ProPresenter Week 1

As I told you last week, we've made the switch to ProPresenter. Last Monday's post was one of my most read and most commented on posts so I thought I'd give you an update.

Things went really well during the service (though getting there was a challenge). To be fair, ProPresenter worked nearly flawlessly. It fired every cue on time, and was entirely stable. Due to a scheduling glitch, we were down a man, so I had to do lights and train our presentation operator in ProPresenter and Keynote. Thankfully, she picked both up quickly.

I say ProPresenter worked nearly flawlessly because we had an issue importing the exported Keynote slides. For some reason, v. 3.2.9 imported the slides in reverse order. If there 8, it would not have been a big deal. But there were 40, so I had to manually re-order the slides as people were walking in. That was a challenge. Between services, we had to make some changes to the Keynote, so I re-exported them, and upgraded Pro to 3.3. Yeah, that's right—I went live with a new version without ever having used it before. Thankfully, 3.3 fixed the reverse import order and ran flawlessly.

We're still figuring out the best way to do things and getting used to the new work flow, but the simple fact that I could throw it in front of a presentation operator who has only been doing Media Shout for about 6-8 months is a testament to it's easy-to-use interface. In fact, I showed her a few tricks on formatting songs then left to focus lights. When I came back, she had figured out how to do a bunch more stuff and was making great progress. In contrast, after 8 months, Media Shout remained a mystery.

I'll also say that Keynote is so much better than PowerPoint it's not even funny. And I know PowerPoint. For the first 9 months of 2007, I spent 20-30 hours a week using PowerPoint. I know what it can do and I'm really fast. However, I always felt I had to trick it into doing what I wanted and that every operation was 4 clicks too many. Keynote is like a breath of fresh air. It does what you want it to do without making you jump through hoops. The biggest improvement is that masters actually work the way they should. The inspectors and palates are laid out in a way that is immediately intuitive and accessible and give the ability to make changes quickly and efficiently. And at $79 as part of the iWork suite (also includes Pages, a killer word processor and page layout app and Numbers a spreadsheet app), it's totally worth checking out.

Ease of use is also a huge factor. After watching a few Lynda.com videos of Keynote at home just to get up to speed on the basics, she was able to get done what she needed to with minimal input from me (I was programming light cues, remember?)

I'm also thrilled to have access to h.264 video. The DV codec AVI files I used to render out for Media Shout always looked like crap (especially type) and they were huge. The h.264 stuff looks like Digi-Beta (remember that?) are tiny by comparison. I love the new "bail to logo" feature also. Despite our best efforts to plan the service completely, sometimes we just need to go to a series logo slide. While we could always find one, eventually, in earlier versions or in Media Shout, it's great to be able to hit F5 and have the logo come up.

The live video feature is intriguing, though I don't think we'll be using it for a while (we have lousy cameras at the moment). For churches that want to be able to run lyrics over IMAG of the worship team though, this feature is huge.

For those that are interested, right now we're running ProPresenter off my MacBook Pro, though a 20" iMac is on the way. The MBP was great, though in our setup, the screen is a bit small. I'm looking forward to a 20" screen in a week or two. We'll also soon be sending audio through a new Lexicon Alpha FireWire interface. I've been playing with that for the past few weeks and am really impressed. It's a vast improvement over the 1/8" mini jacks.

So there you have it, week one. Renewed Vision has done a great job developing the product, and the support has been incredible. They are rolling out updates so fast that I went from 3.2.4 to 3.2.9 (missed the 3.2.8 seed because I wasn't fast enough) and right to 3.3 in less than a week and a half. Some may suggest that they should have fixed all the bugs before rolling it out, but it's almost impossible to find them all in-house. It takes users actually beating on the program to discover them all. In fact it's the same methodology that Microsoft uses. Well, except that Microsoft sells beta software as a new version then takes 2 years to fix the bugs. Great work, guys. You're my new favorite software company!

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