Compared to even 20 years ago, video is a constant part not only a part of peoples everyday lives, but also a key tool for teaching and communicating. Although there are other options we will also explore in this article, projectors have become the go to option for most places of worship for both small and large congregations. Projectors provide a variety of important uses during a service, including:
- Displaying Song Lyrics
- Referencing Bible verses
- Sermon PowerPoint
- Special event slideshows
- Image Magnification (the pastor/performer projected onto the big screen)
- Sometimes even movie clips that have been incorporated into sermons
Whether you are adding a projector to your church for the first time, or updating or replacing an outdated and aging 4:3 screen, the number of variables that go into a properly implemented video setup can be confusing overwhelming. Our goal in this post is to clear up the confusion and help you determine what are they key next steps you need to find the right projector or video set up for your congregation.
To kick things off, lets cover some of the most important things to know about installing and selecting a projector.
LUMENS!!! (Projector Brightness)
High lumen projectors can be costly, but nothing feels worse than spending church money on a projector that is either too dim or hard to clearly see during a worship service. Unfortunately, there is no universal number for how many lumens you need. However there are some general rules to follow when considering the number of lumens needed for your place of worship.
- A bright room needs about double the lumens as a dark room. – If you don’t have windows and you’re willing to dim the lights when displaying something, you can go much cheaper. But turning out the lights rules out some of the primary uses of having a projector in a church.
- The larger the screen, the more lumens you need. – Lumens are divided out over the area of the screen. Another way to think about it is to compare it to painting a canvas. The larger the canvas, the more paint you will need to fill it.
- More Lumens = Better Contrast. When using a projector for text only, you can often use a background with an opposite color to the text to make it more visible on a dim screen. However, anything more complicated than text, such as pictures or video, more lumens will be necessary to be clearly visible.
Projector screens do not have to be too complicated; but there are things you need to do before selecting a screen. First, pick a spot. Second, measure the available area. Third, pick a screen! When selecting a screen here are the key things to keep in mind:
- Do you need a drop-down or fixed? – If you have available area on a wall, and it’s not covering anything up, choose fixed! It is less costly, less complicated, have fewer mechanical errors, and they really can look good. If you need a dropdown, you will also need to decide between motorized or pull-down.
- What size of screen does your congregation need to be able to clearly see it in your auditorium? – People need to SEE. A small screen won’t be as perceptible from the back of a large room. But a large screen will require more lumens to be visible to everyone. While there are ways to save money with projects like these, it will just cost more in larger rooms. There is no good way around that.
- If you are on a budget, get a budget screen. – Screens aren’t just white paint on black canvas. There are plenty of amazingly engineered screens that are mind blowing in what they can do but also require just as mind-blowing of a projector and installation/design to correctly utilize their capabilities. Should you choose to go the DIY route, or have a very limited budget, we suggest going with the basic screen options. More complicated and expensive screens are better off chosen by a designer with knowledge and experience to correctly set up your whole video system to maximize your return on your investment. We off consultation services sites survey with an experienced system designers to make sure that you maximize your investment and get the exact right system for your budget and needs.
You have likely used an HDMI cable at some point to put together a home video system. However, for a professional system, an HDMI wire won’t cut it in most installations. HDMI is ‘certified’ based on complicated power calculations. Retailers sell 100 foot HDMI cables, but as a general rule of thumb, HDMI is only 100% reliable up to 25 feet. If you are doing an installation yourself, a 100 foot cable MIGHT work (for a while) with the equipment you are using. However, installation companies, like Church Audio Video, need to offer a guaranteed option that will work for years. HDMI is often converted to a ‘video over structured cable’ protocol. For instance, HDbaseT can run 325 feet reliably. The equipment to do so has more professional pricing and requires installation knowledge to terminate. If you are putting together a portable setup on a cart, don’t worry about this! You can make it work with the equipment so close. However, if you are installing a mounted projector in a sanctuary, you need to consider the distance from the source to the projector.
DO NOT take this lightly. If you don’t have a properly implemented mounting plan, the rig may feel secure when you put it up but lose grip over the next year creating a safety hazard for you and your congregation. Having a projector fall from the ceiling can be both costly and dangerous. The only guaranteed safe way to know if a projector mount will securely attach to your structure is to have a professional evaluate and install a projector mount in your sanctuary. On the side of the projector mount that connects to projectors, there are a few that we recommend. There are some GREAT universal options out there; and some terrible options (even ones that have good reviews). Our favorites come from Chief. Check them out here.
When building your projector mount, be sure to pay attention to your projector’s specifications. Some projectors need to be mounted toward the top of the screen, some toward the middle. Some can tilt and some cannot tilt. Throw distance is important to make sure you fill your screen and so you can have proper focus.
Now to the big question most people ask when it comes to projectors and video equipment…
DIY or Professional Installation?
This is an age-old decision; especially in churches, where you often have access to many volunteers ready and willing to save the church money. The issue is in the available skill. Let’s say you needed to fix your car, and the mechanic says it will be $2,000. But your friend down the street says he’ll come fix it if you can just buy $300 of parts. What are your questions? Is your buddy a mechanic with 15+ years of experience under his belt or has he just watched a couple YouTube videos on car repairs? This is the same consideration that should go into DIY video installation. If your installation is simple, like putting a $300 projector on a cart (the AV equivalent of changing a brake light on a car) then there is a good chance that could do it yourself. If it is anything more complicated than that, be sure to do some fact checking to make sure you have knowledgeable volunteers that aren’t going to put your assets or congregation in danger. We have seen DIY video systems done correctly that were helpful to the church and worked with the churches limited budget. We have also seen plenty of DIY systems that were set up incorrectly and ended up costing churches thousands more in repairs and replacements, problems that could have been avoided had a professional been able to provide them some insight at the beginning of the process.
A Few More Thoughts to Keep in Mind:
- If your room is small, consider a TV. TVs tend to be much less costly and require less maintenance.
- If you are wanting to use movies or video clips, be sure to follow HDCP. HDCP is an important protocol that prevents movies from being illegally copied. In order for your setup to be compliant, every piece of the chain from source to projector needs to be compliant.
- Image magnification should be planned out from the beginning. If you are wanting to put live video on the screen, you need a very fast connection from camera to projector and sometimes special processing to adjust certain settings. Otherwise there could be a disconnect between the audio, the person speaking, and the image on the screen.
- Consider the source when planning your setup. There is no point in a high-end video setup if your source is a slideshow running on a 10-year-old donated laptop that is going to have frequent complications.
Most importantly, a functional projector system that can wow your congregation does not have to break the bank. Our systems designers are skilled at balancing your goals to build you a system that fits your church’s needs and budget. Accomplishing the primary purposes for a display can often be done within a medium budget, even for smaller churches. If you do happen to have a large auditorium and a more flexible budget at your disposal, we can help create an exciting custom tailored design for your church.