Opening ceremonies

The Beijing Times has revealed that the footprint fireworks sequence for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, was computer generated and inserted into the coverage too look like the real thing. Beijing’s hazy night skies and camera shake as though it was filmed from a helicopter was even added to the sequence to make it look more authentic.

The 29 footprints were lit at one footprint per second, with 29 of them marching from Tiananmen Square to the Birds Nest stadium. They were supposed to symbolize the path of the 29th Olympiad and their arrival to Beijing.

The faked fireworks were actually set-off at the stadium, but because of potential dangers in filming the display live from a helicopter, viewers at home were shown a pre-recorded, computer-generated shot.

The head of the visual effects department for the opening ceremony said that since everyone thought it was filmed live, he couldn’t see a problem with it.

Perhaps it’s no worse than the facial hair on some of the women athletes.

  1. RFD says:

    Interesting, explains why the helicopter footage looked a bit more dramatic.

  2. We can find no such reference to the “on the air” remark. And nobody else recalls hearing it. Do you have ANY documentation?

  3. B. Dog says:

    JCD, I don’t recall hearing it, but a number of people at blog Gizmodo say they heard it:

  4. comhcinc says:

    i remember they going on about this on air. i don’t understand how this is a story.

  5. #1 – Hillbilly

    >>Looks like someone wants a non-story to
    >>make China look bad.

    That’s just silly. China can look bad enough on its own, without any non-stories. The 8-year-old gymnast girls with fake passports, the befouled air, the censorship, the phonied-up streets with fences blocking the slums that lie behind, what more does a China-basher need?

    For the life of me, I can’t imagine what the committee was thinking when they decided to hold the Olympics in such a godforsaken country.

    Give ’em a couple hundred years and maybe they’ll be ready. Not in 2008, though.

  6. paddler says:

    I also remember them admitting that it was computer generated when they originally showed it.

    Nothing to see here…. move on

  7. god says:

    29 seconds of 4&1/2 hours? Sloowww clap.

  8. Ed Roberts says:

    The US commentators said it was a computer-generated sequence several times as it was happening.

    Agreed. No story.

  9. Alphasiderius says:

    I distinctly recall the hosts stating that it was computer enhanced and more of a cinematic presentation than Live coverage. This flap is all FUD.

  10. John Craft says:

    Go to youtube and see the same shots from the ground…looks pretty real to me. As a pyrotechnician, I would not want to be flying a helicopter over a fireworks display, so CG is not a bad tradeoff.

  11. Miguel says:

    Whatever, *what’s the point* of getting CGI into a supposedly live coverage, even if you’re warned? Why not have the whole Olympics in CGI? I’d like to see things as they really were, not embellished artificially.

  12. edwinrogers says:

    Some of the fireworks looked, just, too perfectly timed and symmetric to be real. Maybe, there is some truth in this story.

  13. Minivan says:

    They really fooled me!!! here in Ecuador the live coverage never said the fireworks were fake, well not really fake but CG. Maybe the comment got lost in translation, not any mention of it in spanish… By the way we read your column at PC Magazine en Español in Ecuador, it’s my favorite…

  14. #11 – Miguel

    >>*what’s the point*

    The same point as having endless coverage of bikini-clad babes batting balls and rolling in the sand.


    I’m just waiting to see if they have the Rock Paper Scissors coverage televised. If the contestants are wearing thongs, they probably will. If they’re wearing business casual clothing, nfw.

  15. #10, as Miguel said, what is the point then? Shouldn’t we always outsource real fireworks for CGI fireworks? The carbon tax would be lower!

    20 years ago my father told me everything in the movies would eventually be computer generated (mostly he was talking about the performers). I thought this was a horrible idea, but it is coming to pass.

    I still think it is a horrible trend, as real is so much more interesting than synthetic is all aspects of life. The imperfect real is more interesting than the safe|perfect fake.

    But you indicate you are ok with the synthetic.

    F’all it. Life just gets crappier and stupider all the time.

  16. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    My wife fakes the fireworks all the time and it doesn’t stop me from lighting the fuse.

  17. petermello says:

    Definitely remember mention on NBC and thought it was strange but it’s still a non-story.

  18. llseenm says:

    Just to add to the noise… I watched it on NBC Friday night, and Costas and company went on for 5 minutes about CGI being used for the telecast! In fact he even said at one point, what you are wathing is almost a cartoon! Listen to todays BOL podcast, all of them heard the remarks also!!

  19. I’d rather not think of any of it as China bashing, but Olympics bashing.

  20. comhcinc says:

    are some of you really bitching because they put on a really cool show? do you also go to the movies and complain about how “fake” everything is?

  21. ZZ says:

    I thought it can be done with show controls and remote controlled firework explosions, but I was wondering where they could place those fireworks platforms in the city. At that point I decided it was fake, then, there would’ve been about million complaints on the net anyway.

  22. hhopper says:

    I heard them say that the fireworks in the helicopter sequence were animated and “almost a cartoon.”

  23. ECA says:

    why should i complain..
    It wasnt REAL..
    It had NO affect on me, or THOSE who saw it in REAL TIME..
    I was HOPING we had this much control to make a GREAt fireworks show… but NOW i know they DONT..

  24. B. Dog says:

    It bothers me because the NBC commentators kept emphasizing the fact that the Olympic games are a huge milestone in Chinese history. It’s a news story. When the New World Order Spokesmodels slide computer enhancements in to make China even better than they say it is, well that is B.S.

  25. Buzz says:

    This reminds me of the time we had fake Moon landing video ready to go just in case. Never needed it, of course, but you can’t be too careful.

  26. @25 – Mr. Dog

    The Olympic games are a huge milestone in the snookering of the rest of the world.

    The fact that much of the world actually believes that China is anything more than a 1400’s-era child-labor sweatshop pollution mill, pumping out tainted products, is a testimony to the infallible stupidity of the human race.

  27. jbella says:

    One important point is that the fireworks were not faked. The fireworks actually happened. The footage of the fireworks were “faked” because it would be dangerous and nearly impossible to get a good shot of the actual fireworks going off.

    China is not a model nation, but neither are they simply a backward “1400 era child labor sweathshop pollution mill.” They are an emerging economy and the only other super power on the planet. Dont forget that the united states was in much the same condition as early as the beginning of the 20th century.

  28. GregAllen says:

    I’m not a huge fan of the Chinese government but I have to give them credit for putting on a heck of a show.

    It was a pretty amazing ceremony to pull off, and I admire it all the more that they used real-time CGI.

  29. BubbaRay says:

    Apparently the fireworks weren’t the only thing that was “enhanced.”,5273.0.html

  30. clone4crw says:

    I was pretty skeptic of it at first. I’m not surprised. The chinese government is pretty desperate to raise their reputation. They’ve now screwed themselves over more.

    The same with that girl lip-syncing to that opening song.

    Can anyone explain why during the swimming, some of the athletes had the logos on their suits blacked out? I’m pretty suspicious of that, too,


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