How to film a mouth-watering video series: 16 tips from the production of Home Cooks of the World
Exactly four years ago, I produced Home Cooks of the World.
The cooking show follows Ollie Horn, a foodie standup comedian who travels the world in search of the most talented home cooks. He finds out their secrets, and then heads to the studio kitchen to cook an easy-to-follow recipe that even he can do.
As part of the project, I had the opportunity to travel the world, document the culinary secrets of amazing home cooks, and work with top videographers in the culinary space. In the process, I learned valuable lessons about what it takes to produce a TV-grade cooking show on a budget.
Below are some of the less obvious learnings from the set. If you ever decide to produce a cooking video series, I hope these will accelerate your learning, and save some time and frustration!
1. Don’t forget about sound
Having the right cameras and a skilled operator is important, but don’t forget about the sound engineer, especially when shooting in one-take, or in the field. Corrupted audio files or a passing ambulance can ruin your entire shoot while everyone else is busy with visual.
2. The flour trick
Stick the lav mic to the apron with double-sided tape to avoid mic noises. Sprinkle flour on the floor to avoid footstep sounds.
3. Instagram stars
Our best contributors were those who already post cooking videos on Instagram. They were the most comfortable in front of the camera and had experience with video production, speeding up the whole shoot.
4. Small spaces, big impact
When filming in home kitchens, it’s important to consider the layout and design of the space. Recording in a small kitchen can actually make things easier, as there is less opportunity for the cook and presenter to move around.
5. Tape it up
It’s important to plan out the shoot, using tape to delineate the areas of the studio that are in frame, and prep all ingredients and equipment. This includes those that would be needed in case of a mess-up, such as plenty of towels, and a first aid kit.
6. Lighting matters
Remove all clocks to avoid ticking sounds, and all paintings/detachable mirrors to avoid reflections. Blue lighting gels also come in handy to cover warm light sources in kitchens for consistent lighting.
7. Have a backup
If you’re shooting in a downtown area, parking can be a major time sink. Try to reduce the number of cars and have a backup plan for outside shoots in case of rainy weather.
8. Table placement
Placing the table diagonally in the kitchen’s corner provides better perspective and reduces the amount of movement. We also found that a marble table surface is ideal — metal reflects lights, wood is difficult to clean.
9. Matching tableware
Compared to food photography, videography requires more matching tableware to cover the entirety of the cooking process, plus backup for emergencies.
10. Speak to the cameras
When shooting in the studio, it’s better for the presenter to periodically speak to different cameras on the set, rather than just a close-up.
11. Stay matte
Make sure to have some matte concealer and powder on hand. A kitchen, especially with all the lighting equipment, can get really sweaty!
12. Fresh ingredients
Having a farmers’ market and a supermarket nearby and open is crucial for getting the freshest ingredients. And don’t forget to buy lots, and lots of extra eggs!
13. Top-down angle
Using a DJI Osmo or a camera attached to a wooden ceiling with a clasp or a selfie stick can provide a useful top-down angle. If you shoot in 8K or 4K, you can easily crop on relevant parts of the table in post.
14. Production value
Using a camera slider can add production value to the shoot, but be careful with focus. Having a gimbal for mid/close-ups and a cage for a wide shot with IBIS can also really make a difference. Portable LED and soft box lights can help you get the perfect lighting.
15. Traffic triangle hack
Using a pocket traffic triangle can help redirect passers-by and cross roads.
16. Keep cutting
Remember, making as many cuts as possible during filming can make editing so much easier (but make sure to have enough footage at the end of each scene for transitions and major edits!). Having a voiceover intro also provides tremendous flexibility in last-minute editing.
P.S.: A big thanks to the amazing team and advisers who helped produce the show.
Presenter: Ollie Horn
Producer/Director: Philip Seifi
Culinary Advisers: Bobby Judo, Alice Kiandra Adams
Video Operators: Daniele De Caro Carella, Nick Scholey, Timur Seyfi Sound Recording: Alberto Calvano
Video Editing: Timur Seyfi
Kitchen Studio: Latteria Studio
Special Thanks: Gruppo Jobel, Milie Nguyen, Tom Rowland, Martin Oetting, Pierre Gaubil, Carlos Diaz, Geraldine Le Meur, Michelle Fantasia, Marina Cappabianca
Couldn’t have done it without you 🙏