Artful Projection

After returning from church a couple of weeks ago, I announced to my wife, "We will never cut another piece of felt for a banner again!" No, it wasn't my final run-in with the flower committee. I had just seen a demonstration of our new three-times-as-bright-as-the-old-one video projector! My wife was not impressed. "People don't want to look at that, they want something real," she said, in the tone I've come to expect whenever I'm on a technology rant.

Claim This Too

She's right of course: although we have lots of videotape with images of our children when they were very small, we'd do anything to feel that soft cheek again or smell that fine baby hair-for real.

Having said that, however, in an every-increasing number of churches the projection screen is the most prominent and changing element in the worship space. For that reason, visual artists in the Reformed tradition cannot, will not leave this "new" medium to the techies. It's our job to claim it as yet another tool we can use to enhance worship. Here are a few ideas:

  • Figure out what color looks like on-screen. Create some sample images to get a feel for the disparity you can expect between your physical artwork and the projected version.
  • Use projection for images-like children's artwork or photographs-that aren't easily adapted to large-size installations of wood or clay or fabric.
  • Include the projection person in your visual arts discussions. Ask her what file formats work best. Be willing to listen and learn about the system's capabilities. At the same time, be confident enough in your visual sensibilities to make suggestions about the most readable fonts and pleasing layouts.
  • Integrate off-screen visuals with what's projected. William Dyrness has some great ideas in his article on page 8. If those ideas are more than you (or your church) can handle, consider paraments-cloths for the pulpit furniture-or simple fabric panels of color hanging on each pillar or pew or even on the doors to the sanctuary. At a minimum, use the liturgical colors (see p. 33) as the background color for projected words or music.
  • If your flat banners are having trouble competing with the bright projections, consider creating worship visuals that are three-dimensional. The Good Friday Cross on page 6 of this issue achieves something a projected picture could never do.
Good Art Takes Work

Part of the danger of projected images is that it is just too easy to slap something together. Anyone can do it-and probably will. As you look at the worship visuals in this issue, it's obvious that lots of time and energy went into making these visuals. But it's also obvious that as much time was spent thinking and dreaming and planning. This work is worship. Give it the time that worship requires.

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For additional material from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, click here.

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Use projection for images that aren’t easily adapted to large-size installations of wood or clay or fabric.

Dean Heetderks (info@reformedworship.org) is art director of Reformed Worship and director of Proservices for the Christian Reformed Church.