One Shot with drone pilot Johnny Schaer
© Garth Milan
One of the best drone pilots in the world, Johnny FPV, shows us the gnarliest line on a dirt bike in just one take, while chasing the great Tyler Bereman around a track.
To call young drone pilot, Johnny Schaer, aka Johnny FPV a savant — is an understatement. He’s regarded as one of the best, if not THE best FPV drone pilot on the planet. From elite drone racing to filming travelscapes in Dubai to Iceland; from chasing Formula One racecars to dancing with hot air balloons in Turkey…the kid’s talent and perspective is seemingly unreal. And his newest challenge? Shooting moto-savant Tyler Bereman nail the gnarliest line on a dirt bike in just one take in Red Bull’s “One Shot.” Tyler brought his own vision and ultimate dream line to life when he spent two months building this course himself. Undoubtedly, the man for the job — producing quite the high-bar to beat — we caught up with Johnny FPV mid-road trip for some backstory on this astounding edit.
Red Bull: So, Johnny, this Red Bull One Shot project…Tell us about it and what that was like flying after a guy like Tyler Bereman.
Johnny FPV: The FPV drone paired with the motocross — they’re both really high-speed — so it synced up nearly perfectly. It'll be a benchmark to try and beat for sure since it worked so well. On this shoot, I met Tyler for the first time, so I really didn't know too much about him, actually. But very quickly I learned he's a complete bad-ass and very passionate about riding. I don’t know if he’s been riding since he was very little, but if so: it showed. He would nail the biggest tricks repeatedly without many mistakes. Which helped a lot. Obviously, not all of my takes are perfect, so the one we nailed, he also nailed. So, that was really helpful.
Awesome. And when you're following a guy like Tyler on a dirt bike, is that really difficult? Is the route and your maneuvers planned out in detail?
Basically, with FPV, the main thing I always like to say is that it's a reactive thing. So, I'm reacting to whatever's happening. I'm reacting to Tyler and how he's riding, but ultimately, I can see the track that he's riding on, so I kind of have an idea of what he's going to do and where he's going to go. We had two evenings to try and get it. The first day, it was just practice. And then the second night we were nailing it, but yeah, I was just reacting to everything he was doing and we managed to get a really nice line together.
Wow. That's surprising; the quality is so tight, it looked planned. So, you're pretty much saying its kind of like improv?
It's a little bit like improv. Again, I can see the course and I pretty much know what he's going to do, but every time I'm in a slightly different position and I have a slightly different angle, so you kind of just have to make it work on the spot. Each take is a little bit unique and it's a little different. But yeah, I managed to get a really good one that I'm really happy with.
Amazing. You know, with this One Shot edit, as well as other edits we’ve seen you do, you can really see your personality shine in your work…is that intentional, or, are you just having that much fun?
I really like that you say that. I mean, I think FPV, it's its own kind of art form. So, every pilot, every FPV pilot has their slightly own way of flying and their own habits and their own kind of stylized moves that they do. I suppose I have always flown in a certain type of way, and people have thankfully enjoyed it. It's cool if that kind of came across in One Shot.
If anything, when I'm flying, I suppose I'd say I’m trying to be as smooth as possible. I want to feel the energy of the surroundings and Tyler. So, I would say trying to get very close to him and maybe pulling back in certain locations where it's more of a beautiful view. Then, just getting things very close to him so you feel that rush and that energy, and it all comes together in its own way.
Yeah, at times, as a viewer, it felt like we were right there with Tyler. Like, almost on his shoulder; was that on purpose?
I would say that's just the natural viewpoint of the FPV drone, because basically, what I'm flying is what I'm seeing. So, the main kind of FPV style is a chase point of view. Then of course, when there's turns and whatnot, you could play with the kind of the physics and how the drone carries momentum to try and get some side angles and some front angles.
Have you ever gotten too close to a subject, whether it was Tyler or some other person that you were chasing, and distracted them?
Thankfully, we didn't have any close calls with Tyler. I think he was so focused and he's so in tune with what he's doing, that he didn't even know I was there, which was super good. But, sure, In the past, I think I've come close to some people and maybe it's slightly thrown them off, but nothing really rings a bell right now. Obviously, I try not to get too close to people or, God forbid, hit them. [laughs]
How many takes was that for that “one shot?”
We had two evenings to do it, and I think collectively, I would have to look back and do some calculations, but I guess it was around 10 full runs. Of course, there was other sections where he just did half of the course to get warmed up, but I think we probably did eight to 10 full runs. On the very last run before the light got too low was the one that really came together the best. And, that's the one that is in the video.
Choreographing the ride
Amazing. With something like FPV, it's so relatively new, do you have any inspirations or people that you look up to…or are you pretty much just paving the way with a few other guys?
I think I've taken a lot of inspiration in other art forms, specifically, cinematography and things like that. It might not translate directly, but it's more so like finding passion in those and then going out and flying and just trying new things and forcing yourself to fly in unique ways. Of course, there's other incredible FPV pilots who I've seen them do really awesome things and I've tried some of those same moves, but it's basically just doing it hundreds or thousands of times. Each time there's a unique thing that you discover and you add it to your fleet of techniques. Whether it’s FPV racing, or an FPV filming situation, both require precision and your full attention and any mistake ends up being critical, whether it's ruining the shot or crashing in a racing situation.
Have you lost a lot of drones or had many destroyed over the years?
Yeah, I certainly have had my fair share of lost drones, crashed drones, exploded drones. Thankfully, in the last few years, I haven't lost too many, but in the beginning, for sure. Lots of broken parts, a few horror stories of losing a drone where you can never find it again, things like that. It's hard to say a number accurately, but lost drones, probably five-ish and then destroyed drones, (where it requires a good few hours of rebuilding and buying new parts) 10, 20, 30, something like that.
Lastly, what did you love most about this One Shot experience?
My favorite part about this was just trying to capture the entire thing in, as the title suggests, one shot. I do a lot of cuts and edits in some of my videos so it was really fun to try and make a really interesting and unique video without any of those cuts, while trying to keep it interesting, and keep people entertained. Obviously, Tyler had a huge part in that with the crazy line he designed and his riding.