While few may know their names, Tabletop Directors create food ads that can be seen by millions of viewers each week. It’s a job that requires meticulous attention and patience – food can be a temperamental star.

Oftentimes sauce does not want to drip in the right way, spaghetti falls from the fork, or cheese refuses to pull with the correct number of stings.

Food is a diva that Bel Bare has bucket-loads of experience dealing with.

For the past 20 years, Bel has been working creatively on campaigns for some of the world’s most notable food brands. When the grilled chicken doesn’t want to sizzle in the right way, Bel has the know-how to turn the tides and create mouth-watering content.

We had a chance to sit down with Bel to chat about her tricks of the trade, and more importantly, what happens to all that food once the camera stops rolling!

 
A key to tabletop directing is making food not only look good but to give the viewer an idea of what the food will taste like. How do you achieve this?

The goal is to keep the food looking dynamic, appetising and real. I think it helps if the footage gives a positive sensory experience as the number one priority is making our viewer say “Yum!”

This is achieved through movement, often positioning the food in slow motion to create a dreamy ‘food-porn’ moment. Colour and lighting are also key tools for me as they help bring out the shape and texture of the food. The rest is magic!

 

Can you give us an idea of how many takes you have to do in order to get the perfect shot?

When you go onto set to work with food or liquid combined with gravity, there’s always an element of engineered ‘luck’.

It helps to set up the perfect conditions for the effect you want to achieve. I think there’s absolutely a relationship between time spent preparing for a shot and how many takes needed.

Sometimes we spend a few days preparing and get what we need first take, then continue shooting a couple more for safety. Or we quickly set up something that requires a more random outcome and it could be 20 takes. I’ve heard of shoots exceeding this beyond belief! But, as with any shoot, you don’t have the shot until you have it.

Can you give us an example of a time you were directing and had to use a number of different methods to make sure you achieved the shot you were looking for?

Sometimes we can get pretty experimental! It’s often the shots you think will be simple to capture that take the most ingenuity.

Something like a handful of berries rolling along a surface can have all hands on deck. We’re throwing things, tilting the table and trying to keep everything looking fresh and undamaged.

This tends to happen at least once per shoot, so there’s too many to list. It’s all part of the fun!

How does technology assist you to achieve the look you’re after?

Technology is the reason we have such incredible visual experiences with food, that is impossible for the naked eye to witness.

A great example is shooting at extreme high-speeds using cameras powerful enough to slow down the firing of a gun. When we slow down the moment of ice cubes falling into a glass or chocolate into a bowl of cream, it’s simply divine to watch in slow motion.

The other tool we can’t work without is playback monitors which allow us to review the shots as we go along.

Of course, the motion control rigs at Tasty Studio take creative work and innovation in motion-capture to new heights. The fact that there are two robotic arms that work in synchronisation which each other is ground-breaking in the local industry. To have this type of technology at my fingertips is a complete game changer.

 

What is your advice to brands who are looking to showcase their product in new and innovative ways?

I tell clients looking into shooting food in stills or motion that if you do not have the budget to shoot the food properly and in a way that offers an appetising outcome, avoid shooting it at all and work on alternative concepts to communicate your message.

It’s better to invest in an amazing representation of your food or beverage in one well planned and executed shoot than to spread the budget too thin and devalue your message over time.

What methods have you used to enhance the look of the food without completely changing the look of the actual product?

Oh boy! This is something I’d like to keep mysterious! But for the amusement of the reader, we have been known to heat feminine hygiene products to create perfect steam and punching the underside of tables to make things jump, which is comical to watch after a long day.

Now, the question on everyone’s lips – what do you do with all of the food at the end of a shoot?

Most of the crew love taking home bags of fresh food at the end of the day and, of course, things are routinely packed up to be distributed to local charities.

We are all regular people on set and very conscious of waste. So we take great care in planning to avoid ruining food unnecessarily.

When a shot seems to need an extraordinary amount of food, we get creative on how to minimise the amount we use. For example, we try to be as conservative as possible and bulk out large areas of the shot without using edible things, instead, we may use greenery, tableware, or a beautiful surface.

But it’s always important to have a little nibble of what you’re shooting – for creative reasons!

View Bel’s Reel: