Penetrating Hearts through Sight and Sound
August 26, 2005 — News from the Church
The audiovisual department of the Church captures the sounds and images that continue to spread the voice of the Lord unto all men (see D&C 1:2). Through current video, photography, broadcast, Internet, and engineering technology the department portrays the Church's messages.
"Technology provides significant support to the ongoing mission of the Church," said President James E. Faust of the First Presidency. "I am certain the Lord expects us to apply technology to the advancement of His purposes and the blessing of mankind" (see "This Is Our Day," Ensign, May 1999, p. 19).
Advancing the Lord's work for the audiovisual department means helping members and others who view its work to know, feel, and act upon gospel principles.
Members in Bishop Raymond Ruiz's ward in the Philippines learned how to reverently conduct Primary after watching a local training video produced by the audiovisual department.
Bishop Ruiz said: "The following Sunday after we showed the Primary Training Video, I came out of my office to observe the Primary children. I saw that they were reverently lining up to enter their room one by one. I also saw that the leaders were standing by the door to greet the children as they entered I realized that the Primary leaders were actually doing what was shown in the video."
As in the Philippines Area, the audiovisual department assists Area Presidencies in preparing and distributing training. In the Philippines, the department worked with the Area Presidency to produce a set of three auxiliary training videos. In other areas, such as the Europe East Area, the department provides technical assistance to allow the area presidency to train local leaders through videoconferencing.
The department has also produced a DVD used in South America to show members how to clean local meetinghouses. The DVD and an accompanying booklet, titled Hermano Olympio, teach members how to clean local meetinghouse.
The department also assists with creative voice-overs used for Church films. Church productions that require language voice-overs are sometimes recorded at a studio in the native country where the language is spoken.
For example, studios in Japan, Finland, Thailand, Brazil, and Ukraine have been used to tape audio recordings of actors from those countries.
An important distinction between the Church's audiovisual department and other creative studios is the message presented. In all audiovisual productions, the message originates from another Church department or from priesthood leaders. The role of the audiovisual department is to capture the appropriate look and feel of that message.
Internet and DVDs
President Hinckley has said new technology has become available as the Church has grown larger and stronger.
He said: "Our membership now reaches almost 12 million, with more members outside North America than reside within. Once we were recognized as a Utah church. Now we have become a great international body" ("The Church Grows Stronger," Ensign, May 2004, 4)
Distributing audiovisual materials to Church members in many languages has become easier with the invention of DVD and the Internet.
One DVD can replace several dozen VHS tapes produced for the same general conference. If using VHS tapes, a production could only be dubbed in one language and was matched to the appropriate European or American television format.
Now a single DVD can hold up to 26 language translations. DVD format is also the new international standard, eliminating the need to match international television standards. DVD players have been placed in all Church meetinghouses throughout the world. The Church is currently migrating existing videos to DVD.
DVD also has the potential to be more interactive than video. The Internet is also proving to be an interactive medium to deliver broadcasts and training.
Recently the audiovisual department helped design interactive, online training lessons for the Young Women and Primary auxiliaries. These lessons, which can be downloaded from www.lds.org, have shown a potential to distribute interactive training to thousands of members.
David Nielsen, director of the department's interactive training and multimedia design division, said the Church's use of the Internet and DVDs to deliver audiovisual materials will probably increase in the future.
April and October general conferences are two of the most widely viewed audiovisual productions. General conferences reaches up to 97 percent of the Church's members through live broadcasts. The other 3 percent of the Church receive conference on DVD.
Preparations for general conference involve more than 100 audiovisual technicians. Camera and teleprompter operators, audio controllers, producers, and photographers are just a part of the audiovisual team that helps ready dozens of cameras, several control rooms, and the sound systems for conference.
The department also broadcasts the following Church meetings: CES firesides, remote stake conferences, worldwide training meetings, General Relief Society and Young Women meetings, Music and the Spoken Word, and temple dedications.
The most recognizable audiovisual department productions are the Church films such as Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepard. Church films are developed upon approval by the First Presidency and then created at the Church's motion picture studio in Provo, Utah.
The studio is located near Brigham Young University's Provo campus. Nestled within the 25-acre wooded area are several cinder block warehouses and sets replicating early 1800s-style buildings, including an exact replica of the Newell K. Whitney store located in Kirtland, Ohio.
Unlike most Hollywood studios, the Church's studio does not rent its equipment. The studio warehouses includes a metal shop, a wood shop, several audio recording studios, and wardrobe storage area. Scenery for films is created onsite.
From this studio, portions of the Church's full-length motion pictures such as Legacy and Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepard were filmed. Scenes from the Church's upcoming movie, Joseph: Prophet of the Restoration, were also filmed at the studio. Editing of all Church motion pictures takes place entirely onsite. Short video clips shown between talks in general conference are also produced at the site.
When Joseph: Prophet of the Restoration opens in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in December 2004, not only will the audiovisual department have created the film, but the projection system that will play it.
The engineering division of audiovisual designs and creates systems capable of displaying the audiovisual department's productions. Sometimes this process involves modifying existing technology, or even designing and then patenting a unique system.
The Church currently holds several patents for systems built by the engineering division. Engineering has created the systems to run temple ordinance presentations, Church historical site exhibits, and visitors' center exhibits.
God's Plan, a new visitors' center exhibit, is one audiovisual production currently playing at three visitors' centers.
At regular intervals, the exhibit displays a message about the eternal nature of families. From a remote control, the sister missionary leading a small tour of visitors will push one button to dim the lights and start the movie.
The message about family plays on a plasma screen television screen. Visitors watch the video while sitting on benches facing a set matching the interior or exterior of the house. After brief video segments, visitors move to another set of benches and another set. Each video clip plays in surround sound. The exhibit can play audio in a variety of languages. A separate DVD player controlled by a central computer displays each segment.
The engineering division designed much of the technology needed to display the God's Plan exhibit because it was not available commercially. Future visitors' centers will also be remodeled to include the exhibit.
Other engineering projects include working closely with temple architects to ensure that temple designs will support audiovisual systems. Audiovisual engineers also install audiovisual equipment in a new temple before its dedication. Engineers periodically reevaluate these systems to simplify technical support needed for temple audiovisual equipment, making it easier for local temple staffs to troubleshoot and fix problems with minimal assistance.
"We have the responsibility to monitor new technologies and to evaluate their ability and to incorporate them carefully to build the kingdom," said Lynn Hadfield, director of the department's engineering division.
As the audiovisual department's sights and sounds continue to teach, train, and testify, the department helps to fulfill the Lord's prophecy that "no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated" (see D&C 1:2) by the gospel.