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Some Beijing Olympic Fireworks Faked

Because one organization is responsible for filming the Olympics -- Beijing Olympic Broadcasting -- foreign TV networks had no choice but to accept the altered video.

Thomas Claburn

August 11, 2008

2 Min Read

Some of the fireworks seen in television coverage of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics games in Beijing were created digitally, according to a report in The Beijing Times.

Twenty-nine fiery footsteps traced in the air above Bird's Nest National Stadium were created using real fireworks. But The Telegraph in the U.K. reports that because event organizers feared they would be unable to capture the pyrotechnics live on camera, a digital effects team spent almost a year preparing a computerized version of the 55-second footstep sequence, which was inserted into the live video feed.

"Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks," Gao Xiaolong told The Beijing Times, according to Sky News. "But most of the audience thought it was filmed live -- so that was mission accomplished."

Because one organization is responsible for filming the Olympics -- Beijing Olympic Broadcasting -- foreign TV networks had no choice but to accept the altered video, Sky News said.

Jacques Rogge, president of International Olympic Committee (IOC), called the opening ceremony, "a magnificent tribute to the athletes and the Olympic spirit."

It's open to question as to whether Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno, banned from the games on Monday for failing a doping test, exemplifies the same Olympic spirit that led to fabricated video.

According to The Telegraph, an adviser to the Beijing Olympic Committee defended the decision to spike the opening ceremony video, saying, "It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live. We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route."

The video incident recalls another recent attempt to augment reality: In July, Agence France-Presse published and then retracted a photograph of an Iranian missile test that was digitally altered to include more missiles than actually launched.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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