Effective Use of Projection
By Jason Harris
Since hymnals have been around for years, there’s less need to discuss their use. Projection on the other hand is relatively new and extremely difficult to use well. As seen in my last post, I’m not arguing for or against using projection. I am saying that if you use it, watch out for these pitfalls.
Conservative – Choose a conservative template that does not draw attention to itself and be sure it is free of any graphics or animations. Look for a balanced colour scheme and use an appropriate font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Tahoma. If possible, consult with someone who works in professional graphics design.
Consistent – Use only one template or work from a small pool of templates. Nothing about the template should draw attention to itself.
Class – Avoid “cheesy” like the plague. I know the animated words are kind of cool, but save that for somewhere else. Also, avoid Comic Sans and scripted fonts. The goal is classic simplicity. You are communicating much about your ministry by your presentation.
Contrast – Always use light text on a dark background or, less ideally, dark text on a light background for high contrast and visibility. Be sure you’ve selected a projector with appropriate projection strength for the room and lighting in your auditorium. If unsure, ask the professional you are purchasing from to visit your auditorium and make a recommendation.
Accuracy – No spelling errors. Ever. Nothing communicates carelessness like consistent spelling and grammar errors. Nothing distracts like spelling errors. Check. Re-check. Triple check.
Uniformity – There is the question of whether to—like in a hymnal—use a dash to divide syllables in a word that stretches over two or more notes. There isn’t necessarily a right answer here, but uniformity is the principle. Anything that is not uniform is likely to draw attention to itself and distract from worship. It’s also important that the template places the text blocks uniformly so that, for instance, the chorus will look the same each time it occurs in a hymn.
Transitions – Slide transitions should be arranged so that the entire slide with all text simply appears. Fading is tolerable, but tends to be problematic whenever you have to flip between slides quickly. Animated transitions are unnecessary and generally distract rather than enhance.
Reference – Include a reference line on the corner of each slide giving the time signature, song title, corresponding hymn number, stanza number, and total stanzas (i.e. “3/4, Amazing Grace, MH147, 1/5”). Of course this can be customised to meet the ministry’s needs, but it gives everyone the necessary information to stay “on the same page.”
Layout – If the layout of a text doesn’t follow the natural meter of the tune, it is awkward to sing. A good rule of thumb is always to follow a well-edited hymnal precisely in regards to spelling, punctuation, and poetic meter. Notice where the lines end and how they are punctuated:
I’ve found a Friend who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.
Leadership – The song leader needs to be aware of exactly what is on the screen behind him. Some have screens inset in the podium. Others place a screen directly in front of the worship leader close to or on the front row. Another effective method is to have screens on the back walls or balcony faces. Musically, it is still ideal for the worship leader to use a hymnal in co-ordination with projection. This keeps the musical context and helps him lead not only the congregation, but also the supporting musicians.
Platform – The projected image should be high enough to be clearly visible and low enough to be comfortable. Many churches use two or more screens for a better result. In a smaller auditorium, it’s important that the projector be arranged so that the leader’s body does not create a shadow and so that people crossing the platform do not interfere with the image.
Control – It’s important that the control centre—or “sound booth”—be situated so that it is not a distraction to the service. The combination of worship and technology is already a recipe for trouble! It’s important that the necessary bustle of a busy control centre not interfere with the real reason for the service.
Equipment – It’s almost essential to have two monitors on the computer that is being used for projection. The second monitor can be configured to allow the user to edit and manage a presentation while it is in use. This allows the user to jump directly to a screen at a different point in the presentation without flipping through every screen between the two points.
Speed – It’s important that computer equipment be up-to-date and running smoothly. The financial cost involved is well worth the investment if it keeps the service from continual disruption. Slower computers may perform ok in general use but get “hung up” when multi-tasking is required in emergency situations.
Software – There are many good tools available for organising a song service quickly and easily. The best tool will allow you to quick-search a song and have it on the screen within seconds for those unexpected service changes.
Test – Triple-test every service. Seriously. It’s not worth the distraction of a mistake. This can be a real ministry for someone who is tech minded and detail oriented.
Anticipate – There will be problems, so leave time for them. By planning for problems, you can be one step ahead of the game. For instance, set up the Sunday evening programme after the morning service instead of waiting until you arrive for the evening service.
I’ve laid it out pretty straight. If it’s helpful, take it. If not, ignore it. A ministry will greatly diminish the impact of their service by haphazard presentation. My advice would be, if you’re not ready, don’t do it. It’s more distracting and almost pathetic to see an entire service over-powered by technical distractions. I trust this will be helpful to some who are using this technology and that Jesus Christ will be glorified as we lift Him up in our worship services.