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Did You Know...

... that the vision of live coverage is still alive?

posted May 9th, 2014 - Live event coverage has always been a part of the NSL vision how Formation Skydiving competitions should be presented to the general public, in the short term and in the long term.

There have been other passionate event organizers who shared the vision. However, the necessary resources have never been available yet to present the sport the way it deserves it, with a few exceptions where skydiving competition was plugged into other larger events with larger budgets.

The Sun Path Products NSL News has tried for years to get as close as possible to live coverage, with "NSL Reality TV" including interviews and unedited scenes from the event sites. It is no big surprise that the first "real" live coverage recently came from indoor competitions, as the wind tunnel operators have better financial resources to make it happen. It still doesn't mean that outdoor competition will not get its turn. The vision is still alive...

NSL Championship 1999

TURNING POINTS - Live Coverage: Empuriabrava - Montreal - Bedford

It was exciting when the idea of the National Skydiving League took off in 1998. I realized I was not alone with my desire for more 4way competition, even though not everybody came from fussball/soccer like I did, where we had a game every weekend. I had dared to share my vision of a competition league with other 4way competitors, and there was a great foundation of support.

However, there were very few people whom 1 shared another vision with that seemed to be even more ambitious. I kept it mostly to myself and have continued only dreaming about it once in a while.

This vision was about what could be done if we had unlimited resources - how 4way competition could be presented to the general public and to the media if we could do whatever needed to be done to make it attractive.

NSL-TV at the NSL Championship 2000
It is not that difficult to get the media interested in what we are doing and have them cover an event if somebody puts the effort into proper PR work. I had 30-minute shows of the NSL Championship on regional sports channels two times and another 30-minute show of the Shamrock Showdown/Paraclete XP Outdoor Championship in 2010, with Joey Jones anchoring the show. It turned out well and was fun to do, but it wasn't the real thing that I have had in the back of my head.

Then I recently followed the online live streaming of some indoor events, and my mind began going back to the same thoughts. I realized again that we are getting closer to seeing one day what could be done.

It began with the online live streaming of the Wind Games in Empuriabrava, an indoor competition including 4way. I had to admit that watching people flying here and there, and then an empty tunnel chamber for a long time, always from the same static camera angle, would not be very exciting for an online or a TV audience. It was still a good direction, I thought.

Public broadcast of the NSL-TV show
Then came the Canadian Indoor Skydiving Championship at SkyVenture Montreal a few months later, and the live online streaming was back. The Canadians had either learned from previous live streaming coverage or had a better plan for what they would do to entertain the online audience. There was more flying action, and two commentators presented the events with frequent conversations, like in a sports-radio show. Once in a while, there were also live interviews with several guests in the flying chamber when there was no air blowing.

The static camera angle was still always the same, whether it was for flying action, for interviews, for the commentary or the empty tunnel chamber. I also had to admit again that even watching the actual flying action did not get me too excited as a neutral observer. Of course, I was very interested and thankful as a 4way competitor, as I could follow the event and the people who I know well. But that's a very different angle.

Live broadcast from Bodyflight Bedford
Now I am traveling to Bodyflight Bedford, and I know that host Paul Mayer will take the step to the next level of live online coverage. Not because he watched the events I mentioned and wants to present his annual World Challenge in a better way. He is a man with visions and had made his plans long before. I have no doubt that his live streaming coverage will be much closer to a live TV show in other sports. I know some of his plans, and I am very curious to see what he has prepared.

Anyhow, the brave new indoor world has allowed skydiving competition to take the next step in bringing our sport closer to the general public and to the media. Of course, it is much easier to plan a live production and execute it if the environment is consistent and reliable - as it is in a wind tunnel. In addition, the operators usually have better budget options than DZ owners and are in the position to invest in a PR campaign and in the production of a live show.

Production facilities at the World Challenge 2014
Does it mean outdoor events have no chance to keep up with this kind of event presentation? Not at all. I go back to my vision and see the indoor progression as the next step and an example of what could also be done for an outdoor competition. Hey, we still have the much more attractive and much more beautiful environment - we are jumping from planes into freefall and flying colorful parachutes around that we land in exciting ways...

I see a skydiving stadium with bleachers and hot dog stands and beer tabs. I see the competitors lifting off in helicopters in the stadium's parking lot and live streaming of the faces on the way up, then the exits and the freefall performance live over the stadium on the giant screen, including the openings of the parachutes. The competitors are landing in the stadium, and Joey Jones has his microphone ready to ask Thomas Hughes right after the landing of Round 1, "So, how was it?" That's all live on the giant jumbo screen and the stadium's audio system. You watch a few more jumps and then you go and get your hot dog and beer before Arizona Airspeed is up again with the next round. Or you try to get an autograph from Thomas Hughes.

Yes, it's still a vision... But it's all just a matter of resources, and we are getting closer in our very young sport.

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