When to Say When: Using IMAG with sensetivity and heart
“I must appear giant” is how a friend always explained the acronym. For those unaware, IMAG, for short, is the process of using a video camera system to isolate a subject on stage and then enlarge them on a projection screen. With the cost of such systems becoming increasingly more affordable, it’s a popular solution for large facilities (or medium ones with visibility issues) to connect far and non-ideally seated participants with what’s happening on a seemingly distant stage.
Flip the Coin
I break down IMAG into two main categories, the first of which is what I call logistic IMAG. As a pastor gives a message, a camera operator follows intently, allowing onlookers to see the facial expressions and hand gestures more clearly. When a pastor holds up a small trinket or prop, people in the back of the room don’t feel left out asking themselves, “What was it?” It clarifies the complexities of what is happening on stage by pointing the audience’s focus to whatever the camera enlarges on a screen. In this case, cameras are meant to isolate and reproduce what is happening.
The flipside is a much more recent use of IMAG, the artistic side. Simply put, this approach is akin to rock concert imaging, and it’s probably what you’ve seen if your church has a band or choir. Shots are meant more to reflect the energy and mood of what’s happening and consist of things that are out-of-focus or at odd-angles with a higher pacing and rhythm.
In an interesting paradoxical turn, people are becoming disillusioned by video screens. In a normal day, the average person stares at their smartphone, sits at their computer screen for a few hours, then probably relaxes at home to their new flat-panel TV. Come Sunday morning what do those same people do? Because it’s become natural to look to screens for information, they gravitate their eyes to another screen. Therefore, context is everything. What you put up on that screen is very important and should be approached with due consideration.
It’s human nature to see an image and connect our past experiences and knowledge with what we’re seeing. If we look up at a screen and see a shot of a loaf of bread that is being used for communion, we instantly begin to think about what that bread means to us: the sandwich we ate yesterday, the bakery down the street, and that old bread machine under the sink that you never use but always keep meaning to. This isn’t always a bad thing, rather something to keep in mind. Perhaps, taking a more artistic approach and shooting a shot of a cross in the sanctuary could help direct the focus of the room on communion with a stronger emotional effect. Or maybe having a camera shot of a stage light, out of focus, could evoke imagery of stars and the heavens. There’s no right way of course, but in a worship setting, you always need to remember that the essence of what you’re doing is ultimately not about the people or things on stage, but rather the message that they embody. Learn to be intentional about what you focus on and direct screenward.
Don’t Do It
A camera shot is never something you must have. While it may seem important, IMAG is ultimately secondary to what is happening in your space or on your stage. Take a step back before you start an event or service and think about the whole picture and environment. Ask yourself what images can be truly reflective of what’s happening. As soon as an image appears, it captures everyone’s attention, so always have a reason for what is going up on your screens. If you have to think more than twice about using IMAG, then don’t.
About Nicholas Rivero
Calling Nashville, TN home, Nick Rivero is currently out on the road with country artist Lady Antebellum but has traveled with artists such as TobyMac, Chris Tomlin, and Hillsong United, as well as, directed video for events such as the Passion Conference. Stop by nicholasrivero.com and say hey!