How The Slow Mo Guys Took Over YouTube
Gavin Free and Daniel Gruchy told BuzzFeed News how their “ridiculously silly” project became a web sensation.
Here it is: The latest Slow Mo Guys video!
The first question I asked was: What's it like being famous?
And they really are famous, you know. Over 4,500,000 people subscribe to their channel. It's a surreal thing to happen to two very normal guys from a small Oxfordshire town, Thame, who one day decided to film some silly stuff in slow motion and upload it to the internet.
When I met them at YouTube's offices in London, they certainly didn't act like celebrities, and seemed to find the whole thing almost as surprising as anyone else.
"I was at the airport today," Gruchy said. "I was at the x-ray machines and the guy told me to take my belt off. And of course, as I'm going through he says, 'Stop sir, you'll need to do that in slow motion.'"
Everyone loves them. "We get stopped a lot in Thame," Gruchy said. "You get a lot of older people saying, 'My son loves you, he'll be so jealous I've met you.'" Free said his dad recently had the police round after he'd been robbed, and the officers were stunned to see his picture sitting on the mantelpiece.
YouTube is currently running a huge poster campaign featuring the pair, which they find simultaneously awesome and – being British – deeply embarrassing. "It's so surreal at the moment," said Free. "I'm only back for a few days [he lives in Texas], so we went down to the underground to look at the giant poster of us. We knew what to expect because someone had tweeted us, but when I saw it in person, I was like, 'Oh, god' – I wanted to hide."
Would it be fair to say that Dan gets hurt a lot more than Gav?
"Yes, this is definitely true", said Gruchy. "Mainly I'd say it's because Gav's the camera expert and the director of things. I'd say I'm more like special effects, stunts. and production."
"It started because I had high-speed camera skills," said Free. "If you gave the Phantom camera to someone in the street they wouldn't be able to figure out how to use it. A lot of technical stuff is camera-specific – you need to know about the way light works and that sort of stuff."
"Plus he's an absolute wuss," said Gruchy.
"Yeah, you can put that in there," Free said. "I couldn't argue with that. Dan has skills I didn't know existed. He can hit anything dead on with an axe. I don't know anyone who can do that. I try and it'll just be embedded in the ground next to it.
"We did start off more even in the early videos. We'd have challenges, and stuff would happen to the loser. It just so happened that Dan lost the first challenge. The penalty was getting hit in the face with a football. It got 15 million views, and ever since then..."
It's not like anyone's had 1,500 water balloons thrown at them before. So how can anyone know how it'll go?
"That actually really hurt, I forgot that," said Gruchy. "I got one, I don't know who lobbed it... One of them came from absolutely miles away, and I turned to the side and it hit me directly in the earhole and put loads of pressure in my ear, and I couldn't hear for like, a week. Low sounds like a van going past would actually hurt my ear."
"I love the fact that someone in that crowd of 1,500 people just managed to get you in the most painful place possible," said Free. "They hit you in the eardrum. That was one of my favourite videos – seeing those balloons blot out the sun, 300-style, and land in our faces. It was great.
"I'd love to see what a health and safety assessment for our videos would look like. This has never been done before, what do we do? That's why we rarely use a crew. I'd say 90% of our videos, it's us and two unmanned cameras. We can then just do whatever we want. We're not going to sue each other."
"Well, you'd better not," said Gruchy.
So what's the weirdest request they've ever got?
"It's amazing how many people don't get it," Free said. "People have seen timelapse footage of clouds and they say, 'Hey, you should do clouds,' and I'm like, 'What? Do you realise how slowly clouds move?'"
"We obviously get a lot of filthy requests," said Gruchy. "Some porn producer wanted bouncing boobs in a bra. If we did that we would definitely have to do a guy in a mankini too. We'd probably put that at the start."
Gruchy said: "If you think terrestrial TV's on the way out and YouTube's on the way in, it's because the younger generation want to watch stuff on demand, the internet's so available now. They love to have that interaction with the people they watch. You can't exactly watch Eastenders and then send a message to Phil Mitchell. People have a lot of interaction with us, they can request things in the comments – and we definitely read them to see what they respond to best."
"Originally we wanted every video to be informative [...] but then people really liked the cinnamon challenge or the condom on the head, which don't really show much, they're just really funny videos," said Free.
And they've got a whole bunch of cool stuff lined up for the future.
Free said: "We've got like, 10 good ones filmed that haven't gone out yet. Because we live in different countries, we film two or three times a year and do a lot. I'm quite picky about what we put out – they don't all work."
"Our quality control is ridiculous," said Gruchy. "We make films, and we think they're cool, but they have to be amazing to go out."
Coming soon, there'll be bugs on a bug zapper, ink in water, a slow-motion kitten... And not only that, but they've got a brand-new camera. "We've got a 4k version of the Phantom," said Free. "That will be pretty awesome: 1,000 frames per second."
So even if their lives seem to be happening in fast-forward, the Slow Mo Guys are about to get even slower.