First off, I’d like to give a big thanks to Tim Ottley and the team at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, OK for sharing the heartbeat and behind the scenes details of their environmental projection setup. Tim shares the vision, setup, and media they have incorporated into this amazing environment.
EP Case Study – Asbury United Methodist Church
When I started working with Asbury in January of 2011, the Church was getting ready to celebrate 50 years in serving the Tulsa community. In 2004, the Church moved from it’s first permanent home, to a new much larger facility in the heart of South Tulsa. We serve a multigenerational congregation, and at that time we had 5 Sunday services in 4 different locations. We decided to focus on two primary services in our main sanctuary (9:15am traditional and 11:00am modern.)
Our sanctuary seats 2200 and is a wide, unusually shaped room; imagine a square with two corners cut off. It is a large, tall, open space, with multi-textures and many architectural features. The challenge would be transitioning the space from the traditional environment to an environment appropriate for a modern service in a short amount of time.
For some time I had been admiring the work of Stephen Proctor and Camron Ware as they transformed spaces using projectors to paint the wall with images and color. This emerging field of environmental projection (EP) caught our attention as a potential tool for our transition challenge and so we began to explore.
As we moved towards a more focused use of resources and volunteers we began to look at what it would require to make our space work for two very different services. Traditional worship uses a 70-piece choir and a full orchestra for worship. In contrast our modern worship team. So this means the change over from full Orchestra to 10-piece rock band in 35 minutes….no problem!
A key part of our initial plan was to buy gear and approach each element of our renovation with the aim of using that gear in both services. This was one of the key factors in ruling out using LED walls. While they would have served our modern team, they would not have been able to join with our traditional worship. Alternatively, EP has been a key part of both services. It takes up no room on the chancel and requires no set-up time (after the initial install of course as we keep the system setup year round.)
Given the size of the room we would have to build a pretty large system. No two EP systems are the same and while there are many options we committed to high level production quality and control. Seeking support and knowledge, we attended many conferences and at one conference in Dallas we ultimately landed on Digital Projection installing 5 Titan Quad Pro 20000 lumen projectors covering a width of 300 feet and as high as 60 feet in some spots. We decided to go with the Arkaos Stadium server for image control, all running through our Jands Vista S3 board. This allowed us to create and shape content in a variety of ways as we program lights and gave us the kind of holistic control we desired. The installation support and training our install companies provided us with was invaluable.
Flexibility and diversity are the cornerstones of EP. With it, you are given a blank canvas with an endless amount of paint and a wide variety of brushes. You can use graphics and color to paint with light in a very abstract way. Then in a moment bring more clarity and storytelling to your service using pictures and video.
Many had concerns about how we could integrate this technology into our traditional service. Knowing this, we chose to integrate slowly and, when appropriate, support the larger story the service was built around.
Knowing your congregation is critical, and building relationships with the people who attend service is essential to speaking artistically through technology.
In general, this service did not use many videos or graphics to enhance the worship experience. Given this and the relationship many had to the history of Asbury, I decided the first EP image I would try in this service was a replication of the stained glass windows from our original building. These had been moved to the small Chapel on our new campus, but many were sad they were no longer a part of the central worship space. I took high definition images of the glass with light streaming through, loaded them into custom shaped surfaces using Arkaos Media-Master and projected them into the architectural features in the sanctuary. The effect was powerful!
From this positive start we were able to find tons of content on TripleWide Media that contained the same artistic flavor as the stained glass. Images of Cathedrals and artwork of the Last Supper and Crucifixion have all been used to powerful effect.
Our Modern service has experimented with a variety of approaches to EP content using graphics, picture and video. The sanctuary has very pale beige walls and this lack of color has allowed us to paint the room in new and bright colors. We have had great response using graphics that we could change in color. Arkaos has a powerful editing tool, but many designs from TripleWide Media come in multiple colors (Sacred Jesus, Christmas Scene, Wood planks, Stained Glass) that have all been used in layers where we can switch the color on the wall in a beautiful slow transition.
We have tried a little bit of everything, but as a congregation we respond better to pictorial images that connect to the story we are telling through song, sermon and scripture. Using graphic pieces, such as; Falling LED, Crazy Boat & Prink, have created beautiful colorful environments. We have found a stronger response from our congregation when using images more directly connected to the service narrative, such as; Sacred Jesus, Last Supper Stencil and Names of God. I am most grateful for the diversity of content that TripleWide Media has made available to allow experimentation to help narrow down what the congregation responds to most strongly.
As we start our third year, EP has become a regular part of our weekly services. We have used it to open services, to support worship and to bring scripture to life in sermons. We have created custom built content for series graphics and special services at Christmas and Easter. Sunday to Sunday we are grateful for a partner like TripleWide Media to help fuel the visual revolution.