Colin Benson describes his church, Friendship-West Baptist in Dallas, Texas, as non-traditional. “Our church has a very contemporary worship service with high praise music – like Kirk Franklin’s Hosanna. It’s an hour and a half of constant energy,” says Benson. Even with all of that non-traditionalism at this 9,000 member church, a little piece of multimedia gear on Benson’s desk may be the most exceptional of all: an Apple Macintosh Titanium PowerBook computer.
While Benson says his job is to “manage anything that plugs in the wall or runs on batteries”, it’s his Mac laptop that he wouldn’t trade for anything (unless it was for the newer model with a DVD writer, and even more outstanding, the just released PowerBook that includes the world’s first 17 inch display and a fiber-optic backlit keyboard). Benson loves his “Tybook”, as he calls it.
“I needed to have a video completed for a conference. On the plane I was armed with a digital video camera, a Firewire (IEEE) cable and my Titanium Powerbook. I edited a 30-minute tape and by the time we landed I still had one light on the battery. If I had the new “TyBook”, I could have sent the file to the Superdrive and had a DVD ready,” he said.
Is Benson alone by using a Mac in ministry? Absolutely not, says Emmy-award winning producer Alan Carter, whose incredibly popular Christian videos, distributed by Word Music, are edited on a Titanium Powerbook using Apple’s Final Cut Pro. “All of Los Angeles and New York are basically Mac,” Carter says. “It is now the norm for TV graphic houses to e-mail their entire graphic files enabling both [graphics artist and producer] to work more efficiently,” Carter says – work created on a Mac, that is. “The transfer from PC to Mac for worship, however, is still crawling along. It’s my observation that this is happening because of holdover PowerPoint programs. The pastors are married to this old technology and have driven the budgets because of this,” he said. However, if that is the rule, Frank McGee Jr. is the exception. He’s pastor of Saint Paul Baptist Church in Woodlands, Texas. “The Mac is the machine for me because it eliminates so much time to accomplish what I want and how I want it to look as a finished product. It’s intuitive technology and its capabilities are awesome,” explains McGhee, who has the newer eMac. The only thing he doesn’t use his Mac for is his Bible software.
It may surprise you to know that from the start to this very column, Technologies for Worship has been designed using a Mac, as are the world’s top daily, weekly and monthly news periodicals. But how do you know if Apple is forbidden fruit or a Mac in ministry is right for you? Colin Benson says there are three ways to find out: “Research, research, research.” Plus, in doing your own evaluation, it’s best to debunk the myths and let the experts describe the features most suitable for Christian creators.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS
Macs and PCs file formats aren’t compatible.
Wrong. “For what I do, ‘the wall’ is gone. I mostly deal with video files. I can transfer between the two platforms with ease,” Benson says. File formats (.tiffs, .eps, .wav, .jpeg, .doc, etc.) are file formats, no matter the platform. In print, fonts have been a hurdle, but as long as you have a Mac set and a PC font set, there is no problem.
You can’t run PC applications on a Mac.
Wrong. With Virtual PC 6.0 by Connectix, Frank McGee Jr. could be running his PC-based Bible software on his Mac. Windows XP Professional (XP Home, 98 and 95 are available, too) simply launches as an application window on the Mac.
Macs won’t run on a PC network.
Wrong. With Jaguar (Mac OS X), a Mac is no different than a PC on a PC-based network.
Macs are for creative types, not for business. Microsoft office is fully compatible between platforms, although Apple does have its own set of such applications called Apple Works, for just $60.
Now that we’ve destroyed some myths, how does a Mac help us spend less time “working under the hood” and more time communicating.
Plug-n-play just works.
“I think the native FireWire connection is key,” Benson says. ” The power of the “TyBook” along with the screen and battery life was no match for my PC counterpart. By the time I would get the video downloading into the PC, the battery would be dead,” Benson said. Plus, there’s no searching for a mysteriously missing “DLL” file.
A “one stop shop.”
“A local church dear to my heart has spent over $30,000 piecing together PowerPoint, digital video machines, switchers, and DVD machines,” says Alan Carter. “It takes up to four volunteers to operate all of the components. At my church, we recently had two worship services that included moving graphics during songs, speakers with more than 100 clips from film and videos – all from a G4 laptop! One volunteer. One computer. The graphics ran in sync with the worship team – no one going to the wrong PowerPoint page – and all the video clips had instantaneous roll cues. And all of this can be accomplished for less than $5,000. By the way, it was all burned to DVD for archive. One computer.”
A suite combination.
Fortune Magazine’s Brent Schlender says, “While there are many video editors, photo managers, and MP3 juke boxes for Windows PCs and they continue to improve, iLife keeps the Mac comfortably ahead in terms of features, and especially ease of use.” The one thing to keep your eye on is the fact that Apple not only builds computers but software, too. A PC video application software product manager summed it up confidentially for the PC application industry: “How can you compete? Guess whose applications will work best with the hardware?” With iLife that integrates iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes and iDVD seamlessly into one, each is intuitive and easy to use. At the recent MacWorld trade show, Apple’s founder and redeemer Steve Jobs, stunned the presentations industry again with Keynote, Apple’s one-up on PowerPoint. “It’s probably the most elegant application software Apple has ever created,” Fortune’s Schlender reported. And then there’s what the Wall Street Journal calls “the gold standard of MP3s, the iPod (see www.terrywilhite.com for a full review), which many Christian artists and musicians have used to replace mini-disc players for accompaniment.
Leader in wireless.
The new PowerBook G4 offers built-in Airport Extreme 54 Mbps 802.11g wireless networking, a new high-speed FireWire 800 port, in addition to a standard Firewire port, built-in Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to cell phones and other Bluetooth equipped peripherals. Imagine, no pile of “digital spaghetti” on the desk.
While Microsoft currently dominates multimedia in ministry, Apple makes it clear that there are a wealth of resources for anybody who wants to “think differently” as Steve Jobs hopes you’ll do. With products as small as the new one-inch thick G4 PowerBook that weighs 6.8 pounds, even with a 17 inch display, many of your fellow communicators think Apple fits nicely on “the straight and narrow”.