What It Takes to Hurl an Orange Through a Sheet of Water
Posted on October 8, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 20 Comments
Or, why restaurant food always looks better in commercials. My favorite quote from the piece:
“I make my living basically taking food and painting a reality with it,” says Mr. Somoroff, leaning back in a chair in his office as the team preps another set-up. “And if I succeed in a given moment, you’re going to go buy that dish because you’re going to identify with the experience we’ve created. To do that with something as banal as food is the challenge. I mean, it’s easy to go out and shoot a beautiful sunset or a beautiful girl. They’re beautiful, O.K.?”
He gestures toward the middle of the studio.
“I’ve got a noodle over here.”
I have to admit, it works. I have found myself thinking about food that I’ve seen in a commercial. I’m the girl who is manipulated by the carefully orchestrated dripping of sauce and pulling of cheese.
Mmmmmmm Good thing I’m meeting a friend for dinner soon.
A friend of mine was a pro photographer and he started out doing some food photography. His first gig was basically a disaster because the restaurant/client had all this food available for him to photography, but had planned on throwing a party with it when the shoot was done. Rick had to explain that he would use glycerine on the food to keep it moist looking and be using a lot of lights that would crank up the heat and it would take several hours with room temp food. The client insisted he do something else, no glycerine, make the shoot shorter so they could still use the food. He said he did his best, but the food didn’t look as good.
I haven’t worked on commercials in quite some time, but whenever I was on a beer commercial, we’d figure 1/2 the day for shooting the spokesman or the happy, beautiful people and 1/2 the day for the shot of pouring beer into a glass. Pouring beer pretty is hard work.
I’m generally horrified by the closeups of food in the commercials!
There’s a Homer Simpson joke somewhere in the “donut catapult” setup.
Noodles are good. Mm. Noodles.
I don’t find food commercials appealing, but I get a great deal of pleasure from seeing (and smelling, and handling, and cooking, and eating) the beautiful and very varied organic produce we get from Locally Grown, which is an online collaborative farmer’s market. I am particularly drawn to eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, all of which come in shapes and colors you would never suspect from what you can see in a grocery store.
Re the business of creating illusions: my eldest daughter is a stunt woman. For about 10 seconds on screen in “My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part II” she spent an entire day putting on a fire-retardant body stocking topped with an all-cotton mockup of the actress’s clothes (this included wearing goggles, and a bag over them with a face painted on it), then being doused with accelerant, being lit on fire, running through a door and into a parking lot, being sprayed with a fire extinguisher, lather, rinse, repeat. She was not injured at all (didn’t even lose an eyebrow) but it was not a lot of fun. Needless to say she was not best pleased when the director said, “Aw, I think we’ll just CG in the fire instead.” (As it turns out, they didn’t.)
Personally, I would like to see the legal definition of “fraud” expanded rather a lot.
All that work, all that money spent, and the burgers in TV ads make me queasy just looking at them.
I respect folks who style food, but I’ve found that a decent digital camera, natural light, and a mini-tripod are enough to take shots that make you want to eat the image.
My brother, Ali, sends me pictures of what he makes, sometimes. Today the food looked delicious but he said it sucked. Ah well. Then OK beat TX. This was not his day.
Consider the sauce!
You’ll all want to score a copy of Critter Cuisine, which applies these techniques to upside-down armadillos, mouse-kabobs and something truly startling with bats.
I find myself somewhat at a loss when it comes to advertising. I greatly respect he artistry of the work, and the professional attitude of the people behind the scenes. Basically you stand around with a group of smart creative types, invent cool ideas, and then try and make them work. As a day job, there is a lot to be said for it. But the work is also, at best, a polite fiction. Like telling your girlfriend that those pants do not make her look fat. Its quite disturbing to me that most highly educated, smart people will happily believe your lies if they are done well. Truth in this context then becomes a function of a high quality lie, as opposed to something you arrive at logically. That these techniques are used to sell food is understandable–and frankly it is good commerce–but the very same ones are also used to sell ideas to the body politic, and that leaves me feeling a bit chilled.
Although I do see the appeal in launching a politician in the air over and over so one could film them colliding with a shower of sugar.
If he can’t figure out how to make a Mobius strip from a noodle and launch some poetry on the ineffable symmetry of well-chosen food partners, he’s in the wrong job.
Both the neo-puritans and the “I, however, am immune to advertising” folk here make my eyes roll.
And the “all you need is a point-and-shoot” guy. Riiiiiiiiiight.
I was born a little too late to be aware of the ’70 lawsuit involving Campbell’s soup. It’s fascinating to me that a lot of “polite fiction” still goes on in a lot of commercials, not just food ads. The ones that irritate me the most are ads for children’s toys. You see GI Joe with the kung fu grip doing all sorts of things in the commercial, while either a very fast, low voiceover, or a very fast banner in tiny print across the bottom of the screen, announces that the toy can’t actually do (whatever) in real life. I do vaguely recall a lawsuit against one of the big toy manufacturers, back when I was a kid, about that very subject, and apparently they got around the outright deception by putting in the voiceover/banner to assure the parents, at least, that the toy couldn’t really do (whatever), it was just a ploy to convince Junior to beg Mommy for the toy.
You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would
never understand. It seems too complex and very broad
for me. I am looking forward for your next post,
I’ll try to get the hang of it!