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Media > Change > Olympic media dossier > 1936

The Olympic Media dossier

 1936: Berlin   

1-16 August
These were the Games at which moving pictures came into their own. 'High-definition' television broadcasts from the games were made by the Deutsche Reichspost (German Post Office) and seen by 150,000 people in 28 public television rooms in Berlin, one of which is show [right].

Two different television systems were run in parallel during the games: 375-line all electronic (including a telecine chain) and 180-line electronic and intermediate film.
        Equipment included Telefunken iconoscope cameras from RCA and Fernseh electronic cameras incorporating Farnsworth technology. The mobile unit using intermediate film system introduced in 1935 was again used for some  outdoor events. The image quality was described variously as 'excellent' to 'unsatisfactory'. It was almost certainly not up to the standards that the BBC achieved with the first regular 'high definition' service that began in the London area on 405 lines three months later.


One of the types of camera used was the giant shown here: the Fernsehkanonen (television canon). Three of them were deployed during the games. The camera, developed by Walter Bruch and Rudolf Urtel, incorporated an American iconoscope tube but only for 180 lines definition. It was 2.2m long and the lens had a diameter of 40cm. It weighed 44kg.

        Zeppelins were used to ferry news film around Europe.

The most lasting record and remembrance of the Berlin Games, however, must be the film made by Leni Riefenstahl, Olympische Spiele (Olympia: The film of the XI Olympic Games, Berlin 1936). The first feature length record of an Olympiad, it was commissioned by the Olympic organisers and is made in the epic, heroic style that Riefenstahl employed to shoot the 1934 Nuremberg rally for Triumph of the Will (released 1935). That the Olympic and Nazi ideals could coincide to such an extent is still troublesome. Wie ein Held zum Ziegen.
        This time 45 cameras shot 200 hours of film that was edited down to 225 minutes, divided into two parts subtitled Festival of the People (118 minutes) and Festival of Beauty (107 minutes). Whatever the debatable political message, the films are very much in a European tradition of film as 'art' 
        These were the first Games at which the flame was carried by torch from the Olympic site in Greece, where a stone bearing the Olympic 'five rings' logo was added to the Delphic temple specifically to be filmed by Riefenstahl. Nazi myth-making at work again. Much of the ceremonial procedure of the Games was established in 1936.


 [1940: Helsinki]   

Finland was planning to introduce a 441-line television service in time for the games, which were cancelled because of the war. 

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Page created 1 June 2004
David Fisher