Monday, October 21, 2013

Buon Compleanno, CTV – The VatiTube Turns 30

Especially in a spot like this, we'd be remiss to let a special milestone in the family over these days pass without a very warm, grateful word.

Tomorrow brings the 30th anniversary of the Vatican Television Center (CTV), the in-house crew whose extraordinary work in beaming papal events to the wider world has become an indispensable resource for outlets of every stripe... all the more over the beyond surreal ride of these last months.

Now armed with a Sony-made HD production truck, it's a special grace of the broadband and mobile age that the studio's real-time, commentary-and-graphics-free coverage can now be seen and shared anywhere without the need for a satellite linkup or closed-circuit feed. Even for today's much wider and more immediate audience, though, the very roots of its founding in the days of "rabbit ears," UHF and VHF manifested the project's closeness to the heart of the Pope: it's no accident that John Paul II formally established CTV on the third anniversary of his installation as the church's "universal pastor" – a day now kept as the Saint-to-Be's liturgical feast.

For all the shop's accomplishments since, the Pope's message for the milestone wasn't merely congratulatory, but bore a word of advice that feels worthwhile beyond his own control room (emphases original):

"In these decades, technology has evolved with great speed, creating unexpectedly interconnected networks. It's necessary to maintain the evangelical perspective in these elements of the 'global communications highway'.... [I]n presenting events, your vantage cannot ever be 'worldly,' but ecclesial. We live in a world in which practically nothing exists without having something to do with the universe of the media. Ever more sophisticated instruments reinforce an always more pervasive role played by technologies, by languages and by forms of communication in the events of our everyday lives, and this isn't only [the case] in the world of the young.... All this likewise reflects itself in the life of the church. But if isn't a simple thing to recount historic events, all the more complex is to relay the happenings linked to the church, that which is 'sign and instrument of the intimate union with God,' that which is Body of Christ, People of God, Temple of the Holy Spirit....

"Finally, I'd like to recall that you don't merely fulfill a purely documentary function, 'neutral' in events, but you contribute toward bringing the church closer to the world, erasing distances, making the word of the Pope arrive for millions of Catholics, even to those places where professing one's own faith is a corageous choice. Thanks to the images, CTV walks with the Pope to bring Christ into the many forms of solitude of modern man, reaching also the 'sophisticated technological peripheries.' In this your mission, it's important to remember that the church is present in the world of communications, in all its varied expressions, above all to guide people to the encounter with the Lord Jesus. And in fact, it's only the encounter with Jesus which can change the heart and history of mankind."
Still, this is TV – a medium intended to be seen rather than talked about. Ergo, through the network's lens, this piece is topped by some of the VatiTube's most priceless Francis-film to date – a piece of the Pope's triumphant ride into last July's World Youth Day Vigil in Riode Janiero (fullvid), a sweeping, multi-camera, part-aerial shoot whose path gradually revealed that we were witnessing no less than the largest known gathering in the history of the Americas.

For all the stunning moments the crew has conveyed over this epochal year, however, the most intense and significant ones arguably didn't come after Bergoglio emerged from the Conclave, but on that fateful February 28th, when Benedict XVI – his secretary weeping behind him – departed the Vatican for the last time as Supreme Pontiff and literally flew off into the sunset...

...and shortly thereafter, the scene as the Castel Gandolfo clock struck 8pm – the hour at which the first resignation of Peter's Chair since the Middle Ages formally took effect:

As a year whose likes we will never see again begins to reach its close, the CTV director Msgr Dario Viganò has often shared that he and his crew shoot for a cinematic gold standard.

To put it mildly, mission accomplished.

VIDEOS/PHOTO: Centro Televisivo Vaticano