It’s time to cast aside that pre-conceived idea that technicians are only good for their uncanny ability to pull off great masterpieces at the last minute! Give your technicians a decent time frame to work in, allow them to get creative, and you will be amazed at what the end results can be!
“To project” means more to a technician than just making sure the back row can hear a performer. Projection, from a creative technician’s view, can add a cutting edge appearance to your skit or full-scale production.
WARNING: Projection can not be a last minute decision. A technical person or team won’t be able to produce with projection in a day; or two or three! If ample time is given to a technical team, they can create some of the most beautiful backdrops, angels, and textures, all without a paint brush!
When it comes to projection, many production and technical leaders must work together. They should be able to sit down, communicate, and create; without one department considering itself more important than another.
Let’s build an imaginary scene to illustrate how some of these people must work together to achieve the best end result.
– Director: Wants angels flying, appearing and disappearing, yet realizes there are not enough performers to bring this to reality.
– Multi-Media Lead: Knows they can create and project static or moving angelic images onto a screen, giving the appearance of many angels above the stage.
– Audio Lead: Before you know it, you will have great background music and sound effects that definitely enhance the visual.
– Lighting Director: Knows that wherever the screen is located, the lighting must be Ellipsoidal type fixtures that offer shuttering capabilities. If light bleeds over onto the screen, you cannot see the images on it.
– Set Design: They make the suggestion of using a scrim instead of a screen. Why? If the images of the angels are projected onto a scrim from the front, when a light is turned on behind the scrim, the angels will seem to “disappear.”
– Special Effects Designer: Last but not least, the wild and cutting edge enhancer of the group speaks up, and says something to the effect of “Why not give it some depth? By adding some smoke behind the scrim, and using a very dim, dark colored light (so we don’t wash out the image), we can produce the illusion of angels flying in actual clouds.”
This is a very brief example of how teamwork can benefit any production. By keeping all of your tech crews in mind, let’s take a look at some of the creative ways to use projection in live productions.
Our first example is going to be the use of LCD projectors. What a wonderful invention in the projection world!
Many churches have gone to the LCD projector for announcements, praise & worship, and even sermons. Because you can connect a laptop, the possibilities are endless! Whatever you can create on your laptop, you can project through an LCD projector. If you have not incorporated an LCD’s versatility into your drama or theatrical productions, you may want to give it a try.
Let’s look more closely at the use of projection on a scrim as opposed to a screen.
A scrim is a type of fabric that is used a lot in theater. It comes in several different sizes, and some can be painted. When light is shining on the front of a scrim, you cannot see through it. Once light is turned on behind the scrim, the scrim will seem to vanish before your very eyes.
Projecting onto a scrim can allow for different alternatives when it comes to narration. Here’s an example.
The narrator can be placed on either far side of the stage, in front of the scrim. Let’s imagine that the narrator is telling a story as it takes place. A nice 45 degree angle beam projected from an Ellipsoidal can begin to create the mood. Add in some low flying ground fog for that dreamy feeling.
Project the narration words onto the scrim, and begin the narration. When people can read and hear at the same time, they will retain more. Once the narration is completed, douse the light on the narrator, douse the projection, stop the low flying fog, and bring up the light behind the scrim for viewers to watch the action of what has just been narrated.
Or, how about putting a scrim about 5 – 10 feet in front of your rear projection screen? Using 2 projectors can add a sort of 3 dimensional effect to your presentation, by fading from rear screen projection images on the screen to images projected on the scrim from the front.
Backdrops with Projection
Next up: backdrops. Unless you have access to, or are an extraordinary scenic artist yourself, backdrops are probably nothing more than faded fantasies! But here’s some good news! If you have an LCD projector and are using rear screen projection, you can have those beautiful backdrops you’ve always dreamed of! Forests, beaches, cityscapes and more are all possibilities through the technology of rear projection.
Why is rear screen projection more effective when it comes to backdrops? The answer is, if you are using front projection, there is a good chance your performers will walk through the image and/or block the image causing shadows. On the flip side – make sure your backstage walkways do not cross the rear projection path.
While we are on the subject of rear projection, here is another great way to add some humor to any production – especially for youth!
From the rear window of a car, shoot a video as you go down the road (preferably having someone else, other than yourself doing the driving!) Once you have the tape ready to go, set 2 chairs representing a driver & passenger in a car in front of the screen. Roll the video, and you can imagine the rest!
You may be saying “…but we don’t have an LCD projector. What can we do?” If you have any type of Ellipsoidal lighting fixtures, or intelligent lighting, you can join the ranks of projection through the cost effective use of gobos.
Gobos are metal or glass discs that can be inserted into certain Ellipsoidal and intelligent fixtures. The pattern in the gobo will be the image the beam projects onto its final destination. Metal gobos come with all sorts of patterns to choose from: angels, crosses, leaf breakouts, and more. Glass gobos are made with actual images, and also come with a wide variety of pictures to choose from such as clouds, lightning, and geometric shapes.
Gobos, both metal and glass can be customized. Whether moving or static, an image of your church name or logo, can be projected onto a flat wall, scrim, or stage curtain. This is effective if you are doing a full scale production, and you don’t just want a “Plain Jane” setting for your attending audience to have to sit in while waiting for the show to start.
Let’s move on to a high-end, cutting edge use of projection known as the video wall. A video wall is a projection system that operates using multiple modules (or cubes.)
Building a video wall takes preparation, time, patience, and a rather large budget. Each module contains its own projector.
Video walls allow you to project the same image to each individual module, a different image to each individual module, or one big single image spread over all the modules. For example, if you are using a waterfall picture on a 9 cube system, you can project the waterfall picture 9 times, or make it one large picture covering all 9 screens.
Due to its cutting edge appearance, a video wall would be more suitable for theatrical productions with story lines offering space, hip-hop, or inner city themes.
Because of its high-end technology performance, size, and weight, a video wall is not something that is easily moved on and off stage.
If you are considering a video wall, make sure you communicate with all of your ministry leaders to gain insight of where it can be utilized the most: main sanctuary, youth center, fellowship hall, etc. Be sure to include your multi-media, lighting, and audio personnel as they will also be able to give good input regarding the system’s placement.
Don’t be afraid to hire a consultant. Once you have gathered the information from your various departments, a consultant can help narrow down your choices, and alleviate headaches. They can save you money in the long run, and help keep you from making the wrong technical decisions.
As you can see, there are several ways to use projection in conjunction with drama or theater. Don’t stifle your creative side by thinking projection is for praise & worship only, let your imagination run wild!