September 9, 2020

Projecting music: What you’ll need to begin

Projecting music: What you’ll need to begin

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of projection as a means of aiding the assembly in worship was already on the rise. Due to the restrictions on physical objects within the worship space, parishes have begun to adopt new methods even more rapidly. Parishes have also been inquiring about projected worship aids as they plan for the future. Here’s what you’ll need to begin projecting music at Mass.

What does it cost?

Projection is a method of supporting the worship of the assembly that has a higher initial setup cost. However, savings may be found in the long term for parishes using projection. The immediate thought many have is that there will be a significant cost savings by not purchasing books to put in the pews. The projector itself can cost several thousand dollars, and you may need more than one projector. You may consider purchasing a $300 projector on Amazon and setting it on the first pew. While that sort of a solution might buy the parish some time to make a more permanent solution, it’s certainly not a sustainable model for the long-term needs of the assembly. Realistically the starting budget request for a permanent move to projection should be somewhere between $5,000 and $20,000. The dependencies that may inflate this startup cost are:

  • Distance between projector and projection surface
  • Brightness of the church
  • Architecture that requires multiple projectors or complex installation
Another thing to consider: A quality projector’s lifespan should be at least 10,000–20,000 hours of continuous use, so you should be budgeting for a replacement over decades not years.

What specifications should I be looking at for a projector?

The brighter the space, the brighter your projector will need to be. Think about the worst-case scenario for projection in your parish. Is there a particular Mass that will be impacted by extremely bright sunlight?

You’ll also want to take into account how many people your parish can seat. recommends 5,000 lumens for small congregations of around 100–150 and 6,000 lumens for congregations of 250 or more. However, it’s not a good idea to optimize for the lowest brightness possible. If your projector will be set at the maximum brightness level for the duration of its life, it won’t last as long. And if it uses bulbs, it will burn them out faster. You should purchase a projector that can still reasonably be seen at around 75% brightness. For these reasons, you should be looking at projectors capable of 5,000 lumens or higher, erroring on the side of greater brightness levels.

Throw distance
Another specification to consider is the throw distance of the projector. Most cheaper projectors are designed to be operated on a screen that is 10–20 feet from the projector. You either want a ‘short throw’ projector that can be set up incredibly close to the projection surface, for example just a few inches away, or you want a projector that can be installed on a wall to the congregations back which may need to throw the image much further than your typical ‘medium throw’ projector. Many projectors also have lens modifications, allowing you to adjust the throw distance.

Type of projector
Projectors have become as diverse as TVs, regarding the technology that drives them. Here’s a short list of options:

  • DLP – Digital light processing
  • LCD – Liquid crystal display
  • LCoS – Liquid crystal on silicone
  • LED – Light-emitting diode
  • Laser

The last two options on that list, LED and laser, do not require replacement bulbs and are rated for 20,000–30,000 hours of use. They are more expensive, but they will last longer. Additionally, they will run slightly dimmer than their DLP, LCD and LCoS counterparts.

Another thing to consider: You may need multiple projectors, depending on the architecture of your worship space.

Will I need to install a projection screen?

Not necessarily. Often parishes have an appropriately sized open wall in the transepts or over the top of the sanctuary. It is often the best-case scenario to project directly onto such a wall. Projecting onto existing architectural surfaces helps to reduce the intrusion the digital media brings into the worship experience. At the appropriate moments during the liturgy, the necessary texts simply appear on the wall and then disappear when no longer needed. This helps to limit distracting or intrusive elements into the worship space and keep the parishioners focused on their physiological experience of the Mass.

If architecture disallows this method of projection, a screen will have to be used. In this scenario, it is imperative that the screen respect the sanctuary and other existing architectural elements.


Do I need other technological components to support projection?

Yes. At the bare minimum, you will need a computer. The performance of a computer for projection does not need to be very high though. Computers running projection only need to be able to run the projection software, which is often PowerPoint, ProPresenter or Faithlife Proclaim. In the latter two instances mentioned, the only need would be an internet connection.

Another potential piece to add would be a connection to the parish sound system. There should be a dedicated line-in channel from your mixing board that allows the computer audio to play over the sound system.

Another thing to consider: You might want to augment the projection experience with a piece of Bluetooth technology to allow you to change slides from the pews rather than from whatever broom closet you have the computer hiding in. Options include a Bluetooth pedal, like those sold by AirTurn, or a handheld Bluetooth remote.

Do I need a license?

The short answer is yes. You probably need more than one depending on what you are projecting. The long answer is an entire blog post which you can read here.


Do I need to have a dedicated parish staff member for projection?

Again, this depends. Some parishes may simply not have the resources to pay for such a position. That being said, setting up, maintaining and executing projection is a lot of work, especially for multiple liturgies. It may not be a full-time position in and of itself, but someone on staff should be responsible for the quality of the slides.


Can I cancel and remove all my other assembly support if we are running a projector?

The short answer is no. Here’s why. Projection can achieve a lot, but you must take into account its limitations. Projection is not a touchstone. Just like considerations for obtrusive projection screens, we have to consider the physiological experience that is the liturgy. The Mass is meant to be a lived experience that we see, touch, taste, feel, smell. The sacred Word on a printed page is an experience that many in your assembly may need to feel rooted in their faith.

Another thing to consider: What your parishioners may need right now, if they can’t hold a book while sitting in the pew, is that same book at home with them — connecting them to the parish regardless of their location. We’ve created a program at OCP to help you do just that. Learn more

Fill out the form below to receive a more in-depth look at the materials needed for song projection.

Jethro Higgins
Jethro Higgins

Jethro Higgins, father of 6,  has Directed Youth & Young Adult ministry programs and led liturgical music ensembles since 2004. Jethro received his Master of Science in Business Analysis from the Catholic University of America and is currently studying at The Augustine Institute in the Master of Arts in Theology program.