Tuned In

Beijing's Fireworks: Flaming Outrage or Pyrotechnicality?

  • Share
  • Read Later

NBC’s coverage of the Olympic opening ceremonies is coming under fire (so to speak) for its presentation of the “fireworks” at the beginning of the spectacular. The event opened with a sweeping tracking shot, moving over the Beijing skyline as “footprints” exploded over them, one for each Olympiad. The one hitch: the fireworks weren’t actually real—they were CGI effects—and NBC’s Bob Costas and Matt Lauer only kinda-sorta acknowledged that:

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.”

As a journalist and TV critic, I guess I’m supposed to deeply object to this, but I can only manage virtual, digitally-generated outrage. Yeah, Costa and Lauer should have just said that we were looking at a digital animation, which wouldn’t have detracted from the grandeur of the ceremonies anyway. But I can’t buy into the idea that the very practice of mixing animated and actual fireworks is inherently “misleading,” even if you acknowledge it, or that this incident undermines the general trust in the veracity of Olympic coverage and even news in general. I still think they landed men on the moon. Call me naive.

What NBC does deserve criticism for is slapping a bogus “live” tag on its West Coast broadcast for events that only aired lived on the East Coast. I mean, everything was live once.