China digitally fakes 2008 Olympics fireworks


According to the Beijing Times, 55 seconds of the televised Olympics 2008 firework display? Completely fake:

Anyone who saw the opening to the Bejing Olympics would agree that the fireworks display was exceptional, but those watching at home were tricked into thinking what they saw was real, when some of it was actually CGI.

The fakery was unearthed by a local Chinese newspaper, The Beijing Times, which revealed that a 55-second sequence was created by a visual effects team, which included a series of giant footsteps made by fireworks.

Confusingly, this actually took place in the real ceremony, but the organisers felt that the sequence of 28 footprints would not be accurately captured live, so they faked it.

Keep all this digital trickery in mind when televised footage shows superhuman Chinese atheletes sweeping gold after gold. Or when a giant crimson dragon swoops out of the heavens like Falcor during the closing ceremony to kiss the head of Hu Jintao and then passionately denounce the independence of Tibet and Taiwan.

Olympic Fireworks Digitally Faked [Tech Radar via Gear Fuse]

Join the Conversation


  1. this isnt news. i specifically remember nbc saying, during the opening ceremony, that the sequence of fireworks that look like footprints through beijing was digitally created. I remember because i was so impressed that someone had made a firework in the shape of a footprint and ended up sorely disappointed when i found out it was cgi.

  2. “NBC Video
    At 22 seconds the NBC announcers say that the footsteps were a “cinematic device…almost animation”.”

    no linux support!! grrrr

  3. but those watching at home were tricked into thinking what they saw was real

    “Of course it’s real, I saw it on TV” does predate the Internet.

  4. To watch video using a Mac,
    please install Microsoft© Silverlight™

    It’s a fucking video! MPEG-4 is an open and universally supported standard; why isn’t this just a normal MPEG-4 file delivered over normal HTTP protocol?!?!

    (Hypermedia is the whole damned point of the World Wide Web, after all.)

    Mono is implementing Silverlight compatibility as Moonlight though.

  5. “55 seconds out of a (arguably fucking amazing) hour+ show. Haterade.”

    If this were the only incident of deception, you’d be right. But it’s only a minor (though particularly telling) episode in a long, sorry saga of trickery, lies, and outright fraud on the part of the Chinese authorities. China is hoping that if they show the west an especially shiny performance, that we will forget the many horrendous practices of their regime. Never mind that tens of thousands of Chinese have lost their properties or livelihoods for the sake of this fancy, but ultimately Potemkin performance. The world should be ashamed for allowing China to renege on the promises it made to the IOC in 2001.

  6. OK. This story is being blown out of proportion.

    A) The NBC announcers stated during the broadcast that the aerial perspective of the footstep sequence was CG. It wasn’t a secret; they clearly pointed it out.

    B) The footprint fireworks were real, but they couldn’t be filmed live from the helicopter for safety reasons. So that particular angle on the action — flying above the city, chasing the fireworks towards the stadium — was CG.

    See this street level video of the fireworks:

    Definitely not fake.

    C) Hu Jintao’s pet dragon might be fake.

  7. I didn’t know this post was about China’s legacy of political deception and human rights violations (which are obviously well documented and I don’t think anyone is doubting). I thought it was just about the opening ceremony.

  8. @zuzu
    It’s Microsoft desperately pimping a competitor to adobe flash. What makes it even funnier is that the plugin is an artificial requirement for mac and non ie browsers. On a PC with IE7, you get a “proceed without plugin” option.

    Oh, and if you’re wondering what the real footstep fireworks looked like.

  9. It’s Microsoft desperately pimping a competitor to Adobe Flash.

    Neither of which is well-suited to video, despite the popularity of YouTube, Google Video, and its fast-followers. Furthermore, both are proprietary formats with singular providers.

    Not that I was a fan of the proprietary video format wars between Windows Media, Real Media, and QuickTime… but once Apple dropped Sorenson for official MPEG-4, and considering Windows Media Player also supports MPEG-4, I’m amazed at how “willfully ignorant” many websites been towards MPEG-4 adoption.

    What makes it even funnier is that the plugin is an artificial requirement for mac and non ie browsers. On a PC with IE7, you get a “proceed without plugin” option.

    What’s the direct URL to that page?

  10. @Scaught
    Everything is connected. I have trouble separating the horridness of the Chinese regime from the shininess of their opening ceremony. If the knowledge that the entire presentation of Beijing to the west is an elaborate deception doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the associated theatrics, then enjoy away.

  11. @ mightymouse1584

    They did create a firework in the shape of a footprint.

    It’s just that they weren’t sure the effect would be clearly seen on TV (i.e. the weren’t sure the helicopter camera could film it all correctly).

    So that’s why the used CGI just for that portion.

    If you saw it live, then you would have been able to see the real firework footprints.

  12. Zuzu asked “why isn’t this just a normal MPEG-4 file delivered over normal HTTP protocol?!?! “

    Because then we could all download it and share it, God forbid. NBC wants you to have to watch it only through them. Because man, it would really suck if something that incredible, with a universal message of sharing and cooperation, was actually something easy to share with people who didn’t get the message.

  13. awesome, and thanks for the video. truly an incredible opening ceremony. good show. ****nods approvingly****

  14. Quick note – apparently, the little girl singing the intro song was faked, too!

    The girl that actually sung the song was considered too fat and with mis-aligned teeth, so they took a “cuter” model and added playback.

    Never knew that looks were considered a communist need.

  15. I heard that only 3 of the supposed 2008 drummers were real. The rest were done with animation and mirrors.

  16. Reminds me of my favourite conspiracy theory…
    Apollo 11 really landed on the moon, but all the photography was faked. 😉

    Doggy D (sure my login is somewhere…)

  17. This really isn’t fair. The photos everyone are attaching to their overzealous claims of “fakery” are NOT faked fireworks. That’s bad blog-journalism.

    The section that was faked was the build-up to the actual fireworks, when there were a series of fireworks going off throughout the city. It seemed obvious to myself and the people I was watching with that there was something amiss… no city, let alone one in china, would allow such a display in their downtown.

  18. Current score, as objective as I can make it:

    1) Faked fireworks for TV broadcasts.

    Official Reason: Too dangerous to actually capture from helicopter.

    2) 7 year old girl lip-syncs.

    Official Reason: Actual girl is not as attractive(face, teeth) and they want to present the best image of China possible.

    3) Students are brought in to subtly fill empty seats in stadiums to make stadium look full, although tickets were sold out.

    Official Reason: Want to avoid the empty stadium issue from 2004 Olympics, helps for a better image overall (for hosts and for competitors).

    Read into them as you will, more to come.

  19. They weren’t trying to deceive anyone.

    1) NBC was saying during the broadcast that the fireworks were digitally created, which means they were told before the event

    2) I could only speculate on this. They did not expect the girl to become a star. Choose the person with the best voice, the person with the best appearance, work together to make the best show.

    3) The students were wearing the same clothes, sort of like uniforms. If they supposed to be fake spectators, they would have changed into everyday clothes.

    The tickets were sold out. Who would have expected people to buy tickets and then not show up? What’s to be done? Somebody had a bright idea. Why not fill up the empty seats with cheer squads? I think it was a good idea. Should be done in all future Olympics.

  20. It’s crazy. Is it too much for some people to see Chinese doing something spectacular? The tone in the “fake” headlines really sounds like a loser. yes, one thing is for sure: you are all served with a good package of shock and awe. Live with it!

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