What Is IMAG and When Should You Use It?
Most modern churches already have most of the infrastructure they need to use IMAG in their services. But what exactly is it?
“Image MAGnification” is a term that sounds pretty self-explanatory, but could also have different meanings depending on context. That may be why the event production world has shortened it to “IMAG” when we’re talking about live video of an event projected on screens during that event.
To many, it seems like a very impersonal way to experience an event, but in large venues (like AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, pictured below) or venues where stage visibility is a problem, it’s a necessity if the people sitting far away from the action want to have any idea what’s going on. In the context of sporting events and concerts, IMAG allows attendees to experience the event, even if they were only able to afford the cheap seats.
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX – Home of the Dallas Cowboys.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR IMAG
There are a lot of different ways to build the infrastructure for IMAG, so we’re not going to dive into specifics, but here are some of the basic requirements to be able to get started.
Cameras – Technically, you only need one, but having at least 2 gives you the ability to cut between angles so the audience doesn’t have to watch you make camera adjustments live.
Camera Operators – Yeah, you could get remote-controllable or auto-follow cameras, but you’ll still need someone to operate them. These team members should be well-versed in quickly finding sharp focus and following more mobile stage communicators.
Director – The director is the one making the calls to change camera angles and video feeds, giving feedback to camera operators, and generally making the video production feel seamless. A technical director would relieve the actual switching duties from the director and free him up for more creativity.
Comms Devices – The director and camera operators (among other members of the production team) need to be able to communicate in realtime in a way that won’t be distracting. Headset walkie-talkies are a great way to do this. I’ve even heard of some teams using cell phone conference calls with headphones for this.
Production Switcher – This is the piece of gear that will allow you to switch between cameras and other video feeds like your presentation machine or a queued up video.
Projector & Screen – Unless you’re only using it for streaming your service (and not using it live), you’ll want something on which to display the image. Most contemporary churches these days already have this piece covered.
FOOTBALL GAMES, SURE. BUT CHURCH?
As churches adapt to and adopt new technologies, it’s not uncommon for them to hear pushback from people who think those technologies are only suitable for “secular” venues and events. While it’s important to listen to that feedback (this article tackles the same idea when choosing worship backgrounds), it’s also important to consider the value the technology can bring to your service. According to a popular study, human communication is only 45% words and voice. When we’re trying to connect with the people to whom we’re communicating, body language and facial expressions make up the other 55%. Another study found that (surprise) there is a direct correlation between our ability to accurately perceive facial expressions and our distance from the face (and they only tested up to a distance of 7 feet).
Ultimately, the intent of using IMAG is to facilitate more impactful, more personal communication from the stage. In a 300-seat church, the people in the “cheap seats” are probably about 8-12 yards away from the communicator. Some experts say the minimum distance for which IMAG is necessary is about 30 yards. In either case, the goal is for attendees to feel more connected and engaged to the speaker than they would without IMAG. (So, if your subject doesn’t appear much bigger on screen than in real life, using IMAG is probably not your best option).
IMAG at Echo 2012 – Scott McClellan interviews Tony Hale. It’s readily apparent how much more distinguishable Tony’s facial features are on IMAG—and this picture wasn’t taken from very far away.
A lot of churches have cameras shooting IMAG-style content for the entire duration of their services. While this is great for a streaming feed, I’d personally argue that it’s NOT great to use IMAG in the live context during musical worship. When the goal is for the church to participate in what’s happening on stage, IMAG can be distracting and even awkward. Don’t get Trent Armstrong (Igniter After Effects guru and blog contributor) started on the time he watched a saxophone player dump out his spit valve on IMAG).
A good rule of thumb: if you want the congregation to pay attention, IMAG is great; if you want them to participate, don’t use IMAG.
As with most creative decisions, whether or not you use IMAG is best decided in collaboration with your church’s leadership and with respect to feedback from your team and church. The good news is, if you go down the IMAG road, but end up deciding it doesn’t work for you, your time and money haven’t been wasted. You’ve just invested in a pretty stellar infrastructure to up your livestreaming game!
Did you know that Igniter has recently begun offering lower third graphics with some of our title graphics? (Lower thirds are transparent PNG files designed to be used as an overlay on top of an IMAG video, as a place to put text that you don’t want to take up the whole screen). Purchase them a la carte, or become a member and get unlimited access to them, and everything else on IgniterMedia.com.