Technology has made the transformation of a worship sanctuary possible with the relatively new art of Environmental Projection, or EP. For some churches, this is a completely new concept. If you haven’t heard of EP or, if you’re in the infant stages of running EP at your church, this article aims at assisting you with setup options for every budget, from small to mega church. We’ve shared a similarly formatted worship software guide, and it seems that many readers appreciate having their options laid out in terms of church size and budget.
First, let’s take a look at the official definition of Environmental Projection: Environmental Projection (EP) is the act of creating a visually immersive worship environment that ushers the intimate and powerful role of visuals, art, and media back into our modern worship spaces.
Through the use of projectors that project backgrounds on the front or sides of worship room, churches use EP to transform their sanctuaries into cathedrals, forests, and even outer-space.
It’s important to note that in order to run EP, churches must have a dedicated projector and a dedicated computer running presentation software capable of EP. In this article, we are not including the cost estimate for the dedicated computer, only the projector and software costs due to the wide variety of computer systems available on the market which we recently wrote about for pastors. You’ll want to get the fastest system your church can afford with most RAM and video-processing.
That said, there are four ingredients of Environmental Projection that are helpful for churches to understand.
Ingredient #1 – Software
There are three software categories to consider:
1) Single Window programs like PowerPoint and Keynote. This is by far the most inexpensive option, and features and control over images are limited. Churches can run still (meaning, non-moving) images using a single window system for EP, but features are quite limited.
2) Dual Window programs allow you to have a control window (on your main display) and a separate full-screen output that you can send to your projector, television or other display device. Dual Window worship software options for EP include Media Shout, which does offer double and triple wide media display, EasyWorship, and Proclaim.
3) Multi-Layer Mixing applications are the third and most advanced EP software category. ProPresenter is the leading worship software for multi-layer EP. There are also other non-church specific video software options on the market such as VDMX, Arkaos Grand VJ, ProVideoPlayer (created by Renewed Vision, the same company that owns ProPresenter), and more. The primary difference that sets these programs apart from the other two categories is their ability to dissolve multiple layers of video graphics on top of each other. This way you could blend two different images on top of each other giving you the maximum amount of control over any other area.
Ingredient #2 -Projection
Projection is a very integral part of EP. The goal is to project the image to look like paint on the walls. With this come the challenges of overcoming ambient light that is created from windows, a bright stage, lighting effects or elements, and projection or house lighting. In a perfect room with only 30-40′ wide wall on a perfectly matte white wall and zero ambient light (no stage lighting, house lighting or windows) you would want to get a 3,000-5,000 lumen projector. Any additional amount of light that you cannot control (or don’t want to control) will cause you to need a brighter projector.
Ingredient #3 – Processing
To process multiscreen, you’ll need processing software. Environmental Projection simply cannot be done without a multi-screen processor at work. This piece of the puzzle includes a product like the Matrox TripleHead2Go‘s SideView SideCar or the Datapath X4. Some typical cost examples of popular software options on the market today are ProPresenter ($399-$799); ProVideoPlayer ($999); Resolume Arena5 ($900-$2,100).
Ingredient #4 – Content
Content is the media that you project onto your church. Some favorites include cathedrals, falling snow, bricks and stone, and names of God. TripleWideMedia is the leader in EP backgrounds; there are also others who provide this type of content.
A note before we dive into church size and budget. EP is very custom to the worship space, so while we are aiming to give a sense of the budget for all sizes of churches, it is a tricky thing to do. The estimates below will not work for every environment but is meant to be a general guideline to help you consider EP for your church.
For churches with a smaller budget and facility, EP is possible. With a 3,000-5,000 lumen projector, which ranges from $499 to $1,000 in price, together with your existing dual-layer worship software such as EasyWorship or MediaShout ($399-499) or PowerPoint displaying still images on a separate computer setup, EP can come together on a smaller scale. If a church already has an extra computer system lying around with PowerPoint on it, it might be that step one, the minimum viable ministry option, would be to set this system up, buy some still backgrounds, and give it a whirl.
Total Cost: $500-700 – smaller projector together with existing computer running PowerPoint, which your church probably already owns.
Medium to Large Churches
For churches with a larger facility and slightly larger budget, EP is even more feasible. With a 5,000-15,000 lumen projector, which ranges from $3,500 to 7,000 in price, together with a more robust worship software such as ProPresenter ($399-799), EP can have a greater impact. Using a multi-layer worship software with processing abilities, churches can do exciting things like masking and edge blending to create custom environments.
Total Cost: $4,000-7,000 – bigger projector plus new computer system and additional software.
Churches that have larger facilities and more spacious stages to fill out can find that EP has a fantastic impact. With a 15,000 lumen or greater project, which ranges in price from $15,000 and up, together with ProPresenter (site license $799) and more advanced processing software such as ProVideoPlayer ($999) or Resolume Arena5 ($900-$2,100), your church will be equipped to showcase amazing backdrops for services and events.
Total Cost: $20,000-$25,000 – huge projector, additional software license, and processing software plus computer system with excellent graphics and RAM.
Don’t Forget Media and Training
EP tells a story that coordinates with the messaging, communication, and themes of your sermon series. Some churches choose to use a consistent background theme for a period of time. Churches can use stills or motions, or a variety of both. These media items do cost money with many media stock companies offering a pay-by-credit system, so the cost will be determined by how many media items you work into your stage design and theme.
EP training is important. It’s relatively new, and chances are that it will be new to your media techs and possibly to you as well. Obtaining training – especially prior to making huge purchasing decisions – is a must. Worship Facilities Expo (WFX), Salt Community, and TripleWideMedia are three great options for training and consulting to point your church in the right direction to achieve its intended goals.