A projection system is simply made up any old projector pointed at a wall, or maybe a screen and that’s it, right? When done correctly, a great projection system matches a projector and screen material together to produce an amazing image that will remove the barriers of clarity, color, and contrast while the size of the screen contributes to readability and ensuring viewers can see not only what is being presented, but understand it, as well.
Where does one start when evaluating a system or looking to upgrade? Projectors come in so many varieties; LCD, LED, DLP, laser, dual-lamp, short throw and ultra short throw. Then there is the decision of front projection or rear projection? Do you use projectors at all or large-format TVs? How about these LED video walls you keep reading about? What is the best option?
First and foremost, let me dispel some of the marketing hype from those LED video walls: unless your church has tens of thousands of dollars to spend, those are not going to be the right solution for you. There are a lot of technical reasons why LED video walls are not a good solution for many churches, but for the purposes of this article, suffice to say they are not a viable option.
The most common decision for a small church will be between a large TV or a projector and screen combination. In my experience, if the TVs are going to be larger than 70”, the projector and screen combination beats the TVs in cost, every time. Additionally, projectors give you a much larger image for the same or less cost and can rival the picture quality of an HDTV. Don’t believe me? Shoot me an email and I will send you some images that will blow you away.
You might be thinking that projectors and screens are great in rooms with controlled lighting, but a TV has to be a better option in a brightly lit room right? Well, not necessarily; obviously there are limits to what a lower-cost projector and a screen can accomplish, but don’t be so willing to write off that projection system. Screen material technology has seen huge advances in the past decade and ambient light rejecting materials are not only widely available, but for around the same cost as a traditional matte white screen.
High quality projection is not as expensive as you might think, especially when you consider that even small churches likely need a larger screen than they realize. How large an image people want to see is extremely subjective, but a good rule of thumb is measure the distance from where the screen is or will be to the furthest viewing seat and times that distance by 1/6 to 1/10; this will give you your ideal screen height. Depending on your desired aspect ratio, which realistically is going to be either 16:9 or 16:10, that will give you your ideal screen width. For example, if the furthest seat is 60 feet, the minimum screen height in your space should be 6 feet. Given a 16:9 aspect ratio, your screen width would be 128” or just over 10 1/2 feet. Most, if not all, small churches will be more than adequately covered with screen sizes measuring between 80” and 100”.
In the end, remember that church tech is meant to be transparent and by providing bright images with great contrast, accurate and vivid colors and text that is easy to read and understand, a church can remove one more barrier to experiencing and worshipping God.