SmugMug Films: Extreme Filmmaking by Devin Graham

Today we proudly release the third episode of SmugMug Films featuring YouTube superstar and extreme sports videographer Devin GrahamWatch it now and subscribe to see future installments as soon as they’re live.

Devin Graham has always loved adventure. From traveling with his father to snowboarding with his friends, he’s enjoyed experiencing all life has to offer. Even after two severe injuries, Devin didn’t lose his love for extreme sports; instead, he decided to keep experiencing them–only now from behind the lens, sharing through YouTube the unique, wild, and extreme adventures he discovers all over the world.

Portrait of Devin by Jarvie Digital

How did you get started in film?

I started making videos when I was a little kid. My dad had this huge camera that used VHS tapes that I would borrow, and he was always hesitant about letting me take it because it was the only one we had. I would break them from time to time, but it allowed me learn.

I used Legos to make little stop-motion movies essentially–I hit record really fast and took a picture of a couple things, then I’d stop tape, move the pieces, and take a couple more shots. I’d also make music videos with my siblings.

Once I got to Boy Scouts, I was able to get the cinematography merit badge. We learned how to edit on a turntable, which was very slow editing. Later I volunteered at a cable access studio. After that, my senior high school project required us to make a creative video, so I made a snowboarding video with my friends, and that’s where I learned linear editing, how it’s done today.

If you were filming snowboarding in high school, your interest in extreme and unique adventures must have started early!

Definitely. I got a lot of that from my dad, who was a big outdoors person. He loved camping. He loved hiking. And I’ve always loved extreme sports, especially snowboarding, which I did constantly. I’d go out with all my friends and film us all snowboarding together. Then I’d come home to edit on the computer, so I taught myself how to edit digitally that way–back when computers were really slow and it’d take weeks to put together a 30-second clip.

Scenes from Devin’s adventurous youth

With your love of extreme sports, do you participate in any of the adventures you film today?

When I was filming my snowboarding videos, I actually broke my back and then my leg, and I was told I would never be able to do that kind of stuff again. But I loved it, and I was able to figure out how to stay involved through filming. I pretty much stay behind the camera now. Occasionally I’ll participate in something that won’t hurt my back. Generally, I come up with ideas and then let my friends, who are the professionals, handle the action so I don’t chance popping my back out of place.

Goodness! May we ask how you injured yourself?

I broke my back and leg in two different trips, a year apart. My back injury happened during a snowboarding jump on a tabletop I was trying to clear. It was 70- or 80-feet long, and I didn’t go fast enough. I spun and landed from high up–it would be like falling from a couple stories and landing on flat ground. My vertebrae squished in an L2 compression fracture.

My leg broke during snowboard camp. I was on a trampoline of all things, and I landed on a spring. It popped the bone out of my leg. They had to stick a rod down my leg, and I had to go through surgery, but it never stopped me. When I recovered, I went right back into filming extreme sports.

Scenes from Devin’s adventurous youth

Wow. Seeing your behind-the-scenes videos you’d never know. You’re running and jumping along with these folks!

Yeah, my original goal was to tell feature film stories for Hollywood on the big screen. Then I made the decision to create wedding videos on the side to help with finances. When I started studying other wedding videos, I realized they all used static shots. I wanted my wedding videos to look like something out of a movie. And with movies, the camera is always moving.

I heard about Steadicams and things that allowed you to get those moving shots. After lots of research, I bought a GlideCam and started using it on everything I did, including the fun things I did with my friends. That led to using the GlideCam for the extreme sports videos, which require me to always keep moving!

You make it sound simple, going from weddings to extreme sports, but it sounds like quite a transition!

It definitely was a transition. I was filming weddings on the side while I was going to college for film. While I was working on my studies, I discovered the power of social media and YouTube. I was able to transition at the right time and find my niche with extreme sports, which people would share. Then companies around the world started asking to hire me to do bigger and better projects for television. YouTube opened the door to all these opportunities, and it’s been great ever since.

How do you handle lighting while you’re doing all this running around?

For me, there’s no science behind it. I just film what I feel looks good. Since we’re a one- or two-man team at most, we don’t have time to light things. That’s one of the reasons I shoot outside: you don’t need a whole crew to light things. But we do time all our shoots around the sunlight, filming during the golden hour when the sunlight’s looking its best.

Behind-the-scenes photo by Dustin Bess Photography

With such a small team, do you use additional cameras, or are you just running around everywhere to get all those angles?

We’re literally just getting every shot we can think of, running from one thing to the next. Especially when we have only an hour of sunrise or sunset. In addition to the GlideCam shots, we’re also using GoPros now since the quality has gotten so amazing. With those we use a GoScope, which is basically a pole we can hook the GoPro on to. We’re all about making people feel like they’re part of the action, and the GoScope allows us to put the viewer in the position of the athlete.

Any other essential gear?

We use two cameras as our main cameras: a Canon 5D MkIII and a Canon EOS-1D C. Ninety-five percent of our shots are with those and 5% are from the GoPro cameras. For lenses, the majority of our shots are done with the Canon 16-35/f2.8 L series. The rest of the time we use a Canon 70-200/f2.8. With the 16-35, we can be everywhere. We’re always choosing epic or amazing locations, and the wide-angle shots make the viewer feel as if they’re there.

We’re curious about your settings since you’re moving around so much. Do you shoot any of this manually?

We’re working on new videos once a week, which doesn’t allow a lot of time to edit, so we try to do everything in camera. Generally we’re shooting everything at 2.8 with ISO around 100 and shutter speed around 4000. We also use a B+W polarizer, which makes the skies super blue and the greens super vibrant as well.

As far as focus goes, we do everything manually. When shooting video, you can’t do automatic focus because the focus will be pulled all over the place. So we set the focus and then try to keep our subjects the same distance from us. If we move in close, we just change the focus.

Scenes from Devin’s adventurous youth

What are vital things you look for when framing a shot?

I try to have movement in the foreground as well as in the background because it gives the shot more life. If nothing is going on in the background, I’ll have someone run by or shoot a water gun so it feels like there’s as much action going on as possible. Then I’ll look for good lighting that makes the person or location pop the best.

How do you maintain your framing so well while you’re running along with the action?

Years of practice! When I started I wasn’t very good with the GlideCam, but now that I’ve done it so much I don’t have to look at the camera anymore. I can instead look where I’m going and get a good sense of what I’m filming.

What do you feel is important for telling a great story in film?

I always try to create mystery in the first 15 seconds of any video I do. This involves close-ups so we don’t reveal exactly what the viewer is going to see. For example, in the rope-swing video, you see someone walking in a close shot, then you see them setting up something, and it makes you wonder what they’re doing. Then, at that point, it’s all about making the viewer feel like they’re a part of the action and showing them something they’ve never seen before.

I feel so many people are stuck in their office space looking out the window, and they want to experience life, so we try to give people experiences they potentially would never have.

Could you walk us through your editing process after a shoot?

We’ll spend a day shooting and then it usually takes a week to edit the video with music and sound. The music I use is stuff my friends compose. And our sound design is done by a guy in England. It’s really just straight-up editing.

We always have an idea of how we want a video to play out, but once we start editing we get a better scope for it. We lay out everything on a timeline and go through every shot one by one–it’s a discovery process all over again. Then we’ll spend a couple of days fine-tuning and putting sound in.

Often we’re editing on the plane when we’re coming back from a shoot. The world is my office.

Scenes from Devin’s adventurous youth

That sounds like it can be tiring. How do you keep going?

It is definitely tiring, which is why we’re super selective about our projects. We don’t do anything that we’re not going to be passionate about. And that’s the only reason we can do what we’re doing–when we travel it’s almost a vacation because we love it so much. We’re hanging out and making a video with friends, and we’re just having fun. We get to see the world doing that.

Any advice you’d give to someone who’s looking to get started with filmmaking?

Go out and constantly shoot and constantly learn. A lot of people wait to get accepted on projects, so they never end up shooting. But what I discovered is by doing a video once a week, we’re constantly growing as filmmakers. It’s okay to fail as a filmmaker. Make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. And content is more important than any gear you can or cannot afford.

What do you love most about what you do?

It gives me amazing opportunities to work with amazing people. I get e-mail from people around the world thanking me because it’s given them a reason to go outside and do things they’re passionate about. I once got a letter from someone who said they were going to commit suicide but then remembered my videos; he said the videos gave him a reason to be alive because these were all things he’d be missing out on. For me, more than anything, the reason I do what I do is it gives me an opportunity to give back to the world and show how amazing life really is.

Portrait by Jarvie Digital

Find Devin online:

Watch the World Premiere of SmugMug Films

Introducing SmugMug Films. An all-new, behind-the-lens look at the world’s most exciting photographers, our heroes. Extraordinary people who follow their passions to create amazing shots that stop us in our tracks.

It’s our hope that these stunning video shorts will inspire passion, ignite possibility, and encourage us all to to throw our own shutters wide open to the wonders of the world.

The first SmugMug film will debut on Monday, January 13, 2014. Subscribe to our SmugMug Films YouTube channel with one click, and you’ll get first access to each new episode.

New Video Downloads: Shoot, Sell and Share

Hey, Smuggers! Pros can now sell video downloads just like prints, cards and the whole shebang:

Sell video downloads

You’ve asked for this for a really long time and we were busting at the seams waiting to tell you about it. We hope you love this new feature (and all the cha-ching! it brings) as much as we loved building it for you.

While you’re soaking up the good news, let’s go over the basic deets about video on SmugMug.

How to Upload Your Videos

You probably already know that you can upload an unlimited number of HD video to every Power or Pro SmugMug account in addition to unlimited photos. Since most cameras have video functions baked right in, you’ve probably got quite a collection already.

Put your videos into your SmugMug galleries exactly the same way you already do with your photos. You can upload a slew of photos and videos at the same time if you’d like. We always recommend our easy-to-use browser based uploaders, but you can use whatever works best for your workflow.

There’s lots of different video formats out there and we accept a huge range of codecs to make it simple. In the rare case that we don’t recognize the format, write to our Support Heroes for help or try converting it to a different one.

How to Sell Video Downloads

Price them just like you would price any other digital download. If you’re not sure, look here for full details. Open up your pricing settings, click on the Downloads tab and go nuts.

You can offer up to 5 different sizes of video downloads in both Personal and Commercial licenses. Here’s what they are:

  • Web: up to 320 x 240
  • iPod/DVD: up to 640 x 480
  • Mid-Def: up to 960 x 540
  • Hi-Def: up to 1280 x 720
  • Full HD: up to 1920 x 1080

Your fans can then add the video to their cart and check out. Video downloads are available immediately. Instant gratification!

A note about that “Save Movie” link: If you’ve not priced any videos, your visitors will continue to see that link in the lightbox header. It’ll disappear when you start pricing videos in that gallery, or when you enable Right-Click Protection in your Gallery Settings.

Similarly, your fans can’t download video sizes that are equal to or larger than the video sizes you’ve priced. So, for example if you’ve priced the Mid-Def size in a gallery, they can only save the Web and iPod sizes from the mouseover photo bar.

One last FYI: Video files will be included in your Gallery Downloads zip files, so make sure you price them accordingly.

Be on TV, Your Computer or Your Phone

Did you know that visitors using an iPhone or iPad, AppleTV, PlayStation (or any device that can play industry-standard h.264 videos) can also play SmugMug videos? Being tied to a computer is so 2006.  Just give your fans a link to the video in your SmugMug gallery and they can watch it from virtually anywhere.

Or, try embedding videos instead. We provide easy embed codes that you can drop into your blog, forum posts or any other external site. To get it, click on the Share button in any gallery (or Owner Share if you’ve disabled it to your viewers) and choose Get a Link. Video embed codes are under the “Embeddable Links” tab.  Copy and paste that code into your site and prepare to blow them away:

Tip: WordPress bloggers have it even easier. Just copy the URL for the video from the gallery and drop it into your blog editor, like this:

We’ll automatically fit the video to size:

Anyone Can (and Should) Make Movies

Even if you don’t dream of Hollywood, you can shoot and share all kinds of video that make you smile. At SmugMug, we see videos for everything like weddings, birthday parties, product reviews, music videos, demos, real estate tours to just fun, everyday clips.

But if “keyframes” and “transcoding” don’t mean much to you, we have two friends in the video biz who can get you gorgeous movies in minutes: Animoto and ProShow Web. Log in and find them in your gallery’s Buy button, then choose the “Create a Video” option. They’ll slurp in your SmugMug photos and create beautiful, engaging slideshows set to your favorite music. You can customize them, too.

The Nitty Gritty Details

As you enjoy creating, making and sharing moving pictures, keep these few bits in mind:

  • Videos can be embedded into pages in two sizes: 425×240 and 640×360. If you want your fans to see the full HD version, include a direct link to the video so they can view it in your SmugMug gallery.
  • Please keep your videos family-safe and don’t post any copyrighted material that you don’t have the rights to. This includes background music.

And of course, check out more information on our video feature on our help pages. If you’ve got questions, feel free to write us at the help desk. We’re always happy to help.

Links you’ll love:

Building Stories One Photo at a Time with Photodex and ProShow Web

SmugMug and ProShow Web have been integrated since March of 2011. ProShow Web automatically mixes photos, video clips and music together into polished video slideshows. With true 1080p HD capabilities, ProShow Web can create professional-grade videos for use on SmugMug, or for downloading to a computer. Today’s guest blogger is Amanda Eddy of Photodex, sharing expert advice on how to get the most out of your videos. 

7 Steps to Memorable Stories

With graduation, Father’s Day and wedding season upon us, now is a great time to start turning your SmugMug images into custom video slideshows. But to make a slideshow truly stand out, it takes more than simply combining a series of static photos. Below are some tips on how to transform your images into memorable stories, and most importantly, how to have fun!

1) An Introduction – Think about how you want to begin your story. Taking close-up shots of symbolic memorabilia surrounding an event works great here, i.e. graduation cap  or wedding ceremony program.

2) Getting the Right Shot – Identify the three major components to your story. Try to capture a few good shots of each major point of the event to give your slideshow a better-rounded, evenly documented feel.

3) Capture and Incorporate Video – Consider capturing a short video clip. Video can add additional visual interest to your slide show and almost all cameras now have the ability to easily capture short clips.

4) Set the Mood with Music – Choose the perfect song to accompany your slide show. Whether it’s Dad’s favorite tune, the couple’s first dance song or even a subdued classical piece that will stand the test of time, a great soundtrack helps tell your story.

5) Photo Borders and Backgrounds – Framing your photos and using special slide backgrounds can make them really stand out. Get nostalgic with a Polaroid type border or add texture with an interesting slide background.

6) Create Movement – Use stylized motion effects to slowly zoom into a point of interest in your photo, namely the graduate, the couple or whatever else deserves a good zoom.

7) Share! – Posting the slideshow on Facebook is a great and instant way to share the video with clients, friends and family anywhere they may be. Tag everyone in the video; it will help get it seen by more of your friends and family. Or better yet, send it back to SmugMug into the gallery of your choice!

Here is a sample video slideshow of a wedding shot by one of our pro photographer customers that shows how these elements work together.

Try it Free and Save 20% on Premium Subscriptions

To get a better sense of the ProShow Web functionality, sign up for a free trial and play around all you want. If you like what you see, as a SmugMug user you can get 20% off your Premium ProShow Web subscription by entering the code P729GXGH during check out. This offer ends July 31, so sign up soon. Happy slideshowing!

– Amanda

Related Links:

Learn to Fuse Motion and Stills with Sandy Puc’ and Jared Abrams

“If It Moves, Shoot It!”

So sayeth the great Sandy Puc’ to pro photographers looking to gain an edge with their clients.

With the rise of DSLR HD video, you can’t afford to be fumbling with video when the competition is already rockin’ the keyframes. Many of us reckon ourselves still photographers, but it’s simple to use your camera’s built-in video functions to wow the client and bring in more money. Sandy and Jared will show you how to use the video that comes with your camera to create additional sellable products like slideshows and movies.

SmugMug’s already hooked up with Animoto and ProShow Web, so adding video to your toolbelt is a cinch.

 The Masters in Marketing… and Motion

Sandy’s teaming up with Hollywood cinematographer Jared Abrams to give you a crash course on what those buttons do and how to use ’em. Even better, they’ll coach you on how to best leverage video clips and still photos in your marketing campaigns and presentations.

The fun starts this Tuesday, and you’ve got just two weeks and 15 cities to catch them before this opportunity’s gone.

All dates in May, 2011:

  • 10 – Denver, CO
  • 11 – Minneapolis, MN
  • 12 – Chicago, IL
  • 13 – Columbus, OH
  • 15 – Philadelphia, PA
  • 16 – Baltimore, MD
  • 18 – Atlanta, GA
  • 19 – Houston, TX
  • 20 – Dallas, TX
  • 22 – Phoenix, AZ
  • 23 – Los Angeles, CA
  • 24 – San Francisco, CA
  • 26 – Sacramento, CA
  • 27 – Portland, OR
  • 29 – Seattle, WA

Look here for complete details. What’s more, you can use the code SMPP11 to get $20 off the regular ticket price. Click here to register now.

Or…. We’ll Send You For Free

We’re giving away one free ticket to one of the tour stops. Just comment on this blog post by Friday, May 6th, and we’ll pick a winner who gets to go on our dime.

Don’t miss out this incredible chance to better your business!


More Winners = More Fun.

Instead of giving away just ONE ticket to the video tour, we are giving away one free ticket to EACH city on the tour.

Here’s what you have to do to get another chance to win:

1) Like Sandy’s FB page here.
2) Like SmugMug’s page here.
3) Post on Sandy’s Wall, “@SmugMug sent me to tell ya [insert your city here] loves Sandy Puc.”

On Monday May 9, we’ll announce the winners for Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus, Philadelphia and Baltimore. On Wednesday May 11, we’ll announce the winners for the rest of the cities. If you’ve already commented on this blog post, following the steps above will give you another shot at winning.

Are you excited yet?🙂


Ready for some winners? Here ya go. The lucky (and randomly selected) winners of FREE admission to the tour are…

  • 10 – Denver, CO – Diana Griffin
  • 11 – Minneapolis, MN – Sarah Kannenberg
  • 12 – Chicago, IL – Sam Tang
  • 13 – Columbus, OH – Kristan Dunlap
  • 15 – Philadelphia, PA – Joe Ryan
  • 16 – Baltimore, MD – Joe Richardson
  • 18 – Atlanta, GA – Frank Tan
  • 19 – Houston, TX – Kyler Rhorer
  • 20 – Dallas, TX – Kayne Parrish
  • 22 – Phoenix, AZ – Christina Lawrie
  • 23 – Los Angeles, CA – Jeah Tan Avila
  • 24 – San Francisco, CA – Stormy Maddux
  • 26 – Sacramento, CA – Coree Firchau Keenan
  • 27 – Portland, OR – Arnaud Douglas Ardans II
  • 29 – Seattle, WA – Amanda Howse Butler

Introducting … PhotoFusion!

Pros: rev your engines and step your business up to the next level! Photo Fusion Workshops are circling the country to a city near you. Led by star photo- and videographers Robert Evans and Curt Apanovich, their 35 years of combined experience in the biz will reinvent the way you shoot, prep, and market your work. They’ll teach you how to use cutting-edge digital technology to merge video with still images and raise the creative bar in any field.

Photo Fusion

Check out the itinerary and book your tickets here.