How To Make Your Own Surf Clip

Alex Smith has got talent in the water and in the editing bay. Photo: Kenworthy

If the last five years have taught us anything at all, it’s that the digital age has dramatically evened the playing field when it comes to creating a surf movie. The days of slaving over an edit with a sizeable production team now feel about as relevant as the beta tape. Today, with a camera, the latest version of Final Cut, a dash of swell, and an Internet connection, surfers from around the world can reach hundreds of thousands of viewers with the simple click of a mouse. Recently, we touched base with Alex Smith (who surfs in, and edits the clips) and Daniel Treanor of the video-laden blog LastNameFirst.tv, to get their take on what you’ll need to create your own viral surf clip.

“Having the right equipment will obviously make a lot of difference in the overall quality and outcome of your film. We’re using a Canon Rebel T31 to shoot our clips and we’re pretty stoked on it,” says Dan Treanor.

“Before every session, we talk about the angle before I even paddle out. In places that have been filmed to death, we’ll go look for shots that haven’t been overdone or overused. Dune (one of the filmers for LastNameFirst) just shot Lowers for a month and got a pretty original angle. I’m not really sure how he pulled that one off, but he did,” says Alex Smith. According to Dan, not only will a new angle set your clip apart, but it can also enhance and alter the mood of the film. “Finding a different angle can play a big role in the vibe that you’re trying to send with a certain shot. High angles tend to be dominant while low are submissive.”

“When you’re making a clip, having a really talented surfer is a must, but when someone has a lot of charisma and swagger in front of the lens as well, it really makes the clip that much better,” says Dan. “Overall, someone who’s comfortable in front of the lens will produce better interviews and audio clips, and just plain better shots and lifestyles.”

“A good theme is vital for an edit or else you’ll just end up with something average that people will just skip over. I don’t like seeing videos with just surf clips stacked up in a row,” says Alex. “Most of the time, our themes are inspired by the footage we get or a sick song we find. Once we have those things, the theme sort of materializes itself.”

“For us, music is basically everything. The music and the theme should go hand-in-hand. The music really is the foundation for any theme that takes shape. I like to mold my edits to the music real tight, so for me the song choice dictates my editing approach, transitions, and style of the clip. The type of footage you’re working with, theme ideas, and desired effect all come down to the song,” says Dan.

“My online attention span is horrible: If the first 10 seconds aren’t good, I’ll skip through the whole video,” says Alex. “I’m inspired to make videos that people will want to watch from start to finish. In my mind, to make a well-rounded edit, the main subject of the video needs to be emphasized by certain X factors. The X factors could be anything that draws people’s attention besides the surfing. Radical lifestyles, behind the scenes, and scandalous girls are always nice on the eyes. Our goal is to have a theme that appeals to a wider range of people. I want people that don’t know anything about surfing to say, ‘Wow that was pretty funny’ or ‘That was cool and a little different.’”

“Once we’ve compiled all of the footage, we start to edit. We use Final Cut Pro 7. Once I understood the basics I taught myself lots of stuff just by messing around on it,” says Alex. “It can get extremely complicated. When Dan edited LNF ep.3 Sexploitaion’ the timeline looked like an intricate 1,000-piece puzzle. It took him hours just to make a few seconds of the edit. It depends how nuts you want to get, but I’d say anyone could figure it out if they try.”