China Used Their Own Brand of 'Magic' in Faking Olympics Fireworks

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby CraigMitchell » 08/12/08 08:23 AM

Television magic reached the Olympics as China used CGI to fake some of their fireworks shots ;-(

"The global television audience of more than three billion people watched in amazement as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks proceeded through the night sky from Tiananmen Square to the Bird's Nest stadium - except they were watching a computer animation.

Even the giant television screens within the stadium itself broadcast the fake images.

Stunned viewers thought they were watching the string of fireworks filmed from above by a helicopter.

But in reality they were watching a 3D graphics sequence that took almost a year to produce.

It even included a 'camera shake' to mimic the effect of filming from a helicopter."

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World- ... 2BFor%2BTV
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Postby Paul Richards » 08/12/08 08:38 AM

The article makes it appear as if this has been "uncovered", which I dont believe is entirely accurate. I can't speak for every country, but the fact that some type of animation was employed was not hidden from US viewers. In fact, the commentators remarked on it during the NBC broadcast of the opening ceremonies.
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Postby CraigMitchell » 08/12/08 09:41 AM

The footage shown to us in SA ( which I'm led to believe was the same as UK and Australia ) was misleading in that no mention was made of it being a pre-recorded animation sequence ( and I don't believe those watching the footage inside the stadium were aware either )

Their intention - from the footage shown to us - was clearly to deceive in that it was represented from its construction as one continuous shot leading up to the stadium - and spliced perfectly in between all other live action sequences.

At least they didn't have any vanishing hand cuffs ala Mr Angel ;-)
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Postby Steve Bryant » 08/12/08 10:05 AM

There is also internet chitchat re that NBC faked the order of teams marching in the opening ceremony so that the US would appear to come in later (fueled by folks seeing Kobe and Lebron in the infield well before the US team marched in) and that NBC omitted some of the ceremony itself because it was political. Should Criss Angel be blamed for all this tv magic?
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Postby Don Stachowiak » 08/12/08 10:40 AM

Um, it's a TV SHOW.
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Postby Matthew Field » 08/12/08 11:10 AM

It wasn't mentioned on SAMTalking, either.

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Postby David Scollnik » 08/12/08 12:35 PM

An examination of the story behind the NBC fakery charges:

http://www.thrfeed.com/2008/08/nbc-fake-olympi.html
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Postby Dave V » 08/12/08 12:48 PM

That's not the only thing that China altered to present the best possible image of their country. The little girl in the red dress that sang as the Chinese flag came into the arena? The Chinese officials decided at the last minute that the real singer wasn't "cute" enough so they let the other girl go on and they dubbed in the voice of another singer. At the time, not even the girl on camera knew, nor did anyone in the audience know that the voice they heard wasn't hers.

These seem to be the same people who are "proving" their gymnasts are indeed over the minimum age of 16 by showing their government issued passports. The same government that wants these girls to compete issued the documents? Hmmm...

Although I've loving every minute of the Olympics, I still have this feeling that the Chinese government is concealing the "real" China from the rest of the world.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 08/12/08 07:39 PM

The NBC hosts were clear that the footprint sequences were "literally cinematic" (I believe that was the phrase.) Now, if they would have just shut up for the rest of the event and let us enjoy it without their mindless prattle.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/12/08 07:39 PM

I hope the Beijing FISM organisers don't try to use any trickery in their opening ceremony! ;)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/12/08 08:47 PM

There's an article in the New York Times online today about the lip-synching and how it reflects the unceasing need of the Chinese goverment to try and make every moment perfect (their version of "perfect," of course).
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Postby erdnasephile » 08/12/08 09:14 PM

The person I feel most sorry for is the 7 year old girl who legitimately won the contest to sing, but was cut by officials due to her appearance. They didn't like (among other things) the fact that her teeth were crooked. (In other words, she looks just like the vast majority of the other normal 7 year olds in the world). Really good for the little one's self esteem!
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/12/08 09:44 PM

Yes, the Western world would never value looks over talent would they... ;)
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 08/12/08 09:52 PM

China is in the West?
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Postby Roger M. » 08/12/08 10:56 PM

Anybody who saw the "footprint" fireworks and thought they were real needs to pick themselves up a copy of George Plimptons book "Fireworks" (the bible on the topic) for a lesson in what fireworks can, and can't do.
Real fireworks don't look anything like what we were seeing on TV. That and the fact that the announcers tipped it off pretty much does away with the whining about them not being "real".

Regardless, all this stuff about the fireworks and the little girl seem more a CNN plot to make China look somehow more evil in the eyes of the world.

I'm no big supporter of the Chinese methodology of handling human beings need for free thinking and a happy life, but this current business of trying to turn a lip-synced performance and a CGI fireworks bit into an international scandal reeks of yellow journalism.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/13/08 12:30 AM

Ignoring the politically incorrect phrase "yellow journalism", I agree with Roger M - we've seen this sort of stuff in previous Olympics.

Here's an interesting "scandal" though: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/beijin ... 52,00.html
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Postby Roger M. » 08/13/08 12:58 AM

Tim, I'm not sure your take on the origins of the phrase are correct if you think it's inappropriate.

The term "yellow journalism" derived from the American cartoon strip "The Yellow Kid" who was a snaggle toothed white kid in a yellow bib.

Also, as far as judging is concerned, I doubt that there will ever be anything to rival the skating judging scandals of recent years. And most of them all happened in Europe and the U.S.
It seems complaining about the judging is de rigeur in any international sporting event.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/13/08 01:43 AM

Kevin Connolly wrote:China is in the West?

I think Tim was implying things are no different in China than in the West.

Given that our president once did a photo op from a podium in front of a life sized picture of military hardware when the same ACTUAL military hardware was less than two hundred feet away Pres. Bushs backdrops are legendary.

Governments spin everything.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 08/13/08 02:10 AM

Thanks Bill, but I'll let Tim answer.
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Postby CraigMitchell » 08/13/08 04:28 AM

"I hope the Beijing FISM organisers don't try to use any trickery in their opening ceremony! "

That's one opening ceremony where it is welcomed ;-)

"Anybody who saw the "footprint" fireworks and thought they were real needs to pick themselves up a copy of George Plimptons book "Fireworks" (the bible on the topic) for a lesson in what fireworks can, and can't do. Real fireworks don't look anything like what we were seeing on TV. That and the fact that the announcers tipped it off pretty much does away with the whining about them not being "real"."

The average viewer is NOT an expert on fireworks and for a LARGE PERCENTAGE of viewers at home - there was NO commentary regarding it not being real ( even NBCs comments were masked in double speak )

Its not so much the use of CG fireworks that is an issue - but it should give pause for thought on the larger ramifications of news reporting in general as technology becomes more & more sophisticated. The line between what's real and what's not will soon become impossible to determine ....
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Postby erdnasephile » 08/13/08 06:42 AM

Tim Ellis wrote:Yes, the Western world would never value looks over talent would they... ;)


Point well taken, Mr Ellis!

However, regardless of the potential political purposes, possible journalistic intentions, etc... I still feel bad for the kid.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/13/08 09:47 AM

Kevin, Bill was right. I was implying things are no different in China than in the West.

Roger, I understand the origins of the term, but applying it to the Chinese does seem a tad "racially insensitive" in this day and age.

Craig - I was really impressed with the footprints.. and yes, disappointed when I found out it was just an "illusion"... I agree with your comment that "The line between what's real and what's not will soon become impossible to determine ...." - but, as we saw with Criss Angel's implosion, sometimes it's too easy to pick.

And yes erdnasephile, I feel bad for the kid too. Kids in the West have so many problems already with eating disorders and self esteem issues as they try to look like their airbrushed magazine idols... that's one thing the Chinese kids shouldn't be introducing into their culture!
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Postby Roger M. » 08/13/08 11:33 AM

Tim Ellis wrote:
Roger, I understand the origins of the term, but applying it to the Chinese does seem a tad "racially insensitive" in this day and age.

You're kidding, right TIm?
Using your logic the term "yellow crayon" or "yellow labrador" are also racist.

Yellow Journalism is a term with a long standing definition accepted worldwide for its meaning and containing not a hint of racism.

The fact that you choose to apply a racist bent to the phrase is your personal, and somewhat disturbing take on its definition.

You're looking for something that isn't there.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/13/08 11:44 AM

I'm not looking for anything, and I know you weren't being racist.

No problem. But don't try to imply that because I pointed it out, it means I have a "personal" or "disturbing take on it's definition". I know exactly what it means. I just thought it was an unfortunate choice of words given the context.
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Postby Roger M. » 08/13/08 11:52 AM

Tim Ellis wrote: I just thought it was an unfortunate choice of words given the context.


If you've got issues with the term "yellow journalism" in any context, make them known while not referring directly to my post.

That you feel it was an "unfortunate choice of words" speaks only to you and your view of the world, not to my use of the phrase, or my intent in writing it.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 08/13/08 01:37 PM

Craig,

I disagree. I thought it was very clear and free from "double speak."

But I think the big issue is: so what?

This is art, people. And if the artist wanted to convey the idea that this was happening, and it was part of his intent, then who cares if they were real fireworks, an led screen, or cgi. The artist's job is to convey a feelingful response using the tools and resources available to him or her. If the symbolism of approaching footprints is what he wanted, and the only way to get it was with a movie clip - so be it.

This is not a magic show predicated on the idea that "what you see is what you get". It is an artistic experience (hosted by sports commentators - which is a dumb idea) designed to convey feelings through the media of artistic symbolism. It is not a physics report.

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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 08/13/08 01:46 PM

Welcome to the Matrix...?


By the way, if you gulp down the Red and Blue pills together, will you get purple?

Re China: What should disturb freedom-loving Americans is to see the progress made by rich (and getting richer by the second) police states. They are ruthlessly efficient...Democracies because of what they are are not nearly as efficient...its noble processes are slow and complicated...The Free Arena is a traffic-jam of competing factions...

This is how Empires fade and fail...

...but this is a can of worms as large as the planet--the kind that sparks a million more blogs...and probably has no place on this forum...

...except as it relates to the never-ending warring between illusion and reality...

Onward...
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Postby David Scollnik » 08/13/08 02:13 PM

I could be mistaken, but no one seems to have noted the end-piece of the article that started this discussion. I thought that part of the article was far more interesting than the fireworks bit. I'll cut and paste the bit I mean:

---

The ceremony has also been strongly criticised by architect Ai Weiwei, who helped design the Bird's Nest stadium.

Writing on his blog, Mr Ai described the ceremony as "a recycling of the rubbish of fake classical culture tradition; a sacrilegious visual garbage dump and an insult to the spirit of liberty; low class sound play that's just noise pollution".

He was directly critical of China's ruling communist party, characterising the ceremony as "a showcase of the reincarnation of the Marxist imperialism; the ultimate paragon of an all embracing culture of fascist totalitarianism; an encyclopaedia that encompasses total defeat in intellectual spirit."

Mr Ai helped design the stadium alongside Swiss architect firm, Herzog and de Meuron.

But since then, he has become an outspoken blogger against the Olympics and the Chinese regime. Unusually, he has not been censored by the authorities.
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Postby Paul Q » 08/13/08 02:42 PM

I bet Ai Weiwei cashed his check!
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Postby CraigMitchell » 08/13/08 04:26 PM

Brad - "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," Lauer said, according to a transcript Hughes provided.

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

If that's not meant to confuse I don't know what is ;-) At least NBC attempted to 'tell the truth'... And here I was super-impressed by those 'feet' fireworks ;-(

If you are looking to see novel use of fireworks - check out Cirque's Ka which has perfected the use of perfectly formed *indoor* fireworks
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/13/08 04:30 PM

So, do people see the Olympics as something that will encourage them to attend FISM in Beijing next summer? Or not?
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Postby CraigMitchell » 08/13/08 04:45 PM

Yes & No.

Olympics highlighted the severe pollution problem which I had never realised was so serious an issue. Consider that half of Beijing's industry has come to a standstill & pollution is still currently a serious health factor. Fast forward a year - Beijing's industry should be in overdrive - and pollution should be even worse than before.

Olympics also highlighted the sheer ability of Communist China to throw millions of dollars at whatever they choose - and if they are throwing that in the direction of FISM - so be it ... from all accounts, the Olympics has been a well oiled organisational machine. That doesn't necessarily mean it will translate at FISM. So much there is going to come down to the organisational experience of those putting the event together and their knowledge & execution of what makes a good magic convention.

Ultimately - I don't think the Olympics is going to sway too many people who hadn't already decided to go - but probably if things had gone amiss could have dissuaded those who were attending to reconsider ...

I do propose though that we keep the same Olympic beauty conditions - if your FISM president is ugly, petty or politics driven - they will be replaced with a sweet looking substitute :-)
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Postby JKeppel » 08/13/08 07:06 PM

lets see, A few months ago Craig started a post complaining about FISM hotels in China, then a few weeks ago it went as far to him saying "These People" when talking aobut the IBM/SAM contests and now its this. Ya got a little agenda here Craig?
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/13/08 08:48 PM

Brad,

I don't have issues with the term "Yellow Journalism".

Stop trying to make a big issue out of this. I'm not having a shot at you, the term, the Chinese people, or even journalists in general.


It would be like saying "Martin Luther King has been shot, it's a black day for America", or "Casino built on reservation, American Indians see red."
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Postby Tim Ellis » 08/13/08 08:50 PM

"Ya got a little agenda here Craig?"

LOL - Craig is an equal opportunity critic. He calls it like he sees it no matter who it is - just read his IBM/SAM or Blackpool reports...
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Postby Bill Palmer » 08/13/08 10:36 PM

Dave V wrote:These seem to be the same people who are "proving" their gymnasts are indeed over the minimum age of 16 by showing their government issued passports. The same government that wants these girls to compete issued the documents? Hmmm...


I understand your point, but what other government would issue passports to any player from China? The government that wants our athletes to compete issues their passports, right?

Although I've loving every minute of the Olympics, I still have this feeling that the Chinese government is concealing the "real" China from the rest of the world.


I've seen photos of the things China doesn't want you to see. However, they are no worse than photos of things I have seen in various major cities in the U.S. They are surprising, though.

Almost everything that the world will see from China during these olympics is a facade. It's just like their magicians. Gene Anderson told me that he spent some time talking to one of the Chinese manipulators. She knew nothing about magic, other than what she did during her act.
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Postby CraigMitchell » 08/14/08 02:54 AM

Hi JKeppel

Seeing that you haven't taken the trouble to actually read my posts fully - let me assist.

1 - My complaint about the hotels was the fact that the organisers hadnt released room rates with less than a year to go. I can't plan without knowing what I am in for cost wise. Post Olympics this will be rectified. If it is any consolation - I commented on the hotels in Blackpool as well - so I'm not geographically biased :-) Ask Shawn about his running water ;-)

2 - If you fully read my IBM SAM report - my comment of "these people" ( I assume you were quoting ) actually referred to the audience who were very liberal with their standing ovations. Please re-read the paragraph.

3 - If you failed to notice - Richard asked the question. Not me.

4 - I was fascinated by the fireworks - disappointed to learn they were CGI'd and then came across the interesting article which relates so well to the whole use of CGI in magic - and more broadly, when does reality end and illusion begin as we go into the future. Considering the timing of the Criss Angel fiasco - it was food for thought. And seeing that the thread is over 4 pages long - it's provided some interesting discussion ... perhaps fulfilling the purpose of a discussion forum, no ?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/14/08 08:50 AM

Reality on the internet.

1)Grade schoolers looking for pals - as per South Park
2)Somewhat older young women practicing social skills while planning or waiting for the "guest of honor" to arrive for their "boy party".
3)A few adults looking for the grade schoolers as per South Park

Some folks who are actually discussing the thread topic on occasion (who may also be members of 1,2,3 above).

It's all CGI on TV.
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Postby mai-ling » 08/14/08 10:28 AM

Richard Kaufman wrote:There's an article in the New York Times online today about the lip-synching and how it reflects the unceasing need of the Chinese goverment to try and make every moment perfect (their version of "perfect," of course).


there is no way that anyone can sing live in an arena like that.

i think all singers from any opening/closing ceremonies
all lipsynced. including sarah brightman.

there'd be too much feed back between the mics and speakers.

you couldn't even hear a word they sang anyway.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 08/14/08 10:43 AM

Craig Mitchell wrote:Hi JKeppel
4 - I was fascinated by the fireworks - disappointed to learn they were CGI'd...


The commentators mentioned that the footage of the footsteps that was broadcast to recreate what was actually happening outside the stadium. The reason give was one of safety, having a helicopter follow the fireworks at such a low altitude. The fireworks shown actually happened it just isn't what we saw on TV.

From the Telegraph and many other sources:
As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird's Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.
What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.
The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.
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