The Trials, Tribulations, and Travails of New Projection at San Jose CRC

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So, I'll tell you my story, then you tell me yours. This is the story of the trials, tribulations and travails we experienced at my church as we went through the process of upgrading our projection technology.

It started, oh, probably 2 years ago. We had a projector on a shelf in the back of our church with a long-throw lens to enable it to display on the screen way up in the front of the church, about 55 feet away. That projector had been purchased (used) by our minister back when we first started singing with words on a screen for our praise time, probably 10 plus years ago. Our trusty technology director, Ken, had kept that projector going all those years. He purchased and installed new bulbs, adjusted the projector many times to accommodate our needs, taught multiple people how to use it, including several churches that rent our facilities. As time went on, it became harder and harder to find bulbs that fit, but Ken kept us going.

About 2 years or so ago, though, we started to have a kind of "leakage" on the screen. A purple-tinted area started out small but slowly grew more and more noticeable. Also, the colors started to fade and darken. Those of us who created the slide decks would include beautiful art and graphics and, often, when we saw them on the screen, we couldn't help but wonder why we even spent all that time finding the perfect pictures and designing the slides. The display was so gray and dim, you sometimes could not tell what they were. One time, for example, I included a photo of beautiful glass bowls and vessels designed by the famous artist Dale Chihuly (the theme of the service was God being the potter). The pianist asked, "What is that big brown thing?" And I didn't blame her! It was unrecognizeable.

We had no problem agreeing that we needed new technology. We have a small worship & arts team that discussed the need often. We knew, too, that there would almost certainly not be a problem getting the funds approved by our leadership -- the need was so evident. The problem we had was figuring out what solution to propose.

We discussed doing something more up to date. Perhaps we could put 2 flat monitors at the front of the church, one on each side, rather than the one central screen. Or maybe one screen would be sufficient, as long as it was visible from all seats. Maybe we could fix the lighting at the same time and hang a trapeze-like bar of lighting from the ceiling near the front, and hang a new projector with or near it. How about a backlit solution, with the projector behind the screen? The ideas were abundant. The knowledge was minimal.

Of course, we realized we needed to call in some experts. Over the years, we spoke to several. Some were friends of members, some were in the A/V industry, some had set up solutions for other churches, and so on. Ken studied and learned much about the technology. Others of us tried to learn more, too. But it seemed like no one could walk in and tell us simply, "Here's the best solution." They'd start talking about lumens and pixels and SVGA vs XGA vs UXGA vs WXGA, contrast, brightness, DLP, LCD, LCOS, ambient light, ratios,...oh my goodness. Pretty soon I (and I think the rest of the team) felt like a fish flopping around with no air. How could we make a decision?!

So we didn't. For a long time.

The final impetus that resulted in our getting a new projector was our Hymnfest, in celebration of the new Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal. Once we set the date for our Hymnfest service, we were (dare I say) hellbent on making sure that service had a wonderful projection solution. Even at that point, there was some hesitation because some of us were pushing that we just replace the existing projector and lens to get it done, while others were pushing that we re-do the whole solution with new technology - flat screens or whatever. Finally, there was no time left and we all agreed to just replace what we had and get.it.done.

At the last worship team meeting before the Hymnfest, one member boldly said, "I am going to do it! Friday I am finding us a projector." Now she knew no more about the technology than any of the others on the team. But she was determined and I'm sure the rest of the team felt the same as I did: Go for it!

Later I heard from Betsy, this determined team member, that she did, like the rest of us, feel lost as she actually started her search. Fortunately -- providentially! -- her husband Dan had recently gone through a remodel of the Christian school's auditorium, where he is the superintendent. He told her that we would almost certainly end up with the same brand projector the school had bought, and he placed an order for us for the projector and long throw lens that would suit our needs.

Whew. Sighs of relief all around. But, one more suspenseful episode to go. The days crept on and the projector did not arrive. That long throw lens was taking longer to get there than expected. The vendor promised we would get it on time but we were on pins and needles. Dan called the vendor several times and we agreed to pay for expedited shipping. It came the Friday before our Hymnfest, which was 2 days later, on Sunday. Dan and Ken met at the church that Friday night and set it up. Dan left me a voicemail saying it was "dynamite!" Yeah!

Sunday morning as each participant in the Hymnfest walked in, the first thing they did was exclaim at the beautiful images on the screen. We used illustrations from The Jesus Storybook Bible for our Hymnfest theme. They are created digitally but have a watercolor-like look. Our old projector would never have been able to display those gorgeous pastels and drawings. The Hymnfest was amazing, and we've all been enjoying the bright colors and images from our new projector ever since.

Looking back, isn't it crazy that we went through this edge-of-our-seats experience? We knew we needed new technology for so long. Yet we didn't get it until the last minute.

How about you? Tell me your story. Have you gone through similar trials and travails as you move into new solutions and technologies?

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