Projecting Excellence – Part II

Last week I suggested worship leaders can’t be oblivious to what’s happening on the screen during a worship service, since even the little things can add up to create big distractions. Bad line spacing is one little thing, and the size of the font is another.

If your font size is too big, then you wind up with a slide that is screaming at people and is sensory overload:

How Great is Our GodBAD2

If your font size is too small, then you wind up with a slide that isn’t readable to anyone standing farther back than the first two rows, anyone with poor vision, or anyone who didn’t bring binoculars with them to church.

How Great is Our GodBAD3

A well-chosen font size is neither too big nor too small. It leaves a nice margin around the text box on all sides. It allows the text to fill up the screen nicely so that there isn’t tons of empty space, but it also allows some empty space so that your eye isn’t overwhelmed.

How Great is Our GodGOOD

Things to keep in mind:

  • Can you read the slide comfortably from the very back of the room?
  • Are the words too big? If you’re using a font size 42 and up, the answer might be yes.
  • When you look out on Sunday morning, are people squinting? Your font size is too small.
  • Are people moving their heads in order to follow all the words in the slide? Your font size is too big.
  • Ask some people what they think. Can they read the words comfortably? Ask them to be honest with you.

The size of the font that you use in your slides is not the most major issue you will deal with as a worship leader. But caring about these small details is one way to be faithful even in the little things.

2 thoughts on “Projecting Excellence – Part II

  1. Great thoughts.

    I’ve found that using screens can be a great way to serve the older members of your congregation as long as the font is big enough for them to read. Many of them are farsighted and actually have a difficult time reading from the hymnbooks and leaflets they are often assumed to prefer. Projecting text in a large enough size makes it easier for them to sing along.

    I feel compelled to make a technical note here in support of the guidance you’ve given: Keep in mind that the appropriate font size (not POINT size, but actual size of the projected words) is dependant on the size of the screen and depth of the room. Although many newer facilites have installed something similar to the presentation graphics standard screen size (screen height 1/8 of the farthest view, I believe), many more traditional, long and narrow rooms, have architechtural concerns which dictate smaller screen sizes. Such a situation necessitates use of larger fonts. On the other hand, if your church meets in a cinema, with a wide SMPTE or THX-spec viewing area, you’d probably use smaller fonts.

    Also, note that the relationship between font POINT size and ACTUAL font size depends on what computer program you use and how it is set up. Right now Jamie uses PowerPoint with the default slide size of 10 x 7.5, so that’s what his point sizes are referenced to. But if you mess with the slide size, that changes how point size relates to projected font size. Also, other computer programs like MediaShout and SongShow interpret the point sizes in still different ways. So always trust your eyes.

    Thanks for talking about this Jamie. I appreciate you taking the time to provide guidance to worship leaders in addressing these aesthetic issues which they so often are left to solve on their own. It really makes a difference in minimizing distractions in worship.

  2. Consistency between songs is also important. I find the best approach to producing song lyrics is to find a font size that is comfortably readable and stick with it for every song.

    I also try to produce slides such that the top line of lyrics is always in exactly the same place (usually centred and at the top of the screen).

    I lead worship in two different contexts, at my Church where we have dedicated word projection software which makes life much easier. In this case all of the formatting is identical and the songs are already on the computer typed up correctly for us. Using this software (and to a large extent because of the size and shape of the room we use) we choose to only ever display up to 3 lines at a time, this is important because our room has a low ceiling so unless the words are right near the top people can’t always see them. This does of course mean that the AV guys need to be a bit more proficient at getting the words up in time!

    The other context is within my Christian Union at university. We just use powerpoint there and the worship leader is expected to produce the slides because there are no AV guys around. In this case I always produce slides with a darkish blue background and white words because this produces a more readable contrast than black and white does (white on black can be a bit glaring sometimes). I also put effort into trying to put the slides in the exact order I will be playing the songs through (although this isn’t always possible), and I always put a blank slide in between songs.

    You can also deal with really short lines by putting them to the right of the screen to show they belong to the previous line, this can sometimes look clearer than having two very short lines.

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