PC to TV converters allow users to display their computer screens on ordinary TV sets. Sometimes called “Scan Converters”, such devices can range in price from as low as $50 to over $10,000. This article deals with the relatively inexpensive consumer grade PC to TV converters suitable for use with small groups and in Sunday School classes.
More and more teachers are choosing to use Bible software to help prepare their lessons. In addition to preparation, Bible software and computers can also be great for presenting the lesson. The teacher can display the Bible verses of their choice and switch from version to version. Bible dictionaries, reference materials and search features are all there to assist the teacher in answering class questions on the fly. Computer based maps, photos, and videos become available for the whole class to see. Teachers who use the new photobubble and 3D simulations of Bible places can teach in ways they never could before. A lot of teachers use programs such as PowerPoint to display discussion questions and key lesson points.
Getting an image that is large enough for the whole class to see is perhaps the major hurdle in using the computer to present the lesson. The obvious solution is to get a notebook computer and a data/video projector. The problem is that the majority of churches of the US are small in size, and many congregations and Sunday school teachers can’t afford expensive equipment. As a result, more and more teachers have turned to buying the relatively inexpensive PC to TV converters and giving their presentation on a medium to large screen TV set.
The main reason for using PC to TV converters is the price. Although some projectors can be bought for under $2,000 most people would need to spend at least $3,000 for a decent video projector for a small to medium sized class. In contrast however, a PC to TV converter suitable for many teachers can be bought for between $100 and $250. If the church already has a TV to use, then the teacher with a notebook computer or desktop computer on a cart is ready to go.
In addition to cost savings, there are other advantages to using a TV as the large screen display. Less expensive video projectors often have serious limitations in brightness and color saturation. Even a basic color TV however, will offer a color saturated image that is brighter than all but the best video projectors. A video projector may require bulb changes every few hundred or few thousand hours but most color TVs will run for years with little or no problems. TV’s also almost always give a better image than a projector when hooked to a VCR to show videos in the classroom.
All this is not to say that a PC to TV converter is the best solution. There are a variety of drawbacks to using consumer grade converters. The first problem is that there is always degradation of the image when converting from the computer output to a TV signal. The degradation is due to the difference between the way that TVs and computers handle video. A TV is definitely not the kind of display on which you would want to do day to day word processing. Even12 point font can really be hard on the eyes and smaller fonts may even be totally illegible. The good news is that most presenters are going to want to use 30 point or larger fonts when making an image for a class presentation and as a result the average class member will likely notice minimal degradation.
The second greatest problem of using a TV set as a display system is the fact that TVs and computer monitors do not have the same shape screen. A close look at a computer monitor and a standard TV set reveals that a computer screen is much wider than tall as compared to a TV. The result is that if you convert your computer image to use on the TV then you will either not be able to fill the screen or else you will distort or cut off part of the image. The beautiful image that you created on your computer may not turn out quite like you expected when converted to a TV screen output. There are several other problems as well.
You can get some very lightweight video/data projectors but large screen TVs can be very heavy and hard to transport. The TV screens have shiny glass displays that can be particularly susceptible to glare from lights and windows in the class room. Such glare can be very distracting. Don’t expect to be able to use a PC to TV converter with just any TV. Although a few converters do have a standard RF coax output., the image produced by such an output is almost never suitable to be used. You really need a TV with a video RCA (phono) type connector or SVHS, S-Video input. The image is much better.
Sometimes the worst problems are with the TVs rather than the converters. There are at least 5 different ways that various TVs have to be set to accept a video input. Some have a video channel called “V”, some call the video channel “L” and some call it channel 0 or even 00. Some TVs have no video input controls on the main TV control panel and many older TV’s require the user to set a switch on the back of the unit to accept video signals. I have even seen some TVs that will only accept a video signal when you actuate a control button on their proprietary remote control. Loose the remote and you won’t be able to use your converter with that TV. Little nuances such as this can be quite frustrating to the unexperienced user.
Despite their downfalls, PC to TV converters are increasingly popular simply because of their cost. A few churches even use converters exclusively. Some churches use converters as inexpensive ways to get started in electronic presentations and many churches use them in conjunction with video projectors. Such churches use projectors in worship and converters in the small classrooms. If the church has a large screen TV then converters make an inexpensive backup system to an expensive video/data projector. Even so, users need to realize the limitations of these systems. The best advice for the use of converters is the same advice for most all audiovisual systems. That advice is this -there is simply no substitute for getting a loaner system and trying it out in the place that you propose to use it. Seeing is believing and the proof is in the image that you get.