Wayra Expedition: A Near-Live Adventure in Salar de Uyuni

A Curious Meteorological Phenomenon

Note: The Wayra Expedition was the first of its kind, and is now a well-known natural world documentary.

Resting at 3653m (around 12,000 feet) and stretching nearly 10,500km (4,050 square milles), Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. What can be seen today is actually the remains of a string of evaporated, prehistoric lakes that once covered the Altiplano Plateau near the crest of the Andes in southwest Bolivia.

With an alluring twist, this vista is a bucket list “must-do” for many outdoor adventure enthusiasts. Due to a weather-related phenomenon that happens a couple times per year, a thin layer of water sometimes covers this mystical and desolate place.

Despite its ephemeral quality and shallow nature, this rare film of water poses an intriguing perspective, prompting numerous questions among many of its visitors. Why is it there, how long will it stay…is it enough for kitesurfing?

Bolivias Salar de Uyuni: Walking in the Sky

The Wayra Expedition: A Near-Live Experience

Specifically, the Wayra Expedition Team was interested in the later.

Meaning “wind” in the native Aymara Indian language, “Wayra” was the ideation of Paul-Henri Chopin and Stanislas de Dinechin (otherwise known as Polo & Stan), sponsored by French Journalist and Environmental Activist Nicolas Hulot.

Working with Director Julien Mabileau, their expedition had one objective: to document a once in a lifetime kitesurfing adventure that would encompass the totality of the salar from north to south, or 160km (99 miles), with near-live production to capture the evanescent experience. The same experience that would yield breathtaking moments featuring two french kite-surfers.

Director Julien Mabileau using Newsbridge to produce the documentary in near-live time.

The kitesurfing expedition in Salar de Uyuni was no easy feat, and that was part of the Wayra expedition. In order to capture these fleeting moments and share them with the world, the team had to face extreme weather conditions (isolation, altitude, corrosive salt, changing weather patterns and extreme cold) while also nailing the water apparition timing. Never been done before, the team created one of the most mesmerising documentaries of the natural world. They captured the purest form of freedom in confronting the unknown and exploring an ephemeral area, another world.

During this time, Mabileau captured incredible footage of the two french kite surfers riding the multifaceted “Mirror of God”, as seen in the video below:

B.A Expédition Wayra 4K from Julien Mabileau on Vimeo.

Surfing into Production: How They Did It

In addition to a full documentary, the production team posted short snippets of the Wayra expedition to social networks. The challenge? They were in one of the world’s most isolated locations.

For this reason- the team chose Newsbridge to get the job done. Besides its publishing workflow, the platform integrated easy transfer features based on an optimized network infrastructure.

“We were really surprised to see our media transmitted to the Newsbridge platform, ready to be used in a matter of seconds in a remote location. It was a near-live experience in the middle of the desert!”

Julien Mabileau

On this ten-day journey, the team recorded more than 25 hours of rush with a UHD multicam setup, carefully considered in order to adapt to such unfavorable conditions (Sony FS5, DJI Drone, Alpha 7s, Gopro).

The first part of the documentary was broadcasted on French TV Channel France O, in the program “Riding Zone”.

The kite-surfers who took part in the documentary.

Beyond The Challenge: Another Layer

The truth is that beyond this challenge, this expedition was delivering another message. In fact, this beautiful, thin layer of water risks permanent disappearance if further lithium exploitation initiatives continue in the area.

Throughout filming, it was the team’s simultaneous mission to bring attention to this crisis. Post-release, more concern surfaced surrounding lithium mining in the Salar de Uyuni.

After the documentary was released, more attention was drawn toward the mining crisis.

About Newsbridge

Newsbridge is a cloud-based solution offering video indexing tools based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) contribution for publishers and broadcasters.

Taking into account facial, object and scene recognition with audio transcription and semantic context, Newsbridge provides unprecedented access to content. Whether it be derushing, archiving or investigative research- the solution allows for smart media asset management.

Today journalists, editors, TV Channels, documentarists, production houses and sports federations use the Newsbridge platform in contribution and post-production workflows.