Anatomy of A Cooking Show - Lights - Camera - Action

Anatomy of A Cooking Show - Lights - Camera - Action
Charles Maring

Over the past several months a few photographers / filmmakers have inquired about cameras and gear we use at Together In Style, especially in regards to Jennifer's "At Home" cooking segments. So, I thought it would be fun to do a breakdown of the cooking show we produce.

First let me start out by saying that we are what one might call "multi-passionate entrepreneurs", and we have a passion for great food and home entertaining. There are a multitude of reasons we started producing a cooking show, so let's quickly break that down first.

A Little History, and Why we started a cooking show online....

1. A life-long journey in food... Jennifer's mom had a wedding cake business during her entire childhood, and her dad is an amazing cook as well. So, she grew up with with a remarkable amount of hands on experience in the kitchen.

Charles and Jennifer co-Created several books on entertaining with David Tutera.

Charles and Jennifer co-Created several books on entertaining with David Tutera.

2. Professional Food Styling... For several years we produced cookbooks, and home entertaining books, as photographers alongside celebrity party planner David Tutera. David entrusted us to produce every image in the books from cover to cover. This included a lot of food styling photography, sometimes fashion or portraits, and lots of interiors. This experience help set the stage for the project at hand, and David has been a great friend and mentor to us over the years.

3. Leveraging your assets... As creative entrepreneurs you have to leverage what you have going for you, and we have built an incredible home around our passions and made it a point to make it camera ready in every way for lifestyle photo-shoots. So, we felt we might as well make the most of what we have at our fingertips.

4. Practice makes perfect... Lastly we make our living producing content for other people whether it be a brand, personality, or a personal project such as a wedding. Practice is what makes you better at what you do, and this allows us to keep our skills on target. Producing this show has made us grow immensely. I understand everything better because of the hours I put into the show whether it be lighting, camera techniques, or audio. I can approach my paid projects with extreme confidence because of it, and this is why I suggest every professional filmmaker out there take the time to create projects and film for themselves instead of just waiting for the phone to ring. It's the best investment you can make for your clients, and it takes the stress out of complicated productions.

WATCH AN EPISODE

Here is an episode to coincide with this post. For the full recipe, and other cooking shows visit the AT HOME section here on Together In Style. Below the video I share a breakdown of cameras, lenses, lighting, and audio.

 

Cameras...

If you have taken the time to read any of our technology driven posts you will know that I am a huge fan of Panasonic Lumix Cameras these days. This past year we are proud to say that we became Lumix Luminaries, which means we are among an elite team of educators that happen to believe strongly in the gear we use. We give classes on a wide range of topics ranging from wedding and portrait photography, to lighting, videography, and content creation.

Together In Style "At Home" is a show filmed by one person, me! At the moment the Lumix GH4 and Lumix G7 are the only cameras on the market that make filming this, and other content, an easy one man operation simply because it has features that are vitally important. I am running 5 cameras to get all of the angles we share. I use 4 Lumix GH4's and one Lumix G7 to be exact, and each has a specific purpose. Below I will do a breakdown of shots.

A CAMERA + Audio

Lumix GH4

Charles and the A Camera running on a monopod with a 42.5 1.2 Lumix / Leica Nocticron Lens

The A Camera is clearly the main shot. I run it on a monopod with a Lumix / Leica 42.5mm 1.2 Nocticron lens. I love this lens for portraits, so it's no wonder I use it as my close-up talk to camera lens. It's among the sharpest lenses I've owned in my career and the extreme shallow depth of field makes it perfect to focus the viewers attention on the subject at hand. This is also my audio camera. Jennifer is wearing a wireless Sennheisser EW100-G2 transmitter with the sensitivity set to -30, and the camera has a receiver plugged into the 1/8 mic plug. It's that easy. The GH4 has a very low noise floor compared to other DSLR cameras I have used making quality audio, and monitoring a breeze. All cameras are set to 2800 Kelvin as I find that to be ideal under the lights.

Focus Peaking and Settings

While I have V-Log on all of my GH4 systems I prefer to run the kitchen show using the Cine-V profile as I don't need the wide dynamic range of V-Log. All of the cameras are running in manual focus mode, and the focus peaking on the GH4 is key to making sure I can pull focus with ease on each camera. Every camera is shooting in 4K 24fps, and dropped into a 24p timeline in Final Cut Pro X. With web delivery I am not looking for 4K streaming, but shooting in 4K gives me freedom to zoom, or punch in with clarity.

B CAMERA - The Scene Setter + Audio Backup + Flip out screen

cooking TV Shows

The B Camera, is our scene setter running a 12-35 2.8 Lumix Lens and is stationary on a tripod.

The B Camera is a go to angle that is somewhat of a scene setter. I am running a GH4 with a 12-35 2.8 Lumix lens on a tripod that sits on top of a kitchen table. I like this angle because it shows the kitchen and gives a sense of space. I usually have a second Sennheisser EW100-G2 receiver on this camera as well to back up audio.

Flip Out Screen

The flip out screen is a big part of what allows me to do this all single handedly. Jennifer can see herself on any camera, and it makes redundant checking of the camera settings a breeze in between cuts. This is a feature missing on Canon, Sony, and Nikon, which I can't understand because it is key to content creation when you don't have a full team. Yes you can add external monitors, but you shouldn't have to in this day an age.

C CAMERA - The Tight Shot

Baking Show

C Camera - GH4 Running a 35-70 2.8

The C Camera is a tight shot that focuses on the food or ingredients. It's another GH4 with a 35-100 2.8 Lumix Lens and it's set on a tripod. The flip out screen is an asset here because Jennifer can see the best place to set up the ingredients, mixer, etc... Without the flip out screen we would need a monitor or another camera man to help with the shot. Due to the distance from Jennifer's voice we also attach a Panasonic DMW-MS2 Gun and Stereo Mic. This allows us to pickup clear audio, which helps line up the shots in a multi-cam edit.

D CAMERA - The Motion Camera - Came Single Gimbal

Baking TV Show

The D Camera is on a Came-TV Single running a Lumix GH4 with a 12mm 2.0 Zuiko lens. The Gimbal has a foot stand allowing us to have either a handheld or stationary angle.

The D Camera is a GH4, which resides on a Came-TV Single Gimbal with a 12mm 2.0 Zuiko lens. The Came Single has a foot stand that makes setting it down very easy. The foot stand also allows me to use it as a tripod and set it up under the cabinets if I want. So, I can use it stationary, or on the go. I have owned a Defy G5, and currently own a DJI Ronin-M. All are great for camera moves, but the Came-TV Single is hands down the best with a GH4 in my professional experience. I love this shot because it allows me to showcase moves from the counter to the oven gracefully, and it's great as a scene setter as well. Scratch audio is all that is needed once again, although I recently added a Nikon ME-1 stereo mic as it is so small and lightweight.

E CAMERA - Overhead + The Panasonic iPhone App

How to film a cooking show

Over the top of the stove I mount a Lumix G7 with a 20mm 1.7 Lumix lens using a super clamp right onto the cabinet top. This allows viewers to see whats happening on the stove, and the prime lens is ideal because the lighting on the stove is usually quite dark. The coolest part of this angle is that I am starting and stopping using the Panasonic Image App on my iPhone. The image app allows me to control exposure, and even has focus peaking so that I can dial in my settings with ease. We simply use scratch audio once again, which we will sync up later. The G7 color and quality is on par with the rest of the footage coming off of the GH4 cameras, so it's an ideal compliment.

LIGHTING THE SET

I approach lighting like a photographer. I want it to be beautiful and punchy. So, when I set out to figure out a lighting scheme for our kitchen I looked around at many of the Food Network kitchen shows, Martha Stewart, and others, and knew right away what I didn't want. Many of the shows I saw had flat, sometimes cold, and somewhat boring lighting, and I knew we could do better than what was currently being broadcast in many cases.

Key-light seen right is a profoto 1000w Pro-tungsten air... The fill light is a second Profoto 1000W Pro-Tungsten Air with a Profoto Pro Globe

Key Light

As a still photographer I am very well versed in lighting for beauty, and my go to light for elegance is usually a beauty dish. So, I employed the same techniques to our cooking show. My key light source is a 1000w Profoto Pro-Tungsten Air with a 33.5" Mola beauty dish. It is a punchy light, yet it wraps around beautifully. Jennifer is usually in the scrim of the light as it is at a 45 degree angle coming in from the left. I love the Profoto line of continuous lights because there are an endless number of light shaping tools that fit onto the heads. Unlike traditional fresnels, etc... from other brands you can also dial in any power of light from 10%-100%, and you can even control the power from a transmitter on your camera.

Fill Light

The fill light is also quite interesting, and a bit of an unusual choice as I rarely see it used. I am using another 1000w Profoto Pro-Tungsten Air, with a Profoto Pro-Globe. I adore this as a fill light as it spreads light everywhere. It reminds me of my early days as a DP on indie film sets where we were using paper lanterns and standard incandescent bulbs, but with a much higher quality of light. My understanding is the Pro Globe is no longer in production, but they can be found online I am sure. If you go this route, make sure to push the light head 100% inside of the Pro Globe, or it may melt. I learned this the hard way, but once I figure that out it works fine at any power.

Rim Light

The Rim Light is a Lowel GL-1 seen above right

In order to add a touch of glamour to the scene I also use a rim light just to add a little elegance to Jennifer's hair and shoulders. For the Rim Light I am using a Lowel GL-1. While it's battery powered for run and gun shooting it also ships with a 110 volt plug as well. (Make sure to remove the battery when plugged in). The Lowel GL-1 is a great rim light because it's a small LED light source that can be focused to be either a spot of flood. The color temperature seems to match very well to the main light sources and just works!

Ambient Lights

Of course we are balancing all of this with ambient light sources as well. The kitchen has several recessed LED lights, a chandelier overheard, and lighting under the counters as well as part of our lighting design scheme.

Summary...

This is an exciting time in content creation online. Whether you are trying to make a go of creating a viral audience, or just doing it for practice and sharing your passions it's simply incredible what can be done these days. The budget to produce this show with 5 angles, lighting, tripods, and a gimbal is just under $25,000.00 worth of video production equipment. But, considering that just a few years ago, it would have been quadruple that, is pretty amazing to say the least considering it is filmed in 4K.

We hope you enjoyed our breakdown and anatomy of our cooking show! Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.