How to Cook up a Recipe Video
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!
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.
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!
For inspiration on turning your favorite recipe into video form, we’ll break down a few examples into the essential ingredients.
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