If you are afraid of heights, your heart will be in your throat while you watch a stunt performed to promote Speed Stick GEAR, a new line of antiperspirants made for active guys. Shot on location in Panama City, the video of the stunt has a bunch of fearless athletes zip lining–well, at the start–from the top of a 700-foot tall building on what is billed as the world’s largest urban zip line. The shock comes when each one suddenly drops from the safety of the line. Thankfully, they all yank open parachutes–but some sure do take their sweet time–that deliver them to the ground where they safely land on a Speed Stick banner, though one guy does lose his sunglasses on the way down.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the work of Devin Graham, also known as Devin Supertramp, a filmmaker famous for shooting and sharing an array of epic, “OMG! I can’t believe they did that!”-style stunts for all kinds of brands on YouTube. People can’t get enough of the spectacles–Graham’s YouTube channel has nearly 2.3 million subscribers, and more than 300 million views.
Represented by Fullscreen, a media company with a roster full of YouTube talent, it helps that the filmmaker, who has been plying his trade for about three years, is prolific, pumping out new videos for his fans to be in awe over every week: Recent work includes a video for client vooray of the world’s best barefoot water-skiers skimming the surface of the water while being towed by speedboats and airplanes and a parkour-themed video to promote the upcoming release of Assassin’s Creed Unity that finds some of France’s top practitioners of the sport running, jumping, and climbing Paris like the city is their personal playground.
Graham and his team of athletes brainstormed and came up with the idea for the Speed Stick stunt after Fullscreen got him together with Speed Stick’s marketing team. “Working with Speed Stick was awesome because they were basically willing to come to us and say, ‘What do you guys want to do? We want this to be your vision, and how can we help support that?’” So they let us make a crazy zip line off a huge building, and I really believe the return is going to be great for them,” Graham says, noting, “People want to see crazy, new things, so from what we’ve experienced, usually the bigger the risk the brand takes, the bigger the return has been.”
The Speed Stick stunt was Graham’s biggest production to date in terms of how many people and how much work it took to get it done. Graham’s producer Buddy Enright went to Panama weeks in advance of the shoot to find the perfect location. “We talked about pulling it off in America, but America has so many rules and regulations that it’s hard to do a lot of extreme sports stuff,” Graham explains.
While Panamanian officials were open to the idea, Enright did have to spend a few days taking them through the insane stunt that required stretching 10,000 feet of zip line from the top of a building, running it over a freeway that had to be temporarily closed, then attaching it to cars that were then secured to other cars.
Once Graham and his team got the go-ahead to shoot the stunt, there were several days of testing done, and adjustments were made under the supervision of a safety coordinator. “It’s always different people, but with all of these crazy stunts, we always have the best people in the field. We make sure that everyone that is part of anything that puts people’s lives in danger are the best people for the job. So for this one in particular, I didn’t just get my friends to jump off a zip line attached to a building. We went to several members of the GoPro [Bomb Squad] team that do it on a regular basis for a living,” Graham says, noting that Marshall Miller, the founder of the GoPro Bomb Squad, was among the jumpers.
With safety assured and the aerialists raring to go, Graham had one full day from sunrise to sunset to shoot the action. He and his crew lost some time due to rain, but it was a productive day.
To capture the jumps in all their stomach-wrenching glory, Graham attached GoPros to the jumpers, had a camera crew of four shooting the action from above and below and relied on a drone helicopter outfitted with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4. “Some of the best shots we got were with that helicopter because it puts it in perspective as far as how high up we are,” Graham says, “and you feel like you’re making the jump with them.”
Graham, who is always looking for new technology that will improve his coverage, also used a digital high-speed Phantom Miro camera, which he bought about a month ago, on the shoot. “It can shoot up to 1,540 frames per second, and it was one of our first times working with that camera,” he says. “All the shots that you see that are super slow motion, we were able to capture with that camera.”
Aside from the crew and the jumpers, Graham also had a fan–a guy named Harrison–on location while he shot the Speed Stick stunt. As part of the campaign, there was a #GEARChallenge contest that had Graham tweeting clues about the stunt back in May. The fan able to guess what the stunt was going to be won the chance to see it performed in person. “That was the first time we did something like this, and it was super exciting. It was really cool to give back to someone that’s been supporting us, and I was really stoked that he got to be a part of it,” Graham says. “We even had him on the cameras a lot helping to shoot it, so he got to be a part of the whole production.”
It’s kind of amazing that Graham can shoot any of these stunts given that he is admittedly terrified of heights. So how does he do it? “I get in the zone where those fears go away,” Graham says. “Those fears keep me alive because they make me conscious and self-aware of what’s around me, and I like going out there and facing them. I love being scared if that makes sense. I don’t do the stunts that I ask other people to do, but it’s like I push myself in different ways with the camera, and I’m able to get that same adrenaline rush.”