China wins Olympic gold for digital animation

12 Aug 2008

Beijing 2008 Google Earth video

Fireworks have literally erupted across the internet in the past 24 hours over revelations that the stunning firework performance at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on Friday last actually employed digital animation to provide the procession of footprints across the Beijing skyline.

A second scandal has also erupted over claims that the seven-year-old Lin Miaoke who spellbound world audiences with her song was actually miming and that the real singer was a different 10-year-old girl, Yang Peiyi, whom the directors decided was too old for the performance.

In terms of the digital trickery, the Beijing Times revealed over the weekend that aspects such as the safety of the helicopter crew filming the fireworks, plus the city’s skyline which is blighted by fog, meant a decision was made a year ago to use computer animation.

While the fireworks themselves did actually happen, to ensure they were carried across the world via TV screens a decision was made to run a digital version in parallel. It is believed the team took great care to make sure the fake footage and real footage were seamless.

It is understood that the 55-second digital sequence took the best part of a year to create and involved close liaisons with China’s meteorological society to get the smog conditions right.

The sequence harnessed computer-generated imagery to portray shots of the 29 footprints marching across the sky from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium.

The team is also understood to have added camera shake to simulate the effect from a helicopter flying over the event.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: fireworks go off after the torch is lit during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing, China

Beijing 2008 Google Earth video

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years