Posted in education on September 30, 2017 11:10 am EDT

Projecting Success

Environmental projection is yet another component of technology and communication that, to be successful, must be planned for in the earliest stages of church design.

Image courtesy of AV Design Solutions.











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TAGS: ambient light, avl design, environmental projection, projection, storytelling, video, video projection,


By Dan Daley

In “Fifteen Million Merits,” an episode from the first season of the startling British series Black Mirror, a reimagining of the classic The Twilight Zone for the 21st century, inhabitants of a future society live in cubicles made literally of video screens. On these are projected whatever the environment around them needs to be, such as a rooster crowing in a pastoral field in place of an alarm clock. It’s immersiveness taken to an extreme to tell a story.

In planning for environmental projection [in a worship space], the key is to determine what the limits of the audience's peripheral vision with be -- and to not exceed them.

That’s what environmental projection (EP) has become for the house of worship: an updating of the purpose, served for over a millennium, of stained-glass windows that simultaneously illuminated a space and a narrative. That function is now being served by an array of synchronized video projectors that do what Sherwin-Williams’ smartphone apps are just getting around to: envisioning and creating an immersive virtual interior.

Ray of Hope Church, Comanche, OK.

An example is found at the Evangel Church in Long Island City, N.Y., where seven Hitachi projectors bring the city’s skyline indoors, reinforcing the 1,300-person church’s urban mission aesthetic; five Hitachi CP-X8170 projectors are used to create the main environmental backdrop and two Hitachi CP-WX8265 projectors are used for left and right graphical and motion video overlay.

“Using these projectors for environmental projection has allowed us to attract and hold the attention of the new media-centric generations, while not alienating the rest of the congregation base,” explains Andrew Marko, the church’s director of operations and technology. “These projectors have taken our worship services to a whole new level.”

Mitigating Light

Robert Scott is director of operations at AV Design Solutions, the rebranded name of Fowler Inc., which began servicing the house of worship market from its base in Norman, Okla., in 1992 around the same time that LCD projectors were being introduced, its website informs. Scott says it’s rare for environmental projection to come up in the architectural phase of a new-construction project, but when it does he advocates for as much control or elimination of ambient light inside the church as possible.

“Ambient light is a killer for all kinds of video, including environmental projection,” he says, positing it as placed more appropriately in the lighting-technology category. “To the extent you can in the architectural stage, you want to mitigate ambient light as much as possible.”

Camron Ware, founder of Visual Worshiper, a Dallas-area AV consultancy that specializes in EP for houses of worship, says there’s a range of solutions that can be applied equally to new builds and renovations, from conventional blinds and blackout curtains that can be opened and closed manually or automatically using motorized systems and automation controls, to electrochromic systems that render a window opaque by electronically activating lithium ions in between glass substrates. There are more basic solutions, too. “One church I consulted with cut out pieces of cardboard and slammed them into the windows,” Ware says.

Scott does recommend that architects and general contractors who are asked to accommodate environmental projection in their planning, whether working on new construction or renovations, provide for some large, flat and blank expanses of wall, preferably painted in light hues, as canvases for projection. “Environmental projection doesn’t need reflective surfaces, the kind you find on projection screens,” he says. “You don’t need to treat the walls with any special texture or paint, but lighter colors are easier to work with,” he says.

Considering Aspects

There are two main projection aspect ratios: 4:3 and 16:9, and each has an appropriate application in environmental projection. “The 4:3 format is best used in rooms with high ceilings, such as cathedrals,” Scott explains. “The 16:9 format is best for auditoriums and fan-shaped seating areas.”

That will affect the choice of projector and lenses, as will content. Most environmental projection content used as a backdrop will be able to be handled by two or three projectors, depending upon the dimensions of the interior space, says Ware. “Most of the content programs developed for environmental projection are designed to be used with three or fewer projectors, which is based on practical as well as financial considerations for churches,” he says. “Beyond that, you’re getting into custom content, which can be expensive.”

In planning for environmental projection, the key is to determine what the limits of the audience’s peripheral vision will be—and to not exceed them. “You don’t need wrap-around projection for this—that could just distract from where you want their attention to be,” Ware says. Similarly, he recommends that if users want any motion in the environmental projection — gently falling snow on walls during the Christmas season has become a favorite — that it be slow in tempo. “A snowflake on a computer screen that takes four seconds to reach the bottom is one thing but that same snowflake falling [at the same rate] in a 30-foot projection will appear to move a lot faster—it’ll look like a meteor on the wall,” he explains. “The most successful EP content tends to be static, or with very gentle motion.”  continued >>