Church Projection System Design: Control and Lighting


  1. Figure out how you will control your projector once it is mounted. Can the projector "see" the remote that the people in the control area are trying to use or will someone have to run to the front of the auditorium to turn the projector on and off or to switch from computer input to DVD or VCR input? If the projector can "see" the remote, can the remote reach that far?

    In a simple design it may be ok for the operators to simply turn the projector on at the beginning of the service and leave it on for the whole service but if you ever need to control the projector in the middle of the service then you will need to figure out how you are going to control it.

    Again, do the best to try out the projector in the church and test the controls before you spend a lot of money. Some projectors have a plug-in that allows the projector to use hard wired controls. If you use a wireless remote, your equipment supplier can probably get you an infrared remote control extender (sometimes looks like a pyramid) that will repeat whatever infrared signal you send with your remote and extend its range. If you don't know anywhere else to get one then you can special order them from Radio Shack.

  2. If you don't have a wired remote then go ahead and buy a second wireless remote control. Someday, the main remote will be lost or dropped at the wrong time and you will need a way to control the projector. Don't forget to keep extra batteries on hand!   
  3. Be careful about where you place your screens in the small church. Try to place the screen directly above and behind or to the side of and above your speaker. The rule of thumb should be that the typical audience member should be able to see both the screen and the presenter by moving only their eyes and without moving their head. My personal preference is to avoid two screens when possible. There are times that you HAVE to have two or more screens in order that everyone can see the image. Try NOT to get them too far away from where your worship leader will be speaking.

Whatever you do, ask yourself if the screen location will help or hinder the worship and teaching. Consider that a few dollars spent on carpentry and lighting can make a great improvement. Again, this design guide is for the simple, small church installation. Be careful to note that due to training, some designers and video equipment sellers seems see the solution to every problem as being answered by more equipment. This doesn't always mean they are being dishonest and trying to oversell you, they just may be so immersed in equipment that they don't think about other solutions. The BEST designers not only know equipment but they know lighting and some architecture. I recognize that I am talking about the philosophy of what you are trying to accomplish at your church but you should make sure that the design philosophy used in your church meets your needs and aspirations. Sometimes, the best solution to an what seems like an equipment problem is to hire a carpenter!


  1. What you decide to do about lighting in your auditorium may be one of the most important considerations in your design. Sadly, even experienced church video equipment companies sometimes fall flat on this issue. I once called what I consider to be one of the top companies in the nation to get some suggestions about lighting and was told that they didn't know what I was asking about. Unfortunately it appears that sometimes a lot of money is spent on getting a brighter more powerful video projector instead of spending a little money to correct an ambient lighting problem.
  2. Do whatever you can to redirect lighting away from your screen. Any stray light on the screen results in reducing the quality of your image. Some solutions may be as simple as reducing the wattage of bulbs, installing a dimmer or shade or just changing from floodlight bulbs to spotlight bulbs.   
  3. In addition to getting light OFF of the screen location you should endeavor to get light ON your speaker. Don't let your screen be brighter lit than your speaker. This is probably one of the most common errors I see in churches - even those designed by professionals. In general, what is projected on video screen should enhance the presentation of your speaker or worship leader, not distract from them. I have seen a LOT of installations where the screen was nice and bright and the speaker was left in the dark. People need to see the speaker. Members moving their eyes from a dimly lit speaker to a brightly lit screen will find their eyes tiring from the change. In a small church setting that this design guide is directed toward, just a couple of inexpensive "can" lights with a dimmer switch and some 150 watt halon spot light bulbs may make a big difference.

The Projector Place

Whatever you do, don't install the spot lights directly over the top of the speaker and shine them straight down on top of their head. This is great for lighting the podium so that the speaker can read their notes but horrible for lighting someone's face. Bring the lights out and shine them down at say a 45 degree angle and light your speaker's face from two directions. Your object should be to light the face of your speaker enough to match the brightness of the projected image. Make sure that you consider using SPOTLIGHT bulbs in the can fixtures rather than FLOODLIGHTS. There IS a difference You don't want any stray light on your screen. Put in a dimmer so that you can control the light. In the small church, a few inexpensive "can" fixtures or fresnels ("Fresnel" fixtures are fixtures that allow you to control how the light shines on something) can make a BIG difference in your design. Don't forget to tell the maintenance man what kinds of bulbs go in these fixtures else later you may find out that your nice lighting design gets changed when the bulbs burn out and spotlight bulbs get replaced with floodlights or worse. Don't get me wrong, there are times to use floodlights, just make sure the light doesn't get on the screen. In the same way, consider just how you are going to get to high altitude mounted light fixtures when it comes time to replace the bulbs.


Use this information at your own risk. Instead of saving money you may actually waste a lot of money trying to do it yourself and end up with a poor design. In addition, you run the chance of having such a bad experience that the church will be soured on the technology. Don't let the urge to save a little money turn into a problem for your church and a lot of bad feelings. This can be a complicated procedure. Electrical work should be done by qualified electricians. Make sure that you follow local, state and national codes. When in doubt, hire an experienced designer or experienced church video projection company. Know when to quit and turn the design over to the professionals.

When you design the system yourself, put some extra money in your budget for problems. There are a lot of possible problems that you can run into that inexperienced designers may forget about. You may find that your cables are all wrong. You may need to add a amplifier or a remote control extender. Go ahead and put some extra money in the budget. If you don't need it then great! Everyone will be happy. If you do need it and forgot to include it then you may be the bad guy when you keep coming back to the church for more and more money. Also, tell everyone up front that you may have problems and sometimes "doing it yourself" fails. Make sure that you don't promise more than you can deliver.


Here is what you may give up when you try a "do it yourself" installation:

  1. The ability to seamlessly switch from computer input to DVD or VCR input. Suffice it to say that the kinds of signals from computers and video systems are dramatically different. If you plan to mix computer, DVD or VCR input into your projector you may find it difficult to switch between inputs without creating disturbing distractions. If you plan to use computer input all the time you may be ok, but, if you plan to switch between inputs be aware that doing so without distraction can be difficult. It is too difficult for me to explain it in a simple webpage. For a smooth transition between VGA and regular video sources you may have to buy equipment that costs more than the projector you planned to buy for your small church.
  2. TECHNICAL SUPPORT: It is not uncommon to have problems, even with a good design. Problems such as signal interference resulting in a poor quality image can be DIFFICULT to solve. I have seen image problems due to bad connections, bad computer power supplies, fluorescent lights, cross interference with electrical lines, etc. Many of these problems will not show up until the installation is complete. Simply changing the length of or moving the video cable or fixing a grounding problem may solve the difficulty. If you design and put the system in yourself then you are on your own when it comes to fixing it.
  3. FLEXIBILITY: Experienced designers know how to build flexibility into your system. If you just want to project songs and show PowerPoints you may be just fine with a simple design but if you plan to do something special then you may have to give that up in the kind of installation described on this website.
  4. MISSING SOMETHING: If you do it yourself, then despite how hard you try you will miss something. Even experienced designers sometimes miss things. Make sure that the money you save is worth a few failed expectations. Some of your grand multimedia plans may fall by the wayside.


More on Designing a Video Projection System