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Go like a pro: A day in the life of BMX bad-boy Nigel Sylvester

Ferraris, go-karts, and private jets: Go! 3 is unlike any BMX video you’ve ever seen.

The third installment of Nigel Sylvester’s Go! series opens on a shot of the professional BMX rider not behind the handlebars of a bike, but behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia. Moments later, a second Ferrari overtakes him. It becomes immediately clear that this is no ordinary BMX video, but this should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Sylvester’s films.

Digital Trends recently had the opportunity to speak with Sylvester about what goes into making a Go! video, including how he chooses a location, sets up the shots, and what gear he uses. It is a collaborative process that is equal parts planning and guerrilla filmmaking, which results in a final edit that has a little something for everyone.

A creative spin on everyday life

In Go! 3, Sylvester takes viewers on a ride through the streets of Tokyo. It is the first video in the series to take place outside of the United States, and feels more like a super edit of the best moments of a “day in the life” vlog than a typical BMX video. Sylvester spends as much time exploring the culture of Japan as he does pulling off stunts on his bike. In short, this approach leads to a film that is entertaining to anyone regardless of your level of interest in BMX or extreme sports, while still including plenty of “wow” moments.

“All these things that are documented in the Go! films are things I would naturally do,” Sylvester told Digital Trends. “It’s documenting everyday life in creative, dynamic way.”

Those things include everything from the would-be mundane (buying a drink from a vending machine) to the dangerous (weaving through traffic on a bike) to the interesting (a glimpse of Japan’s bizarre supercar culture). Whatever the content of the shot, at no point does the video feel slow nor does it risk losing the viewer’s attention.

“When we started the Go! series, it was really just an idea I came up with — it was an experiment,” Sylvester said. Go! took place in New York, while Go! 2 crossed the continent to Los Angeles. “After the great response in L.A., I said, ‘Listen, we have to take this thing around the world.’”

Tokyo was chosen partly because Sylvester had been there twice before and longed to return, and also in response to requests from fans on social media. Fan feedback was also responsible for Go! 3 adding an additional two minutes of runtime over the previous films, a decision that Sylvester said was good, but not easy.

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“It was challenging to fill up that time and still hit a sweet spot where it wasn’t too short but wasn’t too long,” Sylvester said.

The longer runtime is what makes Go! 3 feel more like a travel video than simply a BMX stunt reel. We see Sylvester driving go-karts, playing arcade games, attending music performances, and more. In one particularly fun moment, Sylvester falls off his bike and is helped up by a sumo wrestler, suddenly having been transported into a wrestling ring.

Small and nimble

Sylvester works with a small team that includes director and editor Harrison Boyce and producer Jaimie Sanchez. With just three people, the team is able to better respond to challenges that come up in the moment.

“Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we’re forced to change the creative on the spot.”

“A majority of [the production] is planned out,” Sylvester said. “We know where we want to go, the things we want to incorporate, and the people to highlight. A lot of times, that changes when we’re out in the environment. Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we’re forced to change the creative on the spot. We’re very nimble, and we make it happen.”

Another challenge the team faced was simply working in a foreign country. “The language barrier was extremely difficult to get over,” he said. “We had some amazing people in Tokyo to help us out.”

As with previous videos in the series, it comes down to expert editing to maintain the fast pace that keeps viewers interested. Plenty of match-on-action cuts seamlessly blend distant locations and disparate activities. This is the main reason that watching Sylvester check his phone or eat sushi holds, rather than loses, our interest.

Go!-ing forward

In any series like Go!, there is constant pressure to always one-up the previous effort. While the on-location technical requirements are relatively low for Go! (a single, point-of-view camera), having the right tools for the job is nonetheless important. While Go! 1 and Go! 2 were shot on Sony Action Cams, the team switched things up for Go! 3, moving to the GoPro Hero4.

The camera must be “conducive to our shooting style,” Sylvester said. As such, he is always on the lookout for the next technological innovation, but stays focused on a few key requirements: high frame rate recording, a good lens, and perhaps most important of all, ease of use.

On a guerrilla production, a camera that can keep up with the action and requires minimal setup time is paramount to getting the shot. Sylvester found the Hero4 to be a good choice in these situations. “[It was] pretty user friendly, and we were able to send footage straight to my phone,” he said.

While Sylvester couldn’t reveal details about where Go! was headed next, he did offer some hints. “We’ll continue to go around the world in the same direction, from east to west. The goal is to hit as many cities as possible.” He also mentioned that he will continue to run polls on social media to take input from fans as to which cities should be featured.

One thing that’s certain is Sylvester’s continued approach to putting a unique spin on the BMX video, offering a variety of entertaining content in a single short film. “I always strive to elevate what it is I’m putting out,” he told Digital Trends. “Go! is a great platform for me to speak to people from all walks of life. There’s something in there everyone can embrace.”