Presentation software designed specifically for use in worship first emerged in the wake of a projector revolution in the mid-90s. Many of these applications were developed by church-going programmers who saw the limitations of using PowerPoint for worship. Some of these programs have matured into advanced applications rivaling even some presentation software developed by the secular marketplace. As these programs continue to develop, there has been an explosion of worship software upgrades in recent months. We will look at several of the top worship applications and the new features that they offer.
All of these applications utilize a dual-graphics system (see the March/April issue of Technologies for Worship for a detailed article). Using two graphics cards and Windows 98 or higher, one output is used for a control monitor while the second card is connected to the projector to display the full-screen image. In each application, an operator will see an entire song and can select which part of the song is to be displayed. Computer system requirements are fairly modest, although more current computers will yield better results. Trial versions of each of these applications are available. Try several different programs to see which one best meets the needs of your church.
EASYWORSHIP BY SOFTOUCH DEVELOPMENT
http://www.EasyWorship.com – $399
Although EasyWorship is the new kid on the worship software block, its first version packed a serious punch. At first glance it holds up to its name and has a very easyto- use control screen. Underneath its simple surface lie many advanced features including transitions, nursery alert and a completely customizable song library.
EasyWorship will interface directly with CCLI’s SongSelect to access their vast database of songs. Scriptures are easily located and displayed with just a few clicks. The King James and American Standard Versions of the Bible are included. Additional versions are available for only $29 each.
New in Version 2.2
The most exciting enhancement to EasyWorship is its new video overlay feature. EasyWorship already had support of video files for playback. Now video files may be used as backgrounds for songs! Different video backgrounds may be assigned to each song. The elements of a song (verses, choruses, etc.) may be changed without affecting the video playback. Videos may even be assigned transitions. Computer requirements are a bit higher in order to accomplish this task. Faster computers with plenty of RAM and a very good graphics card will yield the best results.
MEDIASHOUT BY MEDIA COMPLETE
http://www.MediaShout.com – $399
MediaShout is a script-based application. Elements of the script are called cues. Options for cues include lyrics, scriptures, video, audio and graphics. These cues may be arranged into the script or “fired” at any time. Buttons are included to back out the screen or show a logo. The “shout box” stores cues that are frequently used.
New in Version 2
There are now a total of 19 Bible translations in 5 different languages included with MediaShout. Two displays show the slide that is currently on the big screen and the next slide in the playback sequence. Drop shadows and outlines may be added to text. There are also many new transitions including smooth crossfades and softedge wipes. Flash animations are now supported for playback.
PRESENTATION MANAGER BY CREATIVE LIFESTYLES
http://www.presentationmgr.com – $350
Presentation Manager is supplied with 6 Bible translations including a Spanish version. Songs, scriptures and other text may be shown on top of images, video files or live video (with an optional digitizer card). Service elements may be arranged into a playlist for easy navigation during the presentation. Font attributes and positioning are completely customizable. PowerPoint and HTML files are supported for playback as well.
New in Version 5
Presentation Manager now has dock-able windows for customizing the look of the control screen. Projector control is built right into the program with this release. Video support now includes MPEG 1 and 2, DVD, WMV and QuickTime. Audio support is now supported and can be attached to any slide. HTML display allows for highlighting and positioning of particular words.
PROLOGUE! SUNDAYPLUS BY GRASS ROOTS SOFTWARE
http://www.SundayPlus.com – $350
SundayPlus features a very attractive drag-and-drop control screen. Three “bins” hold song, text and image information. Elements from these bins are moved into a cue list and are controlled from there. A set of cues may be cycled for an announcement loop. SundayPlus features some fantastic transitions that are not found in any other presentation software. A preview window with picture-in-picture displays the next cue and the cue currently showing on the projector.
New in Version 2.1
Not only did Prologue get a software upgrade, it received a name upgrade as well. Now called SundayPlus, version 2.1 features improved speed and now allows for higher resolution output. Other new features include video support (including the native DV format!) and will overlay text inside a box on top of video files. SundayPlus will also now play Flash animations and control PowerPoint presentations.
Another new addition is the GoFile feature, which allows cue lists to be easily transferred from one machine to another. SundayPlus is now also available in a Macintosh version, making it the only MAC worship software on the market.
SONGSHOW PLUS BY R-TECHNIQUES
http://www.SongShowPlus.com – $499
SongShow Plus features a powerful search engine that allows a media minister to search for songs by title, phrase, and theme or even by key. This program interfaces with other song database programs such as SongSelect and Integrity Worship Software. Scriptures are accessed through Online Bible and Parson’s QuickVerse (not included). The elements of a song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) may be sequenced to allow for easier playback during a service. SongShow Plus includes a logging feature to make copyright reporting quick and easy.
New in Version 5
SongShow Plus hits the big version 5 in its latest incarnation. New enhancements include an improved slide show builder with a sermon note wizard and announcement builder. More text effects and transitions are included. There are also several new “pro modules”, which are add-ons for SongShow Plus. One such module called SmartChurch adds software control for the SmartChurch interface. The SmartChurch interface is a piece of hardware that connects to a variety of audio and video equipment and allows for remote operation. Using SongShow in combination with SmartChurch a media minister can control a number of devices with ease.
WORSHIPBUILDER BY DONLINE SOLUTIONS
http://www.WorshipBuilder.com – $399
WorshipBuilder has always been in a class by itself in that it utilizes existing PowerPoint technology and makes it easier to use for worship purposes. The program is divided into two main sections for building and controlling presentations. Using the Builder program, a media minister can select various elements for a service, including songs, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, graphics and more. Once these elements are in place a slide show is created with the press of a button. The Leader program controls any PowerPoint presentation in a nonlinear fashion, allowing a media minister to choose any slide out of sequence.
New in Version 4
WorshipBuilder now works in conjunction with Office XP and can access the new PowerPoint animations (see below). Library elements now include a thumbnail, making it easier to build presentations. For churches on the cutting edge, the 16 x 9 screen format is available. In the Leader program, a thumbnail view of the current and next slides is now featured. Flash or Shockwave animations are now supported as well. Plans are for WorshipBuilder to support a third graphics card that will act as a teleprompter.
WORSHIP HIM! BY FREEDOM SOFTWARE
http://www.Worship-Him.com – $99
Winning hands-down in the most economical category, Worship Him! doesn’t skimp on features. This program features PowerPoint integration, Scripture display and full dualscreen control. Song elements are displayed on the control screen and displayed on the projector with a single click. All font elements and backgrounds are customizable per song. Projectors may be controlled through RS-232 and may be programmed for power, input select, freeze and blank.
Since Worship Him! is a fairly new program it does not have an upgrade as yet.
POWERPOINT XP/2002 BY MICROSOFT
http://www.microsoft.com/powerpoint – $99 upgrade
Although not a program specifically written for worship applications, Microsoft PowerPoint is used by over 90% of churches using media. The XP or 2002 version of PowerPoint is a powerful upgrade, with new transitions and advanced animation control. In addition to entry transitions, exit transitions and path animations may now be applied to an object. Objects may be arranged to animate at any point in the slide using a visual timeline. Objects may now appear (or disappear) at the same time as other objects. A “presenter’s view” is now included. When using the dualscreen configuration the control monitor will show thumbnails of all of the slides along with any notes associated with the slides. Multiple masters are now supported. PowerPoint 2002 does NOT require Windows XP. It will operate on Windows 98 or higher. At $99 this is a must-have upgrade. Charitable pricing is available for churches that do not own a current version of PowerPoint.
A demo disc is available from ChurchMedia.net that includes trial software for some of these programs.