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Did You Know...

... that the Hayabusa Hostage Crisis was the media highlight of the World Challenge 2015?

posted May 8th, 2015 - It was October 2011 when I reflected on the role of the media in skydiving competition and on the relationship of teams and competitors with the media. There has no doubt been progress. However, I was wondering what has changed and where, and my recent trip to Bodyflight Bedford for the World Challenge 2015 provided some answers.

I don't have the impression much has changed at the drop zones. We are still catching media interest mostly when accidents happen, and the vultures are swooping in with their helicopters and stupid questions. Getting the media out to cover an exciting event is the same challenge it has always been.

It is once again the indoor world bringing positive changes to the community of people who like the feeling of flying. This time, the contribution to our sport comes with the rising number of cameras and reporters you can see more frequently in the wind tunnels.

Man with a vision and with a jump suit: Paul Mayer

TURNING POINTS - Man with a Vision

There are obvious reasons it is easier to attract media reps to the flying chambers: Coverage and footage is guaranteed, as bad weather, problems with jump planes and other factors cannot interfere. Usually, even the time schedule works out by the minutes.

Paul Mayer, host of the World Challenge at Bodyflight Bedford, has been very successful in bringing the world's biggest 4-way competition to the attention of mainstream media in the United Kingdom. The World Challenge is a fun event for the participants,.however it is still a promotional event for the host at the same time.

Bodyflight Bedford is a resort and tourist attraction and Paul Mayer does what all other wind tunnels have as their top priority: Catch the attention of potential flyers and bring them to Bedford. Any article in the newspaper or clip on TV serves this purpose well. The World Challenge, with teams and competitors visiting from all over the planet, is one part of Paul's media campaign.

Staff briefing with Paul Mayer
He has always looked at different and new ways to make the event and the facilities more attractive, and he began—once again earlier than anybody else—to offer live streaming and his own Reality TV at the World Challenge 2014.

A school in the region supported Paul Mayer's plan of his own TV production during the event. A team of young students signed up for the field project and brought their own production equipment, sponsored by school funds. The online audience and everybody at the event site had the opportunity to follow all activities on a dedicated online TV channel.

A year later, the same young production team was back for the World Challenge 2015, now with the experiences of the 2014 event and a year of school work on the project. The work of the teenagers and the 2015 results were amazing.

Entertainer Ged Parker, here with Hayabusa member Dennis Praet
The 2015 production of World Challenge TV offered almost 24 hours of a mixture between entertainment and information. No, it was not perfect, and there were still some technical flaws here and there. However, some of the hard-core viewers in the United Kingdom commented that they felt it was like watching the BBC TV channel (That's a compliment...)

The audience had choices and could follow the action in the flying chamber from different camera angles or they could switch to the live streaming channel with information, interviews and entertainment. The production team was constantly generating footage and getting it ready quickly for broadcasting.

The main anchors, Ged Parker and Hannah Parker (unrelated), were moving around the whole facility until they were exhausted and took breaks in the green room, while the production team processed the recorded footage and assistant commentators for the different events took their turns.

TV and photo studio area at Bodyflight Bedford
Vicky Scargill and Brian Cumming managed the whole schedule and content organization for the anchors and commentators. It was a very smooth operation that generated the online TV channel for the whole duration of the World Challenge 2015. I was very impressed.

The Hayabusa Hostage Crisis was probably the highlight of the entertaining part of the World Challenge show. I was cracking up the first time I saw it. Ged Parker, former guardian of the entry to the flying chamber, is a unique entertainer and bursts with energy and ideas. At the same time, he is a great team player on the media and production team. It was great fun watching him do his thing.

The viewers who commented that the show was like watching the BBC were not exaggerating. I was too busy to see it all, but if I had the time, I would get comfortable in the lazy chair with a few beers and chips, get online, connect my computer to the TV screen and watch the World Challenge TV — all of it.

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