Tips from Bjork and Lindsay
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Welcome to episode 66 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! In this episode, Bjork talks with Alana Woolley and Lindsay Ostrom about creating awesome recipe videos for Pinch of Yum.
Last week Bjork interviewed Michelle Tam about building a brand, creating an app, and publishing a cookbook. To go back and listen that episode, click here.
We’ve all heard it: video is the new thing. If you want to grow an audience quickly, if you want to be extremely helpful to your readers, if you want to take advantage of sponsored content opportunities galore… get into video.
But.. how?? It can seem so daunting to get started with. There’s all the equipment you (think you) need, the amount of time it takes, the pressure to make perfect videos… So many things!
Fortunately, our guests today have a lot of experience creating recipe videos, and they’re here to make it a bit easier for you. Please welcome: Alana Wooley & Lindsay Ostrom from Pinch of Yum!
Here's the photo of the POY video setup:
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Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode 66 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey there, Bjork Ostrom here. Today, we are joined by Alana Woolley and Lindsay Ostrom from team Pinch of Yum. We’re going to be talking about all things video. Alana is on the Pinch of Yum team. She handles the shooting and editing of the videos on our team. We’re going to be talking about the complete process that we use, start to finish, the gear that we use, how we shoot the videos, different angles that the team uses to get different shots, how we use those shots.
There’s been a lot of conversation about food video. You see it in Facebook. You see it on Instagram. Lindsay is going to talk a little bit about why it’s been such a good thing. Sometimes, that helps us really cutting through and saying, “Okay, we hear people talking about this a lot, but what does that actually look like statistically in terms of engagement in people watching it and consuming the content, because that’s what it’s all about?”
In this world that we live in, it is all about content. We think that video is a really important piece of the puzzle. I can’t wait to jump into this interview with Lindsay and Alana, so without further ado, let’s go ahead and welcome on to the podcast. Lindsay and Alana, welcome to the podcast.
Alana Woolley: It’s great to be here.
Lindsay Ostrom: Hi, thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re excited to chat about the video process. Before we get into talking about some of the nitty gritty details about video, and digging into the process, and talking with Alana about what goes into a shoot, Lindsay, I want to hear you talk about some of the reasons why you/we as we talked about it decided that you wanted to really go in the direction of video, and what that’s looked like for Pinch of Yum.
Lindsay Ostrom: I would say it’s been a while now that we’ve had this idea like, “We should really do a video. We should really do a video. We should really do a video.” I feel like everyone who is a content creator feels that push. There’s always the new thing, and you’re always feeling, “I need to try this. I need to do this. I keep hearing this is the next big thing,” so we had done a few videos like way back 2012, 2013 just more for fun than anything else, and just to try it out, but I think we always had this thought in the back of our minds, “Video will continue to be a more important part of content creation as time goes on.”
Actually, it was just about 3 months ago, at the start of the summer, when we decided, “Hey, let’s bring someone on our team to really dive into this,” because I don’t feel like I have the bandwidth for it. Neither did you, Bjork. That was when we reached out to Alana, and started to say, “What would this look like for Pinch of Yum to really be creating videos on a consistent basis?” I knew I had this idea in my mind, “Video will be a really big deal. Video will be a good way to engage to people,” but it wasn’t really until we started to publish those videos, and see how much engagement they were getting that I really put the pieces together in my mind of, “Wow, video is such an effective way to communicate something.”
That’s the thing that I keep coming back to when I approach video, or I think about the importance of it is how are people processing information in this day and age if I can say that. It makes me sound like old person or something. Oh my gosh.
Bjork Ostrom: By saying this day and age, it makes you seem like you’re not relevant in this day and age.
Lindsay Ostrom: I know. Really, with how people consume content, that’s always changing, and it’s always evolving. I think the more we put videos out, and the more we see people responding to them, whether it be through sharing them on social media or searching and watching through them on YouTube, or watching them in association with the blog post, commenting on them on Instagram, whatever it might be, it just far blows away the engagement that we’ve gotten on photos before.
I feel like we were getting decent engagement even with just photos. To me, it feel like more than anything like the opening of a door, a new way of reaching people, a new way of communicating and speaking to people that is really right in line with how people process information.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example of that just so you can do a side by side comparison of maybe photo versus video, not that straight photos would be bad, but …?
Lindsay Ostrom: Numbers wise?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Maybe with instrument, I feel like that’s a good example.
Lindsay Ostrom: Let me pull up my Instagram real quick. We did a recipe that was a sweet potato pizza crust recently. I wanted it to be catchy, 3 ingredients, super easy real food pizza crust, so I put the photo … Maybe I haven’t even put the photo on here yet. That’s not a great example, because I haven’t put the photo one, but for example if I look at the video on my Instagram, there’s almost 200,000 views on it on Instagram, and there is more than 1,000 comments.
On a photo, I’ve never gotten more than, let’s say, 300 comments at the very most, but there is literally more than 1,000 comments. Another thing that’s been interesting about this video thing is with a photo, I’m only showing the finished product, but with the video, I think the reason it tends to get more engagement and tends to really pull people in more is because they see the how-to of it, so it starts with sweet potato, and then it’s an egg, and then it’s the oats, and then put all together. There is a more of an aha moment associated with it as opposed to appreciation for a beautiful photo, but maybe not fully understanding what the recipe is.
My teacher brain likes to really think about it and emphasize the teaching and the communication side of video, and that really being the main value of video, just another super powerful way to communicate information.
Bjork Ostrom: I think that side by side, contrast is interesting, because so often, people will talk about that, and they’ll say, “O, we think that video is a really good video, and you should be doing video.” Sometimes, it’s like, “Are people just saying this to say it?” I think having those concrete numbers, and saying, “When we published a video for this recipe, here is the engagement that we get versus a photo.” Now, obviously, Instagram is an easy platform to do that, but I feel like Facebook would be as well if you published just a photo versus a video, the impact and awareness that that can have.
I want to hear you guys talk a little bit about what that looks like. As you’re going into the creation process, do you have a set system for that? Is that something where you go and you know that each video will be similar, or what is the creation process when the 2 of you sit down?
Lindsay Ostrom: Maybe I’ll explain my role, which is pretty much in the beginning, and then I’ll past it off to Alana, because after a certain point, she takes over and leads through the rest of the process. In terms of the ideation, that’s where I’m most involved. It’s not my hands making the food necessarily, and it’s not me behind the camera. It’s just me saying, “This is the content that I think will resonate with my audience.” My expertise is more on knowing my audience, knowing what people want to see, coming up with the concepts and the ideas, and then Alana and company, which is just Alana and a shoot assistant that we have.
Their expertise is on how to actually put that together. A lot of times, what we’ll do is we’ll just message back and forth in the early part of the week, and say, “Hey, which 3 recipes are we going to try to do this week?” We have a list that we keep. A lot of what’s on the list are previous old posts from Pinch of Yum that have been really popular, or we feel have that viral hook factor, where it would be the aha moment for people, where they watch in. They think, “Oh my gosh, that’s super easy. I could do that.”
Then a lot of the other things on that list are just ideas that we’ve come up with like as on the fly a little bit. Just this morning, I messaged over some ideas to Alana, where we don’t have those recipes on Pinch of Yum, but it’s more of a recipe concept that I feel would make for a really great video. We have a combination of both older posts and then new recipe ideas that we keep in this list.
Then once Alana and I settle on the recipes, from there, the team takes it, and I’m a lot less involved in the process at that point. Maybe Alana, you can explain what happens after we decide on the recipes.
Alana Woolley: Once we have our recipes for the week, I’d say the first step is really deciding what needs to be shown and what doesn’t. We try to keep the videos simple. There’s a lot of ingredients involved. We don’t always have to show. If there’s an onion, we can bring in already chopped onions. We don’t have to show that. Just to keep it really simple, really clean so that when people watch the video, it looks like, “That’s something I can make. It’s a very accessible way to see cooking happen.”
Then from there, we storyboard it out a little bit, and just try think of the best flow for how to show all the different steps of the recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a really important step. I would guess that a lot of people maybe don’t do that, but can you talk about the story boarding process? Is that something that it’s like a chatting through the storyboard, and saying, “Here is what we’re going to do,” or are you literally writing down on a document saying, “Here is what it looks like here. Here is what it looks like here?” What re the decisions that you’re making? Is it like moving a plate, or putting the chopped onions in? I’m curious to hear a little bit about that story boarding process.
Alana Woolley: When we first started doing video, it was very much written out. We would go through each step of the recipe, and decide, “Okay, so we need to start with baked sweet potato. Do we want to show the sweet potato being baked, or do we just want to start after that, and bring in the baked sweet potato, and people will assume how to bake their own sweet potato?”
Bjork Ostrom: There’s so many decisions when you really think about it. There’s so much involved with it.
Alana Woolley: A lot of that can also happen after shooting. We try to shoot as much as we can, and then cut it down after just because it’s nice to have options when editing. Now that we’ve added into the flow and we’ve done a lot of videos, we don’t write it out all the way, but we do take the planning and the filming very step by step. It’s not like we turn on the camera, and then just cook the whole thing. We will do the first step, and talk about it. Talk about the best way to bring in a bowl. Maybe if there’s 2 bowls, do we want to have them side by side? Do we want to show each individually? Then we will prepare all the ingredients, and bring everything over to the camera, and then just do it step by step.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Let’s say you have different possibilities. Are you doing different shots than bringing in and editing, and saying, “Which one do we like the best,” or is that usually just for efficiency’s sake, you say, “Hey, we’re going to do, we’re going to pick one shot. This is what we’re going to do, and we’re going to do this multiple times even though it’s a similar thing,” like let’s say a certain way that you bring a bowl?
I don’t know the process very well, so maybe I’m using terrible examples, but like how you bring a bowl in, are you bringing it in from different angles, bringing in multiple bowls, or you’re saying we’re just going to do one and do it like this? What is your take on takes I guess?
Alana Woolley: We usually decide one way that we want to do it, but we do the multiple takes. We’ll bring a bowl in, and if it’s not centered, we’ll take it back out, and bring it back in until it’s perfect. Then we’ll add the first ingredients. If the first ingredient doesn’t look like, we’ll take it out, and we’ll shoot it again. Obviously, there is some ways that you can’t go back, so the first take needs to be perfect.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure like a poor shot or something like that.
Alana Woolley: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: We also make you were saying?
Alana Woolley: Sometimes we’ll do multiple shoots of the same recipe. We’ll make the same thing twice to make sure that the shots are perfect, or we’ll make more than we need to for the recipe just to have … We made homemade oreos, and we made extra just to be able to have a lot of shots of the oreos being frosted, because we know that was going to be a tricky shot.
Bjork Ostrom: Maybe it’s one of those things where it’s not super complicated to make. It’s not like you’re making a turkey or something, so you have to have 7 turkeys. It’s a little bit easier with that type of thing to make a lot of it so you can have multiple takes with it. One of the things that I’m curious about is, and I know that it varies depending on the recipe, but if you had to say on average, what does it look like when you’re going into a shoot and you’re starting, not the editing of it but actually doing a shoot? What does that look like time wise if you had to put a range on it?
Alana Woolley: It definitely takes a lot longer than just making the recipe, because we are thinking so much about every ingredient being added, like where do we want it in the bowl? Even if it’s all going to be blended together eventually anyway, everything is thought about beforehand, but we usually start with all of our ingredients prepared before we start filming so that we spend less time with the cameras rolling.
We have 2 cameras that we use. We really emphasize the overhead food video style. With the very few exceptions, that’s what we shoot for every video. We have one camera that’s setup on a small tripod actually on the cooking table. That camera runs start to finish throughout the entire recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. You’re pressing. You’re putting a camera on a tripod. Then you’re putting the tripod on a table. I’m imagining it, you’re angling it down as much as possible, essentially straight down but maybe there is a little bit of an angle, so you don’t catch the legs of the tripod. Is that right?
Alana Woolley: Right. The tripod that we use is actually a couple of different pieces assembled together. It’s a small Promaster tripod. Then we have a Manfrotto arm that’s attaches to the top where the camera would go. It’s like a horizontal bar. Then the camera captures to the end of one of those. The camera is parallel to the table, so it’s straight down.
Bjork Ostrom: The one that we had experimented with, is it a similar setup to that, Lindz?
Lindsay Ostrom: Yes, but I feel like the ones we experimented with were bigger, and they were set up on the ground, and or we had them propped up on chairs or different things. This one actually sits on top of the table. We made sure we have a big enough table that we cannot only have the food on it, but there’s also room just right behind our little food setup to put this little tripod, and then have the arm coming over head. It sits right on the same table that we’re preparing the food on.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting. I think that would be something that would be of interest for people to hear. Essentially, what it is right now is a tripod, and then instead of attaching the camera right to the top of the tripod, there is an arm that’s attached to it where the camera would usually go that’s exactly perpendicular to the table going out. Then on that, the camera’s attached, so it’s perfectly pointing down.
Alana Woolley: Yes, and the nice thing about that is the arm can extend. You can adjust how far the arm takes out, so you don’t have to worry about having the legs of the tripod in the shot.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense. Maybe one of the things that we could do if you guys would be up for it, I think it would be really interesting to hear or to see, would be to include maybe if we could do a photo sometime when you guys do the next shoot, and then we’ll put that into the show notes. This will be episode 66. If people go to foodbloggerpro.com/66, the show notes will be there, and you can see some photos of the things that we’re taking about as well, so links to the actual gear that we’re using, because I think that would be helpful for people.
Alana, one of the questions that I have is I’m imagining the setup, and you get everything tweaked and connected, and you have it over head, but then it’s hard to see. You can’t really see what’s going on. How do you deal with that?
Alana Woolley: It is. We have a monitor. It’s a small HD 701 light monitor, which is really nice for shooting these overhead videos. It attaches to the top of the camera in the same place that you would attach lights, but we have a little articulating arm so we can move it around. The monitor attaches and plugs into the camera, and we can see what you would see on the screen of the camera on the monitor. That hangs down in front of the camera, right at the eye level, so you can cook and put your hands out and see without standing on a ladder, and looking over the top of the camera.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is really nice, because Lindsay when we’ve done videos in the past, I feel like what I undoubtedly end up doing is standing on chairs on my tippy toes. We just never went to the process or have a knowledge or background to say, “Hey, we just need to pick up a monitor, so we can see what’s going on here.” That was one that I remember Alana saying, “It would be pretty good to get one of these if we’re going to shoot a decent amount of videos, so we’re not climbing ladders too.”
Lindsay Ostrom: Then we got it, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, why did we not have one of these before?” It’s super cool. I’m not usually the hands in the video, whatever, but for whoever is doing it on that particular day, you’re not only watching your hands and what you’re doing, but you can literally look straight in front of you, and right in front of your face is the screen that shows exactly what it looks like on camera.
If we’re pulling a bowl up, if we do a transition shot where the bowl comes up closer to the lens, or pulling it back down, or putting something in and trying to get it just straight, we can watch that not only on the actual table itself but literally on the screen to see what it looks like for the video.
Alana has also shown me that on that screen, we can put on boarders basically to see what this will look like as a square, which is super helpful as we’re cropping our videos for square, for Instagram, and Facebook. It’s just really helpful to see what will actually be in the shot as opposed to the wide traditional wide view.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a good point. We’ll be talking about that a little bit later, but the idea of shooting one video that will be used in multiple places, and just everything that goes into that, and obviously a really, really important thing. You don’t want to shoot a video, and you’re thinking about it being wide screened, and then you crop it for Instagram. Then all you see is the oreo pieces being ripped apart or something. It is like, “What’s happening here? It’s too close.” That’s interesting.
Do you remember how much the monitor that we’re using cost, or even just a general range for that? I know we had talked about it, but I don’t remember the price point for that.
Alana Woolley: The small HDs range from 600 to … I would just say 600 up. They’re pretty nice. They have a lot of really helpful features. They show you when the shot is overexposed. Like Lindsay said, they have different aspect ratios you need to put on, which is very helpful for shooting square. Really, there’s a whole range of monitors.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s probably like TVs, where you can get really affordable ones that are smaller and maybe not as high quality, or you could get super expensive 4K1s that are thousands of dollars. Cool. That would be essentially like a camera monitor. I would assume you could use that for photography as well, but obviously great for video. That’s a great tool. Again, we’ll link to all of these so people can see the exact gear that we’re using.
One of the things that people are probably are going to be thinking is, especially people that are in the early stages, is we’ve talked about we a lot. We have this incredible privilege to have a team, and that’s within the past year to really something that we’ve started to do. It wasn’t something that we had before, but that makes it possible for us to do video. Obviously, you know Alana, the amount of time and energy that goes into creating this.
We even during those videos have somebody that is playing the role of shoot assistant, so that’s helping with the creation process or that is the hands. One of the things that I’m interested, and maybe Lindsay, you can talk about this, and Alana, you can give some tips if you have some ideas on it. Lindsay, do you feel like this is something that would be possible and worth it for somebody to do on their own, and how should people prioritize this when they’re thinking about content creation?
Lindsay Ostrom: That’s a super good question. I’d start by saying just as a reminder to all of us, myself included, even us with the team, one person can only do so much. Starting from that perspective of not saying, “Well, if you’re only one person, you shouldn’t do video,” but just really … I guess my encouragement to anyone listening who is in that solopreneur, solo blogger position, just remind yourself you’re one person. There are only so many hours in the day. You’re already doing a good job. You’re already doing a lot of different things, so making strategic decisions about you do would be more my message that I would want to say as oppose to every single person should do video, and you need to go do that right now.
I will say there are tons of advantages to doing video for food if you’re trying to communicate ideas about food. For each individual is probably is going to be just a question of importance. It’s like that typical prioritization and strategy move, but you probably aren’t going to be able to do everything that you’re currently doing, and just randomly add in video on the side.
Start thinking. Maybe make a list of the things that you’re currently doing and where you’re seeing the most return for your time. Maybe it is worth it to just try one video, and see how your engagement is, and then depending on the results of that or maybe you do a handful of videos to just try it out. Then continue making decisions from there, but I would not suggest just trying to add video in to all the other things that you’re doing.
That being said, if you want to start doing video, and I highly recommend it just as a way to increase your engagement in a lot of different ways, I really had a lot of success and actually had a lot of fun too just recording some super basic food videos with my phone. That was what I did before we really had a team. Actually when we first did some videos in 2012, 2013, I think that was when we were in the Philippines. I don’t know if you remember that Bjork.
I did some with my phone, where I would literally … We had no equipment there, cooking equipment, much less photography or video equipment. I remember specifically creating a stack of the books, or it might have even been like boxes of cereal or something, and I put my phone in between it, in between the books sticking out, so the camera was sticking out so that I could get it high enough, and have it held in place so that it would film me while I was cooking. It was so scrappy.
Since then, now, it was probably this year or maybe last year, 2015, no, it’s probably this year, when I did my own videos with my phone again. I did use a tiny little tripod. We just went to a local camera store that is here, and I bought a tiny little tripod that was on clearance, and then I bought a phone hook or a little clip. It’s basically like a tripod for your phone. You just clip your phone right into it, and then I had this tiny little tripod that just went on top of my table.
The nice thing about your phone is it’s going to be super wide, so it’s a little easier to get that overhead angle, but I would just angle it down where I was cooking. Also, another nice thing about the phone is the focus is a lot easier. You just hit record, and it’s going to generally get everything in focus. You don’t have to play around with the focus.
I just use my phone. I record it on to my camera roll. Literally just open the camera, hit record as I was going through this stuff of the process. Then I just edit it right on my phone as well using the iMovie app. I brought in all those clips, cut them down, sped them up, and put music over the top, and then boom, that was my little video. I feel like that one that I did, maybe it was the cookie one, I think I did that start to finish in maybe 4 hours by myself using only my phone, which I felt pretty good about.
If you are in this doing it by yourself and thinking about adding video, and want to try it out and see how it goes without maybe making the jump to the full team and the full equipment purchasing and whatever, the phone is definitely a really good place to start.
Bjork Ostrom: The other thing to think about is it doesn’t always have to be the complete finished product for a recipe. Maybe you’re just highlighting a certain step or something like that as a way to get into it, and something that has a very minimal amounts of editing, and maybe no editing at all. Maybe you just press record and say, “Hey guys, I know this is a complicated step, so I want to show you how it’s done.” It’s maybe one minute long, and record it on your phone, and not edit it.
Lindsay Ostrom: That’s super important, because I think people have this idea of food videos looking exactly like for example tasty or TPR or whatever the other big food recipe videos are that people are familiar with seeing on Facebook, but video can take so many different forms. The bottom line is maybe less on polished, finished product unless that’s what you’re going for, but the bottom line is on communicating, communication, communication, communication and or teaching, and or providing valuable information in a way that’s extremely easy to digest and extremely easy to process for the people that follow you.
I love that idea. I love that even as the first step, before you even go into doing something on your phone, and editing it, just turn the camera on what you’re doing. Literally just press record, and show here is how you’d make this specific cut, or here is how you poach the egg perfectly, or here is how you get the perfectly brown skin on the chicken, whatever it might be. It’s going to feel a little rough and raw if you’re not editing it, but also, the benefit of, I’m going to use it again, the day … What this I say?
Bjork Ostrom: This day and age.
Lindsay Ostrom: In these times is this is how people … People want that genuine side. There’s a time and place for he polished videos. There is a also a time and place for the behind the scenes, super raw, super rough as long as there is value intrinsically within that content. If you think of Snapchat, you think of Instagram stories, even like Periscope, some of this live or Facebook Live, it’s super raw. It’s not meant to be polished, and yet if it provides value, that’s still going to be a super engaging thing for your followers.
Bjork Ostrom: Absolutely. I wanted to bring that up, because I think we’re coming from the place where we are, which is working with the team, but I also think that it’s important to have that conversation around, “It doesn’t have to be this. Our goal and our hope for this conversation is to say, ”Here is exactly what we’re doing, but also remember it doesn’t have to be exactly … You don’t have to do exactly what we’re doing." You can take little pieces of it. Maybe apply it to what you’re doing.
Maybe you have somebody that can help out, somebody in your family, spouse, or partner, or maybe it’s just you. I think a lot of times, that’s the situation that people are in, so it’s important to have that conversation. Alana, I want to go back to a few different things that you had mentioned just to complete the conversation about this setup.
One of the things that you said is that you have a second camera. I think people get the overhead one. Like you said, it’s the classic food video that we see right now, which is on Facebook, or Instagram, or anywhere, but then you have this second camera. What is that one all about, and where is that located, and why do you have that set up?
Alana Woolley: We have another camera off to the side of the table. If the person who is cooking is standing in front of the table, I’m standing next to them. It’s a longer lens on my camera just to get really close-up detailed shots, which just makes the video more interesting, visually, aesthetically interesting to have a variety of shots, but also for the finished product, once we’re finished with the recipe, we can style it, and just how you do for any food photograph, to really show off what the finished product will look like.
Then from there, we can take a bite out of it, or throw up some toppings on top or whatever, because sometimes straight overhead especially if you’re making drinks, not everything looks great just strictly overhead.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s been interesting to watch some of the videos to see how you’re using it’s a kind of table height. It’s a little bit higher than table height, so it’s going to come down to an angle. One example that I’ve seen on some of the videos that I think is so cool is a little bit of a teaser right off the bat, so like 2 to 3 seconds of maybe the finished product or somewhere towards the end where it’s almost complete. Then it goes in to creating it.
Can you talk about how or why you use that, how you came to introduce that as part of the video process? Are you using it for every video as well?
Alana Woolley: Now we are.
Bjork Ostrom: What was the reasoning behind that. Maybe Lindsay, you have some thoughts on this as well.
Alana Woolley: Yes, this is actually Lindsay’s idea. I think it’s pretty effective. We have just a couple seconds of maybe like the brownie butter pouring in, or some little delicious looking detail. When it’s not overhead, when it’s very close out, it’s hard to tell what it is. People get curious. They want to see what will this become. What is this? How does this fit in to this recipe? Then once the recipe starts, instead of you seeing it, and people, you’re more interested in what will become for the rest of the video.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like a 2-second trailer for the 1 minute video.
Alana Woolley: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay, can you talk a little bit about why you think that’s effective and the process for coming or your thought process for starting to use that?
Lindsay Ostrom: Actually, Bjork, I don’t even know if you know this. Do you remember that ceramics person that we were looking at, his videos on Instagram. Isn’t that cool?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, that was so cool. I’ll have to look that up and include that. My dad has a ceramics shop, a little plug here, larryostrompottery.com. Lindsay uses a lot of that and a lot of those in her food photography and video. We were just looking at different Instagram accounts for people that have ceramics and pottery, and we were totally engulfed in this guy’s Instagram account.
Lindsay Ostrom: It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty therapeutic and awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk a little bit about what it was and then maybe how you got the idea for that?
Lindsay Ostrom: Basically, what it is, I’m looking for it right now, it’s called Tortus Copenhagen. That’s the name of the account. You guys can go check it out. He has basically 600,000, half a million, followers. A lot of his videos are just him sitting at the wheel, and he shows the shaping of the pots that he is making, but it would start, every single video, almost every video would start with … Literally, it was so short. It was like 1 second of him maybe at the main part of the video, where he is creating the curve in the middle of the pot, or it’s some main portions. It’s not just the beginning, where he’s putting the clay on the wheel or whatever.
You would click into the video, and you’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, super cool,” but almost before your brain has a chance to really process it, it would jump to a title side that would have his logo really quick, and then it would go to the beginning of the video. I don’t know. This feels a little bit of a hack to explain this fully. Instagram, and I believe this is true with Facebook too. I could be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure for Instagram. Instagram counts a view after 3 seconds.
If someone isn’t watching the video all the way, that could still be counted as a view as long as they watched through for 3 seconds. I don’t have no idea if Tortus Copenhagen has any thought or strategy behind that, but I thought what a genius way to not only get people interested, but to keep them for the 3 seconds so that your views, the actual number of views that are tracking on the app actually goes up.
Every once in a while, we’ll do a finished product like that first teaser shot. That super short something shot is the actual finished product, like a bit being taken out of the cupcake or whatever it might be, but more often than not, we call them the glamour shots, the sexy glamour shots of the chocolate being swirled with the spatula or cookie dough being pressed into the brownie butter or the cheese being pulled, the melted cheese being pulled up.
Something that makes people … Think how fast people are scrolling through their feed, and as soon as that video starts, in soon as it starts, is not an empty bowl where they have to wait. It’s immediately gratifying their desire for whatever it might be, and it’s something that makes people go, “O, a, I wonder what that is.” The I wonder what that is/ that looks really good/ o, a, that whole combination of factors is what we hope pulls people in to encourage them to continue to watch the full video beyond just the start, where it’s the empty bowl or the empty pan or whatever.
I think people have such short attention spans. Myself included, I see a video that potentially starts with an empty pan, and I’m a little bit interested about what’s going to happen, but also, I’m like, “I don’t really want to sit around, and wait around to see what that’s going to be if I don’t have summaries and to believe that it’s going to be super, super amazing.” That hook shot is geared towards telling people this is going to be super, super amazing, and you’re going to want to watch this without maybe necessarily giving them the full shot of what it’s going to look like.
It’s like the definition of a teaser, or a hook, or whatever. The timing of it I think is super important, so having it short enough where people can see it, it starts playing, and its motion in their news feed or wherever it might be, but it gets cut off fast enough where they want to keep watching to see more.
Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s really effective. Like I said, it’s like that teaser within the bigger video itself to keep people around to engage them. You see that in different platforms, whether it’s YouTube, longer format, a lot of TV shows. I think of the start of Breaking Bad, which we only watched the first episode, but it starts out with him rumbling through the dessert in that trailer. Then you’re like, “O my gosh, what is this? This is so crazy.” Then it flashes back, and then it starts the story.
You have this hook at the beginning that leads into it. We do a terrible job of that on the podcast, but we could do a better job of leading people into the content that’s going to be talked about right now, or like, “This is the episode.” It’s on our list of figuring out a better way to introduce the podcast, but it’s that same idea of hooking people in, and then delivering the content. That’s cool.
I want to go back. There’s one more thing that I want to ask you about Alana with this setup. One of the things that I’ve noticed with the overhead videos is that you’ll be able to hold something up to the camera for instance, maybe it’s an egg than you then crack into the bowl. One of the cool things is that there is the focusing that happens. I know for the camera that we use, there is auto focus on that. Is that right? Do you have the auto focus on for those? Can you explain how that works?
Obviously, it’s not too complicated, but I would assume that would be one of the questions that people have. For those that don’t have auto focus, they’d be like, “How do you do that?” Can you explain what that process looks like?
Alana Woolley: The overhead camera is a Canon 7D. We use a 28 millimeter lens, which is pretty wide, but still has a fairly narrow range of focus, so if the camera is focused on something on the table, then something higher up towards the camera will be out of focus. This camera has a little tracking focus box. On the monitor, it will just be a small box that you can move around. We usually keep ours in the middle of the frame, and it will just constantly grab focus while you’re filming whatever is in the box.
It’s really nice, like you said, to hold things up to the camera, to get those details, and whenever you bring it back down, it will focus back down on to the table, or the blender, or whatever you’re doing. A lot of the ingredients that we use and a lot of the … When you’re stirring, it’s just a lot of different heights on the table, and it’s really nice because you don’t have to stand above the camera and pull focus constantly. It’s just the camera is doing it for you.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s a really nice feature. I don’t know all of the different Canon versions that have it. Like you said, it’s the 7D. It’s the most up to date 7D, so it’s the Mark II?
Alana Woolley: It’s the Mark II.
Bjork Ostrom: We had an older 7D, which obviously, you can still get them. I don’t know if they still sell them. I don’t track super close with that stuff. The updated 7D Mark II that has that out of focus, Canon obviously being one of leaders in introducing some of the video elements with it within their cameras, and that being such a nice one because focusing is so hard. When you are setting up a shot, that I’m guessing is kind of an efficient part of the process, where you’re maybe adjusting the IOS or the shutter speed, things like that, and then finally locking it in where you feel really good about it. Then from that point on, you’re probably not doing a lot of changing with the setting, is that right?
Alana Woolley: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk a little bit about what you’re aiming for with the different settings that you use? Is it pretty much the same time to time? Are their any recommendations you have for people that are shooting with DSLR in terms of what they use?
Alana Woolley: Once we figured out which settings look best, we have to stuck with that for all videos aside from the ISO and aperture, because we use natural light, and the lighting changes so much. In terms of shutter speed and frame rate, we keep those pretty consistent. The frame rate is 24 frames per second. The general rule of thumb for a cinematic look is to have your shutter speed be doubled at. The shutter speed is at 50, and that’s what it’s been for all of the videos that we shot. We never mess with those. It creates really smooth look with just the right amount of blur.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s interesting. The frames per second is such an interesting thing that I don’t know if most people that would just watch TV or movies would really understand, but we know it when we see it. Our eyes are so trained for that. Obviously, there’s lots of different ones, but on the DSLR, there is really 3 you could choose from for the most part, 3 general frame per second rates. Can you talk about what those would be, and maybe why you would use the other ones?
Alana Woolley: Yes. A faster frame rate will take more pictures per second, so it’s really great for action or things that are moving quickly, where you don’t want any blur, and you really want to capture the action. Those are 30 frames per second or even 60 frames per second, but with food photography or food videography, nothing is moving that quickly that we need to … It’s jarring also when you have faster frame rates. You definitely notice, because your eye naturally sees a blur when things are moving, and 24 frames per second is most closely matched to the human eye, but you notice it when you see it like action sequences or battle scenes or whatever on TV when it’s so fast the camera.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. I always think of 60 frames per second. Whenever I see that, I think of a 2006 video camera, like one of the handheld video cameras. It almost feels fake even though there’s more content that’s being put in, like there’s more frames per second, but it’s interesting. A lot of times, it will be used for gaming too, I think is a common reason why you’d want more frames per second, but 24 is, like you said, very cinematic look. That’s what we use too when we go to movies, so it feels cool, and the TV traditionally depending on where you are in the world, but it’s 30 frames per second, so there’s this in between.
The interesting thing that I want to go back to that I heard you say is when you’re shooting with a DSLR camera, you want to double your shutter speed from the frame rate you picked. For example, you had said for Pinch of Yum videos, we shoot 24 frames per second, and then we double that, so 150th is the shutter speed that we use. Let’s say if you’re using, if I’m understanding this right, 30 frames per second, then what you would do is you would go to 160th for the shutter speed, or if it was 60 frames per second, you’d double it, and go to 120th for the shutter speed. Is that what you were saying?
Alana Woolley: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bjork Ostrom: Which I think is a really big shift for people in terms of how they think about video when compared to photography, because the shutter speed is you pick in general something that let’s say in the certain amount of light, but for video, it’s a little bit more locked in. Then you have much more room to play with on the aperture and then maybe with ISO as well. That’s a really interesting takeaway that I wanted to hit on for people that are shooting with their DSLR camera, really, the importance of number 1, the frame rate, and then number 2, making sure that you have the correct shutter speed for that.
Cool. That’s a really good overview of the shooting process. Let’s say you wrap up, you wrap a shoot. I don’t know if you say on set, “That’s a wrap,” but you you should if you don’t.
Lindsay Ostrom: I probably would. I’m that cheesy.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap.
Lindsay Ostrom: It’s cooler than that but.
Bjork Ostrom: In this day and age, we need to still say that’s a wrap.
Lindsay Ostrom: That’s a wrap.
Bjork Ostrom: In this day and age, people aren’t saying that’s a wrap enough. What does that look like after you wrap a shoot? Obviously, you’re importing the footage into your computer, and then bringing it in to, what, which program are you using?
Alana Woolley: I’m using Final Cut Pro X. I have a big library called Pinch of Yum. Then for every new day that we shoot, I have a new event which is just a little place to store all of your footage and products, and projects, sorry, to keep you organized. I will open a new event, and then import all the footage that we shot that day. Then I’ll create two new projects for every video. One will be a standard sized, and one will be a square sized. You can just edit the whole video in the standard 1080x1920. Then cut it down after.
Bjork Ostrom: That would be “HD,” so wide screen?
Alana Woolley: Right.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Alana Woolley: Then for the Instagram size, the Instagram recently upped their pixel allowance, so we do 1080x1080 pixels. It’s really easy to just when you’re creating a new project in final cut adjust those settings right away than when you add all up of your footage, it automatically crops it down to that square size, which is really nice.
Bjork Ostrom: The interesting thing that I just reviewed this, so Final Cut Pro, obviously, it’s a program just for people that have Apple computers. It runs on Mac OS for those that are nerdy and want to talk about the OS. Another program that would be comparable would be Adobe Premiere Pro, but we use Final Cut. Within Final Cut, there is the library, which is if you think about a folder, that’s the main folder. Then there is the events, which is the sub under that, which for you is recipes. Then within that, there is the projects. The projects would be the different file sizes or the different aspect ratios for the different places that you’re uploading those to.
For us, what we’re doing is a square. Then we’re also doing HD, but then the thing that I thought was interesting, or the question that I want to follow up with that is you have these 2 different projects. Do you start by editing, I’m guessing, with the HD one, and then do you just copy that over so then you’re able to use that within standard? How does that work for the different files or the different aspect ratios?
Alana Woolley: I typically will start editing the rectangular standard sized videos. Then once I have the timing right and the music cut to it, and the whole timeline finished, I’ll just copy everything from that and move it and paste it into the square version. Then from there, I’ll adjust the clips, because not everything is always perfectly centered. If there’s 2 bowls on screen, sometimes, I’ll show each bowl individually, so there’s a little bit of adjustment that happens once that timeline gets pasted into the square version, but for the most part, it’s not like I’m creating 2 totally separate projects every time I create a video.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s not like you would go and edit one, and then go in and do all the same edits on the other one, which obviously would take so much time. You go through. You do these edits. Is the editing process, do you have at this point a little bit of a workflow that you follow with that? Are you always putting music in at the end, or do you put that in right away, and then cut over that? What does that look like in terms of splicing that content up and putting it all together? Then the second question would be, what does that look like timing wise? Do you have something where you always try and hit a certain amount of time for the videos that you’re uploading?
Alana Woolley: To go back to the first question, I usually start with the overhead footage, and I would just create a huge timeline of the entire recipe start to finish, and then cut out just the important … Whenever the hands are out of frame, I usually will cut that part out just to save time. Then I’ll add in titles. I’ll add in those little detailed shots from the side. I’ll just lay that over the overhead so that the timing matches.
What was the second question, sorry?
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a good question. Your question is a good question about my question. I think it was …
Alana Woolley: O, the music.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, are you putting music in right away, or what does that look like in terms of the finishing touches for something?
Alana Woolley: We try to aim between 30 seconds and a minute. Instagram has a 1 minute limit on their videos. I think the shorter, the better. Just keep things simple and clean. Really, the end goal was to have people watch the video and say, “Wow, that’s something I can make, or at least, that’s easy and delicious.” The longer it gets, the more complicated the recipe seems.
Bjork Ostrom: Would you say shorter, the better obviously until a point? What would your cut off point be for that?
Alana Woolley: Some recipes, they’re just more involved and have more steps. If it’s pushing a minute, but it has all the important things that I am aiming to show from the recipe, I’m not too concerned about it.
Bjork Ostrom: Then how about on the end? What would be the shortest that you’d be willing to go?
Alana Woolley: I think the shortest we have is just at 30 seconds, because even for something as simple as putting a drink together, like mixing 3 ingredients, it’s still nice to have the teaser. It’s nice to have the title to build up a little bit of anticipation before you show the final product. I don’t think it’s the end of the world to go shorter than that especially if the recipe is super simple, but just for people’s attention spans and especially on Instagram and social media, where people are scrolling through the news feed so fast, you don’t want to keep there any longer than you need to.
Bjork Ostrom: I think there would probably get to a certain point where you have to at least 20 seconds to get all those elements in like the teaser, title, maybe the end slide, and then the other content in between. That makes sense. One of the questions that I have is, "You go through the process. You edit in Final Cut Pro. You export it. Then I know that … We’ve talked about we. We have a team obviously. What is the next step there? Are you sending those to Jenna who is helping to upload those to different places? Are you taking those and then uploading them?
Obviously for people that are doing this on their own, they would be handling this step, but what does that look like in terms of the tools that you use to get the video where you need to get it to, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, things like that?
Alana Woolley: For each size, I export them in different codecs, which is pretty much the compression rates. For the square Instagram size, the codec is H264, which is a little bit smaller. Then for the standard YouTube blog size, it’s just Apple ProRest 422, which is a much higher quality video than Instagram, but just better definition and quality.
Bjork Ostrom: Is that Instagram video the same one you’re using for Facebook?
Alana Woolley: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. That’s done in compressor, right, which is a different program than Final Cut Pro, or is that within Final Cut Pro.
Alana Woolley: I actually export them through Final Cut Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: Great, I didn’t know that was possible. For those that aren’t familiar, another program you can buy as a companion to Final Cut Pro, but I didn’t know that you could just do that within Final Cut Pro, so all within Final Cut Pro. You’re exporting those. Then with Instagram, Lindsay is uploading those. She owns that process. Are you sending those via Dropbox?
Alana Woolley: Yes. I put everything in Dropbox. Lindsay will look at them if there’s any edits that need to be made or changes to the texts if an ingredient is off or whatever. Then I’ll go back and make those edits, and we’ll repeat that process until the video is ready. Then it’s out of my hands at that point.
Bjork Ostrom: Then I’ll jump over to you Lindsay to ask. When you’re uploading to Instagram, are there things that you’re doing different with the video than you would be doing with a photograph? I know that you’re not necessarily doing that on Facebook and YouTube, but you are on Instagram, is that right?
Lindsay Ostrom: Yes, I am on Instagram. When you upload a video, I’m just going to pull it up, so I can see here, you have 3 options down at the … Oh my gosh, can you hear that?
Bjork Ostrom: There it is.
Lindsay Ostrom: That’s what happens every single time and literally every night, because I go to post them at night, and Bjork is like, “O, yup, it’s time for a video.” You see you have 3 little options at the bottom of the screen. It’s filter, trim, and cover. I don’t put any filters on. I think I have maybe once for something just to try to brighten it up a little bit. That was a super early on with the videos, but in general, Alana is doing all the color correction, and everything looks amazing already by the time it comes to me, so I don’t need to do any filters for that.
Trim would be actually if I wanted to trim or crop it, but again, the video is coming to me completely ready, so I don’t do anything with that. That last tab where it says cover, that’s super, super important to me for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that that’s what’s going to show up in the feed. If you look at anyone’s Instagram feed and the videos that are in their feed, the thing that shows up as the picture to represent as the little thumbnail, that was set by them as the cover frame, either that or if you don’t set it, it would default to a cover frame.
I believe on Instagram if I remember correctly, it’s literally just the first frame that it grabs, the very first frame in the video, but because the overall look and feel of that feed on Instagram is so super important to me, I want it to look succinct, I want it to look like a nice branded collection of Pinch of Yum content, then I don’t want different angles or different colors necessarily every single time.
What I’m doing right now is I am trying to choose a frame from within the video that isn’t necessarily the finished product, but it’s just an overhead shot and is one of the frames that has words on it, because all our words are always the same. They’re always just the big white letters in the middle, and then it’s one that has hands in it. Those are the 3 things I look for. That could change. That’s just like right now what I’ve decided I want the thumbnails for videos to look like.
For example on my feed right now, the most recent video is a bowl. You can see all the different colored ingredients in the bowl. I chose that frame specifically because I knew several colors would be shown in there, and then it says cilantro over the top, because cilantro is being added at that particular moment in the video. Then it has 2 hands coming in from the side giving people the sense that there’s motion here. This is a video. This is about to be stirred up together.
The reason for that is when I look at the feed overall, everything sort of matches even though the videos are all obviously very different, and even those ending shots on every video, if I were to always choose the ending shot, because if it’s a soup or if it’s a sandwich, or if it’s an ice cream, the ending shots all look a little bit different. For me, the best way to find that continuity through the images on the thumbnails is to choose that middle option.
The other reason that I think it’s super important to choose a cover is that actually, that’s what shows in the feed just before your video starts playing. It’s like a super quick split second thing, but in my feed, if there’s a video, it’s going to first show the cover photo, the thumbnail photo. The same is true on Facebook. That’s the first thing that loads, and then it should in theory go right into the video. Let’s say there’s a log in internet, and sometimes even for my own self scrolling through, the video doesn’t load right away.
That first thing is what they’re going to look at, so it’s choosing something not only that’s going to look good in the feed, but that’s going to look good if by chance it takes an extra second or two for your video to load and start playing.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Interesting. If people want to check that out, obviously, they can just go through on their computer, Instagram.com. That’s Pinch of Yum, or find you on Instagram to see what that looks like. They also end up on YouTube and Facebook. Do you know if there’s anything intentional like is Jenna uploading those to Facebook that she’s doing in terms of taking or anything like that?
Lindsay Ostrom: I know she was for a while. she was pulling a thumbnail image from the blog post, but what we found with that and what we decided is it felt like there wasn’t enough continuity between the video style and the photo style. The photo feels like a really separate thing even if the recipe is the same. Now for the thumbnail, she’s literally just grabbing a screenshot of one frame from within the video so that people see that cover photo, and then what they end up seeing at the end of the video is literally the exact same image that they saw at the beginning as opposed to an image from the blog that might have a different style to it.
I know that’s something that she’s doing. If there’s a recipe link that goes along with the video, we were putting that in the comments, because I feel like with Facebook, it’s always like, “Well, I heard this, and then I heard this. Somebody told me.”
Bjork Ostrom: Somebody told me that they heard of that.
Lindsay Ostrom: Yes. It’s just super vague, and mystical, but we had heard and we had seen actually a lot of people of these big companies that are doing video that they were putting the recipe link in the comments, but then someone told me that actually Facebook isn’t going to punish you for putting the link right in your caption, and that most people don’t end up actually seeing the comment. For example, if people share that video, they’re not going to see necessarily the original comments. They’re just going to see the comments on that shared thread if that makes sense.
We’ve decided to put the link into the actual description, so we put a super quick caption and then we put a link to the recipe if there is one. Those will be the 2 things I know that we are doing on video. I know Jenna has some strategy around timing, and we’re always just collectively with any of this stuff. We’re always looking at, is there a particular time that seems to be working better than others, and then leaning into that and doing more of the same of what seems to be working, but I don’t know at the top of my head what those times are right now.
Bjork Ostrom: Even scrolling through Facebook here and looking at some of these, I just logged in to see if I could find one, and sure enough I logged in, and we have a friend that shared a tip through video. Within that, they have a link that says, “Get the full recipe here,” and it has 6.2 million views, so it’s interesting to see … It’s always changing, but a good, I feel like, indicator is what those massive brands are doing, and just following along with that.
Lindsay Ostrom: We definitely pay attention to that.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. We’ve taken this from start to finish. This is really incredible. We’re coming up close to the 1 hour mark, so I want to wrap it up here. Usually, what I say is where can people follow along with you, but obviously, we’ve talked a lot about that already, Pinch of Yum and then the different videos that we do. Alana, thanks for coming on the podcast. I just want to say this publicly. It’s been so fun for us to work with you and have you on the team, and you just do a great job. Thank you for both of those things.
Alana Woolley: Thank you for having me in. This has been wonderful.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Lindsay, thank you for coming on the podcast. You are a part of it, but also technically, maybe a guest, so thanks for coming on.
Lindsay Ostrom: Technically a guest, yes. Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Really fun to talk about video stuff, and I hope that some people were able to get some takeaways from this. One of the things that I wanted to say is that we have a couple dates scheduled to get a course ready for Food Blogger Pro, so if you’re a Food Blogger Pro member, we’re going to be going through some of this video stuff coming up, because we’ve had a lot of people ask about it. Hopefully this podcast episode was helpful. For those that want to learn more, we’re going to be diving in deep, and going through the steps by step process with visuals and all of that stuff.
Look out for that coming up in the future. That’s a wrap. For this episode, I was able to use it.
Lindsay Ostrom: That’s good. In this day and age, to be able to use that phrase is pretty awesome.
Bjork Ostrom: Was there one more thing that you’re going to say?
Lindsay Ostrom: Hopefully this is okay. We are working on putting together some resources like you mentioned for Food Blogger Pro related to video and also for Pinch of Yum, just some things that we’ll leave on Pinch of Yum. What we’re looking to do right now is collect some of the most valuable video resources that already exist just to put them all in one place for people as a directory of video resources maybe specific to food video if possible.
I was just crowd source here the audience, and if there are any of you listening that you’ve done some taking a course or read post to have some helpful information that you found on the internet somewhere related to creating a food video, is it okay Bjork if we have people leave those in the comments, or what’s the best way?
Lindsay Ostrom: If you have great, amazing thing that you think other people should know about and you think we should include in our round up or our directory of all the most helpful tools for video tools and tutorials and all of that, you can email it to … Sorry, what did you say [email protected] what food blogger pro?
Bjork Ostrom: Pinchofyum.com. You can do it at pinchofyum.com.
Lindsay Ostrom: This is a super clear, concise pitch.
Lindsay Ostrom: In this day and age, if you could write in this day and age, that would be amazing.
Bjork Ostrom: You can sign off by saying that’s a wrap. One more time, Alana, thanks for coming on.
Alana Woolley: Thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay, thanks for coming on.
Lindsay Ostrom: For sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Bye.
Lindsay Ostrom: Bye.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for episode 66. One more reminder here, we mentioned a lot of different gear and setups and different angles that we use, things like that. What I would encourage you to do is to go to foodbloggerpro.com/66, and that will redirect you to the show notes, where we have all these resources, so you can see what that looks like. You can check out the gear and things like that.
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