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How to Cook up a Recipe Video

Riley Hooper
January 9, 2013 by Riley Hooper Staff

Hey all you good lookin’ Vimeans! Whatchu got cookin’? How’s about showing us with a recipe video!

We’ve all seen cooking shows on television, where attractive hosts make witty banter while demonstrating cooking techniques in exquisite kitchens. Those are nice, but there are other ways to relay a recipe. Here on Vimeo, we’ve got a crop of cooking videos that will satiate your creative cravings for days. For inspiration on turning your favorite recipe into video form, we’ll break down a few examples into the essential ingredients.

I’ve still never tried beet cake, but have been meaning to whip one up ever since I saw this video from tiger in a jar. I’m pretty sure these cats could make chopped liver look amazing:

Notice that in just over two minutes we’ve learned how to bake a cake! What I love about this video is that it’s concise and creative. With very little formal explanation we understand the recipe. Notice how it introduces ingredients in an engaging way — blowing flour into the air, melting the chocolate, and decorating an egg.

Keep in mind that your video doesn’t necessarily need to be didactic. Consider this video on Swedish Saffron buns by Alvin Holmqvist. Without titles or voice over, you don’t get the specifics of the recipe, but you get a strong sense of the experience and the feeling of making the bread:

On the other hand, if you want your video to provide very clear instruction, consider having your cook explain their process as they go along, or record instructional voice over to add in later.

Another option is to use voice over to add interesting and relevant background information on the recipe, ingredients, or type of cuisine you’re preparing. If you’re making a cooking video on an old family recipe, consider including audio from family members explaining the history of the dish, or their memories involving that food. This video from Kordoroy.tv’s series Health Nuts uses voice over to discuss the health concerns of sugar, while the visuals and on-screen text demonstrate how to create fruit infused water:

Once you’ve decided the type of video you’d like to make, it’s time to turn up the heat!

Preparation:

1. Pick a recipe
What recipe do you want to share with the world? Pick one! As long as it’s delicious, you’re golden.

2. Choose a location
Think about the food that you’re making and the aesthetic you want to achieve. You don’t necessarily have to shoot in a kitchen. Choose a nice wooden table, a room with cool wallpaper, or next to a window that lets in great light. If you’ll remember, the only part of the beet cake video that is clearly shot in a kitchen is the part where the cake is baked in the oven. Perhaps your recipe isn’t even cooked indoors! Take it to the woods!

3. Prepare your ingredients and tools
Before you shoot, make sure you’ve got all the necessary ingredients measured out and tools prepared. You don’t want to be running to the neighbor’s house to borrow eggs mid-shoot!

4. Prepare your equipment
Just as you’ve gathered all the ingredients to make your culinary creation, you’ll need to gather the necessary equipment to shoot your video. Once again, think about the look you’re going for and the space you’re shooting in. To easily catch all the action, you probably don’t want to be tied down to a tripod. Consider the mobility and stability that a monopod offers, shoot handheld, or build a rig that suits your needs. If you’re shooting in a tight space, you’ll want to use a wide angle lens.

Let’s cook!

5. Shoot everything
Make sure to catch all the slicing, dicing, boiling, and simmering! Cooking moves fast, and once a moment has passed it’s hard to go back, so make sure you capture everything. Grabbing static shots of ingredients and utensils should be saved for before or after the cooking. And of course make sure to fully capture the final product! Get the artsy shots before it’s devoured — and document people enjoying it as well!

6. Vary your shots
Make sure to capture a wide variety of shots. Vary your composition with close-up, medium, and wide shots of everything. It will be easiest to edit if you have this variation. Don’t stay in the same place for too long. Stand on top of the table to grab an aerial view, or get a low angle to show the pouring in of ingredients from the bowl’s perspective. The more you capture the better. Hold your camera steady and make sure to get at least 10 seconds of each item. Notice the creative shots and neat angles Albin captured in this video:

The main course

7. Edit it down
When you’re ready to edit, lay out your clips in sequential order. First, make sure you’ve told the entire story of the recipe from beginning to end. Then, start cutting away at it. Make sure to keep it engaging and concise. Don’t stay on one shot for too long. Make use of jump cuts, or J-cuts and L-cuts, to keep things moving! The sequence at 01:37 in the beet cake video utilizes jump cuts to effectively and concisely show how to combine all of the ingredients. You could also consider using the split screen technique to show multiple things happening at once.

8. Add text or voice over
Titles or voice over can add a useful instructional element to your video. If you didn’t shoot your cook explaining his process as he went along in the kitchen, you may want to add those important measurements and instructions via text or voice over. Get creative with your text, like the beautiful handwritten script that tiger in a jar uses, or check out the fun use of titles in this video by LEAFtv:

9. Mix in some music
Music can go a long way in carrying your piece. It can set the mood and the pace and keep your audience engaged. Try an instrumental track — perhaps one that matches the culture your recipe is from! Find a song in Vimeo Music Store and add it into the mix!

Alright, enough! I’m hungry. Let’s get cookin’!

A very special thanks to lesson contributor Barry Pousman for his assistance with this lesson!

53 Comments

haltdieklappe Plus

Yay! It is also a lot of fun to do it and easily the best and most safe way to get a good, healthy meal. Besides McDonald's of course.

Shannon Palmer Plus

Great lesson. I'm definitely going to make a food/drink-oriented video this weekend! It's a win-win: great demo reel addition plus you can eat it when you're done!

Riley Hooper Staff

So true. Great plan! Vimeo is always happy to accept fresh baked cookies if you make too many ;)

Riley Hooper Staff

Hey Nate! First of all, yum. Second, that was great! Love the titles and the pacing is great.

Huda Abdul Aziz Plus

nate, love your video.. i also made one for christmas and your video reminded me of mine! visually different, but 20 secs in, you can kind of see it has a similar idea behind it :)

vimeo.com/56260504

nate makes films PRO

Thanks for the kind words guys!

Huda - I see the similarities! Love your work

Nutmeg Clients PRO

I really like this Nate :) Very light hearted and fun but also easy to follow. Great job, nicely shot and I love the grade. Would love you feedback on ours!
vimeo.com/55947826

Riley Hooper Staff

Damn, that's dedication. Looks delicious and your video was awesome!

Nutmeg Clients PRO

Great music! Never easy to self produce, shoot, direct and star in your own productions. Good work.
Would love you feed back if you have a minute?
vimeo.com/55947826

LetsMakeMedia Plus

I just made one over the Thanksgiving holiday, nothing like spending 5 hours making one cocktail. vimeo.com/54581536 This one took the award for 'Best Effects' at the Antica Carpano video awards. Best effects? Hmmmm, you decide.

Cheers.

Nutmeg Clients PRO

Yeah, not sure about that 'best effects' award, but a very nice video! Liked the music choice and the ingredient list/recap stepping outside and the music dropping, very nice. Great variety of shots too. My only negative would be the opening of the bottle being a little over played, I like the jump cuts but I felt like everything else showed just enough of the process, but we saw every detail of how to open a bottle from several angles. But all in all, very good.
If you've got a minute check out our biscuit recipe. Any feedback greatly appreciated! Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Nutmeg Clients PRO

Love this! Very cute characterisation of the ingredients.
The only bit that stood out was the falling eggs. Would have been great if you'd put the kitchen in the background rather than the blue that you used. It just seemed a little out of theme to the rest of it.
Please have a look at our squirrel biscuits and let me know what you think. Many thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Ben Derico Plus

Gotta be selfish and see what y'all think of my attempt at a video making Raspberry Pie. It was the first thing I made with my 5D Mark ii last year and I'm still pretty fond of it. Thoughts?!
Inspired by the wonderful folks at Tiger in a Jar
vimeo.com/28827103

Nutmeg Clients PRO

Nice little video Ben. Great effort for the first thing you shot on your 5DmkII. I like the grade but think the edit could have been a bit tighter to keep it moving.
We love to know your thoughts on our video if you have the time. Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Al Johnson Art

All Great stuff ...The Artist is Pleased ..PeAce

Nutmeg Clients PRO

I love hummus! I really should follow your recipe and try to make some of my own!
Nice use of dutch tilt and great text/font choices. Lingered on cutting the lemon for a while but otherwise all good.
If you have a minute to view our biscuits and feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.
vimeo.com/55947826

Michael Philipp · LUXS Plus

thanks, you probably mean German angle … ;-)
nice video, but why do you have the same video about 40 times?

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Good question!
We sent it out to a load of our clients and that was the only way we could figure out to track which specific people had watched it. It seems really dumb so let me know if you know of an easier way!

Nutmeg Clients PRO

Some nice slider shots in this piece. It would have been nice to see a shot of the finished cookies without the titles first though.
Let me know what you think of our biscuits. Thanks!
vimeo.com/55947826

Marco Marques

Damn! You are so right about my last shot. Maybe i can upload a new version.
Your biscuits look great like the light on the movie. Why you have so many versions online?
Keep the good work.

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Thanks! Any comments of critique are welcome too!
Good question about the multiple versions! As the response above, it was because we were sending links out to many different people and wanted to keep track of who had watched. Having a video each was the only way we could think of tracking the individual watchers.

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Very dramatic lighting. Quite different to current trends, not that it's a bad thing to stand out from the crowd though. I'm not sure that the intro fits too well with the otherwise dramatic and hectic music and edit. But the lighting on the closeups work really nicely.
Please let me know what you think of our biscuits. Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Nutmeg Clients PRO

We also made a little 'Christmas card' recipe video to make some nutmeg biscuits.
Would greatly appreciate any comments and feedback! Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Very nice selection of shots. I like quick edits but maybe this was a little too quick to realise what was going on.

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Wow! Now this is just food porn! and all that fire too. It looks amazing and perfect use of the (double frame rate?) slow motion. Great.
Please take a minute to let us know what you think of our little squirrels. Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Heidi Elliott

This is mine, its a sandwich cake recipe passed down from my granny, its about baking the cake with her mother when she was young. it was inspired by "beet cake".
hope you enjoy!
vimeo.com/56947665

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Heidi, this is lovely. I'm sure you grandmother is extremely proud.
Personal projects which are so close to the heart are always the hardest to be self critical about, but from an outsiders perspective I would say that you should do a faster paced edit. This is wonderfully shot and the props/set are perfect for the content and your grandmothers voice, but a faster edit will make it a bit more engaging.
Please have a look at our recipe and let us know what you think, thanks!
vimeo.com/55947826

Heidi Elliott

thakyou! yeah there are definately a few places that need another look :)

Nutmeg Productions Plus

Lovely Nicola. The edit was a bit slow but suited the music choice. Grade is really nice and I love the slow movement in some of the shots.
If you can, have a look at our video and let me know what you think. Thanks
vimeo.com/55947826

Homegrown Swedes Plus

Love tis stuff. Type replacing the spoken word is also useful. You can communicate in two languages at à time, and pick up sound much more sparingly.

Riley Hooper Staff

This is great! Keep sharing your delicious videos and providing feedback, my fellow Vimeans!
This type of community involvement is what makes Vimeo so special :)

Daniel Dai Plus

What selection of lens would be suggested for recipe videos?

Apricot Moon Plus

prime lenses! no need for L series (if on Canon). The EF primes (35mm 2.0, 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8) are great! I guess it depends what style you are going for though. If you want to have the dynamic 'snap zoom' look, you'll need different lenses.

eatnik

What can I use to edit my videos? I'm on a mac

kelly blackwell

the beet cake was an impressive video I'm inspired by that for sure

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