For many in the FPV world (and GPS drone world), the name JohnnyFPV is synonymous with top-tiered FPV mastery.
JohnnyFPV (real name Johnny Schaer) is known for his participation in ESPN’s Drone Racing League, immersive FPV Freestyle Cinematic short films, and brand promotion.
Recently, JohnnyFPV teamed up with Indian Motorcycles for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something no other production team, or drone pilot, has ever done – have full reign at the iconic Circuit of the Americas (COTA) race track with two professional motorcycle racers: #KingOfTheBaggers and #Superhooligan champion Tyler O’Hara, and former MotoGP racing legend Jeremy McWilliams.
Shot with JohnnyFPV’s custom-made RED camera drone, which reached speeds of up to 80mph, along with multiple hand-helds and GoPros, this enthralling video captures multiple vantage points unseen in today’s motorsports video landscape.
Questions and Answers
We had an opportunity to ask Marc Altieri, Co-Founder & Director of Content for The Brand Amp (the team responsible for the making of this video) a few questions.
Below are Marc’s answers that many of you might be interested in:
What type of camera was used for the shoot?
On the drone side, two different cameras were used, the main being a RED Komodo. We utilized the Komodo for all of the real-speed footage seen in the video, while the FREEFLY Wave handled all of the slow-motion duties.
From a ground camera perspective, we used the RED Dragon and Canon C300 MKiii, with GoPro 10’s handling all on-bike capture and POV’s.
What lens and aperture were used – were zoom lenses employed or just prime
lenses of various focal lengths?
For this video we used all prime lenses on the drones, utilizing smaller (f11+) aperture settings to ensure a larger depth of field to keep subjects in focus at varying distances.
As for the ground cameras, the crew used a mix of 70 200 mm, a Canon 400mm f/2.8 L series to cover the action, and a 25mm for most of the intro.
Would we be able to get a full description of the drone itself – frame type, motor configuration, prop size, etc?
Johnny’s drone for this shoot was built from parts that he’s been developing with his team that they continue to bring to market for sale.
This one specifically was built off of the base of his newly released Banshee 8” Cinema Drone, which is designed to carry the RED Komodo.
It was incredible to see what he and the team have developed to be able to produce big-screen quality from a small, nimble FPV package.
Johnny has been forced to evolve as his work scales into feature films and the necessity for cinema cameras and lenses has come to the forefront, it was a pleasure to see it all in action and an even greater pleasure to see him bring these shots to life.
Did Johnny have the creative freedom for the shots or was the DOP calling all of the shots?
The Brand Amp team led the overall creative on the project, but we hired Johnny as the expert on all things FPV.
That said, the creative freedom on 90% of the drone shots you see were Johnny calling the shots from a creative perspective.
Our director Ryan Burns had specific shots that he had scripted for the storyline and creative, i.e. the wrap around the COTA tower, chase to the finish line, and the tilt to the sky for graphic supers, but it would have been a miss to not let Johnny do his thing given his experience and an incredible eye for capturing via FPV.
What were the limitations of the drone – Speed, etc?
There were some limitations, but not many! One might think the speed would be an issue to keep up with these Indian Motorcycles.
With the drone’s top speed being around 80mph, all we needed to do was avoid high-speed straightaways, which we covered those sections with a ground camera and Go Pro.
The track at Circuit of the Americas is 3.41 miles and we had a limited time window to shoot the entire circuit.
The biggest consideration we had to take into account from a drone perspective was battery life. We split the track into multiple sectors, shooting a few takes of each and working our way through in under 3 hours.
A battery only lasted 1-2 takes per sector with the speeds we were working with, so a gas generator followed Johnny at all times in a golf cart and constantly replenished the stockpile of batteries.
On the post-production side, can we get an idea of the Workflow and dealing with vibration?
This project was a beast of a post-production exercise. As for the drone-specific workflow. We connected our editor Brad Resnick with Johnny and his team to hash out the details.
We didn’t have much vibration to deal with. For the bit we did have, we used after effects to do tracking motion and did a 1% warp stabilization.
So working with the drone footage was rather painless. We really wanted to bring this thing to the next level with audio, so we worked with Charles and the team at Source Sound to make it happen.
We recorded a day’s worth of audio at an airstrip with the Indian FTR and the Source Sound crew recreated the audio for this edit with incredible detail.
The color of the footage was also a bit of a challenge with 5 different camera systems being used, but we’re very happy with the end result.
Why did Indian choose to go the FPV route?
The advantages of using FPV on motorsports content productions have been well documented through Johnny’s previous work with RedBull, Porsche, and the greatest inspiration for this spot: “Explosive Energy”.
The brand wanted to harness the appeal of next level shred edits, i.e. videos like the Gymkhana series, in a unique and cinematic format to draw eyeballs in a way that traditional scripted “launch” videos would not.
Additionally, Johnny has built a brand for himself that is synonymous with next-level action cinematography, which often appeals to a wider audience, so that was equally as attractive to a brand looking to communicate its racing and premium content pedigree.