Did you know some churches were doing multi-media before personal computers were heard of?
I used to spend hours - no, days – gathering 35mm slides and sorting them on light boxes, creating a visual presentation to enhance choir musicals. Usually we used 2 projectors with a dissolve unit, but when we wanted to get über fancy, we went to the third projector. The third unit was for title slides, and it seemed like the frontier of ultra-modern communication at that time. Our choirs usually sang to recorded tracks. No, they weren’t CD’s. We used a reel to reel 4-track tape deck, with 10-inch reels.
Here’s how the process went:
- Gather slides from helpful people.
- Figure out a story board and start eliminating pictures.
- Arrange the best photos on a light board.
- Start loading them alternately: slide 1 in the left carousel, slide 2 in the right, 3 in the left, etc. (This while keeping in mind the slide had to go in upside down and backwards.)
- During the process you had to remember where you wanted a blank screen and insert a cardboard dummy slide. (Later projectors automatically detected a missing slide and gave the needed blank screen.)
When that was done, I double-checked by cycling through the pictures manually using the dissolve unit to be sure the flow all made sense. If a slide was off by one, it meant that you had to move a whole series of them. That involved criss-crossing between carousels, moving slides from right to left and left to right to get the order fixed.
When all was in order, the fun started. Here’s how programming worked:
- Set up the dissolve unit by connecting the signal output to the input of an unused track on the tape deck.
- Play the music.
- Manually record cues to time the slide movement with the music.
- Start over on the song if you get one cue wrong – even if it’s the next to last cue.
- Keep doing that until you fall asleep or finish, whichever is first.
- Rewind the tape.
- Reset the carousels to zero.
- Reset the dissolve unit.
- Switch dissolve unit from record to play.
- Switch cable from output to tape deck to input from tape deck
- Test the whole show.
Days later, when it was all done, you could play the music for the choir and the deck ran the slide cues automatically. People in the late 70′s and early 80′s were wowed by that. We didn’t think it could be improved.
Can you say “Those were the days”?
It was fun, but what a time-vacuum. Things could go wrong too. If a carousel forgot to advance due to a corrupt signal or a jammed slide, your whole presentation would be off a half a beat. More than once I found myself frantically signaling (in stealth mode, of course) the tech person, or actually running to the machine to manually advance the offending carousel. To add to the intrigue, if you had a more than 160 slides, you had to have an alert operator change out the carousels at the right moment while things were running! No time for boredom. (There were 140-slide carousels, but they tended to jam too easily.)
If the dissolve unit fritzed out on you, you were done. This happened to me once during a slide presentation carefully prepared to celebrate the high school graduates of our congregation. The dissolve unit shorted on a cue, and that was that. No coaxing could change the situation that Sunday morning. The music continued; the slides didn’t. My good partner in ministry jumped to the rescue and we finished that program on the fly, now using hard cuts instead of the wonderful soft dissolves I’d programmed. We each used a piece of paper to alternately cut one projector image while the other manually advanced his projector. Great teamwork that was, but certainly an anticlimactic finish.
Technology has left all that in the dusty past. I actually kind of miss it, except for the time factor. It felt less sterile.
What do you think? What are your memories of now ancient technology used in worship gatherings? How much different do you think the use of technology will be in our culture and our worship gatherings in just 10 more years? What was actually better in your opinion than what we use now? How can what we now use be improved?