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Tech Tips

Check out these helpful tips:

Shopping for a sound system
Choosing a projection screen size
Software video projection
Choosing the screen surface for video projection
Rear projection
Deciding which microphone to buy
How to integrate cameras into a worship service for non-broadcast purposes

I. Shopping for a Sound System?

Often a church that is starting a more contemporary style of worship needs a sound system unlike anything they have had before. So when they go shopping for the sound system they may overlook a important piece that they need. We thought it might be helpful to provide a check list to help you determine if you have your needs covered.

1. What are your sources of sound?

a. Microphones (some may need to be wireless)

i. Lapel microphone for the speaker

ii. Hand-held microphones for the singers

iii. Microphones for the instruments

iv. Choir microphones (hanging or on tall stands)

v. Podium mic (for pulpit and lectern)

b. CD player

c. VCR / DVD player

d. Computer sound card

2. How big of a mixer do you need?

a. Multi channel mixer (this is the key piece, count up your sources and multiply by two)

b. Audio equalizers (to help tune the system to the acoustics of the room)

c. Digital processors (for effects like reverb and compression)

3. How many amplifiers do you need? (A 2-channel amp can cover 2 speakers)

a. For the main speakers (FOH –– front of house)

b. One for each of the stage monitor mixes

c. Outside of the sanctuary (nursery and narthex)

4. Where do you need to put sound?

a. Front of House

b. Stage monitors (floor wedges or “spot” monitors)

c. Under balcony

d. Choir monitors

e. Foyer

f. Hallways

g. Nursery

5. What did we forget? (Things often overlooked)

a. Microphone stands and clips

b. Microphone windscreens

c. Microphone cables (length and quantity)

d. Headphones

e. A table or suitable space for the mixer

f. Racks for the amplifiers and outboard equipment

g. Speaker stands or hardware for mounting the speakers

h. Speaker cables

i. An audio snake for getting the microphones back to where the mixer is located

j. Direct Boxes for hooking up different musical instruments

k. Cleaning and maintenance supplies

l. Batteries for the wireless microphones

m. Power strips

n. Power sequencer for powering the equipment up in the proper order

 

II. How to pick projection screen size

When choosing the screen size, use the following guidelines:

1. The width of the screen equals the distance from the screen surface to the back row of seats divided by 6. This guideline determines screen size. (bigger is better)

2. The width of a row of seats should not exceed twice the distance of that row from the screen. This guideline determines angle of view. (don’t exceed 45 degrees off axis)

3. Choose video aspect ratio (approx. 3x4) unless you want to go with Advanced Television (approx. 3x5)

Example: Screen to back row- 54ft. Screen to front row- 20ft.

54ft. divided by 6 = 9ft. (width of screen)

20ft. x 2 = 40ft. (maximum width of the front row)

54ft. x 2 = 108ft. (maximum width of the back row)

 

III. What software should I choose for video projection.

Although PowerPoint is still the most used program for worship projection, it was actually designed for business presentations. We recommend EasyWorship, because it is both powerful and simple to operate.

 

IV. How to choose the screen surface for your video projection.

Things to consider for front projection:

  1. Reflective characteristic of the screen
  2. Required viewing angle - The Cone of View
  3. Ease of maintenance
  4. Flame retardant

Viewing angle determines where you can be in the room and still see a good-looking image on the screen. It is expressed as “degrees off center axis.” An example: 50 degree angle of view means that if you stand with your back against the screen and look straight ahead the image will look good up to 50 degrees to your right and 50 degrees to your left.

  1. A flat matte white screen gives the widest angle of view, typically 50 degrees.
  2. Glass beaded screens reflect a brighter image but in a narrower cone of view, typically 30 degrees. They are difficult to clean.
  3. Ridged (lenticular) screens are also bright with a narrower cone of view, typically 40 degrees, but are easier to clean.
  4. The most common flat screen is matte white. It provides the widest angle of view, a good uniform surface, is the most versatile, and it is easy to clean.

NOTE: Keep in mind that the cone of view is not just width but also height. This becomes important if your screen is mounted relatively high. With today’s brighter projectors the cone of view is more critical than the reflective characteristic.

 

V. What is rear projection and when is it the best method?

Rear projection is when a video projector is located behind a translucent screen and the light of the projector shines through the screen. A thin film in the screen acts as the diffuser. The image will appear backwards to the audience, so the image will need to be reversed. Most all of today’s projectors are capable of reversing their image for the purpose of rear projection.

Advantages:

  1. The contrast is better than with front projection. (The screen material is gray instead of white helping the dark images to look blacker)
  2. Because the screen surface is not reflective it is not as affected by ambient room light, making it more suitable for sanctuaries with windows and hard to control light levels.
  3. The light from the projector to the eye is direct rather than reflected, offering a better image.

Disadvantages:

  1. The projector requires considerable space behind the screen, typically more than 16ft. The distance is determined by the size of the screen and the lens used. The use of mirrors and custom wide-angle lenses can reduce the distance but raise the cost considerably. The space behind the screen needs to have relatively good climate control and be completely dark.
  2. The cost of the installation is typically more than with front projection.

Conclusion:

If you have the space behind the screen and can afford the difference in cost, rear projection is almost always the better way to go because of the superior image that it produces.

 

VI. Which rear projection screen surface is the best?

Rear projection is when a video projector is located behind a translucent screen and the light of the projector shines through the screen. A thin film in the screen acts as the diffuser. There are three basic choices of screen surfaces for rear projection.

  1. Glass
  2. Plexiglas
  3. Flexible stretch material

Glass and Plexiglas are similar in weight, price and quality. The extremely thin diffuser in the screen produces extremely sharp images. However, these screens are expensive, difficult to ship, difficult to install, and nearly impossible to repair.

The stretch material type is affordable, east to ship and install, and can be removed for service and repair. The image may not be as sharp as the glass screens, but the image is certainly sufficient for use in our sanctuaries. Snap grommets or Velcro attach the screen to an aluminum frame that is fitted into the hole in the wall. After the hole is made to the specs of the screen, the frame is attached to the wall and then the material is stretched and attached to the frame. To service the screen, simply pull the screen off the frame.

Conclusion:

Rear projection is an excellent choice but it brings several design challenges. Most users choose the flexible screen surface. Please note: front projection can also be done with a flexible screen surface mounted on an aluminum frame that is simply attached to a wall or flown from cables

 

VII. How do you decide which microphone to buy? –– Part one

There are many types and styles of microphones. For our purpose we will limit the discussion to microphones often used in worship services. The first choice concerns how they work. Two basic kinds:

  1. Dynamic –– rugged, all-purpose
  2. Condenser –– specialty mics that require a power source

The second choice concerns the purpose. Eight basic styles:

  1. Hand held –– solo vocal, speech
  2. Lapel –– small mic for hands free use, attaches to tie or lapel
  3. Podium –– small mic on the end of a stick attached to the top of the podium
  4. Choir –– small mic that hangs above the choir from it’s own thin mic cord
  5. PZM or Boundary –– flat mic that attaches to piano lid, stage floor or other flat surface
  6. Shotgun –– long microphone for distant micing
  7. Headworn –– small mic worn on the head (headset style)
  8. Instrument –– specialty mics for different kinds of musical instruments

The next choice concerns the direction that the mic picks up from. Three basic pick-up patterns:

  1. Omni –– all around equally
  2. Directional –– picks up sound from one direction while rejecting sound from another
  3. Multi –– combination of the above two

Other decisions:

  1. Quality –– frequency response, brand name, etc.
  2. Price
  3. Wireless –– UHF or VHF

Conclusion:

When purchasing a mic decide the purpose first and then your budget. Purpose will determine the style and pick-up pattern, while budget will determine what kind and brand name you get.

 

VIII. How do you decide which microphone to buy? –– Part two

There are many types and styles of microphones. For our purpose we will limit the discussion to microphones often used in worship services. Two basic kinds:

  1. Dynamic- this is the rugged, less expensive type. It is often the all-purpose hand held microphone. It works based on the dynamic movement of a diaphragm on a coil.
  2. Condenser- this type usually costs more, but can produce a “truer” sound. The condenser mic is more flexible and can be housed in a smaller package (lapel and choir mics). Condenser mics are often specialty mics (boundary and podium). Condenser mics are not nearly as fragile as they used to be and have come down in price considerably. A condenser mic works based on the movement of a diaphragm on a charged capacitor.

Advantages:

  1. Dynamic- affordable and rugged
  2. Condenser- higher quality, more versatile

Disadvantages:

  1. Dynamic mics are limited in how small and light they can be.
  2. Condenser mics require a power source. This is supplied be either an internal battery, phantom power from the audio mixer, or an external phantom supply.

Conclusion:

If you have phantom power, condenser mics are great mics to use. They are most beneficial for specialty purposes. Dynamic mics are still adequate for general purposes.

 

IX. How to integrate cameras into a worship service for non-broadcast purposes

Cameras that are on tripods and have an operator standing there aiming the camera. Advantage is that a good operator can follow the action better than a pan/tilt, and the camera can be taken outside the sanctuary for other purposes, like mission trips, youth events, community events, etc. Disadvantage is that the operator can be distracting and you need a means of communicating with him during the camera feed.

Prices- A wide range, but my choice is the 3-chip miniDV palmcorders that are around $2,500 with a good tripod. These come from the consumer and video production industry.

Cameras that are on pan/tilt heads which are in fixed locations and have a joystick to control pan. tilt, zoom and focus. Advantages include indiscreet locations (such as up on the front platform area getting a shot over the pastors shoulder of the congregation paying rapt attention), memorized preset camera views that can be quickly accessed, don't have to count on a volunteer camera operator. Disadvantages include not being able to “follow” a pastor on the move. The pan is not smooth enough. Also, you can't easily change your mind and move the camera to a different location. This usually means that we put extra cameras in.

Prices- $1,900 to $2,500 per camera plus around $750 for the controller. The controller handles as many cameras as you will ever need. These cameras come from the security industry but put out very usable pictures. The broadcast pan/tilt cameras start at $13,000 each.

Cameras that are on fixed arms are there for one shot. Advantages are less expensive and easier to install. Disadvantages are that you get one shot and only one shot.

Prices - $300 to $400. Again these are from the security industry, but the images are very good.

What I see most churches doing is a combination of three things;

1. Trying to put up on the screen the things that people want to see but their view is often blocked, such as baptisms, children's messages, puppet ministry, ...

2. Recording the service for shut-ins, web-streaming, and cable broadcast.

3. Shooting and editing video clips that can be used for sermon illustrations, announcements and special demonstrations.

 

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