative monotony in the world of projection systems, it’s difficult to recall a more exciting time to be designing and implementing video displays for churches. While the trends can feel a bit overwhelming, ministry directors and designers willing to engage in the process of careful research and planning have a better chance of providing that “wow moment” than ever before.