Los Angeles Olympics Opening Ceremony 1984
For some years, I had been working (at UPITN), at long range, with Ellen Feldman in Los Angeles on projects like “Ripley’s Believe it or not”. She put me in touch with an American producer, Irwin Rosten, who wanted some shooting done for the opening ceremony of the 1984 in Los Angeles.
Irwin had a specific idea for the opening ceremony, part of which would require my help.
What he wanted was film of choirs around the world singing “Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand)” made famous by Diana Ross. They were all meant to be intercut so that they had to be in absolute synchronisation.
I asked the producer for a piano “sampler” of the music. This was used in each location as the timer so that all the choirs would sing at the same speed and in the same key.
The sampler was played to each choir before recording (we did not wish to re-record the sampler) to get them used to the tempo and rhythm. Immediately before each recording, the choir were played a “click” track. This track provided a timed audible “beat” to identify the tempo of the music. Once the choir had got the right tempo, the click track was switched off.
We filmed in Windsor Great Park with the Castle in the background, Tony Mander was the cameraman, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where Julian Botras was the cameraman, and in Rome with the Coliseum in the background.
In Rome, the cameraman was Guiliano Nocco who also went up to Venice to shoot another choir. We filmed in Nairobi with Mohinder Dhillon as cameraman, and in Tokyo. There were seven other locations around the world.
Rotterdam and Athens both shot by UPITN retained crews whose names I cannot recall now.
Cairo, shot by Osman Mahmoud Osman, India which was shot by Tom Mathra, China, was shot by a China TV, where I contacted Mr. Zhang who was Head of News in Beijing. This took a lot of negotiating, but, when he fully understood what we wanted, he was most co-operative.
Sydney and Tokyo were also shot by retained crews. The editors of the programme did not use Tokyo.
What was essential was that the shooting of each choir needed to be the same, a straight head-on shot of the whole choir. On the first take, it was necessary to hold a shot that encompassed the whole choir. The cameramen could then choose to do some medium shots and close-ups with the choir singing. They were all brought together in Los Angeles and formed one of the stunning items in the Opening Ceremony. They were intercut at intervals during the live performance of the song sung by singer Vicki McClure accompanied by a choir and the audience. I was quite proud of that, in spite of the fact that few people would have known what was required to achieve the result. They used all the locations but one, enough to show that there was world-wide participation in the singing.
Today, everyone seems to remember the great array of pianos that featured in the opening entertainment, the massed marchers and musicians and, of course, the man arriving by a jet back-pack, but few seem to remember the choirs.
Additional link: Filming Los Angeles Olympics 1984
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