08.18.2008 08:00 AM
NBC faces accusations of using fake images and lip synching during Olympics broadcast

While NBC’s ratings continue to go through the roof, the network spent part of last week defending itself from charges of fakery — especially in the Games’ elaborate opening ceremonies.

Fake CGI fireworks and lip synching were used in the opening show. The fireworks, in the shape of 29 gigantic footprints, were a computer-generated, 3-D image seen only by television viewers.

The CGI effects were provided to broadcasters by the host broadcaster Beijing Olympic Broadcasting “for convenience and theatrical effects,” the Chinese said, because of poor visibility of the real thing. NBC said it would have been too dangerous to shoot from helicopters.

A tiny, pigtailed nine-year-old girl in a red dress who sang “Ode to the Motherland” was lip-synching, reports later revealed. The real voice belonged to a seven-year-old girl who was replaced because a member of China’s Politburo deemed her not cute enough.

NBC added a “Live” stamp to a clearly tape-delayed West Coast feed of competition coverage, and edited the “parade of nations” segment of the opening ceremony to delay the entrance of the U.S. Olympic team, other reports said.

NBC said its commentators, Matt Lauer and Bob Costas, told the audience that the CGI fireworks were a digital effect. Lauer called it a “cinematic device” that’s “almost animation” on the air. Others questioned whether that was enough to explain that the effect was totally fake and seen only by television viewers.

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