Create shots you can’t get any other way, and simplify editing.
Tight food shooting is unforgiving. It’s virtually impossible to capture a pour of syrup across pancakes, then move over to the eggs and then to a cup of coffee with a camera operator and a jib arm that tracks the movement in a single shot. That kind of movement requires on-the-fly adjustments to focus, lighting and effects like steam or drizzle. For a camera operator, it’s like patting your head and rubbing your belly while riding a unicycle—it’s hard to sustain.
But not for motion control. Essentially, motion control is a system of positioning film equipment connected to computers to allow precision repetition of camera moves. Once a shot is programmed, you have the ability to repeat a shot precisely, repeatedly and quickly—keeping your food fresh and your shoot on schedule.
I spoke with veteran food director Alex Fernbach about the following advantages of motion control:
5 advantages of shooting motion control
1. Simple Computer Graphic (CG) and type integration
Motion control allows shots to be programmed with tracking paths to facilitate the integration of type and graphics in post. This saves time and money after the shoot.
2. Ready to shoot the moment food is ready
Programming a shot in motion control removes the variables of focus, timing and movement between takes so you can roll takes as fast as you can place food. This frees you to focus on food performance instead of camera, lighting and set adjustments. And it keeps your food looking its best because you can shoot it fresh.
3. Simplifies shot cleanup
Motion control allows you to shoot a clean background plate, eliminating the need to paint out unwanted rigs, set elements or hands. This can really save you a lot of time in post when you consider that for the average three-second shot you’ll save retouching on 72 frames.
4. Simplifies group shots
Group product shots can be accomplished by shooting one product at a time, e.g., one take with one hero product in foreground right, then left, then one in background right. Each take will then be composited together in post as a single, flawless group shot. Not having to food style all the products for a single take ensures that each product in a group will look its best.
5. Adjusts to variable camera speeds and lighting in a single shot
Have you experienced flying over mountains of ice cream, landing on a whip cream slope, skiing serpentine down to a caramel lake and screeching to a stop at a bowl of ice cream? That’s motion control. In one continuous take the camera has been programmed to adjust focus, adapt to lighting changes, vary speed and change angles. It’s exhilarating. And time-saving.
I hope you find this information helpful on your food shooting adventures.
Director/Cameraman Alex Fernbach is owner of ARF & CO, a world-renown tabletop production company, and has shot award-winning food footage QSRs, both large and small.
photo credit: Pat Buckley