Keep a close eye on your televisions and computer monitors. The day is approaching when you will notice a strange phenomenon. The screens you stare at day in and day out will start to stretch! The advent of HDTV and the convergence of media distribution will make the widescreen format a standard. Sooner or later all image displays will have an aspect ratio of 16 by 9, including the projection screens found in churches. At present, most screens have an aspect ratio of 4:3. This means that a projection screen that measures 9 feet by 12 feet will stretch to 9 feet by 16 feet. Of course, your screens are not going to grow by themselves. They will eventually need to be replaced with wider screens. Don’t run out to your favorite video dealer right away, however. It will be years before a widescreen becomes an absolute necessity. But if you want to take advantages of the wide-screen format right away, there is no real reason to wait. If you are planning to build a new facility with a projection system, you should definitely consider going WIDE!
In order to understand widescreens, it is important to comprehend how the original material is created. Movies to be shown in a movie theatre are filmed in widescreen format. When renting a video, you may have noticed a message at the beginning of a movie that says, “This movie has been formatted to fit your screen.” When the movie was transferred to video, the edges were cropped on the left and right so that the image will fill a standard 4:3 screen. In this case the viewer will not experience the movie as it was originally intended, with almost a third of the image missing. Serious movie buffs and DVD enthusiasts will opt for the ‘letterbox’ format when watching movies on tape or disc. This method adds a black border at the top and bottom of a standard 4:3 screen in order to achieve the original 16:9 aspect ratio. Most movies and some Christian videos are available in the letterbox format. Many video cameras will also create the letterbox for 16:9 videotaping. Using this type of source material, a church could project a letterbox image on a 16:9 screen using a standard projector. The black portions of the image would overshoot the screen and hardly be noticed.
Letterboxing involves taking a 16:9 image and squeezing it into a 4:3 display. ‘Pan and scan’ is the cropping method described earlier. Either option is not the most desirable and ultimately these methods will become obsolete. The problem is that the size original source material does not match the size of the output display device. At present, most television programs are videotaped in 4:3 formats. All of the equipment used to produce the programs is designed for 4:3. This, too, is changing. Ultimately, all original material will be created in the 16:9 format, meaning that your favorite sitcom will get wider as your T.V. also stretches. This also means that the equipment used to create the programs needs to be 16:9 compatible. Many T.V. stations and studios will need to upgrade their equipment to comply with the new standard. Projectors, cameras and playback devices with native 16:9 capabilities will become more prevalent and affordable, allowing churches to also “keep up with the times”.
So far we have discussed video and film output in the 16:9 format. Most churches will be mainly interested in widescreen computer output. Again, there are two ways of accomplishing a 16:9 format. The first is to ‘letterbox’ your slides in PowerPoint. Under File > Page setup the height of the slides may be reduced to create this effect. When the presentation is shown on a 16:9 screen the black bars at the top and bottom will overshoot the screen and the slide will fill the widescreen area. The second and more desirable method is to use a graphics card capable of 16:9 output and a projector with a native 16:9 display. At present, XGA resolution is 1024×768. Widescreen XGA is 1366×768. A projector with a native resolution 1366×768 combined with a computer equipped with a graphics card capable of 1366×768 output will result in a complete 16:9 system.
One of the biggest motivations for going wide is the advantage that a 16:9 screen has when laying out text. Rather than having to split sentences into two lines, song lyrics may be displayed a full sentence at a time. Full verses and choruses will fit on a single 16:9 slide without having to break them into multiple slides (see figures 1 and 2).
Many manufacturers are adding native 16:9 product lines. Sony, Sanyo and Barco are a few manufacturers that already have 1366×768 projectors available. Most screen manufacturers, such as Draper and Dalite, have had 16:9 aspect ratio screens available for years. RGB Spectrum has developed a unique device called the DualView that will show two 4:3 images side-by-side on a 16:9 screen. When utilizing this split-screen function a church could show a computer presentation on one side while showing video on the other.
Reasons to Go W I D E
1. Eventually we will be a widescreen society
2. Widescreen equipment is becoming more affordable and more prevalent
3. You could be the only church in town to show the Super Bowl in HDTV format
4. Song lyrics may be displayed in a more logical manner
5. Side-by-side displays of video and computer information allow for greater flexibility in communicating messages
6. It would make you the coolest church around
The benefits of using widescreens in the Church will become more evident as churches find creative ways to implement them. There are a number of larger churches already using 16:9 displays. Within the next five to ten years there will be a growing number of smaller to midsize churches that will implement widescreens into their ministries. There will come a day that all churches using projection systems will need to convert to 16:9. Church leaders with vision and foresight will strongly consider going wide as soon as possible. Who knows. maybe your church will help start a new trend and change public perception of the Church. The Church could become known as being ahead of the times…