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Distractions in Lights and On Screen

Distractions in Lights and On Screen

As I write this, I’m being distracted.  My phone’s pinging, the TV’s calling, and of course the new email notifications keep popping up.

I don’t think you will find anyone who doesn’t want to minimize distractions in our worship services.

But what does that really mean? How do you even attempt to do that in our technology-saturated, visual-stimulating, phone-won’t-stop-vibrating world?

When we gather corporately to worship God, that time is sacred and holy.  It’s a time to stop thinking about what your coming week has in store and really be free to worship unhindered – in whichever way that manifests itself for you and in your church.

As the tech director/worship pastor/senior pastor, it’s your responsibility to create an environment (both physically and spiritually) free from distractions.  This takes time and collaboration with your team. You have to have relationship with the people who plan your Sunday service!  I might step on some toes, but I hope this gets you thinking:

Worship pastors: Do everything in your power to get the slide operator/designer the correct song list.
Worship pastors: Do everything in your power to get the slide operator/designer the correct song list – with the correct arrangement of how you will sing the song.  I get it. Most of you don’t know what you’re singing until you’re singing it. I’m not saying you have to be locked into singing it exactly that way. But there is a way to prepare the slide operator as much as possible.

Senior pastors: Same thing.  If you are writing your sermon during the worship time, please don’t expect the slide operator to perform a small miracle and have your sermon notes perfect.  Either don’t use them in that scenario, or make them very concise.  Please, no walls of text to type in.

Tech Operators: You aren’t off the hook either.  It’s your responsibility to test all the audio/video/lighting systems before the Sunday service. But you also need to know what to do in case something does fail.  Can you bail to black quickly on your projector?  Can you quickly replace a microphone if it dies during the message? Can you quickly find another light to bring up if the only solo light lamp blows?

Here are some practical steps to take this week to reduce distractions in lights and on the screen:

Lighting:

  • Have the lighting operator rehearse the lighting looks with the band.
  • Make sure no gels are burned out or no lamps are blown. Keep your equipment in good shape so it doesn’t fail prematurely during the service.
  • Make sure your lighting console is backed up somewhere (if applicable).
  • Keep the lights out of people’s face (for the most part).
  • Use one or two main colors. Be concise with color choices.

On Screen:

  • Have the lyric operator practice with the band when they rehearse.
  • Switch to the next slide on the second-to-last word of the slide.
  • For worship songs: one phrase at a time on the screen.
  • Make sure your presentation software can play DVD’s seamlessly so you don’t run the risk of losing a cued-up DVD right before the pastor calls for it. (Happened to me plenty of times!)
  • Make sure you have an easy way to bail to black on the screen.
  • Don’t use motion backgrounds that are too fast for worship.
  • Be careful with font choice. Be creative, but be wise and choose a font that’s legible.
  • Avoid special effects – we don’t need the text to fly in from the top left corner.
  • Be wise with font color and make sure there’s enough contrast to read the text over the background (or use an outline and shadow on the text).
  • Either capitalize or don’t capitalize. Be consistent– especially when dealing with “He” or other words like that.
  • There is a difference between “O” and “Oh”. O is direct address. Oh is used to indicate emphasis.
  • Spell-check and proof read. I don’t mean simply get rid of red squiggly marks. Read each slide out loud to make sure you didn’t miss a word when typing.

I hope these tips open your eyes to the little things that make a big impact. The best way to learn is to pause and be observant.  So often we’re scrambling so much to finish typing in the lyrics or getting the lighting just right that we miss some simple things that cause distractions.

Take the time and effort, and look at the details in your service.

About The Author

Camron Ware

Camron Ware is a producer of sacred still media and the founder of Visual Worshiper, a design group that specializes in lighting and projection design for churches and events with a passion for creating engaging environments.

10 Comments

  1. Ron

    Just a suggestion on the on-screen handling tips:

    “Switch to the next slide on the second-to-last word of the slide.” – On a personal experience, I find the ‘rhythm’ technique more effective rather than relying on the ‘words’. ‘Timing’ is about pattern, and every song has one.

    Taking advantage of the ‘pause’ (breaks) are can help for better slide/lyric transition, as abruptly changing the lyrics while the congregation are still reading/singing the line can be a bit distracting especially for those who are unfamiliar with the song.

    This also means that each lyric slide should be prepared “musically” not grammatically.

    Reply
  2. Camron Ware

    Yep! I agree – it does depend on the song rhythm; but I’ve seen that most churches just aren’t to that point yet. My hope hear was to get people at least used to changing before the last word is said. 🙂

    Reply
  3. stephen proctor

    love this.

    text on slides can be such a huge distraction for me. Especially when it covers up beautiful imagery. Good to go lower 3rds if you can.

    Line breaks based on musical & lyrical phrasing is so key.
    Avoid widows & orphans.
    and what really drives me crazy is when the first word of every line is capitalized! drives me nuts. It’s NOT a new sentence, people! =)

    I like to have every character in lower case except for the first word on names or pronouns referring to God. I even uncapitalize “i” … it’s a minor distracting for a few, momentarily, but I’ve mostly gotten good feedback from people who “get it” and truly appreciate it.

    I call it “Kingdom grammar.” =D

    Reply
    • Ryan

      Good thoughts. We’ve always capitalized the first word of each line and I’m not really sure why. Probably because it’s just how we’ve always done it. It never even crossed my mind to change that detail. It makes sense and I’m gonna make a change this week.

      Reply
  4. Tom

    Could you elaborate on this:

    “Keep the lights out of people’s face (for the most part).”

    New to lighting, just looking for some ideas and general guidelines.

    Reply
  5. Nicole

    I was curious about the “keep the lights out of people’s eyes for the most part” too. I’ve done lighting for 5+ years and would like to know your specific philosophy. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. Ron

    @Tom

    I think it simply means “be sensitive on where your pointing that blinding glare.” Especially when the angle of the lights burn directly into the people’s eyeballs (for both those onstage and audience). Why? Because it hurts. And hurts distract. 😀

    While there’s a technical training for this field, you can always adopt a simple rules-of-thumb:
    – if I stand on stage, do the lights keep me from seeing the audience (and notes) instead of helping?
    – if I am part of the audience, do the lights help me see the stage and lyrics instead of preventing?

    (IMHO)

    😀

    Reply
  7. Tom

    Thanks for the comments Ron. I guess I should have been a little more specific. I know lights can hurt. I’d never point a strong light at anyone long enough for it to become painful even if it’s just for a second. But personally I don’t mind having light cross my field of vision. The statement was very open-ended and vague. As if to say “don’t do it except…”. The “…” is the part I’m interested in. Like when is it ok to shine a non-painful light into people’s eyes. I find that when I’m at a concert or worship service and light hits me, it brings about a feeling of connection to the band and sometimes makes me feel like I’ve become a bigger part of the moment. I just didn’t know if that was a common emotional response for most people or not. If anyone has thoughts on this concept/idea please share in a reply.

    Reply
  8. Camron Ware

    It’s always within the context of what you’re doing. I was referring to the churches that just do not think about making sure that there aren’t lights blinding the congregation the whole time.

    There are times when having lights glow in your face is part of the service and context, and that can be powerful, but I’m talking about paying attention to where all your lights are pointing.

    For example: during the message, make sure the pastor’s backlight isn’t blinding the first few rows – that’s not necessary.

    Reply
  9. Camron Ware

    And great additions about the lyrics Proctor!!

    Reply

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