How do professional cinematographers make products look good enough to buy?
Commercial cinematographers are like Will Smith in Men in Black; they take everyday items and say, "I make this look good."
They do. They take boring stuff—cellphones, hamburgers, and cars—dress them up, throw some light on them, cast some spells, and end up with an object that looks tantalizing enough to buy.
It's honestly pretty magical.
But how do they do it? Well, in this video, Indy Mogul's Ted Sim taps commercial DP Kazu Okuda to break down several examples of product cinematography and share some trade secrets that might help you the next time you're hired to make beef bottles, work boots, and juicy steaks look sexy.
As you can see from the video, these setups are deceptively simplistic.
It might look as easy as throwing a single beer bottle, work boot, or steak on a table and hitting record, but in reality, a lot is going on.
Okuda breaks down each setup by explaining the lighting, including the type of lights that are used and where they're placed, but he also shares a few tricks DPs use to add style and beauty to the shot.
These tricks range from basic and inexpensive methods, like planting water droplets with a pipette and throwing items up in the air, to complicated and costly methods, like rigging bottles with oxygen-fed tube (to create bubbles) to programming robotic arms to perform maneuvers so you can repeat shots with precision.
As intriguing as those tricks are, however, lighting is the key to making product shots like these work. In fact, bottles filled with liquid are notoriously difficult to light and require many lights to not only accentuate the bottle's shape but also highlight its contents.
What are your favorite examples of product cinematography? Got any trade secrets to share? Let us know down in the comments.