“Penetrating Hearts through Sight and Sound,” Ensign, Apr. 2006, 74–76
The Audiovisual Department of the Church captures the sounds and images that continue to help spread the voice of the Lord unto all people (see D&C 1:2). Through current video, photography, broadcast, Internet, and engineering technology, the department helps portray the Church’s messages.
“Technology provides significant support to the ongoing mission of the Church,” said President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “I am certain the Lord expects us to apply it to the advancement of His purposes and the blessing of mankind” (“This Is Our Day,” Ensign, May 1999, 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. 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 design the appropriate look and feel for that message.
Members in Bishop Raymond Ruiz’s ward in the Philippines learned how to conduct a reverent 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 it did in the Philippines Area, the Audiovisual Department assists Area Presidencies in preparing and distributing training materials. 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.
Internet and DVDs
As the Church has grown and spread across the world, new technology has been developed which has made communication with even remote areas possible.
Distributing audiovisual materials to Church members in many languages has become easier with the development of DVDs and the Internet. One DVD can replace several dozen VHS tapes produced for the same general conference. On VHS tapes, a production could be dubbed in only one language and had to be matched to the appropriate television format. Now a single DVD can hold up to 26 language translations. The DVD format is also the new international video standard, eliminating the need to match international television standards. DVD players have been placed in Church meetinghouses throughout the world, and the Church is currently converting existing videos to DVD.
In addition to DVD technology, the Internet is also proving to be a highly interactive medium that can deliver broadcasts and interactive training.
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 a potential to distribute interactive training to thousands of members.
April and October general conferences are two of the most widely viewed productions with which the department is involved. General conference can reach up to 97 percent of Church members through live broadcasts. The other 3 percent of the Church receives recordings of conference on DVD after its conclusion.
Preparations for general conference involve many technicians. Camera and teleprompter operators, audio controllers, producers, and photographers are only a part of the team that helps ready dozens of cameras, several control rooms, sound systems, and facilities for interpretation, American Sign Language, and closed-captioning for conference and other broadcasts.
The department also broadcasts the following Church meetings: Church Educational System firesides, remote stake conferences, worldwide training meetings, general Relief Society and Young Women meetings, and temple dedications.
The most recognizable Audiovisual Department productions are Church films such as the new Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration. Church films are developed upon approval by the First Presidency and are created primarily 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 (10-ha) wooded area are several cinder block buildings and sets replicating early 1800s-style buildings, including an exact replica of the Newel K. Whitney store located in Kirtland, Ohio.
Unlike most Hollywood studios, the Church’s studio does not rent its equipment. The studio facilities include a metal shop, a wood shop, several audio recording studios, and a wardrobe storage area. Sets and backdrops for films are created on-site.
At this studio, portions of the Church’s full-length motion pictures such as Legacy and The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd were also filmed. Editing of all Church motion pictures takes place here. Short video clips shown between sessions of general conference are also produced at the site.
When the new movie about Joseph Smith opened in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Audiovisual Department had created not only the film but the projection system that plays it.
The engineering division of the Audiovisual Department designs and creates systems capable of displaying the department’s productions. Sometimes this process involves modifying existing technology; sometimes it includes designing and patenting a unique system.
The Church currently holds several patents for systems built by the engineering division. Engineering created the systems used to run temple ordinance presentations, Church historical site exhibits, and visitors’ center exhibits. The engineering division designs needed technology when it is not available commercially.
Other engineering projects include working closely with temple architects to ensure that temple designs will support audiovisual systems. Audiovisual engineers 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 identify 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 there will be “no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated” (D&C 1:2) by the gospel.