Tandem Selfie

Should tandem instructors allow their students to wear small video cameras such as the GoPro to film their own jumps? This question came up at a recent standardization meeting for tandem instructor examiners—which included some of the most experienced tandem skydivers on the planet—and none of them felt that it is reasonable to allow a student to wear a camera of any type. Additionally, Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 6-8 recommends that skydivers have at least 200 jumps before using any camera on a skydive. However, some drop zones are allowing it.

As more and more people want selfie footage of everything they do, they are naturally asking drop zone owners and tandem instructors if they can shoot their own footage of the ultimate experience: a skydive. And some DZOs and instructors are actually allowing this to happen rather than employing a separate videographer or mounting the camera on the tandem instructor’s hand. But why is allowing a tandem student to use a camera a bad idea?

First of all, tandem skydiving is supposed to be a method of training, not a ride at the fair. So why not train your student properly, give him an altimeter and teach him a few things that might just help him become a safer first-time skydiver? Alternately, you could give him a camera and struggle with a lousy exit because he’s too busy flashing his awesome “shaka-brah” signal at the lens to worry about proper hand and foot placement or arching on his way out the door. Hopefully you’ll throw the drogue after you finally get stable instead of tossing it during one of the rotations so you won’t have to deal with it entangling with your student and his camera. Then there’s the landing: This is when you’ll struggle to avoid snapping your student’s ankles when he forgets to pick up his feet because he’s busy throwing his second “shaka-brah” and trying to keep his face in frame. But hey, at least it will all be there in brilliant high-definition color video for all his other look-at-me friends to see. Nothing sells skydiving like screaming agony and a shot of a foot pointing 90 degrees in the wrong direction as your drop zone logo streams across the screen, right?

Instead, why don’t we leave the video cameras to the trained professionals and train our tandem students to be excellent skydivers? Seems to make a lot more sense to me.

—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training


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Sat, 08/12/2017 - 10:26

Jim and others,

I completely disagree with this. I have experience with both instructor wearing the camera and putting the camera on the student. It is much safer in my opinion for the student to wear the camera and here is my reasons:

1) The instructors responsibility is to to first make the skydive safe. Our focus should be on exit, stability, handle checks, and altitude awareness. When the camera is on us it adds the complexity and concern that comes with being the videographer and tandem instructor.

2) When the student is properly coached the video quality of the outreached arm of the student is much better than the instructor reaching around in the students face.

3) Under canopy it is difficult to get any quality video or pictures while hands are on toggles where they should be. The student at this point has complete freedom to get great footage.

4) Finally, it puts the responsibility on the student to get good video / pictures. The student doesn't do well with the camera? Oh well. The instructor doesn't do well with the camera, dissatisfied customer.

Obviously, the traditional outside video is the best method for tandem videos, but with the evolving changes and small cameras available TI's need to rethink this mindset. If you truly want hand cams to be safe, put them on the student.

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