At Central, we use the open source program OpenLP.org for our lyrics projection. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the commercial apps have – but it’s simple, fast, and free. These are three great traits for a church running on a shoestring IT budget.
OpenLP recently releases their 2.0 beta for general use, and I immediately picked up on a feature that I felt was going to be “killer.” it’s not the new song editor, or the ability to play videos from within the app. These are nice features, to be sure, but they aren’t something that utterly blew me away. What blew me away is a hidden gem called “stage view.”
Stage view is linked to a new remote plugin in OpenLP 2.0. This starts a local web-server which creates a nice AJAX enabled website. Actually, it creates two web-sites. The first site (for which it was devised) allows a client to control the songs as they are projected on the screen. It’s fast and well thought-out, but there does need to be a better way to switch songs the interface. The second site is the aforementioned “stage view.” In stage view, the lyrics of the current song show up in a reverse contrast theme, Each “page” shows the current song in white, with the next slide below it in grey. Above the lyrics is the programmed progression of the song, so people viewing the lyrics this way know how the song is going to be sung. The “page” changes with a slight lag compared to the lyrics on the screen, but since the lyrics of the next slide are already displayed it’s not a big deal.
As you might expect from the name, stage view is meant for the people in the worship team. It allows them to see the progression of the song as rehearsed, and the reverse contrast prevents the creation of a “glow” on the band. In our Church, however, it’s going to be used for something else – accessibility.
My son has a genetic condition called, “ocular albinism.” This means he doesn’t process visual data well – which makes reading lyrics off a screen impossible. Since we got the iPad, we have put the lyrics in a dropbox folder his tablet can access, letting him sing along. It’s been great, but also creates a lot of clutter in the drop box. It was also impossible to edit the lyrics meant for his tablet match the way songs had been rehearsed as it would make the lyrics so cluttered as to be unreadable. With OpenLP screen view, however, I no longer have to create a separate lyric file for my son, the lyrics match exactly what’s being sung by the congregation, and the link to the stage view site can be shared with others who might have visually impairments. As a bonus, the reverse contrast is less distracting in a crowd of people. Today, both my father-in-law and I used the feature in worship – it worked great.
The system isn’t perfect, however, there are a couple of minor problems.
First, churches have to have publicly accessible wifi to be allow people to access the service. Routers, however, are cheap – there is no reason why a church can’t set up a wifi network for locally accessible data like stage view and make worshipers aware of it’s presence (letting them know it can only access local data so people won’t be overly frustrated). This is actually the route I’m planning on taking for central to avoid the need to give people a wifi password.
Second, and more troublesome, is that the control portion of OpenLP’s remote plugin isn’t password protected. Any device connected to the wifi network can connect to the local web-server and take control of the service! It’s not something that makes me very comfortable, and I hope there is both a password and ssl added to the plugin soon (remember, this is a beta, there is still work to be done).
All in all, OpenLP 2.0 is a capable lyrics projection system with an active support community, great features, and a wonderful hidden gem. It’s well worth your time to check out!