The projection of lyrics in church has become quite normal, even in many traditional environments. The issue of how we project lyrics and the best format was brought to my attention a few weeks ago in my post where I invited you to submit your questions.
This question comes from faithful blog reader, Bill Horn:
“What do you prefer, or what have you found to work best, regarding the format of your projected lyrics? Some examples would be how many lines per slide, how you handle capitalization, etc. This isn’t talked about very often, and I would be interested to hear how you do it at SSCC. Thanks!”
I think that every church has it’s own preference in lyric projection. The best format for one is undesirable for another. It’s subjective so it joins our choice of music and style in being one of those controversial topics that we may agree to disagree on. When you add preferences of font, size, alignment, color, length, and background, we have lots of areas to navigate. At the end of the day I think we can all agree that the sample lyric projection in this post provided by my friend Jamie Brown is NOT the best choice! (See Jamie’s humorous post on “More Backgrounds That Make You Say ‘What?’” on his blog.
I’m going to be inviting Travis Paulding, our Tech Director from SSCC to comment here as well as one of my friends and a well-known VJ, Steven Proctor. (@worshipVJ). They will be able to shed some light on this topic from the technical standpoint as well so come back and check the comments frequently for that discussion.
As is the case with many of the options on lyric formatting, the presence (or lack thereof) of a background image, motion, or logo has everything to do with alignment. Text alignment must take into account the position of background images being used. The lyrics should not clutter the background and at the same time, the background must not overpower the lyrics. We are not singing backgrounds yet they can offer an inspiration to complement the song. My personal preference is to have center alignment when possible but I also find left alignment works well.
This is an area where I’ve struggled. Those who create our slides tend to prefer only a few lines of lyrics per slide. This gives the slide more space. However, I’m much rather have more lines and less changing. The fewer lines on a slide, the more switching back and forth happens. Unless the person controlling the lyrics is extremely familiar with the song arrangement they can easily get lost of distracted. Furthermore, I believe that the lyrics are telling an important story and it helps me to see the entire phrase in context instead of bite-size phrases.
Perhaps my biggest pet peeve in lyric projection is where the line breaks happen. It’s easy to quickly copy and paste lyrics into software without paying attention to the flow of the lyrics. Take the crazy cake example above. Despite the silly chocolate cake background, the lyric length is fine with me and the lyrics break appropriately. An inappropriate version would look like this:
So take me as You find me,
all of my fears and failures,
fill my life again.
I give my life to follow (…)
I see this often and I’d rather have complete phrases or sentences and not half of a thought. In this example if there was not enough room to continue the lyric, I’d start a new slide with “I give my life to follow everything I believe in”.
It’s not only about the grammatical structure and phrasing, it’s also about the musical phrasing. It’s helpful to read the lyrics and even sing them so that you can feel the natural break in the line.
I like backgrounds. At the same time, I hate backgrounds. I’m not a fan of crazy, spirograph animations that are eye candy for the sake of coolness. They distract me. Again, this is all personal preference.
What I am a fan of is tasteful backgrounds that complement the mood and story of the song. If I’m singing about the cross, still or moving images of the cross can reinforce the lyric and bring deeper inspiration and meaning for me. At the same time, I’ve found a few backgrounds in our video library that are more distracting. There is one for example, that has the crosses on a hill with dark clouds blowing by and an occasional flicker of lightning. The lightning flash always distracts me because the room is usually dark and it’s like a strobe effect. When I’m leading I see this bright flash in my peripheral vision and it’s been distracting enough to me that I asked our tech team to only use that when we all agree that it’s needed.
Most of the guys in our tech team prefer to eliminate punctuation. In most cases this is OK but I feel like the punctuation is important in many cases. It impacts the way a line is read or sung. I don’t think you have to use periods at the end of every sentence necessarily but I do like proper capitalization. If a comma is important in the phrase of a lyric I am not opposed to using it at all. I’d also say that although they can easily be overused, an exclamation point can be effective when the lyric is “exclaiming” something that we want our people to champion.
Perhaps the most critical issue in lyric projection is the timing of the change. I’m a fan of having the lyrics change AHEAD OF TIME. I don’t want to wait for the next slide. By the time our congregation is singing the last line or phrase they have already viewed it and have it in their minds. They aren’t reading it word-by-word, they are reading it phrase-by-phrase.
Take for example the “Mighty to Save” song we’ve been using in this post. That last line, “Now I surrender” has a 2-bar musical progression that builds up to the Chorus. I think you should go ahead and present those lyrics so that “Savior, He can move the mountains” is visible before we start singing that Chorus. If you’ve been in the congregation where they wait until the first word is sung before changing the slide it’s very frustrating. Anticipate. Move ahead.
I’d rather make a few mistakes and move ahead prematurely than lagging behind a few syllables on every change.
In conclusion I can say that I ultimately try to give as much creative liberty and power to our technical team as possible. I only bring corrections to lyric projection when I see something that is distracting or if I really feel that we’re missing the mark on thought flow or line breaks. I’ve sometimes watched and noticed the lyric timing lagging and when this happens it’s usually because the person controlling the lyrics didn’t rehearse with the band. They are uncomfortable with the progression of the song or perhaps they are distracted.
There have been a few occasions where I’ve switched roles and assumed the seat of the lyric projection person. I can tell you it was fairly stressful. I felt like I couldn’t disengage even for a second. I’m naturally distracted so I found that I had to really concentrate to not get lost or miss a transition.
It’s not the simple task that you may think. Give honor to your volunteers and thank them for their addition to your team. The reality is they are leading your people and contributing greatly to the worship service by providing the lyrics.
What are your thoughts? Let’s hear them!
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