8 Essentials Every Church Should Know Before Investing in Multimedia | graphic multimedia

2. Find Your Screen:Many people don’t give much thought to the screens, but they are a key piece of equipment for any multimedia system. As such, several things should be taken into account. “Where can it be hung? Should it be electric or fixed? Should we go with one screen or multiple screens? Which aspect ratio is right for us – 16:9 or 4:3? What surface should we go with?” These are all questions to consider. Again, Fowler will help you determine the right size for your congregation, and once the size is established, that will start narrowing down your placement options. (For screen info click here)3. Choose A Projector:Once your screen placement and size are decided, you can determine what kind of projector you will need. After that, you can choose where and how you want to mount the projector. Most can be ceiling mounted, and you’ll want to place it as close to the screen as possible to achieve the brightest picture. Of course, when mounting to the ceiling you will need to be sure there is enough attic space above the projector to run cables plus a structure to attach the mounting hardware to. An electrician will need to provide power at the projector location. If you have high ceilings you will need to look into using scaffolding or a lift. (You might ask your sales consultant about installation.)There are other options when it comes to projector placement. Projecting from a balcony or from the back of the sanctuary usually requires a projector that offers multiple lens options. This allows you to select the perfect lens for your specific throw distance and screen size. You might also consider a slightly brighter projector because there is some light lost in a long throw application. This option will appear more expensive initially; however, once you consider the extra cost and time required with ceiling mounts, it often comes out to be about the same. Also, regular maintenance and lamp changes are often much easier with a long throw application.4. Plan For Cameras:We often find the decision to add cameras to your church media system is usually an after thought. However, more and more churches want to incorporate cameras into their existing system. If done well, it can greatly enhance the worship experience; but if done poorly it can be a major distraction. There are so many options available – robotic; manned; CCU control; HD or standard def, etc. – and the decision you make on your cameras will affect the direction we go with your projector, switching, scaling, cabling, etc. So, even if cameras are not on the immediate agenda but you are considering them for the future, plan now and it will save you money in the long run. (For more camera options click here.)5. Select A Switcher/Scaler:A switcher allows you to switch between your sources. A scaler takes all of your video signals and scales them up to a higher resolution to match your computer’s resolution (which should also be the native resolution of your projector). Be warned! There are several consumer grade switcher/scalers on the market that use low quality scaling engines; your image quality can be significantly impacted by using one of these.When using a switcher/scaler you can choose to go with a single scaler or a dual. Single scalers allow simple dip to black transitions, whereas a dual scaler will allow for all of your effects like cross fades, wipes, cuts, etc. Again the one best suited for your needs will be determined by the direction you want to go with your system – the use of cameras being the biggest question. With cameras we always recommend a dual scaler. Whether or not you are doing High Def will determine which dual scaler.Some people try to save a little money and use their projector as the switcher. They simply plug their sources into the projector and then switch sources using the remote. The downside is that your projector will not do the scaling as well and remotes can be unreliable (if you do this make sure you hard wire your remote). Delays, glitches and unwanted on-screen text often occur, and most projectors don’t even allow you to easily select the source you need – you have to hit the input button until you get to the source you’re looking for.Traditionally, if you planned on using cameras, you could use a video mixer instead of a switcher/scaler. The primary difference is that rather than scaling all of your sources up to a higher resolution, you will need a scan converter to convert all of your signals down to video. If you do this though, the quality of your computer images will suffer. But now that switcher/scalers are available, this isn’t even an issue.6. Develop Your Infrastructure:The infrastructure of your media system is HUGE when it comes to the quality and success of your entire system. You can install a $100,000 projector with low quality cable or leave out a distribution amplifier and your image will look terrible! And a lack of planning on your infrastructure will hinder your ability to add to your system in the future. So, decide now – will you ever want to add:CamerasChoir confidence monitorsMultiple screensDigital signage in the lobbyRecording and duplicating equipmentIf so, do you only want camera feed or will you want everything that’s on the screen?Your infrastructure may cost as much as your projector and screen, but you want to do it right the first time. You should only have to plan routes and pull cables once; after that it will be very simple to add to the system as your ministry grows.7. Choose The Best Sources:Again, as with infrastructure and screens, this is usually an afterthought. No big deal, someone’s donating their old computer or you already have a VCR/DVD player you can use… Or maybe you’ve recently seen the TV commercial where you can get a brand new computer for only $299! If you are only planning on checking emails or doing word processing with your computer that may be fine; but in order to display high end graphics and video, plus store everything your ministry does and display it quickly, you need a computer that is designed for this type of professional application.As for your VCR/DVD player and cameras, a good rule of thumb is to stick with professional grade products. Don’t spend the church’s money on something low quality from a retail store – invest that money in quality pieces. Yes you can go consumer and yes it will work, but those products are not designed for a professional application. As a result you will experience things that will be a big distraction during worship.8. Know Your Budget:There are hundreds of ways to do things, hundreds of products to choose from and pros and cons inherent with each, so for direction and a starting point we always ask the church for a budget to work with. On the other hand, the church is thinking, “Well, I don’t know what this stuff costs, that’s why I called you,” and so they either say they don’t have a budget or they give us a random number that isn’t necessarily realistic. A reputable dealer is not asking for a budget so they can spend every cent you have; they need to know what they’re working with in order to put together the best system for your church. It takes serious creativity and hard work to design a great media system on a limited budget. We can provide a big picture design and then work with you to implement it in phases.So, to sum it all up, there are no right answers or simple solutions. Get your leadership team involved in the planning of your system – not necessarily what equipment you want, but start with what you want it to do and then prioritize that list. Know what’s important in the short term and long term. Remember that when designing a system, flexibility always equals money, so everyone needs to be on the same page. Clear communication is the key to achieving your multimedia ministry goals.For more information on any of these topics, please contact Fowler at 405.321.8122 or toll free at 1.800.729.0163.