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Screens Critical to Video Impact

Jun 1, 2006 8:00 AM


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The projection screen can make or break a church installation and its worship service.

Video projection has become so commonplace in churches these days that many congregants may have the impression that scriptural texts, hymn lyrics, and other content simply appears in mid-air at the front of the church. In fact, though, this impression depends on an often-overlooked or dismissed component—the projection screen—that can make or break an installation and its worship services.

Screen experts say the key decisions in specifying a screen for a worship venue are fundamental: what kind of screen, how many, how large, and where to put it (or them).

Many of these decisions, actually, are dictated by the church’s architecture. “In the majority of cases, churches were never designed to have video integrated into the sanctuary,” says Kevin Baisley, vice president of sales and marketing at Vutec in Pompano Beach, Fla. “The church architects never had AV in mind when designing the church. It’s a challenging opportunity, finding new ways of having a screen be produced in a specific area while working within the integrity of the sanctuary and of the service.”

For a theater, conference room, even a sports arena, there’s no impediment to putting the screen in the logical place: front and center.

In a church, though, “front and center” may be occupied by a stained glass window, a crucifix, an array of organ pipes, or some other structure that’s more central to the congregation’s faith experience than a projection screen.

“Churches want large screens, but are worried about the look in the front of the sanctuary,” notes Jim Hoodlebrink, information display systems product manager at Draper, Spiceland, Ind. “Most will try to address this issue by mounting more than one screen/projector system and offsetting each screen to the left and right. This allows for better on-axis viewing for the audience.”

Some churches have challenged their AV integrators and designers to come up with innovative approaches to the aesthetic issues. Tom Stewart, VP and owner of Stewart Filmscreen, Torrance, Calif., recalls a recent job “where we made two electric front-projection screens that go up and down but also hinge toward the back of the sanctuary to hide behind two large beams, so all of the audience has both an unobstructed view and audio path of the pipe organ.”

Motorized screens that rise from the floor or descend from above are also very popular, company spokesmen say. These screens are increasingly popular in smaller churches because it gives them the option to get the screen out of sight when it isn’t in use.

Once the one-screen/multiple screens decision is made, the next question for most churches is how large a screen to install. This is an area in which many mistakes are made.

“A lot of churches size their screens to be too small,” says Baisley. “Viewing distance to the screen is a very important factor, and many churches tend to go smaller than they need.”

Baisley cites the industry’s “rule of seven” as a guide for screen specs. According to this rule, the distance from the back row of seating to the screen should not be more than seven times the diagonal measure of the display. If the back seats are 100ft. away, the rule of seven would suggest a screen diagonal of at least 14ft. A corollary to the rule suggests that the closest seats shouldn’t be any closer than about 28 feet for ideal viewing.

Next: Advances in screen technology



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