Olympics, NBC dogged by fakery accusations

Tue Aug 12, 2008 5:22am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The glow of NBC's Olympic ratings victory threatens to be sullied by reports that the Beijing Olympic Committee and the network have been less-than-scrupulous in their presentation of the Summer Games.

Organizers are accused of mixing in fake CGI fireworks during Friday night's opening ceremony, while NBC is said to have added a bogus "Live" stamp to tape-delayed West Coast feed of competition coverage this weekend, and edited the "parade of nations" segment of the opening ceremony to delay the entrance of the U.S. Olympic Team.

A look at each report, along with a response from NBC Sports:

Accusation: Viewers were misled by the use of computer-generated fireworks during a sweeping helicopter shot leading up to the Bird's Nest. Organizers note the fireworks were there, but the footage was created in advance due to the danger of shooting live from a nearby helicopter.

NBC Response: An NBC Sports spokesperson says U.S. viewers were informed of the manipulation. Commentators Matt Lauer and Bob Costas said the fireworks were a digital effect. From the opening ceremony transcript during the fireworks in question:

Lauer: "You're looking at a cinematic device employed by Zhang Yimou here. This is actually almost animation. A footstep a second, 29 in all, to signify the 29 Olympiads."

Costas: "We said earlier that aspects of this Opening Ceremony are almost like cinema in real time. Well this is quite literally cinematic."

Analysis: Mixing real and CGI fireworks during an Olympic event is visually misleading, though NBC did try to address the issue. The question is, during a spectacular-looking shot, do the phrases "cinematic device" and "almost animation" really convey that the image wasn't real? It seems more to hint that something about it wasn't quite literal, while coming shy of saying -- in far more clear and simple terms -- "this is a digitally manufactured shot to represent what's happening right now outside the stadium."   Continued...