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Flying Frenchies Attempt Death-Defying Tightrope Walk

Kurt De Buck Writer

Armed with a GoPro camera and some serious skills, adrenaline junkies walk across two hot air balloons, using Intel technology to create a 360-degree video experience anyone can enjoy.

When French high-wire artist Philippe Petit walked between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on August 7, 1974, the world held its breath. It’s easy to imagine audiences had a comparable reaction when Julien Millot and Tancrède Melet performed a similar stunt between two hot air balloons at the 42nd Icarus Cup in St Hilaire du Touvet — Lumbin, France last month.

It makes sense for the artistic sports duo to perform at this event, which has evolved over that past four decades to become equal parts air sports trade fair, flight film festival and air show.

Legos in flight

The Icarus Cup

The inaugural Icarus Cup was the same year Petit completed his walk, and this first free-flying festival included three hang gliders taking off.

The 42nd edition was much bigger, offering its 100,000 visitors a wide array of air-themed activities, including a free Flight Film Festival, acrobatic aerial shows, hot air balloon contests, remote controlled aircraft, kites and falconry demonstrations.

In a festival packed with emotion, audacity, creativity, thrills and laughter, attendees witnessed and participated in activities that showcase an unflinching passion for flying.

There was even a masquerade contest, which encouraged hang glider and paraglider pilots to dress up in costume. Sharks, dragons, Lego vehicles, pirates and a praying mantis flew in past events.

icarus cup

Flight of the Frenchies

Millot and Melet performed their Flying Frenchies at the 2015 event.

The two first met on a climbing trip in South France, which led to them forming “Bad Slackliners” and the 2011 release of their acclaimed highlining (tightrope walking/slacklining at altitude) and base jumping movie I Believe I can Fly.

Millot and Melet added Anicet Leone and Freddy Montigny to their team, starred in advertisements for Asus and released two more short movies, including one about their first attempt to highline between two hot air balloons in 2014.

flying frenchies 2

A Death-Defying Walk

At the 2015 Icarus Cup, Millot and Melet had an opportunity to try the stunt again, but this time they wanted to video record the experience in a “like being there” way.

After a practice sessions close to the ground, the duo strapped to their helmets a set of six GoPro cameras so they could record their death-defying mid-air walk in multiple angles to create unique 360-degree views.

Footage from the GoPro cameras was edited into a movie onsite using Kolor’s Autopano Video Pro video stitching software.

To stitch the images together, the team used a high-end computer with a speedy Intel Core i7 processor, which allowed the Flying Frenchies to decode the six GoPro video streams at 1440p and combine them into the final video in stunning 4K quality in real-time.

Windows 10-powered laptops equipped with Intel RealSense technology available at the event allowed attendees to wave their hands and scroll through the final video and stop at the most terrifying parts. The 360-degree video and hand gesture control was a cutting edge combination for the crowd, reflecting the daredevil team’s desires to blow people’s minds.

“I’’m happy when I share experiences with others,” Millot said, noting that the technology was essential for developing the immersive content. “It’s a new way of feeling.”   This story originally appeared on the iQ UK website here.

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