The Audiovisual Future
From 18 DUO communities and 21 centers around the country came an overwhelmingly positive response to a video questionnaire sent out by North American Operations in October this year. Most people felt that video is an inexpensive, versatile medium, with the average cost per showing running at $30, and as low as $10 or less within 17 communities. Overall, the communities would like to show videos more than once a month, and 28 favored videos of other North American communities' facilities and activities. Other than Maharaj Ji's satsang, the most requested video topic was satsang from the initiators.
In light of this favorable input, NAO began to work on a comprehensive program for the production and distribution of audiovisual material.
To date, the following plans are ready for action:
(1) Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang will be recorded on color video when it becomes possible to rent color equipment, while black and white will continue to be used in the meantime.
Two possibilities are also being investigated for recording of Maharaj Ji's satsangs for international distribution: 16mm film and video. Both have their individual drawbacks and advantages.
In the past, production of 16mm film has been slow because of necessary laboratory processing of separate sound recording onto the film track, after the two tracks have been carefully synched on a film editing bench. At the quickest, film production would take two weeks to a month. One method to avoid this delay is the recent innovation of "single system" 16mm equipment that records sound directly onto the original film, which can then be developed into a positive print for im- mediate use. However, the initial outlay for cameras would be expensive, around the $20,000 mark.
The relatively new medium of video has yet to standardize its equipment operating specifics around the world. Whereas 16mm works at a standard international running speed of 24 frames per second for instance, different video companies and countries incorporate varying scanning systems, tape widths and speeds into their formats for recording and playback. America and Japan now have compatible systems, but it would be necessary for DLM to buy additional equipment (at about $3,000) to fulfill European needs. Super 8 film has also been considered but it seems that this is also difficult to get in Europe. So more research has to be made before deciding on an international medium for relaying Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang.
(2) A series of videos featuring Bill Patterson will be produced for the aspirant program, to reflect the understanding the initiators arrived at in their recent meetings in Denver.
(3) Communities with audiovisual equipment available will be encouraged to produce videos of their facilities, activities, or programs. Already Washington, D.C. has helped Jim Vuko produce a video of legal information for the communities considering branch status and Portland, Oregon, has plans underway fora video on their method of self-government.
(4) "PMT" and "DIT' cassette tapes will be phased out, to be replaced by cassettes produced at headquarters of Maharaj Ji's latest satsang and IHQ tapes for organizational communications. For members at large, "Satsang Tapes of the Month," featuring premie and initiator satsang are being planned and should be offered early in 1977. This experimental program was suggested at the centers conferences in March this year. In addition, there will be a subscription service for Maharaj Ji's tapes, so that members at large can receive them at the same time as communities now receive them. (See Advertisements in this issue.)
Centers and Members At Large
The centers conferences of March this year created tremendous input, and this is still being reviewed by the NAO staff. The NAO staff is still concerned with the legal status for centers, modifying the definition of a DLM center, and dealing with some communities' renewed interest in becoming centers. So far, five communities, Houston, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Portland, Oregon, and New Haven, have signed and returned agency agreements which provide for non-ashram residents representing DLM, Inc. And in early November, nine new applications for center status came in, while premies in Kansas City, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh decided not to continue as legally affiliated branches. To help deal with this influx of activity "from the field." Lemuel Lasher, formerly of Erie, Pennsylvania, has arrived in Denver to take on the job of centers co-ordinator, which mostly involves handling requests and relaying information to centers by phone and through regular mailings. Lem is a former center co-ordinator and is expected to better understand the "center" in a period when, hopefully, distinctions between centers and "DUO communities" will die out.
Other results of the centers conferences include suggestions on the development of proposals for a "Members at Large" program. The "Tape of the Month" and tape subscription service mentioned earlier on in this article was one suggestion now being put into motion. Following up conference suggestions, NAO is still encouraging premies who live away from communities to make contact with the centers and DUO offices nearest them rather than writing to Denver, as they feel that "MAL" needs can best be served through regional communications. To help build up a network of interdependence among small groups, individuals, and major communities, plans are under way to establish regional film, tape, and video libraries, making the latest audiovisual news and inspiration available without charge to centers and perhaps for a small rental fee to individuals who want to sponsor a program in their home towns.
4 Divine Times, December 1976