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Abc's Filming of the 1976 Winter Olympics

By Weisman, Brice | American Cinematographer, April 1976 | Go to article overview

Abc's Filming of the 1976 Winter Olympics

Weisman, Brice, American Cinematographer

Although electronic cameras of the ABC-TV network did a magnificent job of beaming the events of the 1976 Winter Olympics throughout the world, the network's film crews added a very special dimension

Our filming project was designed to provide ABC Sports with supplementary programming in addition to our regular coverage - to, in essence, generate another dimension of completeness of coverage by contributing profiles of personalities and sketches, if you will, of athletes away from their areas of competition - in their homes, with their families, where they are, hopefully, most like themselves. The idea is that we are used to seeing athletes in competition wearing different uniforms and protective gear which protect them from injury, but also protect them from any sort of real intimate look, any sort of contact on the part of the spectators, whether they are at the stadium or in their living rooms.

I think we realize that in order to be an Olympic athlete, the individual must have qualities of discipline, dedication, perseverance, ambition - or a combination of all of those - in addition to natural coordination and basic physical gifts. That's what we're after. Is there a way to find a common denominator? Probably not, but it's worth looking for.

We started about two years ago to compile a list of world-class competitors in all of the Olympic disciplines and, by watching them carefully in international competitions around the world, we were able to narrow the list down to people who, within six months here at Innsbruck, were likely to be at the very forefront of their team's challenge for medals. We then sat down and looked at the budget and decided that out of that total we could afford to film only so many. It was a great disappointment to have to cut the list down, but in any planning, you have to decide, out of all that you'd like to do, what can realistically be done.

With the final list chosen, we actually began filming last June, with scenes of the U.S. Ski Team working out at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Then, in August, we went to Europe for a two-week jaunt. I came back for three days and then went to Russia for four weeks. I came back for about ten days and then went on an American swing. I did another American swing and another two and a half weeks in Europe. Then back for the final competition in January and back over to Innsbruck to actually get ready for the Games. There was a lot of traveling and when I was home, of course, there were pieces to review that the editors had been working on while I was away - and we tried to bring everything together.

We have been busier than we thought we would be here in Innsbruck. There are only a relatively few disciplined sports that are in competition and we have very good electronic coverage of these - either on our own, as ABC, or in combination with ORF (Austrian Television), or by ORF on their own. Almost every single sport is covered electronically, so that in very few cases would there ever be a demand for us to shoot straight sports coverage. Therefore, we use our film crews to develop special film pieces, as opposed to ,,pseudo-electronic" pieces.

We do high-speed things. We do impressionistic studies of what it's like for a skier to go down a hill. We do studies on film of the town of Innsbruck and surrounding areas. We do pieces that are meant to suggest what it's like to be here. It is difficult to get that across in just any medium, but the power of suggestion implicit in film is one of that medium's strong points.

In a general sense, very little of our stuff has been directly straightforward. It's always been sort of suggestive, or evocative. That's what film does best, and that's what we are here for. Occasionally, when the electronic apparatus is not available, we'll go out and do interviews. We are prepared to do that and we do it pretty well, but generally our purpose is to add another dimension, the suggestion that we are doing as complete a job as it is possible to do.

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Abc's Filming of the 1976 Winter Olympics


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