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In this article, Bryon Akerman talks about some of the criteria you need to look at when choosing a digital projector for your church.
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when deciding on a projector for your church. The size of the room, the distance the projector is from the screen. How much ambient or natural lighting is in the room, the accessibility of the projector once its mounted are all questions you need to ask yourself. In addition, understanding the technical features of a given projector can be overwhelming. Most of the specifications the manufacturers tout—lumens, contrast ratio, native resolution—these are words that most people don’t understand. But they are very important in picking the right projector for your application.
Projectors and Your Room
Understanding your room is the most important factor in choosing the right projector. You’ll need to approach a room with a low ceiling different than a room with a high cathedral ceiling. High ceilings generally give you more flexibility on positioning of your projector and screen. The drawback is that even simple maintenance, such as changing a lamp, can be a hassle. So you’ll want to consider ways to accomplish that. Some churches must rent lifts just to reach the projector to change a lamp. Yeah, the image looks great, but spending $500-800 to change a lamp every 2000 hours, which is the general life expectancy of projector lamps, can add up quickly.
Projectors and Ambient Light
One of the greatest challenges for churches when it comes to projectors is ambient light in the room. Daylight and stage lights will dull your image and make it hard to see. Some ways to combat this is by moving the projector closer to the screen. This is the easiest and cheapest solution. The drawback to this is that your image size will get smaller. If your problem is stage lighting, look for ways to move the light beams away from the screen. Usually, a little tweaking can make a big difference. Obviously, you can always go with a brighter projector, but understand you pay for brightness.
One of the new trends for houses of worship is edge blending multiple projectors or environmental projection. These types of applications are great, but they require an even greater amount of thinking to make sure it is successful. I have found that churches have the best success using short throw, or ultra-short throw projectors when doing edge blending. The “throw” is the distance from the projector to the screen. Short throw and ultra-short throw allow you to mount your projector extremely close to the screen and still get a large image. These types of projectors are great if you want to use the entire back of your stage as a screen, because it allows you to project behind your band without them interfering with the image. Environmental Projection requires extremely bright projectors. This is due to the fact that you are casting a large image. In order to increase your image size, you must move the projector further away from the wall. This requires a brighter image to be able to cover that throw range. To avoid overpaying or getting a projector that isn’t bright enough, consult with a designer. Many designers are quick to offer advice if you buy the projector through them.
When it comes to choosing the projector, there is another key aspect you need to understand. That is native resolution vs. maximum resolution. Native resolution is the resolution that the projector was designed and tuned for. Maximum resolution is the highest resolution that the projector can understand. For instance, I have a projector that has a native resolution of 1024 x 768 (XGA). It has a maximum resolution of 1920×1080(WUXGA). When I am sending an image to the projector that is the native resolution of 1024×768, I am achieving the highest quality image that projector can put out. XGA in, XGA out. Nothing has to change. However, if I am sending anything other than the native resolution, the projector has to either up-convert or down-convert in order to display the image. A 1920×1080 resolution can be read by the projector, but it must down-convert, or reduce the image size to fit within the aspects of a 1024 x 768 image in order to display it. So, just because your projector can handle a 1080p input, does not mean you are viewing a 1080p image. If you want a crisp, full quality image, make sure the native resolution matches the input you are running to it. For a cable box, it may be 1080p, for a computer, it may be 2560×1400. When buying a projector, know what resolution you are putting out, and find a projector that has a matching native resolution.
The ability to show something on a screen, whether it is a scripture, video, or live feed, can be a real asset to the church. If you have set up your system improperly, it can distract from the point trying to be made. If you will do your homework and think long-term, you can choose the right setup that will most effectively aide in the presentation of the Gospel.
Bryon Akerman has run sound since he was ten. He now works for a production company and is planting a church in Oklahoma City.