15 August 2008

Fake Footprints in the Sky

I don't follow the Olympics, so I didn't watch the opening ceremonies. But I was struck by the news from the Telegraph in London earlier this week that the television images of fireworks "footprints" making a path across the sky were actually computer-generated. There were real fireworks in those shapes, the Beijing Times assured the world; they just wouldn't have looked so good on television.

Shortly afterwards, BBC News reported that a nine-year-old girl shown singing "Ode to the Motherland" was actually lip-synching the voice of a not-so-pretty seven-year-old girl. There have been plenty of lip-synched "live" TV performances before. But this time, the musical director said, ""The reason for this is that we must put our country's interest first."

NBC responded to criticism for going along with the CGI fireworks by pointing out that its announcers referred to those visuals as "actually almost animation" and "quite literally cinematic." Nineteen syllables to say "fake."

Nationalism isn't the only motivation for such fakery, of course. Three years ago the M&Ms balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade hit a tree and injured a woman and a child. NBC's announcers not only didn't mention the accident, but the network actually took footage of the previous year's balloon and broadcast that in the place of the damaged one. Why? M&M/Mars had paid for commercial time, and the announcers still had to read their lines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife now has a new phrase:

"As real as Chinese Fireworks"