On January 1, 2022, several videos of unusual fireworks displays began circulating on social media. The impressive videos were said to be filmed in China, Japan or the United States, but they were actually digitally rendered and had nothing to do with New Years celebrations around the world.
On Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, many videos of fireworks shows in Japan, the United States or China have been shared since January 1. The videos showed out-of-this-world fireworks, said to be part of New Years Eve celebrations around the world. Some of them even garnered more than a million views. But some of these firework videos were created with a digital tool. Here's how to tell the real from the fake.
False images of Mount Fuji
This video was shared on YouTube on January 1, 2022, with overlaid text saying "Japan's New Year FireWorks are so fire". With Mount Fuji in the background, the fireworks show stands out for its colours and perfect timing. But this spectacle wasn't actually filmed in Japan during the first moments of the new year.
Searching on YouTube for the keywords "Mount Fuji fireworks" can help us find the origin of these images. The video comes from another video published on November 5, 2014, titled "FWsim Mount Fuji Synchronised Fireworks Show". In the caption of that video, it's clear to see that the video was made with FWsim, a digital fireworks simulating tool. The software allows you to create an artificial fireworks site using plenty of colours and music. Therefore, this video isn't from New Year 2022, but rather was a digital creation from 2014.
A message in fireworks above Los Angeles?
Also on January 1, a Twitter account involved with the American #DefundThePolice movement shared a video of a fireworks display above Los Angeles. From above, the fireworks seem to spell out a message: F**K LAPD", referring to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Some people online thought this was a protest tactic organised by residents, but it's actually an edited video.
Searching again with the keywords "Los Angeles fireworks" brings us to a video on YouTube from July 5, 2020, a day after American independence day. An amateur videographer took a video that was relayed by local media. It's the same background as the previous video, allowing us to see that the words "F**K LAPD" in pink fireworks were edited in after the fact.
An unusual light show in China?
Finally, you might have seen this incredible pyrotechnic show during the countdown to the new year in China. According to this Tweet, viewed over a million times, this video was taken in the city of Qingdao. But searching on Google confirms that it was made with digital effects.
The keywords "Qingdao fireworks" bring up the same video shared this time by the YouTube channel for the Chinese television station CCTV. This post, however, mentions that it is a show using "augmented reality technologies" – so, not fireworks. In the end, fireworks were shot off in Qingdao, and then visual effects were added to produce this "augmented" version of the show. The flying whale in the video, therefore, was only visible for people watching on the screens of their smartphones.
So thanks to modern technological tools, it's possible to digitally create realistic-looking fireworks displays. Although some of these were presented as real spectacles from New Years 2022, they were actually digital creations.