How Robots Made This Food Commercial Look Effortless

Many moons ago I was shooting still photos for advertising in magazines, corporate brochures, annual reports, etc. The amount of work that can go into making something look simple can be intriguing to folks unaccustomed to what it takes to achieve such.

For example, I’m reminded of another past “simple” looking ad. A racquetball club wanted to promote its new healthy cafe they had just built. They conceived the idea of creating an advertisement that featured a guy and girl having lunch around a cafe table inside a racquetball court. So when my team and I created that, it did indeed look quite simple in magazines. However, if you were to visit the behind-the-scene set, you would think it was a construction zone. We used scaffolding on two sides of the court to raise numerous lights closer to the ceiling to create a cheery, bright look in the racquetball court. The scaffolding was woven with lots of power lines connecting to all the lights, in addition to the focused lights on the models around the table, so they would pop out more from the background.

And yet, all of that was quite rudimentary compared to what can occur to some simple looking product shots, such as featured above. In the above video, robotic cameras and devices are used to create an unreality that nevertheless seems somewhat natural when viewed.

In the above commercial, the whole camera and setting are built on a rig to rapidly rotate around the drink so that when a slice of lime is dropped into the glass, the resulting splash will show an exaggerated wave of the beverage cresting all around the top of the glass due to centrifugal force. In other words, you can’t tell that there is any rotating motion by looking at it, that’s intended to be hidden. All the viewer is expected to notice is that the drink seems to have more life. This is a sophisticated (and expensive) way to add some energy to a product shot.

As the video presents, creating this commercial required a lot of work sorting out numerous details. Even the final platform for the drink was the result of numerous tests of different materials that would stay stable and resist warping while spinning. Furthermore, how do you power and shoot a camera while it’s spinning? How fast should the robotic camera and set spin? How do you drop a slice of lime in a spinning drink in an exact location at the right time? Those are some of the challenges that needed to be solved to make this simple-looking commercial.

Having said all that, not all businesses have the budget to craft such types of visual messages. Hence, all ideas need to be tempered by the reality of budgeting. The good news is that nowadays much more production quality can be achieved for less cost than ever before.