Skip to main content

Getting The Word Out

When your membership includes speakers of more than 60 languages, communication can be a major challenge. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) faced this challenge head on.

The Salt Lake City-based LDS Conference Center, completed in late 2000, is an architectural wonder. Its total area is 1.2 million square feet with an interior volume in the main auditorium of 9.43 million cubic feet-making it one of the largest language-translation facilities in the world. Inside the main auditorium, an extensive AV system is employed with a significant portion of the audio system dedicated to language translation for local attendees as well as remote listeners around the world. Inside the conference center, 58 language translation booths have been set up for simultaneous translation.

After five years of development, the main language translation system was installed by a Salt Lake City firm, DLB Research, in 2003. The DLB-provided system includes 30 ATM-2000 automatic mixers, with each handling two languages, and another bank of 51 OAC-2000 on-air controllers that handle the satellite and internet portion of the language feeds.

From the DLB system, several QSC RAVE fiber ethernet routers are used to send audio to the DLB on-air controllers. Additional RAVE boxes in the ceiling are used to feed the in-house RF and IP systems, used for local language translation as well as hearing assistance.

When the Conference Center first opened, existing RF and IR equipment from the Tabernacle (used for LDS church meetings before it closed for renovation) was used for language delivery to the in-house audience. AV design engineer Johnny Biggs said the center's next step was to implement a custom, 802.11b based broadcast box with receivers that could dial up the desired languages. However, they discovered that it was highly susceptible to interference from other IP-based equipment. Another problem was that the VoIP equipment did not have the desired fidelity.

Biggs' team started searching for a higher-fidelity, more robust system that would deliver the maximum number of RF channels in the building, and found the solution in another Salt Lake City-based company, Listen Technologies Corporation. Biggs worked with Listen to develop a system that used narrow receiver filtering, and distributed antennas to achieve the greatest number of channels possible within the 72 and 216 MHz allocations. The Listen system could be set up to provide 24 analog channels. The Listen products also provide the desired fidelity-50 Hz to 10 kHz audio at each of the receivers. External interference is virtually nonexistent due to the amount of steel in the building.

As a result of the Listen system's performance, the VoIP system has been turned into an adjunct system that supports the Listen RF system.

The Listen system comprises 24 transmitters-15 on 72 MHz and nine on 216 MHz-scattered through the catwalks above the seating area, and 1,500 receivers custom-built to tune both sets of frequencies. Receivers are made available to attendees who request either translation or hearing assistance equipment. "It's not uncommon to have over 1,000 of the receivers in use during a conference session," said John Moran, one of the conference center's technical coordinators in the audiovisual department.


All 58 translation booths are used during the church's semi-annual General Conference sessions. "Before the Tabernacle closed for renovations, we used some of its 40 translation booths along with our 58, so a couple of conferences ago, we had 75 languages being translated live during conference," Moran said. Normally, 40 to 50 languages are fed to the conference center auditorium with up to 75 languages total used for DVD recording of the conference or external feeds. "Our system is driven by demand in the world rather than demand in the auditorium," Moran added.

In addition to the in-house translation booths, the center has ISDN and POTS codec feeds to translators in different countries, allowing for remote real-time translation of events.