About six years ago, I started using environmental projection in the fully round worship center at Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas, and it has been great addition.
Sometimes, the right tool is not the one that everyone else is using, or the most powerful one, but rather it is the tool that gets the job done, and the tool you know how to use well.
The congregation at Trinity loves it, and so too does the leadership, as it ties in with the lighting system flawlessly. It allows us to do more grand looking effects with minimal time investment week to week. In addition, most of it brings an intimacy to the room that almost feels like it could go on forever, when the walls are not being lit up by something.
Over that amount of time, though, the overall effect starts to lose its feeling of being something special, so I am constantly trying to push the envelope, seeing what else can be done with the system.
At the beginning of each year, at Trinity we launch our year with a conference to celebrate what will be happening in the church over the next year. This year, we wanted to go with a bit of a different feel and go retro … not my strong suit. I ended up calling in some favors and rented some LED panels for a very good deal. With that change, I started designing. What I came up with was 12 small LED walls (only coming out to two panels wide by two panels tall) hung around the stage, so the whole room could see a few sections of the wall.
The team then got to work creating some masks, to round off the edges of the panels as well as some loops of static with a transparent background, and boom … we had created a look of old school style tube televisions hanging above the stage.
We ran everything through ArKaos MediaMaster, for control and mapping.
If you’ve ever worked with LED walls and video processors, you know that it’s not that easy to have 12 mini walls controlled as a single source, without a whole lot of infrastructure in place. I had a couple of Ethernet lines available, and that was about it.
With ArKaos’ Video Mapper software, though, we were able to get in and identify each set of panels, isolate them, and map them out in a matter of about 20-30 minutes.
Going this route allowed us to do a few things that really helped with the event, and helped to accomplish the overall vision, of what we were trying to achieve.
First, ArKaos is fairly cheap, since it’s a software-based media server, and all we needed was a laptop to pair with it. Going this route was much more cost effective, than trying to get a full blown media server in for just the event, especially considering we already had a spare MacBook Pro around, that we could use for the setup. Going this route did limit how many connections I had available, which is why I chose to use the Video Mapper side of the software, and only ate up one output, to control all of the LED walls.
Second, I could overlay the mask and static loop on top of all the other motions we have in our library, without the worry of it not fitting the feel of the retro theme.
Next, ArKaos has a dedicated text feature to allow you to input custom text, select it, and then choose between a good amount of different animation options, to really give it a special feel.
Another thing we really wanted to do at this event, was to have a very custom video feel, without the hours upon hours of work, that would need to happen to create custom motions, for example, for an entire song.
One member of our worship team had something special in his back pocket, the ETC Video Synthesizer. This little machine that only costs a couple hundred dollars, was able to do live visuals that synced up perfectly to the tracks by having and audio input on it and choosing which part of the track we wanted to work with for the visuals.
From there, we took a video line out, tied it in to the FOH booth, to get the video connected in wherever we wanted it. Now the only thing about using a laptop instead of a true media server, was that there is no native capture card built in to get the video information into ArKaos; in comes the Blackmagic Mini Recorder.
The Mini Recorder allowed us to get the information into ArKaos as a live camera source and manipulate it, as needed. This setup shaved what probably could have been a full week of work on a video editor, to create custom content and devise a flow with the music live for minimal cost, and only a couple of hours of work.
The congregation loved the effect, and the whole setup came together wonderfully, and was a very moving time of worship.
I know there are other media server software options out there, and I am not saying that they are not great options worthy of consideration. In fact, I have been digging into Resolume over the past six to 12 months and love that option as well. Sometimes, though, the right tool is not the one that everyone else is using, or the most powerful one, but rather it is the tool that gets the job done, and the tool you know how to use well.
For us at Trinity, that is ArKaos.
We were early adopters of that software, have a really good relationship with our dealer and the tech support team, so if we had run in to any issues along the way, we feel highly confident that we can get past them without trying to learn something new in the middle of the event.
When it comes to media servers, find what works for you, and then make it work for you.
I think you will be surprised how many different things you can do with the same product, if you really understand how to use it well, and force yourself into thinking differently about the options it can achieve for you.