Church Projection System Design: Screens

  1. This guide assumes that you will be using a simple "front projection" application in your small church. That is, the projector will be out where the audience is and the screen will be behind the pulpit. Many consider a rear projection screen the best. Rear projection layouts may several advantages when the ambient light is high but there are several design considerations that are not covered in this guide. Just as most projectors will allow you to set them to invert the image when mounted on the ceiling, most projectors will also allow you to reverse the image for rear projection. There are several other considerations for rear projection systems such as whether your church architecture will allow you to get the projector far back enough from the screen to get the right size image, etc. Some churches may have baptistries behind the podium and have possible humidity problems for the projector. Rear projection screens can be quite expensive but if you really want to hide your equipment they can be very nice.
  2. Screen choices have grown dramatically over the last few years. Many simple church designs will do well with a simple matte white screen. This is one of those cases in which buying a more expensive screen doesn't always make an improvement. Sometimes the more expensive screen will actually CREATE problems rather than solve them. A "high-gain" or glass bead screen may greatly increase the amount of light reflected back by the screen but it may generally makes the light reflect straight back. The problem is that unless you are sitting directly in front of the screen you may actually get a dimmer image than from a standard white matte screen. This may work well, however, if you have a narrow auditorium but if you have a wide auditorium then relatively few people may get a good image with such a screen while most might get a bad image. If the screen is mounted near the ceiling then no one might get a good bright image because the best spot to view the screen from is at the ceiling. I don't want to overstate this, but just to explain that screen selection can be a lot more difficult than you might first think. A matte white screen may not give you a good, bright reflection but it tends to be very forgiving for viewing angle and is often the best solution in the simple design.
  3. There are times in which high gain screens may be the best selection for your church application. Sometimes however, with modern bright projectors you may get TOO much light back from the screen. New screen technology even includes "gray" or "silver" screens that give you a higher contrast level and better color rendention. You probably wouldn't want to use one of these type screens unless you have a lot of lumens on the screen. Like everything else, there are few better ways to design than to try out the screen you want to buy in the place you plan to use it and check how it looks from every seat in you auditorium. This is a simple design guide. I recommend that you visit the websites of the screen manufacturers to see what they have to say (EXAMPLE:  Dalite website ) They have a lot of good information under their screen design section to help you select the right screen for your application.  Another good website for screen selection and design is:  http://www.projectorscreen.com

Top Tips

  1. Our top tip is, of course, to borrow a projector similar to what you expect to use in your church and try it out in the place that you plan to use it. There is NO substitute for this for the inexperienced designer.
  2. Our second top tip is to visit other churches that have put in similar video projection systems with similar architecture and lighting conditions and try to learn from their design and their experiences.
  3. Our third tip is to start with the simplest design first. Try to put in a single projector with a single screen and a single computer with no video splitters or amplifiers. When you get this working well then consider adding a second video input and other nice features like a speaker's monitor (confidence monitor) at the pulpit. Don't try to do everything at once. Work your way up and make sure each part works well.
  4. Our final top tip is to know when to quit and turn the design over to the professionals. It doesn't matter how much money you save if your design is so poor that it detracts from your teaching or your worship service. I hope that you have learned from this design guide that things can sometimes be a lot more complicated than perhaps you first thought. If however after reading this guide you still think you can pull it off then God bless! I hope that you save a lot of money and learn a lot in the process. Certainly you will be more knowledgeable about how your system works.

More on Designing a Video Projection System