Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Skydiving has been ahead of its time for decades. Long before skiers, skateboarders or surfers used video to transmit the essence of their sport as well as their passion to the public at large through video, skydivers depended on recorded imagery to conduct their competitions.
It started long before the GoPro craze with powerful ground-to-air cameras and it has evolved alongside the technology ever since. From the analogue U-matic in the 1970s to the current 8K Ultra High-Definition.
The recording of the sporting action is the evidence to be scrutinized by those officiating the competition and, at the same time, the dramatic coverage to be enjoyed by those following it. In that sense, skydiving could well be the first sport ever to make the process of a video review mandatory as per its laws. And given the significant quantity of recordings that are generated at major competitions, it should be much more widely exposed than is currently the case.
Sky on Stage (SoS), the first ever virtual contest for artistic skydiving, took up on all of the above and sought to improve on the processes that are involved. The concept is certainly not new and has been successfully implemented in many other sports – even in formation skydiving: in Kurt Gaebel’s NSL Cloud Mondial.
The SoS contestants were challenged to perform original choreographies in the sky or in wind tunnels and to ensure that these were recorded to certain specifications. These recordings were then uploaded to dedicated video platforms where they instantly became engaging content – animating visitors to interact with and to promote them through their own social media.
The three platforms ORIGINAL, INDOOR and THROWBACK (no longer online) were intended to serve as the sure-fire delivery system to bring multiple videos showing artistic skydiving events to relatively unified and sizeable audiences.
In itself a meritorious undertaking at normal times, the pandemic made SoS all the more relevant and a rare opportunity for artistic skydivers to show their stuff to the world – in spite of lockdowns and restrictions. Stefania Martinengo, the organizer, admits that her concept was a product of COVID-19 weariness and constantly adapted because of the ever changing health policies.
That participation in SoS remained below expectation had obviously to do with fallout from the pandemic. That the COVID-resistant THROWBACK Contest was not gathering momentum beyond the 26 entries can be explained by the short and limited notice that was given to participants. There is obviously room for improvement in nearly all areas of promoting and conducting future editions of this unique contest.
What has withstood this first test of fire was the process of performance evaluation that Stefania Martinengo had specifically developed for her contests. True peer judging combining with the scrutiny of established experts and the artists’ angle on the action will allow for unique conclusions to be drawn. Who knows, maybe those participants who were reluctant to judge their fellow competitors will change their opinion next time.
We will provide further analysis on the inaugural edition of SoS over the coming days and weeks. For the time being, enjoy the choreography by Leonid Shtivel, the winner of the Indoor Freestyle!