A little over a year ago Felix Baumgartner made history with his record breaking “space jump”, the world’s highest skydive from 127,852ft above ground. The jump was incredible but what many of us couldn’t understand is why there seemed to be no POV footage from Felix's perspective. Yesterday, GoPro released an edit of what many of us have been waiting more than a year for. The video, shown here in it's entirety, is stunning.
As visual creatives, all of us enjoy seeing an innovative viewpoint, angle or approach to capturing something, or some experience, in a new and exciting way. Many of us marveled at the cinematography of the movie Gravity last year, a film that has already redefined our experience with being in space and what it might feel like. Well this is real life, and yet it looks like it could have been straight out of that film. This video eluded so many of us for so long, as we wondered why there had never seemed to be a first person, or body mounted point of view (POV) shot of the jump.
As a skydiver who has shot freefall video for nearly 10 years, I couldn't understand why there seemed to be a total lack of first person or POV cameras for Felix’s jump. Most skydivers these days wear small GoPro or GoPro type cameras on our helmets, some might have them mounted on the backs of their hands and many BASE jumpers will often wear a couple of cameras for a front and rear view, showing the object they’ve just jumped off of as they fall away from it, or skim over the side of a mountain for a different view point.
Turns out Go Pro had not one but SEVEN cameras on Felix. This 8 minute long edit, which went live yesterday, has already racked up 1.5million views in 24 hours and it’s not hard to see why. We get to travel with Felix as he launches himself from the balloon, breaks the sound barrier, and free falls from about 24 miles up for around 4 spine tingling minutes.
The video is magnificent. Even for those not accustomed to being in the void of freefall, the fact he is so high – almost ten times higher than what most of us get to experience on a normal freefall - means we get to experience the black void of being at the edge of the atmosphere. We also see the magnificent parabola and curvature of the planet. Although this effect is something we occasionally get to witness when we initially jump from the plane by looking back through our legs at the horizon of the Earth, it is nothing like the scale of what we see here. Yes, the field of view on the camera is wide, so the effect is exaggerated, but it feels like we are basically with Felix for the ride, at the very edge of space itself.
And what a ride! Many of you might remember from the jump that there was initial concern at Mission Control, with Felix in a high velocity spin, seemingly out of control and out of radio contact for a while. Well, here we get to see exactly what he was experiencing – and it is terrifying. After the initial calm of the start of the freefall, we see the moment when – without friction from a lack of air resistance due to being so high up - he begins to spin uncontrollably, picking up speed and careering through over 840mph before finally encountering more density and air resistance and regaining control and entering a stable body position.
It’s a simply gob smacking video that is the epitome of what GoPro cameras stand for and what they market themselves as. Quite how they’ll top this remains to be seen, but I've no doubt they will.
As I watched it, I remembered the words he uttered before he began the jump: "Sometimes you have to be really high to understand how small you really are". It's amazing how much this video really gives those words far deeper meaning. We know exactly what he is talking about, now that we can see what he saw himself. In a few seconds, it explains so readily why video and the growth of personal HD video in particular, has exploded, and why it will continue to do so.
A shortened version of the video is to be aired for our US readers during the Super bowl tomorrow. Do yourself a favor though and take in the full 8 minute version here; it’s simply too incredible not to watch in it’s entirety.