Victor’s latest work. This is the level you’re aiming for.
Maybe your crew has a designated filmer, or maybe you all trade off. Either way, listen up to Victor Pakpour here. The Laguna Beach teen was just a cold-calling grom with a camera who’s now built himself a blossoming career as a surf filmmaker, creating pieces with Billabong, SURFING Magazine, and various individual pro surfers from Indonesia to Hawaii to Mexico and beyond. He’s blowing up. Why not you? Read on to inspire your own crew’s creative flow — then get to work putting out the goods, and soon you too will be living like a pro.
Who was your crew of friends coming up, the guys you learned to shoot with?
Victor Pakpour: You know, I never really shot with any of my friends. What I did was, all the local surfers, I’d just hit them up on Facebook or something and be like, “Dude, if you ever want to film, I’d be stoked to shoot with you. Whenever works best for you, just let me know.” So I did that with some surfers on Billabong, some surfers on Hurley. Some were super nice and super down, willing to get shot. Others kind of brushed me off. I just kept working my way — the more guys I shot with, the more contacts I got. But I really started working from zero. I didn’t know any pro surfers.
But you just knew this was what you wanted to do?
Honestly, not really. I don’t know why. I really liked editing, but I don’t know what got into me. When I want to do something I get into it 100%. It was so funny, I’d get so stoked when some guys were like, “Oh yeah, let’s shoot.” I couldn’t wait, so excited.
What equipment do you use?
I use the Panasonic P2, and then I also have a [Canon] 7D that I shoot all lifestyle and scenic stuff on. All surfing action is on the P2.
Why’d you choose that camera specifically?
When I interned for Volcom they had me shooting on one of those, and my boss helped me get all the settings right, and I really liked the way it looked. Good price, looked good, the lens was really good for shooting surfing.
Do you use a telephoto lens?
Well, like when I’m in Indo shooting from a dinghy I just shoot handheld with no lens, but for sure, when I’m on the beach I use a doubler.
A doubler lens. It’s a lens that basically doubles the original zoom.
Then for filming lifestyle and personality stuff, do you stage certain shots or just film whatever’s going on?
Depends what I’m shooting, depends on the project for sure. If it’s just a regular day surfing or hanging out then I have my camera out and just shoot. Shoot as much as you can. It’s better to have too much footage than not enough.
Do you use an external microphone?
Yeah, I have a boom mic for non-surf stuff. Interviews.
What’s your editing platform?
Final Cut Pro.
How’d you learn to use it? Classes? Or just trial and error?
I did two internships and just learned through that. One was with Roadtrip Nation, which is this production company in Costa Mesa. I did that for a summer and then right after that an internship with Volcom. I learned most of the Final Cut from Volcom. The stuff at Roadtrip Nation was just logging all the tapes, doing the dirty work. Taking out the trash.
What are some common mistakes you notice in other people’s surf videos? Stuff to avoid?
I think color correction is a big thing. It’s hard to think of mistakes, more things that could be added to the video that would make a big difference. I think color grading is huge. There’s actually one other thing: a lot of time when people shoot surfing, the white wash can be blown out — it’s called the whites. I notice that in videos a lot.
How do you avoid that?
You have your settings manually so you just tone it down. Let’s put it this way, the picture just is too bright, and so the whitewash is overexposed. It loses detail.
See samples of Victor’s work on his Vimeo page and in the upcoming surf film Blow Up, out this month from Billabong.