Better Song Backgrounds

September 23rd, 2012

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:

Blue Abstract Video Loop from Everett Bowes on Vimeo.

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 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:

Invitation - Letters Motion Background from Len Wilson on Vimeo.

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

Here are 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

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