Time-Lapse Trends: food & cooking

“Time-Lapse Trends” is a video blog series which draws attention to some of the many exciting trends in time-lapse production. We feature a new trend in each instalment, to demonstrate the scope of the medium and the various ways in which it is applied, ranging from the popular to the more obscure.

Cookery programmes have and continue to be a popular subject for television, ‘feeding’ our obsession for tasty & indulgent foods. But more recently, there has been some shift from the silver screen to the Internet browser.

With more creative programming needed to fight for viewers’ attention, time-lapse is becoming a key photography tool for all sorts of screen-based, food-related video work.

One culinary documentary series that is ‘causing a stir’ is Netflix’s Chef’s Table (2015- ). With each new episode profiling a world-renowned chef, it only seems appropriate that the series is paving the way for filming food in new and extraordinary ways.

As its opening credits showcase, the cinematography used helps to elevate the meticulous work of the chefs through a combination of stylish camerawork and rapid capture time-lapse. As Will Basanta, one of the men behind the camera for Chef’s Table notes, “In a truly transcendent culinary experience, all senses – sight, smell, feel, sound and, of course, taste – are intertwined […] Because the audience can’t taste what’s on screen, it was important to place it in the correct environment to feel the food.”

As we have covered elsewhere, time-lapse is simplistically yet expertly utilised in Marks & Spencer’s famous food campaign, with each televised advert completely revolutionising how their products are seen: “not just as items sold on the shelves, but as edible delights.” Similarly in Chef’s Table, time-lapse enables the complicated work of world-class culinary experts to unfold on the screen in a matter of minutes with no less attention to the detail of their craft.

Elsewhere in the world of streaming, time-lapse has also made an impression in terms of how cooking is presented on social media platforms.

As you may have already noticed, Facebook and Twitter are now frequently home to the ‘how-to’ genre of cooking videos. Usually only a minute or two in length, such videos provide a birds-eye point-of-view of a kitchen worktop, documenting the process of cooking anything from creamy pasta one-pots to ice cream cake.

BuzzFeed's 'Tasty' cooking logo.
Above: a familiar sight on Facebook feeds – BuzzFeed’s ‘Tasty’ channel logo.

Owned by American media company BuzzFeed, the Tasty site features hundreds of videos that sees incredible amounts of traffic driven to the site from Facebook alone. Considering what is behind the popularity of these videos, Tiffany Lo, supervising producer at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, suggests that it could be the universal appeal of food and cooking.

“There are very few essential questions everyone asks themselves everyday. ‘What am I going to eat?’ is one of them…It’s something people constantly have to think about”.

There is also something to say about the mediated nature of these tutorials that are perhaps appealing to a younger, smartphone-savvy generation. “With the rise of smartphones, the ability to watch videos while cooking has become accessible”, Lo says. “It also visually shows you each step, what the consistency or colour is supposed to look like, the texture, etc. This is something cookbooks lack.”

Time-lapse video is ideal for this form of tutorial as it visualised each step in the cooking process in a simple and straightforward manner, making it easy-to-follow and something that can be watched on-the-go or in the kitchen in minutes – without the need for a cookbook.

Aside from the practicality of such videos, there is also something to be said about their visual appeal. There is definitely something satisfying about seeing a recipe come together or food cooking in the oven. This is perhaps why this genre of time-lapse video has become popular on amateur levels, as well as in more professional productions.

The next best thing to eating a pizza, for example, is watching one cook in the oven. This time-lapse video (below) is so simple but captures what is so satisfying about these kinds of videos; watching dough rising and cheese melt is mouthwatering stuff.

 

As well as time-lapse video being a popular trend to show food cooking, it is also an effective way to shed light on the preparation of certain cuisine, particularly that which takes extensive preparation.

One such food is sushi. This time-lapse from ‘drcane’ is the perfect example. Not only does it serve as a tutorial of the incredibly complex methods of preparing different kinds of sushi, the colour and texture of each dish is clearly visible via the close-up rendering of the process. Each individual frame also works well to capture every slice, roll and drizzle that it takes to make each sushi.

 

As well as encouraging an extreme sense of hunger, then, this instalment of “Time-Lapse Trends” has hopefully inspired ways in which you can apply this technique to document your own cooking endeavours, whether that’s a three course meal or just a frozen pizza.

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