Church Projection Whats important and having a goal in mindLately it seems like like I have answered countless emails and phone calls about projection. I have heard everything from, “why do I need a screen”, to “i found this old projector used its pretty big…it must be nice”. To all of these requests I say just because it does work doesn’t mean its a good idea. This post is a little on the technical side but should have some helpful info and a great way to repurpose an old projector in a good way at the end.
Picking up used equipment just because it its capable of doing a job is not always a good idea. When it comes to old used projectors you can run into a multitude of issues. Many times old projectors will burn through bulbs more quickly than is normal because of older electronics, or aging cooling systems. Older projectors also may look softer or have muted colors because of dust in the lens or a burned up component called a color wheel. Really it comes down to you get what you pay for, and an older used projector just may not cut it for your new giant front projection screen. If though you have a used projector that maybe doesn’t fit your new application keep it around, there are some uses I will get into later for these older projectors.
So, you are looking at a new projector… where too start. First of all, decide what your end goal is. Are you looking for a new projector just to get lyrics a little clearer? Are you looking to add “eyemag” or on screen camera of your pastor to the projection screens. Are you looking to go with an ultra wide, multi-screen, ultra-large projection setup. Each of these requires different projection needs and picking the wrong projector up front can cause a lot of time, money, and frustration to be spent in the end without reaching your goal.
Ultra-wide projection for instance really requires all of the projectors to match, and some additional hardware and software to split up the image. It is also helpful for this setup if you use a projector that is “installation grade”. Installation grade projectors offer options like replaceable lenses for projecting at different distances and getting a larger image size, lens shift for easily getting your image centered on the screen, and professional grade keystone for straightening images. They are more expensive but very flexible and well worth the investment.
Multi screen setups require multiple projectors and require some additional hardware to split the signal from your source to 2 or more projectors. Some thought with multi screen setups should be given into what you really need to show on the screens. Is the goal to cover one space more evenly with the same content or cover one space with two or more different sections of content. Sending the same content to two screens requires a split or distribution amplifier, but sending different content requires, a switcher, multiple sources, or specialized software. The important thing to remember is most everything is possible but careful investigation should be done up front to match your goal. As a tech director or staff member careful investigation should also be done with the Pastor or other staff members who will be utilizing the setup and how they are hoping to be able to utilize it.
Now for the square part. Up until about 10 years ago almost every screen minus the movie theatre was square. When i say square I mean squareish in 4:3 ratio. Especially in the last 5 years this has shifted to entirely 16:9 or rectangle content layout screens. In this day and age don’t even consider a projector or screen that cannot display 16:9 content. This is another strike against older projectors as many of them are unable to display anything but lower resolution square content. If you are transitioning in your church from square to rectangle its important to remember that your content will actually be smaller if you are using an existing screen. The rectangle content will be letter boxed on the top and bottom with black bars creating some useless space. It may be a good idea to consider changing over to a newer screen that is larger at a rectangular 16:9 size.
Once you know the size and purpose of your projection you need to find the right projector for the job. A great resource I use myself is the projector calculator on www.projectorcentral.com . Using this calculator you can plug in the projector you are looking to use, and the size of your screen, and see whether or not the screen will be bright enough for a room with lots of ambient light, or with the projector at a close or far distance from the screen. In general a projected image is brighter the closer the projector gets to a screen and the less other light from windows and room lighting hits the screen. Unlike a television which is black by nature a projected images blacks are only as dark as the screen is with no light, so the the more other light hits the screen the less deep and contrasty the image will appear. I alway lean a little to the side of too bright vs not bright enough.
Last but not least remember that old projector you found? Set it up in the back of the room as a stage display projector or what is many times called a confidence monitor. You do not need a fancy projector for this and you do not need a screen. This is a way to justify getting a new projector up front because you can put the old one to use in the back and actually add functionality. You can do two things to get signal to this projector. The first one is to use a splitter or distribution amplifier to mirror the signal going to the front, and the second is to use a separate output like this USB to DVI/VGA/HDMI adapter. Using ProPresenter this adapter can output lyrics without the background as well as a clock and messages to the stage.
So remember do your homework before latching onto that used size of a car projector or that fancy new one. Figure out exactly what the goal is and shoot to do it well. Spending a little more money to accomplish a well researched goal can save money in the long run especially if you can repurpose the old gear for a new perk like a confidence display!
Oh and cue the music…