Churches in North America now routinely project the words of songs during worship. Usually the background is graphics, photos or live camera feeds – also known as Image Magnification (IMAG).
The next level of presentation has now arrived that enables stored video to appear under the lyrics. Some churches using IMAG now are welcoming this trend to reduce the performance aspect of a worship leader, vocalist or instrumentalist projected on a 14′ screen.
There are a few solutions of varying flexibility, ease and cost that make it possible for any church projecting words to start using video as backgrounds.
A few companies are releasing Worship DVDs that integrate video, audio and lyrics. Integrity’s iWorship DVD series is the established leader of this solution. For a given song on the DVD you can turn the lyrics on/off as well as set audio options such as full stereo, backing track only or even just a click track – ways in which a live Praise Team can be integrated.
The challenges with the DVD approach are that the same visuals are always associated with the same song and the arrangement is locked in – no repeats, no ritards. However, given the sub $25 price for seven songs plus the audio configuration options – this is an ideal way to start.
Enter the Computer
The next option requires a computer with presentation software installed. Besides PowerPoint there are 20+ Worship Software applications available with widely varying features. If you are interested in using video as a background, specifically check as to how well the software handles it – and try it before buying.
Regardless, a properly configured and tuned computer is still a must. Full-frame, uncompressed digital video can stutter, or worse – crash the computer. To reduce this risk, most programs strongly suggest running compressed video (e.g., MPEG, QuickTime). However, when compressed, the image can suffer from banding or posterization artifacts that become visible on large screens.
With worship software you do not have the ability to select your clips on-the-fly and as such you typically have to associate a background with a particular slide. If the leader decides to repeat a chorus, and you have not prepared an additional chorus slide with a different video background – you are stuck with the same video running when you repeat the chorus.
Worship software does have the benefit of being an integrated solution. Text, backgrounds, song database, multiple versions of the Bible, etc. can be available from the same interface – all for a few hundred dollars plus a good computer.
To achieve full freedom, the background must become independent of the text or lyrics. To accomplish this you need a video mixer that can mix text (from a computer) over the background source. By simply making the text white on a black background, the video mixer’s black luminance key function will remove the black background and replace it with the underlying source. Thus when a leader decides to repeat, go slower, change the order, your lyrics follow (by still using your worship software of choice) and so do your backgrounds – independently with no repetition.
A good example configuration is the Edirol V-4 video mixer combined with their DV-7PR Real-time Video Presenter. The DV-7PR allows high-quality, uncompressed Digital Video (DV) video clips to be called up on-demand, randomly and spontaneously. The clips can be fired by a regular keyboard, mouse click, touchscreen or even from a music keyboard via MIDI.
The ability to call on material in a timely way is a new dimension to the spiritual gift of creative communications. It calls for someone who is able to visually complement the worship experience by drawing from a library of potentially thousands of clips and match them appropriately with what the Spirit is doing in the room.
Churches and tours like the recent Passion Experience Tour are now regularly using video backgrounds to enhance corporate worship. The call now is for imagery that is original and indigenous to your community – a wonderful new opportunity for the visually gifted in your church. In the same way a church is known for a particular teaching or music style, churches will become known for what style of visuals are being used to augment the worship experience. It is critical to not overuse this medium. Like a spice, too much will ruin a meal – the right amount can bring new life.