MediaShout recently released a major update to their worship presentation software giving MediaShout 6 a cleaner and more tightly integrated user-interface. They’ve streamlined the process of editing the slides users create speeding up the process of importing lyrics and working with other slide show elements like Bible passages. They also Liturgies, a new kind of Cue that creates what many churches call a responsive reading, where the leader and congregation read scripture together out loud.
Long time users of MediaShout will want to spend some time getting used to the new look and layout of the program. My first reaction was quite negative, until I watched the training videos on their support page. After using the new version for a few weeks, I’m impressed and pleased with the new way of doing things. We’ll talk about what’s new, the strengths of MediaShout 6 and some of the problems in this new version. I also had a tech support issue, so I can share what it’s like contacting their support people too.
The changes in MediaShout 6 mostly feel like big improvements. Once a user gets used to the new ways of adding elements to a presentation, they should appreciate the simplicity.
MediaShout Leads the Way in Worship Software
The world of church multimedia grew up over the last decade or more and with it MediaShout leads the way as one of the most feature-complete and mature tools for presenting worship lyrics, Bible verses, and media. In the early days, churches and houses of worship mostly used PowerPoint and typed all of their song lyrics and scripture passages along with sermon outlines. They had to search for multimedia to use as backgrounds or work with the ugly PowerPoint templates provided by Microsoft. Who wants to look at tired PowerPoint templates at work all week and see them in church on Sunday too? Worship presentation software like MediaShout makes things look better and speeds up the creation process.
The MediaShout 6 Control Screen
MediaShout 6 takes its design cue from Microsoft Office using a Ribbon bar at the top and the rest of the workspace below it. Notice in the screen shot below that the program includes six areas. The numbers below correspond with the labels in the image below.
- Ribbon – At the top there’s the Ribbon with tabs for File, Home, Templates, Settings and Advanced.
- Script – The Script area shows up along the left hand side of the MediaShout 6 window and shows the slides in a presentation. Think of a Script as a list of slides or Cues as MediaShout calls them. You can open more than on Script and shows the Cues in either Full View mode or Notes View mode. Full View mode shows thumbnails of each Cue or slide and Notes View mode will only show the name of each Cue or slide. Notice that you can toggle these two modes with the buttons at the bottom of Script window.
- Inline Editor – Click on a Cue in the Script list and you will see the contents of the slide in the Inline Editor in the center part of the screen. Here you can click to edit text of any slide or change slide elements like background images or video. You can also add other elements. The Ribbon changes depending on what you’ve selected in the editor window.
- Pages Area – Many slides include multiple Pages, like songs with more than one verse or chorus, Bible passages with a few verse, or multiple Pages of text. The Pages area lets you see and order the slides in a single Cue. Drag and drop to reorder the Pages in a Cue or double-click a Page to immediately display it on the display or stage screens.
- Firebox – The box in the upper right corner lets the user fire Quick Cues. MediaShout 6 includes a logo slide Quick Cue. I put my church’s welcome slide here so that our volunteer, who runs the presentation, can throw that up on the display screen when they get into trouble or when there’s nothing to display during a worship service. If there’s a video or song file playing, hit the pause or stop button to stop the media file playback. Other Quick Cues include a blank screen button, a stop all button which stops all media that’s currently playing, and one called “inherit background”. This cue removes the main elements of the current slide but keeps the background. Let’s say you’ve got a Bible verse showing on the screen with a background picture of the cross. If you want to remove the Bible verse, hit this button and it removes the verse but leaves the background showing.
- Viewers – The boxes on the right, below the Firebox, show views of slides. MediaShout 6 lets the user customize what shows up in these Viewers and how many Viewers to display at once. I set MediaShout 6 up to show the current and next slides. Change these under the Settings tab in the Ribbon.
MediaShout 6 Inline Editor
The Inline Editor makes the upgrade worth your time and money. Use the Inline Editor to change and tweak slides in MediaShout 6. Select an element in a chosen Cue and the Ribbon will change. For example, if I select text the text formatting options show up on the ribbon. Select an image and image editing tools show up. I can also add new elements and change their transition effects. To do this click on the item in the Inline Editor and then click on the FX button in the ribbon as shown above.
MediaShout 6 lets users connect their computer to multiple external displays. At our church we put two projectors up on either side of our baptismal area both connected to the same video output on the computer. We also have a projector pointed at the back wall. MediaShout calls these the Main display (the ones on the front of the sanctuary) and the Stage display (ones that those on stage can see). You can show two different things on the displays with each Cue. For example, show the song lyrics with the beautiful background looping video for the audience to see, but only show the lyrics for the band or worship leaders with guitar chords. Put a picture or video on the main display for the audience to see while putting sermon notes for only the speaker to see on the stage display. To always show the same on both, check the setting in the Settings tab labelled “Stage Mirrors Main by default”.
Change the Stage Display content by clicking on the Edit Stage button in the Inline Editor. Then add the text you want to show on the Stage Display.
Tabs on the Ribbon
The Home tab on the Ribbon handles most of the tasks a user needs while creating a Worship script. That’s where you insert elements and change those already in the Cue. As we saw above, the Home tab changes depending on what you’ve selected. Take a look at the screen shots above of the Ribbon. It shows the settings that appear when you select, text, images, liturgies or video.
Select the Templates tab on the Ribbon to change templates for the cues in a script. Templates control things like the font in a Lyrics Cue or the background for that Lyric template. You can create a template that shows all white text at 50 point size, bold using Times New Roman font. Give it a drop shadow and set it on a background of your choosing and then save it as a new template. You can even make it the default template for all lyrics. Do this for Bible text, regular text and liturgy items.
Other tabs include the Advanced Tab (above) and the Settings Tab (2nd image below). On the Advanced Tab you can handle some of the more powerful features in MediaShout. For example, MediaShout 6 lets users display Tweets from Twitter. Change the Twitter settings on the Advanced Tab. Setup Cloud Sync features. This lets a user connect the program to their Dropbox account so they can create a presentation on one computer and then package up all of the Cues and media from a script and sync them. This tab also handles a loop of announcements and plays some audio files. That way I can setup a playlist of music to play while I loop some slides showing announcements before the worship service. On a Mac it will get music from iTunes if it’s downloaded to your iTunes library.
Other Advanced features include Volunteer mode, which shows a simple interface to let beginning users work with. There’s also a VJ mode for use when someone wants to play a bunch of videos. This opens a new window where you can point the program to a folder of multiple videos. Double click the videos to start playing them. It’s a great way to have a music video night with your student ministry.
The Settings Tab lets users change how MediaShout works and looks. We won’t give a detailed look at this tab. It handles display settings and what shows up in the Viewer section of MediaShout. You can also setup the Remote app which users can download from the iOS App Store. The button on the far left opens the full Settings dialog box where the user can control even more features and settings.
Awesome New MediaShout 6 Features
Some of the awesome new features in MediaShout 6 set it apart. We already covered Liturgies. Some churches call these Responsive Readings. When a leader reads some text and the congregation then reads a line of text in unison, that’s a Liturgy. You can use the included Liturgies or create your own.
The Inline Editor lets users edit Cues without opening a new box. It feels more like editing a page in a desktop publisher and saves time compared to previous versions.
People who work in very dark areas can turn on a new dark theme in the Settings. Click on the General Settings button and choose the General tab. Then select the drop down box next to Color Scheme in the upper part of the screen. Choose either Light or Dark and then restart MediaShout. You can see this new Dark Theme above.
Windows vs Mac
MediaShout 6 now runs on both Windows and Mac. The two programs look similar and work generally the same way. Above you’ll see a screen shot of the Windows version.
It’s clear that the Windows design scheme dominates. For example, a Mac user might expect integration with the built-in Mac features like adding images from Photos instead of just adding them from files on the computer’s hard drive. Mac users can add music from iTunes. Finally, the familiar Mac-style menu at the top of the screen only shows two very limited menus – a MediaShout 6 menu and a File menu. Most Mac programs put all of their tools and features in a complete menu system in addition to toolbar buttons.
MediaShout users can insert PowerPoint slideshows, but it doesn’t work with Keynote, the Mac presentation program that most Mac users prefer.
MediaShout Customer Service
I’ve used MediaShout for more than a decade. In the early days the customer support wasn’t as good as it is now. MediaShout does a better job today. You can contact them seven days a week including Sunday morning from 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time till 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
I experienced a severe stability issue on the Mac version of MediaShout 6. The company connected me with a customer support professional who showed me how to let them share my screen and he did some extensive troubleshooting for about 45 minutes before we found out that the problem was an incompatibility with Parallels Access, a utility that allows users to remotely control their computer. I also had an issue with SongSelect integration and he found out what the problem was and fixed that. They also plan to work on fixing these obscure bugs and I’m betting they’ll figure out a fix.
Value and Recommendation
MediaShout 6 costs $399 for either the Windows or the Mac version. People upgrading from version 5 can get it for $169. These prices cover up to three installations on either Windows or on Mac. They offer options to install on both for people like me who work in both, but it will cost quite a bit more. I wish the $399 or $169 upgrade covered three installations on either platform. Users can pay extra and get unlimited installs on either platform for $899. There’s also a free trial version you can use for a limited time.
MediaShout 6 is a powerful worship presentation tool with some great features. I’ve covered most of them, but not all. Churches that don’t own worship presentation software should seriously give MediaShout 6 a look. Download the free trial and watch the excellent video training to learn how to use the program. I included one below. You can then make a more informed decision.
Users of the old version should certainly upgrade. It’s worth the sale price and you’ll want to get it soon at this lower upgrade price.
This version of MediaShout isn’t perfect. Here’s a few minor things I’d like to see them change. First, when a user turns on the quad Viewers where they see four Viewer boxes on the right side of the screen, the four boxes don’t match the placement of the four drop down boxes in the Settings. They should match. The top left drop down box on the Settings Tab controls the top left Viewer in the Viewer section. However, the top right drop down box controls the bottom left Viewer. The bottom left drop down box controls the top right Viewer. That’s confusing for the user.
Also, configuring the content on your Stage display that only those on the stage see is confusing. We talked about the feature above. I want to sometimes see exactly what’s on the Main display and other times see something different on the Stage display. For example, if I’m showing a video clip in my sermon, I want that showing on the Main and Stage displays. But if I’m showing a picture, I’d love to show my sermon notes about that image on the Stage display while the audience only sees the picture on the Main display. It seems you can either mirror the Main display on every slide or on none of them. If it’s possible, I couldn’t figure it out.
MediaShout lets me add Text cues easily. Use the Insert Text button and then either type it in or paste it from elsewhere. Then add it to the list and Insert. However, I wish I could take Text Cues that I’ve added all at once and split them up. That would make creating a sermon presentation quicker. I could add all my main points and quotes. Then I could drag a Text Cue from the Pages area below the editor to the Script area on the left. You can’t do this now, but I wish I could.
In earlier versions of MediaShout I could add pictures and videos the same way I could add Bible verses, Lyrics and Text. Now I can’t do this as easily from inside the program. I can now drag from either Windows File Explorer or Mac Finder. Open the folder where your files are on the Mac or Window hard drive and drag them to the Script section. However, I’d like to have buttons for adding Graphics or Videos where the Insert buttons show up on the Home Ribbon tab.
Finally, the script thumbnails are too big compared to the older versions. I could see more of my presentation in version 5 and earlier. One way to make it better is to drag the divider between the Script section and the Inline Editor towards the left. This shrinks the Script thumbnails so you can see more on screen at once and gives you more room for the Inline Editor and Pages Area. In the Settings Ribbon there’s a check box labelled Script Compact View that turns the thumbnails into a list with a settings button it. That lets you see a lot more of your cues, but you lose the thumbnails.