Laser light sources are revolutionizing the way we are using projectors. This renaissance means your investment in projection can extend even further and provide more value than you've probably imagined. No longer are you limited to projecting onto a screen or a wall; ceilings, floors—even the air—can now be considered a projection surface, given the right tools. What makes much of this possible is the ability to mount a laser projector at any angle that you need.
Don't Get Hot! Get Creative!
It's often forgotten in all the talk about laser's 20,000+ hour light sources and filterless, maintenance-free designs, but one of the biggest changes that these projectors bring to the industry is effective thermal management. Mounting a lamp-based projector in any other orientation than horizontal would quickly lead to overheating because their on-board cooling systems are not designed for any other mounting angle. Projecting onto a ceiling is particularly difficult, as the hot air being generated by the lamp collects inside the case, leading to premature lamp failure. Now that many laser projector models allow for full 360-degree mounting and provide portrait modes, this opens up many options to flex your creativity and find new uses for your projector. Here are a few environmental projection concepts—some which require or would benefit from laser projection—that might work for your house of worship or other community venue.
Interactive Floor/Wall Games
There are a number of companies promoting all-in-one products or add-on hardware and software that turn a space into a virtual playground. The offerings of companies like Lumo Play, MotionMagix, and others can allow kids or grown-ups to directly interact with immersive projections on walls and floors. Maybe you would like to have an interactive floor soccer game or other activity for an event? With most laser projectors you can project straight down and won't need to worry about damaging your projector. This capability can pay large dividends in making an event memorable or increasing engagement.
Scenic Environments on Unused Walls
Many churches have white or light-colored walls that could easily become projection surfaces. Scenic or environmental projection can radically change the look, tone and atmosphere in those spaces...if the light can be properly controlled. I would recommend this capability be utilized for special programs or events, as it may not be right for every church service. But having the ability to do this can dramatically increase the impact on a small or even very large scale. This music video shows one extreme example of how creative projection can be utilized.
This is in the same vein as scenic projection, but generally involves an animation that loops. Connecting with an animator or two on fiverr.com can lead you to having custom, event-specific content that you can use to project onto walls or ceilings. For example, let's say you want to have a Christmas kids' program that utilizes the white ceiling in a classroom. You could have a starry sky being projected onto the ceiling, complete with twinkling stars and the big star over Bethlehem. Or maybe you would like to add some drama to Easter by creating an angry mob being projected onto the side walls of your sanctuary. Your imagination really is the only limitation here as to what you can do. Just search the web for "scenic animations" and you'll see a wide range of ideas, including animations used as backdrops for dramatic productions.
Ceiling Movie Nights
What if you planned a movie night for your children or youth group and wanted to project onto a ceiling? An ultra-short throw laser projector combined with a white ceiling could lead to an engaging experience. (Of course, this would work best on a drywall ceiling, rather than a drop ceiling or ceiling with heavy texture.)
MusicBeam Light Shows
An open-source piece of software called MusicBeam lets you turn your projector into a piece of lighting; the brighter, the better. It detects sound and lets you adjust several settings to mimic the look of high-end moving head light fixtures. You can mimic laser and scanner effects, and much more. And the software is free. So now if you have a couple projectors mounted vertically (pointing straight up) upstage or mounted high up on the stage wall, you can have them act as lighting fixtures. Obviously, they won't be able to pan and tilt, but they could do just about everything else. It works with any projector, but using laser projectors could provide additional capability in that mounting orientation would not be limited, as would happen with a lamp-based projector. Throw some haze into the air with a smoke machine and watch your projectors light up the air around you! It truly is a capability that could add a lot of impact to a church service!
How about projecting event information and/or navigation onto the floor, where people can see it and read it? This is a little out there because floors can be dark, full of patterns, and have a high level of ambient lighting hitting them, but just toss that one around. Humans are usually aware of where they are walking so they don't trip or run into things, and that means the ground is nearly always in our peripheral vision. Running a quick animation on the floor before displaying announcements, upcoming events, etc., could lead to higher engagement, better memory retention, and an overall positive experience.
Full Resolution Mobile-Generated Video
If you have a lot of "user-generated" footage from your church members that has been edited together into a video, you can utilize the portrait option on a laser projector to project in the orientation that many people use when shooting videos on their phones, and potentially get a higher resolution image by mounting the projector vertically. This utilizes the full "width" of the projector's sensor, rather than squeezing the image into a pillar-boxed display that would be required to fit that video into a landscape-oriented frame projected by a conventionally mounted projector.
Having the freedom to mount your projector anywhere in a 360-degree sphere can lead to many new and exciting use cases even beyond what has been discussed here. Do you have your own ideas of how could you use a projector with this capability?
Tim Adams is president and chief systems designer for Timato Systems, an audio/video integration company specializing in servicing the sound, lighting, video, projection and live-streaming needs of churches and other houses of worship. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.