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Saturday, August 09, 2008

The CBC 'meh's Olympic Opening Ceremony

Okay, this is going to suck but as a patriot sometimes the hardest thing to do is show tough love.

I, like many Canadians, am a proud owner of a PVR and though I know there are a lot of broadcasters who're pissed at us (you know, for not watching TV when it's on) nothing has justified my purchase like what transpired last night.

Being unable to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics I cleared the harddrive and set the thing to catch everything that I could (in HD no less). I sat down today to watch the CBC's coverage and I thought it was good though a tad dry (and Peter Mansbridge came off like a total douche... I'm sorry, but telling us what we can already see on the screen adds nothing and makes you seem really annoying).

Then I watched the whole thing again, but from NBC's coverage.

Now, I understand we don't have a lot of money and we don't have the number of cameras and we don't even have the number of techs to properly cover something of this scale, so I'm not going to rag on the CBC for that.

I'm not even going to rag on the directing - which I wasn't a huge fan of, but I understand that you do the best you can with what you got.

I can also understand that simple things like bumping up the contrast to help clear the haze and make the colours 'pop' more in HD may not be something for everyone.

And understand that (constantly) choosing to focus on one single person in a crowd of thousands - thus missing the massive production going on around them - might seem like an okay idea.

But what I don't understand is the complete lack of meaningful research. It's the ONE thing that we could've really gone out of our way on, the one thing that costs so little to do, that would've made up for our lack of raw cash and cameras.

It's inexcusable.

Watching NBC's coverage after CBC's was like watching the ceremonies for the first damn time.

First off, they had 3 announcers - at least one of which actually seemed to know what the hell was going on. Unlike the CBC's, they knew when to shut up and when to expound upon what we were seeing.

One of the biggest gripes I have - and a perfect example of the problem - was during this little cinematic clip where the Chinese were showing the traditional way to make paper. In the CBC's coverage almost 3/4 of the clip's length was exposition telling us that this is a one-minute clip about Chinese paper-making. Then, later on, we've got a little Chinese girl singing a pretty song while Chinese Minorities bring the flag out to the waiting soldiers. In NBC's coverage we learn that she's singing "A Hymn to My Country". In CBC's coverage we learn "Thousands of little girls applied to get this part. And she got it."

Thanks CBC, very insightful.

Throughout the entire ceremony, NBC continually worked to inform us of little things like WHY the Apsaras (the flying Buddhist 'fairies') where an important part of Chinese culture. In CBC's coverage, they barely prounounced 'Apsara' properly and completely forgot to mention what the hell they were or why we should care.

It's about the details.

During the Parade of Nations, I damn near fell asleep in the CBC's coverage. There was a lot of talking about who people were, but I didn't know who the hell they were talking about.

In NBC's coverage, their keys not only told you where each country was, they showed you on a globe the actual island/landmass. They told you the country's population and total number of athletes. When they focused on the flag-bearer, they showed not only their name BUT ALSO what they were competing in. And, all the while, the commentators were sharing relevant and interesting anecdotes and facts about each country as they came by - including a cute little story about people from the Caymen Islands emailing in, asking them not to cut to commercial after Canada because they wanted to see their own athletes in the parade.

Fun Fact: It turned out not to matter because the countries entered in the order of the Chinese Alphabet (order determined by how many strokes are involved in making the first character of their name) thus putting the Caymen Islands ahead of Canada.

Overall, NBC's announcers were personable and knowledgeable, they seemed to have done extensive research and used it to bring a fun and interesting air to something that the CBC made seem REALLY long and boring in comparison.

Frankly, it seemed to me that the announcers for the CBC were winging it, glancing down at notes given to them by someone else. The NBC announcers KNEW THEIR STUFF COLD and were able to play off of it - hell, they even nailed most of their attempts at speaking Chinese (according to my girlfriend... I had no idea either way...).

I'm sorry, and it hurts me to say it, but the CBC just didn't measure up.

I knew we couldn't kill it with the raw coverage (our placement of cameras was passable but boring).

I knew not to expect the flashiness of what the Americans would bring (I'm sorry but our keys were flat and boring, straight out of the 1980s).

But the one thing that could've made our version better - or at least more interesting - was really working the Details; taking the time to research everything, to polish the edges and have it perfect. Making it interesting and funny and RELEVANT to the CANADIANS who were watching.

Unfortunately, that just didn't happen - something that's both frustrating and sad.

I hope it gets better, I really do - most of my weekend will be eaten up by watching as things unfold - but so far my socks are far from blown off.

And that's what's killing me: The CBC is NOT kicking ass out there, they're not bringing their 'A' game. It's the little touches like this that make things stand out, that make them memorable.

Just because it's the Olympics and you know everyone's going to watch DOES NOT mean you can just toss lackluster footage and a tickertape on the screen and call it 'coverage'.

Wake up, dammit!


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