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October 10, 2011 1:30 AM   Subscribe

"There was no sleight of hand; each bite was cut open, pushed back together, then dropped on a table. The goal was to see moist white meat when it bounced." Inside the world of tabletop directing - the people whose job it is to make food look delicious.
posted by mippy (46 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
“Anthony, the second drip is about 10 minutes after the shot is over,” says Mr. Somoroff after five or six takes, sounding faintly annoyed.

“I’m right on it,” Mr. DeRobertis says.

“You’re on it, but it’s not dripping when it has to drip.”


One can see why they call it food porn.
posted by three blind mice at 1:37 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]




I hope that whatever is edible, actually gets eaten.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:43 AM on October 10, 2011


You’re using the same part of your brain — porn, food,

Yeah, maybe the same part of my brain. But if my body gets porn and food confused it can be quite painful.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:04 AM on October 10, 2011


I wish they could show the same minute details of my throw-up after reading this article
posted by growabrain at 2:17 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish I could find the clip on Youtube, but on Australia's "The Gruen Transfer, one of the ad agents on the panel described how they get that waft of steam to rise from a beef roast while filming the commercial. Basically, they soak a tampon (in water, in case I have to be clear), nuke it, then slide it under the roast. Voila, steam. (Voila, ew.)
posted by GamblingBlues at 2:25 AM on October 10, 2011


Grilled Chicken, That Temperamental Star

This article doesn't explain the other half of it. I knew a chicken who had a brief acting career, appearing in several commercials. She had the right stuff - perfect breasts, perfect thighs, perfect legs - but the industry chewed her up and spat her out. She showed up for work and sat under hot lights, but got burned, stewing in her own juices. The industry doesn't give a cluck about the actors. They're paid a poultry salary to perform unsavory eggs.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:28 AM on October 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


What I want to know is how I can get a big mac to look like it does on tv?

Is that real Mickey D's they show off on tv/ads, or something plastic?
posted by hal_c_on at 2:54 AM on October 10, 2011


In the UK, it has to be the real deal - 'fake food' is only allowed in the case of things like ice cream which will melt under lights. I'm not sure about elsewhere.
posted by mippy at 3:42 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


hal c on: that's a whole separate branch of the industry called food styling. Here's a video on how they make the burgers look appealing.
posted by plinth at 4:21 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is that real Mickey D's they show off on tv/ads, or something plastic?
It's real.
That is, the ingredients used are the same ingredients used in the store to make your Big Mac. For the ad, though, they are selected to be as perfect as possible, and assembled carefully, in order to show-off each ingredient as best as possible. This includes piling the ingredients over onto the side of the burger that faces the camera, so the burger looks stuffed and overflowing.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:25 AM on October 10, 2011


Great article from Harpers in 2005:

Debbie does salad: The Food Network at the frontiers of pornography.
posted by ssmug at 4:48 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was thinking to myself how stupid this shit is, but then I remembered that the first Burger King in this part of the country just opened this weekend at the local shopping mall and the lines for it are very long, while the McDonald's and KFC lines at the same food court are down to almost zero. People who have never eaten at a Burger King before and know almost nothing about it except for the giant pictures of Whoppers that have been hanging at the mall for a couple of months just have to see what that mouthwatering burger in all the pictures tastes like.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on October 10, 2011


...Mr. Somoroff yells, "Ooze!" That tells the guy with the needles, standing just outside of the frame, to start pumping.




Surprisingly, that quote is no less dsturbing in context.


I had to check.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:58 AM on October 10, 2011


“I like the sloppiness of this one,” says Ms. Katapski, as a cheese pull plays in a loop on a TV screen.

“It’s pretty, yeah,” chimes an ad rep.

“Plenty of appetite appeal,” adds another.

“Pizza pasta!” someone yells, triumphantly.


Pizza pasta!
posted by LiteOpera at 5:01 AM on October 10, 2011


GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY


Building donut catapults is an actual real job.


People get paid to build "food tossing devices."





This pleases me.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:10 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link, brings back lots of memories. Elbert Budin was wonderful to work for.

the ingredients used are the same ingredients used in the store to make your Big Mac

It depends, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The line drawn was that it couldn't misrepresent, so no marbles in soup. But if they wanted a hot dog flying through the air, and a real hot dog wouldn't work (probably a size issue) , they would make a plastic version.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 5:24 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised they dont just all use CG. An extra drip is always a button click away.
posted by fungible at 5:36 AM on October 10, 2011


When I was shooting cola commercials, I'd get the stylist to water it down to about 30% so when the light hit it, you got that caramel colour, otherwise in it's natural state it films black and flat. Then of course we'd make the talent drink a dozen bottles of the stuff at least until we got the hero drinking shot. Gross. They get well paid though.

For cereal, the stylist would make up close to a hundred bowls before we started, setting up hours before I even got there and meticulously selecting individual flakes by hand using tweezers for each bowl so only the most perfect flakes made it through. I'd inspect them, select maybe a dozen of the best bowls (I kid you not) and we'd start shooting the 'pour shot' where you see the flakes descending in all their slow motion glory from the box, or film the finished bowl shot. Hence all the drama in making sure they look just so. There's many more people involved in making it all perfect, lighting, directors etc but even now I still stop and think of how many people's jobs rely on making a bottle of sugary drink look good. Crazy.
posted by Jubey at 5:43 AM on October 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm surprised they dont just all use CG. An extra drip is always a button click away.
posted by fungible at 5:36 AM on October 10 [+] [!]


CG isn't always the fastest, nor cheapest. Many times, if a practical shoot is possible, that would give a more realistic result as... it's real.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:11 AM on October 10, 2011


I hope that whatever is edible, actually gets eaten.

Maybe, but I'm glad I'm not the one eating it after it sits around for hours and gets handled by who knows how many people.

Cause ew.
posted by entropone at 6:15 AM on October 10, 2011


When I was shooting cola commercials, I'd get the stylist to water it down to about 30% so when the light hit it, you got that caramel colour, otherwise in it's natural state it films black and flat. Then of course we'd make the talent drink a dozen bottles of the stuff at least until we got the hero drinking shot. Gross.

Why not water it down with Sprite or another clear soda? Then you would have something akin to a suicide, which would be better than drinking watered down cola!
posted by TedW at 6:18 AM on October 10, 2011


The steam wafting over the dish comes not from the food, but from a stagehand crouched under a table with the kind of machine that unwrinkles trousers.

It seems the nytimes copy editor is a) too pretentious to use the word "iron", and b) British.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 6:44 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


the word "iron"

the writer isn't talking about an iron, they are talking about a steamer.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 6:55 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I hope that whatever is edible, actually gets eaten.

Really? You're posturing about about "wasting" maybe a hundred bucks of food for the product shot? I mean, more food is discarded from the craft services table several times every shoot day than the art department burns through for the entire product shot. We're talking about thirty-second commercials that cost minimum $100,000-$150,000 dollars, and can easily run several times that for a large national brand. The amount of product burned through is so negligible in comparison to the rest of it that it's not even the beginning of the excess associated with the process.

I'm surprised they dont just all use CG. An extra drip is always a button click away.

First , the legality of that is actually a little questionable, at least in the US. Second , getting realistic CG liquid shape and movement with surfacing that matches exactly what first the agency and then the client wants their product to look like? That's a revision process that you want to avoid if you care anything about budgets and deadlines (and your sanity)....
posted by dersins at 7:28 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have irons in Britain! Not that you can tell from looking at my clothes.
posted by mippy at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2011


“It’s a cheese pull,” Anthony DeRobertis says, using the term of art for hot cheese in motion. “They’re really difficult when it comes to pizza because every company has a different idea of how many cheese bridges there should be. It can take hours to get it right.”

Metafilter: the term of art for hot cheese in motion.
posted by jquinby at 7:40 AM on October 10, 2011


Metafilter: Seven people, looking at a sandwich, saying things like: ‘There’s a hole here. Move that piece of meat.’
posted by monospace at 7:50 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trouser press?
posted by monkey closet at 7:51 AM on October 10, 2011


I remember the last McDonalds hamburger I had. The meat was so very gray, and a little rubbery. The bun had an extra bit of sweetness to it, heading into pan dulce territory, and developed a strange gummyness after a few chews. The sexy pictures in the advertising or the alluring fried grease smell sometimes catch my senses and make me think I want to go there, and then I remember my actual experience.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:05 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man this kind of stuff is such an eating disorder trigger for me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 AM on October 10, 2011


When I was a little kid, I saw a magazine spread of a Thanksgiving dinner where they pointed out all the things they did to the food to make it look so appealing - browned the skin of the turkey with a blowtorch, the marbles in the soup with vegetable bits attached to toothpicks...

I wish I could remember what magazine it was, because I'd love to see it again.
posted by Lucinda at 8:18 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of Budin's work

Really? You're posturing about

Absolutely. What are you suppose to do with half cans of spaghettios? The new kid would want to pack up the craft service and take that to feed the homeless. They would return the next morning with horror stories of trying to give people food, no one did it twice.

What people were worried about was dumpster divers, since another method of smoke involves hydrochloric acid. But I wouldn't be surprised if no one did this anymore, because adding smoke via CGI wouldn't have the issues that adding a drop of liquid would.
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 8:19 AM on October 10, 2011


My friend is a food stylist and emailed a group of us to see who would be interested in partaking in the leftover food and products after her Friday shoots. You had to come pick the food up (wherever the shoot may be) but could keep all of it (most of it were products as opposed to fresh food so one week you could get 5 different brands of coarse salt).
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 8:27 AM on October 10, 2011


I hope that whatever is edible, actually gets eaten.

Chewed luxuriously and spat into a bucket, actually. I once had the privilege of watching my cousin film a tv spot for a pizza place. Hours and hours of bite-chew-spit, all the while looking at the pie on the table like it was the best food they'd ever laid eyes on.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:53 AM on October 10, 2011


It's weird to read about people so unabashedly proud and righteous about how good they are at obscuring the truth so that rich people will get richer and people with bad food habits can continue them.

Or maybe it isn't.

Either way, my stomach turns at high-fiving people for driving up sales on sketchy food by filming what are really just plates of bullshit. Only by ignoring the economic and production realities of these companies' food products does it seem quaint.

Advertisers spend their careers trying to best exploit the human brain's weaknesses for food, sex and shiny things. I hope that doesn't remain necessary(?) to the economy for long.

Of course these days there is a lot more honest and to-the-point food advertising, on the heels of the sort of popular culinary cultural revolution that is taking place. But the big companies like the ones in this ad know, and I know, and you know, that the only way they can make the food they actually are able to produce on a large scale look awesome for advertising is by cheating.

As ingenious (and alluring) as a donut catapult is, it's 'art' in service of something shitty. No high five's from me. Enjoy your daily rate that is three times as high as my annual income, and I will enjoy real food and not lying for money.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lord, when did I become so whiny. I will take a rolling fuck at their flying donut.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:00 AM on October 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


First , the legality of that is actually a little questionable, at least in the US.

Maybe, but with all their finagling to get a hamburger to look like the Platonic ideal of Hamburger, you might as well let them just draw a picture of how they wished the hamburger looked. These pictures are no more honest than taking a very plain girl off the street, giving her a big blast of plastic surgery, makeup, hair styling, fashion wardrobe, and glamour photography, and then showing you the pictures and telling you that you can marry her twin (minus, of course, the special treatment).
posted by pracowity at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: the Platonic ideal of Hamburger.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:02 AM on October 10, 2011


In the UK, it has to be the real deal - 'fake food' is only allowed in the case of things like ice cream which will melt under lights. I'm not sure about elsewhere.

It melts over here in America too.
posted by hal9k at 10:06 AM on October 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


fungible: "I'm surprised they dont just all use CG. An extra drip is always a button click away."

It could be served by an uncanny valet, perhaps?
posted by benzo8 at 10:22 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Absolutely. What are you suppose to do with half cans of spaghettios? The new kid would want to pack up the craft service and take that to feed the homeless. They would return the next morning with horror stories of trying to give people food, no one did it twice.

Wasn't there a Seinfeld episode about selling the bit of the muffin most people liked then working out what to do with the rest? They ended up being yelled at by homeless people for giving them 'half-eaten' food.


It's weird to read about people so unabashedly proud and righteous about how good they are at obscuring the truth so that rich people will get richer and people with bad food habits can continue them.

Sure, but if you get annoyed at that, remember next time you see a photograph of a beautiful girl/man that what you're really seeing is layers of rouge and digital gauze.
posted by mippy at 12:18 PM on October 10, 2011


Wasn't there a Seinfeld episode about selling the bit of the muffin most people liked then working out what to do with the rest?
A local supermarket here actually sells muffin tops by themselves now.
posted by netd at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2011


There's something dreadfully wrong with this ad.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:16 PM on October 10, 2011


Really? You're posturing about about "wasting" maybe a hundred bucks of food for the product shot?

You need a service, your buttons are loose and don't even need pushing to go off.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:45 PM on October 10, 2011


You need a service, your buttons are loose and don't even need pushing to go off.

Credit where credit's due: I'm impressed you'd say that. Most people don't have the guts to explicitly admit when they were trolling.
posted by dersins at 3:50 PM on October 10, 2011


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