All posts tagged software

20 Steps To Maximize ProPresenter On Your Mac

20 Steps To Maximize ProPresenter On Your Mac

In today’s guest post, we get to hear from the legendary Joel Smith from ChurchMedia.Pro:

When I was a tech director, I had a love/arrrgh relationship with ProPresenter. While it was 98% love (seriously, Renewed Vision has done an amazing job with this software), every once in a while I would discover new quirks about the software or the Mac. Everything in this list was implemented on our system and taken from my 13 years of experience with Macs and 7 years of experience with ProPresenter. That system ran solid week in and week out for 3 years with only one crash (sigh, nearly perfect).

This is a simple guide to help you get the most out of the software and system you have. It is not absolute and things will differ for every situation. I also don’t claim to be “the man” when it comes to ProPresenter or Macs. While I’m pulling from personal experience, I’m constantly learning and definitely not perfect. I encourage you to take this list and apply it in your own context to what works for you and your system. Without any further ado, let’s get started:

1. Use A Dedicated Computer

While this might be a no-brainer, it needs to be stated. Using a dedicated system is the best way to keep it running at its peak. If your daily computer or some multi-purpose production computer is also used for ProPresenter, the odds of issues happening go way up. Keeping a lean system is key to assuring everything runs smooth. It’s also easier to troubleshoot when things do go wrong.

2. Use A Solid State Hard Drive (SSD)

The cost of SSDs has dropped enough for it to become a fairly cheap way to boost performance in a computer. Now, this is not an “SSDs are better than spinning drives” argument. I recommend finding whatever works reliably for you. If you have a spinning drive that works great for you, keep using it. However, I have had great success using SSDs for system drives, especially in older systems. If you don’t have budget for a new system but want a performance boost, try installing an SSD. I recommend the Samsung EVO Pro series of drives or the OWC SSD drives from MacSales.

3. Use A Separate Hard Drive For Media/Content

Using a separate hard drive for all media/content can save you a ton of time and headaches if/when your system drive crashes. It will also save time when you need to do a clean install or re-install of the operating system. I used a 250GB SSD for the system drive (operating system only) and a high-performance 1 TB drive for content/media (videos, images, audio, ProPresenter library, backups of fonts and necessary system files). If you’re using a laptop for ProPresenter, a separate media/content drive is not necessary. You can run everything just fine off one drive, but having 2 drives makes system maintenance and upgrades more flexible.

4. Use A Solid Black Desktop Background

This way, if ProPresenter happens to crash the audience won’t see a pic of your family vacation or a galaxy on the screens.

5. Turn OFF Screen Savers

You don’t want the dictionary word of the day accidentally showing up an hour into an event or service.

6. Turn OFF Mission Control Settings

This includes hot keys and hot corners. This removes the chance of an operator accidentally bringing up Spaces or the Dashboard when running the software.

7. Turn OFF Notifications

This is just a way to eliminate distractions for operators. Notifications technically won’t hurt anything, but they could possibly get in the way of some button or slide.

8. Turn Display Off After NEVER

You don’t want the monitor to shut off during anything important. You can always physically turn monitors off when you leave (this is a good habit to have).

9. Turn OFF “Put hard drives to sleep when possible”

You don’t want your operator falling asleep, it’s the same for your hard drives.

10. Turn OFF Mouse Gestures

Not everyone uses the same gestures or mouse setup. Keep it simple by using only a standard left-click and right-click mouse setup. This means turning off multi-touch gestures and zooming. Also, I recommend the old school scroll down for down and scroll up for up.

11. Alert Volume OFF (0%)

It’s everyone’s luck that a duck quack alert will go off during a prayer or quiet moment. Disabling these alerts puts the odds in your favor.

12. Turn OFF “Play user interface sound effects”

This setting is key to avoiding any random sounds developed by your Mac. It also goes a long way to turn off “Play feedback when volume is changed” in your audio settings.

13. Turn OFF All System/Software Updates

You want to control what is updated and when it is updated. The last thing you need right before a service or event is OS X to update and something in that update break your system or cause issues. If it’s working, you shouldn’t have to update that often or at all.

14. Turn Time Machine OFF

If you need Time Machine, at least use a Time Machine scheduler to schedule around your event/service times. I used a scheduler to only allow backups between midnight and 6 AM. I also made a point to do manual backups of content and ProPresenter files every few months. This can be done by simply copying those files to an external hard drive.

15. System Volume At 100%

This should always stay the same. This ensures audio to your console/mixer is always the same. This also removes any guesswork when you need to troubleshoot audio issues. I’ve also found this lessens noise in trouble consoles when outputting from the headphone jack of the computer.

16. Close All Applications When Leaving The Computer

When I was on staff at the church, there were a few guys (ahem, student ministers) that were notorious for leaving ProPresenter open after their events. On a number of occasions I would notice, sometimes days later, that ProPresenter had locked up (as in frozen) because of this. One of my mantras was “leave it like you found it”. That meant closing all applications and restarting the computer when you were done. This way you were leaving the system ready for whoever came in next.

17. Be A Religious Restarter

I got made fun of when I was on staff at the church for always restarting computers. One thing I did with all production computers was leave them running 24/7 (running, never sleeping). This is not necessary but something I believe helps Macs run solid. Here’s the reason why I chose to leave them running. Restarting is an easy way to know the computer is running fresh before you begin. Since you may not know who was on the computer before you or what was done on it last, it’s always good to restart the computer before a rehearsal or event. Note: Be sure to deselect the “Reopen windows when logging back in” checkbox before restarting. If you’re on a laptop, I recommend shutting down after use and storage. It also wouldn’t hurt to leave the laptop plugged in and running overnight every few weeks.

18. Do Not Install Non-Essential Applications

This will hurt someone’s feelings, but I’m going to say it anyway. DO NOT INSTALL MICROSOFT OFFICE ON YOUR PROPRESENTER COMPUTER. In fact, don’t install any applications, preference panes or software that is not essential to running ProPresenter. If someone insists on sending you Microsoft Word .DOC files for notes or lyrics, either ask them to start sending PDFs or convert it on another computer. One of the great thing about Macs is that they can read most filetypes without running the necessary software.

19. Run ONLY ProPresenter During “Show Time”

A lot of people, especially those that don’t use Macs on a regular basis, tend to leave applications running on Mac and don’t realize they’re doing so. They think clicking the red X button in the top left of the app’s window quits the application, when in fact it just closes the window. They also may not understand what happens when an application is open or runs in the background. Make it a habit to close all apps on the computer before things get started. Better yet, make it a policy that no apps except ProPresenter can run on that computer at all times. This was more of an issue a few years ago when it was pushing even the sturdiest of systems to run ProPresenter. Now it’s not as big of a deal if you have a newer system, but it is still a good habit to practice.

20. Reinstall The OS Every 12–18 Months

Even the best of systems need a refresh every year or so. Cache files, missing file links and corrupt files build up over time and can cause the system to slow down. I made it priority to reinstall a fresh (no Time Machine backups) installation of OS X every year or so. It may seem overkill or too much work, but if it saves one major crash it’s worth it.

Bonus Tips/Tricks

  • Create a custom desktop background for the main monitor with the computer’s title. That way anyone walking in knows what the computer does. It also helps to recognize easily what computer you’re on if you screen share often.
  • Schedule the computer to restart automatically on a schedule. I set our system to restart every Sunday morning at 6:00 AM so it was fresh for rehearsal at 7:45.
  • Use a wired keyboard and mouse. Nothing worse than batteries dying at the worst time.

What other things do you do to keep your system running snappy? Let me know in the comments!

8 Tweaks For The Ultimate Projection Computer – 8 Tweaks For The Ultimate Projection Computer

Live media has changed a lot in the past 20 years for churches. Overhead transparencies have been replaced with presentation software. Keyboards have been replaced with MIDI controllers and laptops. And while computers have brought a new world of convenience into the worship environment, they are not perfect machines: apps crash, batteries die, and hard drives fail.  

As it turns out, many of the convenient features about owning a personal computer become inconvenient when that computer is used in a live production environment. What if I told you that by eliminating some of these features you could prevent most of the blunders that cause distractions in your services?

Here are eight tweaks that I’d recommend making on your church’s projection computer immediately:

1. Disable Instant Messaging Apps (Including FaceTime)

We’ve all been there…the pastor is in the middle of a powerful message when suddenly, an innocent but obtrusive chime comes over the PA.  Someone is receiving a message during service…and now the entire crowd knows it.  Make sure to disable – nay, uninstall – all instant messaging apps, including FaceTime.  The last thing you need is someone trying to video chat with you in the middle of worship.

2. Close Your Web Browser

Web browsers can cause computers to crawl sometimes. Many websites have popups that include audio – be it a minor chime or a full musical track. Most web-based e-mail services (i.e. Gmail) have a chat feature that, if left open, will play a sound as soon as you receive any chat-related alerts. With all of this being said, it’s best just to leave your browser closed during services.

3. Turn Off Wi-Fi

Yes, I said it.  If a computer is being used for media in your environment, it should be disconnected from the internet during your services.  In addition to solving the problems in tweaks 1 and 2, this will also prevent any alerts in the event that your computer loses wi-fi signal temporarily. (Tip: To continue using apps such as the ProPresenter remote without internet, try using the “Create Network” feature on your Mac.)

4. Disable Mouse Shortcuts (Including Hot Corners)

When using computers on a daily basis, a mouse shortcut to reveal your desktop is great. In a worship environment, it’s a nightmare. No one should be seeing your “Hang In There Kitty” desktop in the middle of worship.  I’ve also found that when training a volunteer that is not as familiar with computers, their first response to accidentally activating the desktop shortcut is to raise their hands away from the computer in panic. Your life will be easier if you just disable all mouse buttons/shortcuts except left and right click.

5. Disable Screen Saver & Display Sleep

This may seem like an obvious one, but when setting up a new computer, it can be easy to forget. Make sure to disable your screen saver, as well as display sleep, to prevent them from coming on mid-service. I’ve seen this happen too many times right in the middle of a Pastor’s message.

6. Disable Bluetooth

Again, this is a feature designed for convenience: If any bluetooth accessories that come into signal range of your computer, they’ll automatically connect.  Unfortunately, since many people are carrying around bluetooth-enabled devices, this can cause some issues.  To prevent accidentally connecting to a phone or wireless mouse that someone in the crowd has, just disable bluetooth.

7. Set Your Wallpaper To Solid Black

As convenient as presentation software is, it’s not bulletproof.  Every once in a while, it crashes.  Having a black background on your screens will ensure that, in the event of a crash, it will be less of a distraction (maybe even unnoticeable).  Having the default desktop background appear on screen is a sign to everyone that something is wrong in the booth. 

Update: Thanks to Jon Sheperd for the suggestion: As an alternative to a black background, you could use your church’s default slide or your current sermon series graphic as a background in case of a software crash.

8. Use A Wired Keyboard and Mouse

Nothing is worse than having your mouse batteries die in the middle of a fast worship song.  By using wired mice and keyboards on all your production computers, you’ll never have to think about batteries again. 


A good friend once told me that production is more about covering mistakes that happen than running everything perfectly.  While there’s no such thing as a perfect Sunday, using these tips will hopefully help you to prevent some of the failures that can be a distraction in your services.

Do you have any other tips that you’d add to the list?

3 Essential Elements of Video Announcements

Three Essential Elements of Video Announcements

Today’s post is from my friend, Brady Shearer. He is an extremely talented blogger, podcaster, and church media guru. I highly recommend following him on Twitter at @BradyShearer.

Video announcements for churches can be a toss-up. When they’re done well, they’re enjoyable to watch, informative, and brief. But when they’re done poorly, video announcements can be painful to endure.

In the last year alone I’ve produced more than 1000 different editions of video announcements. I’m the founder of and we create video announcements every single week for churches across North America.

We’re continuously refining how we approach and produce video announcements. Instead of simply making minor tweaks, I like to find easy changes that produce maximum benefits. For instance, rather than obsess over motion graphics or perfect lighting, I’ve identified what I think are the three most important elements of quality video announcements. If your church can focus on these three core values, your video announcements will be excellent.

3 Essential Elements of Video Announcements

1. Tell a story. Don’t tout information.

Observe the following two examples…

Announcement Example #1

“Men’s Retreat is next week. The cost is $85 per guy. Make sure you get your money in to Pastor Dan before Friday at noon. We’ll be meeting at the church at 5:00 PM and leaving from there. Don’t miss it!”

Announcement Example #2

“Men’s Retreat is next week. [Insert hilarious story from last year about the flag football game] Every detail you need is on the website. Don’t miss it!”

Despite popular belief, the purpose of video announcements is not to share details, specifics, and extensive information. The purpose of video announcements is to inform your church of the most important things happening, and compel them to get involved. The two examples above are very similar. But in Example #1, every possible detail is crammed into the announcement. The problem with this approach is that people don’t remember details!

Hoping your church remembers dates, times, phone numbers, or email addresses mentioned during video announcements is a losing approach. If you want men to attend your men’s retreat, share a story that connects with them. They can always find the details later on your website.

2. The perfect length is…

Using stories is a smart approach, but it won’t really matter if your video announcements are eight-minutes long. We’ve found that the perfect length for video announcements is three-minutes or less. Anywhere between two-minutes and three-minutes is the absolute sweet spot. This works out to approximately five announcements included each week.

Remember, the purpose of video announcements shouldn’t be to share an exhaustive itinerary of church life. The purpose is to share what’s most important, and compel your church to get involved.

3. Don’t put that person on camera

Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma produces some of the best video announcements around. They’re a church of more than 10,000 people, and can you guess how many video announcements presenters they have? Fewer than 5.

Presenting on camera is unlike any other type of presentation. I’ve seen the most dynamic pastors freeze in front of a camera as soon as it begins to record. Growing to be a quality on-camera presenter takes time – a considerable amount of time. Be conscious of whom you’re putting on the screen.


Of course, I think outsourcing your video announcements is a great idea. When I was the Media Director on staff at my church, I spent more than 10 hours per week coordinating, scripting, producing, and editing our weekly video announcements. I can help with that.

The best question to continuously ask yourself is – what are we trying to accomplish with this announcement? Share stories, keep it brief, use a quality presenter, and your video announcements will be excellent.

Five Creative Ministry Tips: 9/4/14

Five Creative Ministry Tips - September 4th, 2014

Every week, we’re excited to share a five-pack of useful tips for those serving in creative ministry! Each Thursday, we post practical advice on topics such as media, social networking, design, and marketing. While these tips may be simple, they have the potential to radically improve your church. These images are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ready, so help us spread the word by sharing them with your followers!

Lyrics should be displayed just before they're sung. Sermon points should be displayed just after they're spoken. Most people won't listen to a hour long sermon online. Consider creating five minute recap video or audio clips that highlight key points. When was the last time you learned a new tool in your design software? Make it a priority to explore new methods often. Posting flyers in local businesses and on community bulletin boards is extremely affordable and still works great for promoting events. Try hard. Pray hard. Everything else is just details.

Like these photos? Get them here: Photo 1Photo 2Photo 3Photo 4Photo 5

Five Qualities of Great Sermon Slides

For a lot of churches, you’ve moved beyond the conversation on how you can integrate sermon slides into your services. You’ve got a PowerPoint, Keynote, or your slides in ProPresenter covered. You’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. But, just because you have these components in your service doesn’t make them effective. Sermon slides are not foolproof. In fact, I would even say that sermon slides done wrong could even distract from your preaching.

Here are five qualities of all great sermon slides:

1. They Have Engaging Imagery

Son of God Sermon SlideWhen you step into Barnes & Noble, you’re greeted by captivating imagery on every shelf. As you walk down the New York Times Bestseller aisle, you see excellent design on every cover. Why is this? Publishers know that to get 1,000 pages of story to sell in this age, you must first sell engaging imagery. It’s the same for us on Sunday mornings. For people to spend 20-40 minutes listening to your story, you must give them an engaging “cover” to capture their attention. The best way to accomplish this is with a great title slide that sparks the curiosity of your listeners.

2. They Make It Easier To Follow Along

Scripture-2You know what Sundays are famous for other than church? Sleeping. You know what sermons are famous for? Putting people to sleep. Don’t be that church. Don’t be that preacher. What if I told you that great sermon slides would keep your audience more attentive during messages? By displaying all of your scriptures, quotes, and points, you’re more likely to keep listeners’ minds off of other things and their eyes from dozing. Also, by presenting your information in two ways (speech and text), you’ll make it easier to follow your train of thought.

3. They Illustrate Your Message

Dad_Photo_SlideAccording to the 3M Corporation, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. People have higher levels of attention, comprehension, and retention when teaching is presented in a visually rich form. God has clearly wired us to be a visual people. Beyond a great title slide, I recommend building images into your slides throughout your message. Telling a story from when you were a kid? Why not show a childhood photo? Speaking on fatherhood? Why not show a photo of a father and son together? People connect with images in a way that goes so much further than your words. When combined, you’ll leave a lasting impression.

4. They Make It Simple To Take Notes

Sermon_Slide_Template-Images.005One of the biggest things I learned from visiting Elevation Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America, is that taking notes is a big deal. When you walk into the super modern church, everyone is given a 8.5 x 5.5 note card and a pen. When I first saw this card was mostly for taking notes on the sermon, I honestly chuckled a little at the thought that people were going to take notes in that kind of environment. But, to my surprise, everyone around me was taking notes on the pastor’s sermon. They made it super simple to do this by including every major point, scripture, and quote on their screens. They even went a step further by including some fill-in-the-blank points. Each of these slides were kept concise and were displayed long enough for everyone to jot them down.

5. They Scream “Share This Information!”

Sermon SlideA few days ago, I had one of my most popular tweets ever. It read, “A retweet is basically a digital AMEN.” When something resonates with people in 2014, our natural response is wanting to share it with our friends and followers. I suggest building your sermon slides in a way that encourages your congregation to share it with their social media audience. I recommend displaying a “social bar” for the entire duration of your message. This sermon slide add-on paints a clear picture of exactly how they can share this content with their friends. Include hashtags and all of the social networks your church is on. I also recommend displaying tweetable points that fit in Twitter’s 140 character limit.

Do you have any other tips for great sermon slides?