Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympic Image

Sunday, August 17. 2008
http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/index.php?/archives/213-The-Olympic-Image.html

By now, we have all heard about the image manipulation during the opening ceremonies of this year's Olympics. The televised image of fireworks was actually a composite of real fireworks and computer graphics. The sequence took nearly a year to complete, and the artist was very happy with his work.

Personally, since the TV didn't say "LIVE" in the top corner and it does not skew any of the Olympic scores, I don't have a problem with this. In fact, I even approve of China's excuse: it would be unsafe for helicopters to be in the air during the fireworks. (It certainly isn't true: helicopters hover far above the fireworks, but it sure sounds like a good excuse.)

In fact, this year's Olympics has plenty of real-time graphics that are not upsetting anyone. For example, at the beginning of the track and field, and swimming competitions, the athlete's name and country are drawn on the screen. Cool: now I know who to cheer for. And those green lines that mark the world-record times are not ribbons being dragged by very small Chinese girls; no -- they are computer graphics.

However, other computer graphics seem more subtle and I'm not please with them. For example, did anyone else notice that none of the runners in the woman's marathon had belly buttons? Yup: all of them were gone.

Perhaps they just have very small pupiks that don't show up on TV, or maybe they wore them off while building up those abs. Seriously though, we know they exist because other photographers clearly show them:

New York Marathon: See Da Belly










Olympics: Sans Belly Button




But I just didn't see anyone with a belly button on the TV.

In fact, the only other sports so far with exposed midriffs are women's track and woman's beach volleyball. The closeups are usually from mid-torso up, skipping the belly button. A few closeups do show them, so I know they exist. But in volleyball, the belly button is frequently hidden behind the digital overlay that shows the score. In contrast, every distant view has players without navels.

I actually suspect that there is a "navel filter" with a size threshold. As the camera moves in, the belly button seems to appear out of nowhere. It is as if any navel smaller than a certain size is removed, but larger is kept.

Then again, I am sure that there are other computer graphics going on during woman's volleyball. For example, I am convinced that the black gunk on Kerri Walsh's shoulder is actually where the chromakey mask failed. (Nobody really has a body like that.)

I also wonder if there are other filters involved. For example, is seems like no athletes have zits. Most tattoos seem blurred. And I cannot help but speculate on whether nipple or butt-crack filters are in use.

All of this reminds me of the cartoon "Beetle Bailey". The editor didn't like Mort Walker drawing in belly buttons, so he would take a small knife and cut them out of the strips. Soon the editor had a box on his desk labeled "Beetle Bailey's Belly Button Box". Walker decided to revolt: he would give women extra belly buttons and place them everywhere. Eventually the editor surrendered. Perhaps our Olympians need extra navels...

In any case, since the Olympics are international, here is how to say "belly button" in different languages:

Chinese: dùqí 脐橙

Japanese: へそ (ne-buru or neeburu; thanks akboss for the romanji)

German: nabel

French: nombril

Italian: ombelico

Hindi: नाभि

Greek: ομφαλός

Norwegian: navle

Polish: pępka

(If you happen to know the English-phonetic spelling for the Japanese, Hindi, Greek, or other languages, please let me know and I'll post it here.)

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