My Favorite Way to Do Song Backgrounds in Worship

… is not shifting blobs of color.

Most large, contemporary-style worship services have settled into a routine for worship projection that displays individual lines of songs over random colors, shaped and lines. Here’s an example:

Eh, not great, not horrible. Just … eh. That’s no criticism of the production values of this clip, which is as good if not better than most of a similar style. Rather, it’s the style that fails to move. It’s not a completed video as much as it is an element, or a layer, for a more sophisticated production. It’s a texture, like a full shot of blades of grass of a piece of parchment paper. It’s meant to be used with something else, not by itself.

Few of these textured video backgrounds add anything to a worship experience. I believe the main reason most producers and worship leaders select them is to cover the low bar of No Distraction. I suppose it’s better than the early days of worship projection, when many churches tried to illustrate text.

If you’ve been in worship production, you may remember these wild west days. Anything went. On lyrics such as “God of wonders beyond our galaxy / you are holy, holy” by Chris Tomlin, illustrating text was easy – space footage! Just go to NASA.gov and get some great shots, and you’re set.

But what about a classic like Rock of Ages?

Verse 1, no problem:

 

But what happens in verse 3?

Um, sir, what do I put with this slide?

Avoiding these kinds of faux pas and je ne sais quoi has left us with a set of non-descript, non-offensive blobs of blue, red and green, year after year.

Ooh, look – this week it’s vertical instead of horizontal!

 

Is there a better way?

Why, yes, glad you asked. What if we create imagery that reinforces the core idea of the message series, either of the day or of the whole series? At the very least it might be a matching color palette or set of textures or lines that reinforce the series branding. Even better, a related motion background might capture the visual metaphor that drives the series, and contribute to its meaning.

One series I produced, called “The Invitation,” invited people to consider God’s love to us as prodigals by using old letters, to evoke the emotional connection of a loving friend writing from afar.

I created opening series animations and short bumpers and elements for worship, as many churches do. But then I extended the palette into the song set by creating a set of motion background pieces that looped under lyrics. More than avoiding distraction, the background videos served to reinforce the core message of God’s love for us. Here is one of the clips:

Next time you’re producing a series for worship, consider how you might use song lyrics as an opportunity for visual communication.

 

Here’s three ways to create design consistency between theme and songs:

1) use the core visual metaphor in song backgrounds

2) use the design elements, such as lines, shapes, and graphic pieces

3) use the same color palette as the main theme

4 Comments on “My Favorite Way to Do Song Backgrounds in Worship”

  1. Great article that really shows how to continue adding message in message.  I have only used a modified background slide taken from the main graphic for words.  Someone taught me how to do that a long time ago. Hmmmm……. However I must tell you I couldn’t load the video with your final lyrics video.  Not sure if the problem is on my end or yours.  🙁

  2. I agree totally with your long-taught concept regarding using all projected imagery… behind lyrics, scripture, etc as a way to unite the worship topic of the day and sermon background image(s). I did this for a number of years, and custom designed still images each Sunday with a primary title graphic, and then 2-3 themed background images that worked for scripture, songs, sermon points, etc.

    The trouble I’ve run into in the past several years is that it is no longer acceptable in most contemporary worship contexts to use stills behind everything. If you’re not running full motion loops behind every song, then your worship looks just as dated as if you were singing “God of Wonders”. Loops are much more time-intensive to create, and require a totally different skillset in programs like AfterEffects, etc than still-oriented graphic design does. As most video folks know, a video element takes 10 times (or more) longer to create than a still element.

    Without an unlimited budget to purchase pre(pro)-made packages (like Midnight Oil’s… which – while great – sometimes limits the creativity of the worship design to fit the graphic rather than the graphic fitting the needs of the local community)… or without the ability of the church to pay a significant part-time or full-time staff member to do creative artist work, How do you suggest medium to small size churches continue to follow through with this united-imagery concept?

      1. My difficulty comes most with your suggestion to “1) use the core visual metaphor in song backgrounds”. Like I said, I think that this is an incredibly valuable suggestion. I think that just using the same color palette (but generic), or using related shapes doesn’t necessarily live up to the potential that this base idea suggests in terms of carrying the message and metaphor through. Looking forward to your future post  =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *