Filming Food and Freelancing with the URSA Mini Pro G2

Filming for restaurants and chefs is definitely one of my areas of interest, especially the stories behind the establishments and people as it’s a great way to meet passionate, creative teams who are dedicated to their craft. I’m inspired by shows like Chef’s Table that really take it to the next level in terms of storytelling and cinematography. Here is a great article on a behind the scenes look at Chef’s Table if you want to find out more about what kit and techniques they use, it’s amazing what they do and it always makes me hungry.

I try my best to emulate the kind of shots on shows like this for my own projects such as The Taste Plug and also projects for paying clients. I recently had the opportunity of working with one of Gloucestershire’s top restaurants - Tonis Kitchen through a lifestyle magazine I work with called So Glos.

A frame from the URSA Mini pro G2 of Toni’s Kitchen pasta with truffles. All G2 shots are with the Sigma Art 18-35mm 1.8

A frame from the URSA Mini pro G2 of Toni’s Kitchen pasta with truffles. All G2 shots are with the Sigma Art 18-35mm 1.8

I saw this as a great opportunity to use my recent addition to my arsenal of kit - the URSA Mini Pro G2. The ability to shoot in raw, the beautiful colour science, 4.6K resolution and high frame rates all lends itself to shooting food.

I chose to shoot in Blackmagic Raw at a compression rate of 5:1 as this offers a nice balance between high bit rates and manageable (ish) file sizes. I shot to this Sandisk SSD via the USB port and I can vouch for its speed. It hasn’t let me down and has so far been excellent.

For this shoot I was lone working but the restaurant was closed so I could take my time to light shots. I used a combination of available light through the windows of the kitchen / restaurant where I could plus some pretty cheap LED battery powered lights with softbox diffusers to at least take away the harshness and create some soft light.

I have very recently ordered the new Aputure 300d ii with Light Dome II in order to up my lighting game and get more creative to make the step up to more professional lighting and looks. Having the URSA G2 and this lighting setup should be an amazing combination so watch this space!

Freshly made pasta being made on site.

Freshly made pasta being made on site.

Even with the fairly weak LED lights I had access to the images the URSA created blew me away. I even played some of the clips back to Jason aka Toni the client / chef on site (something I rarely do as I find its better to wait until the footage is properly graded etc before it has client eyes on it). He was just as excited as I was by the kind of content we were getting and it was a rewarding and fun shoot.

Now is probably the right time to show you the finished video so you can see the shots for yourselves. Its not perfect and there are some minor things I would change but generally I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I had the idea to record a voiceover in Italian to show the authentic roots Toni’s kitchen has to family and tradition in Italy. I wrote the script (in English) and then we even rang the chef’s father in Italy to get some feedback on pronunciation. It was a lot of fun.

There are some things to note when shooting with the URSA G2, they are fairly obvious but bare with me until I eventually come to a overall point I feel is worth making;

  • It is much harder work carrying around a heavy cinema camera (as opposed to a A7sii) most of the time I have both these cameras on me for options plus lenses so its double the kit

  • Lighting scenes means even more kit, more time needed to setup and greater care than just pointing and shooting

  • The file sizes will lead to greater costs and time spent backing up projects and keeping them safe for clients -you need a professional storage system and workflow.

There are actually a few shots that I didn’t use the G2 for and these are the timelapses when the video kind of ramps up a bit with the music change and the really close macro shots in the 2nd half of the video. I actually had to push for a second shoot in order to get these shots (plus a few others like the BBQ) as I felt it was missing something and I’m glad there was the trust and enthusiasm from the people I was working for to take it to that next level. Here are the timelapse plates shots that were made with the a7sii on a Crane 2 gimbal attached to a tripod.

Here is a Behind the Scenes look at that setup, it’s just not possible to mount G2 on a gimbal like this and the a7sii is a great addition to the G2 on shoots like this.

Here are a few of my favorite frames from the G2:

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So to conclude a somewhat rambling post - shooting food with G2 is fun and it can look absolutely stunning in my opinion. The bit depth and bit rate plus flexibility in post with Raw is amazing to produce natural looking food shots.

I think you have to be passionate about your work if you use this camera. Some of the things I’ve said about shot lists, lighting, post workflow will already be a given for some seasoned pros and I get that but for me these are things I’ve started to have the budgets and clients for only in the last year or two.

This project was fun and rewarding and the G2 was an integral part of making this project a success.

Thanks for reading.

Barney