Review: ProPresenter 4

Recently our church decided to upgrade our video graphics system due to the fact that our old graphics system was showing its age. After much research, we decided to go with a MacBook Pro for our hardware and RenewedVision’s ProPresenter 4 for our worship presentation software. We chose a MacBook Pro due to the fact that, for starters, since I would be overseeing much of the IT-related functions at the church, I’d rather work with a Mac because of the simplicity and reliability, as well as the Mac came pre-installed with software we’d need to use in the future, be more compatible with software we’d need to run in the future, and as I mentioned above, the simplicity and reliability of the platform just makes our work easier.

ProPresenter was one of the main non-linear worship graphics presentation software applications available for Mac, and it’s truly currently the gold standard in non-linear worship presentation software, cross-platform (we’re also beta testing Proclaim from Logos, which does look excellent, but it’s far from being ready for production yet, we also loaded PowerPoint and Keynote on the Mac for running static slideshows when we need it).

One of the nice features of ProPresenter is that it is a cross-platform application. This is especially helpful for users purchasing a site license, due to the fact that with our church site license, we can install ProPresenter on multiple machines, both Windows PC’s and Macs! This allows us to be on one standard software platform no matter who at the church needs to run ProPresenter on any platform.

Upon launching ProPresenter, one is greeted with a powerful yet easy-to-use interface. RenewedVision was able to pack incredible power into ProPresenter, yet do so with an extremely user friendly and simple interface. Keying elements (backgrounds, hymns, Scriptures, etc.) are extremely easy to do with a simple click of the mouse, switching elements dynamically on-the-fly are a breeze, and clearing elements or flashing messages are a click away. I, as well as our AV director, were amazed at the simplicity of ProPresenter. I was able to train our AV team virtually ten minutes before church started one Sunday morning and we were ready to go. With the use of Playlists, a feature that allows us to build our service rundown ahead of time before the service, our pastor is able to import in his sermon outlines (you can see my video about how easy it is to do here), as well as his Scriptures he’ll be using, as well as our worship leader is able to pre-plan which hymns we’ll be broadcasting, so come time for the church service, the entire service rundown is right at our fingertips and all elements are a click away.

In the event we need to key Scriptures or hymns dynamically in real time, ProPresenter’s Scripture Engine and Song Automation features makes this extremely easy to perform. ProPresenter allows users to easily key in Scriptures or hymns on-the-fly in a matter of seconds with a few clicks. ProPresenter offers the ability to download various free and purchased Bibles from the RenewedVision Store to make it a breeze to lookup and key Scriptures live without the need of third-party software or copy/pasting. ProPresenter also includes a sampler of hymns for keying on the screen, and their Song Automation feature allows users to drag in an audio file and have ProPresenter automate the hymn slides in sync with the music (although I haven’t tried this feature yet). It’s also simple to create hymn slides in ProPresenter, as well as churches with CCLI licenses can login to SongSelect and download their hymns right into ProPresenter.

ProPresenter also includes the ability to flash props, messages, and clocks. Props are select text or graphics (such as a church logo) one wishes to overlay on top of the slides during the duration of the slide, and can be turned on/off as a separate layer instead of having to manually apply them to each slide. Messages are small prop-like elements that can easily be flashed onto the screen in the event a message needs to be broadcasted out to the church without disrupting the service (such as one’s car lights are on, an infant’s parents needs to visit the nursery, cell phones need to be turned off, etc.). These messages can also be customized with dynamic elements in real time (car make/model, parent’s/infant’s name etc.) for quickly broadcasting accurate announcements quickly without disrupting the service (one example I’m using messages for is the “Panic Button”, which allows the AV team to flash a message signaling me when they need technical assistance with the machine). Clocks are also similar to messages, but allows users to display the time or a countdown on the screen simply with a few clicks of the mouse.

ProPresenter also includes PowerPoint and Keynote (on the Mac) integration, allowing users to drop in a PowerPoint or Keynote file directly into a ProPresenter Playlist and have ProPresenter automatically switch between ProPresenter and PowerPoint or Keynote and back to ProPresenter with a click of the mouse. This is great when having to run a PowerPoint slideshow of some photos or a speaker’s notes, for example, then switch back to ProPresenter for handling all of our media. In addition, ProPresenter makes it easy to convert PowerPoint and Keynote slides into a format that can be directly used in ProPresenter, allowing us to upgrade some of our older static elements to ProPresenter’s dynamic capabilities easily. ProPresenter handles PowerPoint and Keynote integration extremely effortlessly, and I was thoroughly impressed how easy it was to integrate the various elements.

ProPresenter also makes it easy to play DVD’s right inside the application with the use of its integrated DVD player. The DVD playing capabilities even make it easy to highlight elements from a DVD and integrate them in a Playlist, so DVD elements are a click away during the service rundown. ProPresenter also can sequence live video feed from cameras right into ProPresenter, making it easy to blend live video and ProPresenter elements simultaneously. ProPresenter also includes Web View, making it easy to broadcast live webpages without even having to switch to a web browser. The latest update to ProPresenter also includes the ability to setup Masks as a layer for even more dynamic control over ProPresenter layers.

In addition, ProPresenter includes access to the RenewedVision Media Store, allowing users to purchase a wealth of backgrounds, motion backgrounds, videos, etc., for use in ProPresenter. ProPresenter licenses include access to a free media sampler which includes some excellent high quality backgrounds, and I also pulled from my library of images and clipart online to find some more high quality backgrounds to load into ProPresenter for use in our church. The Mac version of ProPresenter includes support for Quartz Composer files as backgrounds, making it easy for the programmer type to create dynamic, visual backgrounds for ProPresenter (a sample of them are included with ProPresenter as well). ProPresenter also includes the ability to create and edit template files, making it easy to pre-define font types and sizes ahead of time for use in the Scripture Engine or when creating/editing presentation files.

Version 4 of ProPresenter handles libraries efficiently. Everything is document-based in ProPresenter 4, making it easy to transfer Playlists, presentations, and templates across different copies of ProPresenter without messing with a clunky library file (ProPresenter Playlists contains all of the related presentation files, making it easy to transfer one file across machines each week to instantly bring in the service rundown without a lot of manual work). ProPresenter 4 also handles support for library syncing and multiple libraries, making it easier to keep files up-to-date across machines on a network and switch between libraries a breeze (although I haven’t really tested these features yet).

ProPresenter also includes the capability for setting up a stage display, making it easy to configure an external monitor for use in displaying the Scriptures, notes, or hymns in front of the speaker or worship leader for quick and easy access. With the Advanced Module, Alpha Keyer Module, or Edge Blending Module, ProPresenter can take video projection further such as combining multiple screens to display a single image, etc. These modules and necessary hardware needed to run them can be purchased through RenewedVision.

Another feature I particularly love about ProPresenter is the iOS Remote. This allows a wirelessly-connected iPhone or iPad to remotely control a ProPresenter machine, so in the event our AV team (which is still grasping using a Mac) struggles to click the right button to project an element on the screen, I can whip out my iPhone and tap a button to key the slide in from the comfort of my pew. It doesn’t get any more luxurious than this!

A few things people need to realize about ProPresenter before springing for it in their churches. First of all, certain features (Keynote integration, Quartz Composer support, certain modules, etc.) are currently (and some will always be) specific to the Mac version. So it’s wise to plan ahead and see what features each church will be using before making the purchase, as well as if a Mac would be needed to run those features (I prefer running it on the Mac due to the simplicity and reliability of the platform as well, so it might be a worthwhile investment). Second of all, in either case, ProPresenter is going to need some solid hardware to run it on. I highly recommend a 64-Bit capable system (even though the software isn’t 64 Bit yet) with 4GB of RAM and at least 256MB of dedicated video RAM (the Intel integrated graphics chips found on many systems today are too insufficient for optimal performance with ProPresenter, get a dedicated video card for the best performance). Lastly, ProPresenter is a pricey little app. It costs $399 for a single license, or $799 for a site license. ProPresenter does have a fully-functional trial download that users can test out before springing for the purchase (the trial contains a watermark on the video output), and if a church is looking at wanting to run ProPresenter on more than one machine, it’s probably best to spring for a site license up front. While it wasn’t the lest expensive software we’ve ever purchased for church, we wanted to give the Lord the best we could give Him, and ProPresenter is truly the finest worship presentation software we could purchase, so in my book, it was well worth the investment to give our Lord our finest for Him.

Churches still using PowerPoint for worship presentation graphics should seriously consider checking out ProPresenter. It’s far superior to using PowerPoint for worship graphics. Those looking for the finest worship presentation software to use on a Mac or cross-platform should also consider looking into ProPresenter. And for those wishing for an upgrade, ProPresenter is hard to beat in terms of incredible power, effortless ease-of-use, and ultimate flexibility. Our church’s AV team has been extremely pleased with using it (so have I), and I would highly recommend ProPresenter for any church wanting to use the gold standard in non-linear video worship presentation software.