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A story told through images

· The 30th anniversary of the Vatican Television Centre ·

Television tells a story through images. “It was Vatican Radio's 50th anniversary”, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz recalls, “and John Paul II, as a man open to mass media and to the world, thought that radio was not  enough. People wanted images, and so he decided to create Vatican Television Centre (CTV)” which “works and works well and now has taken its place in the world”.

CTV's 30th anniversary is a fitting occasion to reflect on the complex dynamic involved in putting television at the service of the words and actions of the Pope. There are two distinct yet interrelated levels involved in the discussion: on the one hand, there is the matter of what the Pope communicates, the way he expresses himself, the manner in which he engages in dialogue and encounters people. On the other hand, there is the way in which his character and message are communicated.

CTV's March 2013 live broadcasting marked a decisive change in the role television plays not only in documenting papal events but also in painting the portrait of a pontificate. Take the wide-angle camera shots or the perspective captured by shots taken from behind the faithful. These gave the impression that the space which separates the piazza from the parvis was filled with faithful, and thus portrayed a closeness between the faithful and the new Bishop of Rome.

Since that time, one of the most important contributing factors to CTV's direction choices has been its desire to create a sense of maximum viewer involvement in order to serve the Pope's desire to be close to God's people. Some of the footage from Lampedusa, Rio de Janeiro, Cagliari or Assisi reveals this strategic management of television perspective in order to offer the public a closeup of the emotional intensity that surrounds an encounter with Pope Francis.

Another striking feature of CTV's way of building a television story to promote contact with the viewer is its attention to the power of nonverbal communication. Hence the many close-ups and camera shots that focus on the figure of the Pope and his ability to establish and foster a passionate dialogue with the faithful.

For CTV, rethinking the role and responsibility of television after 30 years therefore means accepting a twofold challenge: to keep up with technological innovation and to seek renewal on the level of language and expression for the sake of what might be called a new style and aesthetic in directing.

Regarding the first challenge, these last months have been characterized by a considerable investment in technology. In fact, a process of upgrading our professional standards has already been set in motion. This is essential both for CTV's dialogue with leading players in the international information market and for its ability  to offer the public the highest possible quality in picture and sound. In fact, since July 2013 CTV has been putting a system in place that will allow internal users as well as those wishing to view archived materials to do so beginning in 2014.

What makes CTV's archive unique is the fact that it includes not only events recorded through the use of coaches equipped with filming and production capabilities or our own programs, documentaries or highlights in the various languages, but also “raw footage” from various events. This will be invaluable for future historians.

The decision to invest in technology should therefore be understood in light of the need to build the most accurate and enduring video archive possible, one that is able to meet the widespread demand for social and historical documentation. This is something to which visual expression can make such an enormous contribution.

Lastly, regarding the need for renewal on the level of language and expression, CTV is committed to rethinking the way stories are told on television (especially via live broadcast), by drawing on the camera's unique expressive capabilities. Multiple filming locations, a greater use of wide  angle lenses and increased camera movement all testify in a special way to a strategic plan that elevates television's ability to represent reality.

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