Future Church: Environmental Projection

Environmental-Projection-1-0116For those in the AV industry, environmental projection isn’t new. We’ve seen spectacular examples on the outside of buildings, projection onto curtains of water and the many Vegas shows that incorporate this immersive technology. What may be new to industry pros is the emergent use of environmental projection in churches.

Over the years, some of the largest churches have rented in elaborate gear such as Barco’s Catalyst orbital head units or High End Systems DL-1 or DL-2 video projectors-inside-a-yoke-moving-light-fixture. Far from mainstream, no trend developed from these specialized tools.

However, one young man has quietly brought environmental projection into the lexicon of today’s pastors, and he’s done it largely with sub-5,000-lumen LCD projectors running off a Mac and $500 worth of software.

FAD OR TREND?

This young man and owner of Visual Worshiper, Camron Ware, first introduced this low-cost environmental projection at Irving Bible Church in Irving, Tex., where he was on the staff media team. “Like any technology that the church first sees, environmental projection may look like a fad,” said Ware. “However, I don’t believe it’s a fad because there’s a history of the ancient church that included stained glass, tile mosaics and artwork. Today’s church is looking back in order to look forward and I think this technology helps with the architectural significance of a space and helps create different moods, vibes and expressions.”

The very definition of a fad is a short-term event adopted by a significant number of people or organizations. A trend, on the other hand, has the potential of becoming a long-term influence on the future of a market. Ware’s been working with churches on environmental projection since 2007 and has single-handedly served more than 300 churches in that time span. His work has been noticed by influential organizations in the church market and he’s been teaching and demonstrating environmental projection at conferences and conventions attended by church leaders and tech artists.

RUNNIN’ DOWN A DREAM

Like the Tom Petty lyrics, Ware saw something good waiting down the road and is picking up whatever he can along the way. But he sees that the technology needs to be adopted and that’s where the AV industry can meet the need and increase awareness for this impressive and creative use of today’s technology.

The pictures below are Ware’s examples of the beauty and draw that pastors find so alluring.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many pictures would it take to spark the imagination of a pastor to consider how environmental projection could look in their church? Ware has created a Vimeo video to illustrate the power of environmental projection and hear how other pastors are using it in their churches.

Click here to see the video: Environmental Projection from Visual Worshiper on Vimeo.

DIM THE LIGHTS, PLEASE

The pictures above and below demonstrate relatively low brightness projectors in rooms where the architectural and stage lighting has been dimmed to allow the environmental elements to stand out. Ware contends that much of the wall/ceiling  area is not lit by architectural lighting, so dimming the lights has more to do with reflected/bounce stage light.

“Even with 3,000- to 5,000-lumen LCD projectors, the architectural lighting on the walls usually isn’t in the way of environmental projection. I always recommend [churches] buy as much brightness as [they] can afford, but it’s always cheaper to turn the lights down than it is to buy brighter projectors,” asserts the budget-minded Ware.

But with Infocomm 2012 last month came yet another round of brighter, higher contrast ratio display devices at even lower price points. Depending on the budget of the church, dimming lights may be unnecessary (or undesirable) and today’s display options are not lacking in the horsepower to compete even with current moving light fixtures or stage lighting.

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OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (OR SHINES)

Perhaps the best part of this solution is that it’s so easy to demonstrate and sell to churches that simply need to see it in their venues. From an integrator’s standpoint, this is a simple sales process of starting with current church clients and beginning to offer environmental projection turnkey solutions.

Ware has utilized a wide range of technologies, from 3,000-lumen LCD projectors to aspheric super-short throw projection to 3-chip DLP super high-brightness projectors to LED video curtains and flat panel monitors. The inherent flexibility allows for a significant number of options and budgets that fit very small churches to ginormous mega churches.

RENT, LEASE, OWN

Because churches budget differently, manufacturers and integrators alike need to provide pastors with financial options. For those systems integrators with a rental inventory, this is a terrific way to keep money from sitting on the shelf during weekends. In fact, because much of the rental industry offers one-day rental prices for Friday rentals with the units due back Monday morning, churches are ideal candidates. This is a win-win scenario that should be a part of every rental and integrator’s business practices with relation to the House of Worship market.

MIX AND MATCH TECH

A common thread in churches is the fact that Sunday comes every seven days, and with it, the desire to make simple, but effective changes to continually re-engage the audience.

The touring industry has the advantage of performing the same show in new venues to new crowds. The show may get old for the performers, but it’s always new to the audience. With churches, the opposite effect means church staff is constantly looking for simple, affordable ways to create change and inspire engagement. Many churches now create “sermon series,” where a topic or theme is consistently carried for several weeks to even a few months at a time. This allows for a scenic change that is geared towards the sermon topics when the series changes. Ideally, churches need to have relatively quick turnaround times during the week.

Even with sermon series, the actual sermon each week is unique, meaning the more options a church has for keeping a theme consistent but with subtle changes each week, the better, when it comes to environmental projection.

Mix and matching projection, displays, lighting, projection surfaces and LED curtains/screens can prove to be a very high ROI that is easily understood by the church leadership. This kind of nearly unprecedented flexibility has been desired by pastors for years, but time and budgets have kept this dream out of reach. Smart manufacturers and creative systems integrators can tap into this latent dream and breathe visual life through the use of environmental projection.

CONTENT MATTERS

No technology is great without great content. This is yet another area where the need is great and the profit potential is increased yet again. Over the years, Ware has identified this need and built a massive content collection that he actively curates.

“Curation of content is building a large library of images, textures, graphics and videos that can be put together or pulled from immediately,” explains Ware. “This is a never-ending process and requires the church tech to be constantly on the lookout for interesting content.”

PLAYBACK MATTERS, TOO

Managing content of various files and format types is constantly being addressed and improved by other industries, so the very same technologies and systems used by Hollywood, touring companies, higher education and corporate facilities will find a home in the House of Worship market, too.

“From a playback standpoint, there are a lot of media servers and playback tools available. I’m a huge fan and user of Pro Video Player and Pro Presenter (both made by Renewed Vision) running on a Mac due to the ability to make instant changes to color, speed and effects on very inexpensive software. Once a church starts using environmental projection, they begin to understand the impact it can have on services.”

More advanced solutions, including warping or masking images around surfaces and advanced pixel map geometry adjustments, in higher-end projectors are also important considerations for certain environments.

PREDICTING THE TREND

It can be argued that one man’s work, while impressive in a vertical market, is more of a fad than a trend. However, the possibilities are tremendous and as the rental, leasing and purchasing options for churches are presented, this could well become a long-term trend that is capitalized on by the AV industry.

Perhaps we’ll see a renewed emphasis on this oft-overlooked vertical. Churches aren’t going anywhere and the fact that they’re underserved is a boon to today’s savvy, future-forward AV professionals.

A former staff member at three mega churches and church technology consultant, Anthony Coppedge has developed a respected reputation as a leader in technical and communications circles within the church marketplace. Reach him at anthony@anthonycoppedge.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/anthonycoppedge