America’s favorite pastime has some of the most devout fans in the world, and their love for football extends far beyond the end zone. In fact, for football fans, the parties begin before they even enter the stadium! Attendees pack stadium parking lots with their barbecue grills before a game to cook up meaty masterpieces in events known as tailgate parties, and the culture has become so entrenched in football’s tradition that Tastemade produced an entire show about it.
“The Grill Iron (and Tastemade in general) is all about sexy food shots. Food porn, as they call it. But while Tastemade is usually about short how-to cooking videos, this time they wanted to make their own TV show about something Americans love,” said Jason Elliott, one of the 1st ACs for Season 3.
For Season 3 of The Grill Iron (which aired on cable TV’s Cooking Channel), Tastemade had Elliott and his crew traveling road-trip style all around the South, exploring the extensive football culture of states like South Carolina, Georgia and Texas and the culinary renaissance that is their tailgating culture.
This proved to be a challenge though. When it comes to cooking shows, the food needs to look heavenly, and every bit of color has to be captured. So how do you maintain such quality shots while traveling?
“When we arrived on locations, we basically had to set up and shoot as quick as possible. There was no way we’d be able to run hardlined cables to our equipment, and it’s not like we had time/equipment to set up a video village. We also needed something that could capture every detail of the food.”
Cooking in 4K
One of the most integral parts of Elliott’s traveling workflow was Teradek’s Bolt 300. Bolt devices are professional wireless transmitters used for sending visually lossless feeds from video camera to monitor with zero delay for real-time monitoring over distances ranging from 300 ft. to 3000 ft. (depending on the model).
Since the show required the production team to be completely mobile, every piece of gear needed to be portable, efficient and quick to set up. To get the shots they needed, Elliott’s crew employed a Canon C300 Mark II and an Alexa Amira each with a Bolt 300 transmitter connected via HD-SDI. The Bolt transmitters sent the video feeds wirelessly to an Atomos Shogun Inferno acting as the handheld director’s monitor. The Atomos Shogun is able to support multiple video inputs, which allowed both Bolt signals to be previewed simultaneously on-screen.
The Bolt’s high definition capabilities were crucial when the crew stopped at SpringHouse in Alexander City, AL. The restaurant and kitchen was not only decorated with the pastoral charm of the South, but also featured executive chef Rob McDaniel’s colorful and vibrant Southern dishes. Because the crew was able to see precisely every detail of a shot, they knew which parts were perfect and not.
Within the SpringHouse’s narrow kitchen, having a team monitor the camera operator would’ve been a hassle and safety hazard. Running cables through the kitchen was also impractical. Having the Bolt transmit 4K feeds from the camera to the director’s monitor outside the kitchen allowed the rest of the crew to monitor from a distance, making acquisition much more efficient. The same workflow was used at every stop on their trip.
“Our deliverables were all in 4K, so we needed the best quality monitoring available because every detail in each dish was so important. If the food doesn’t look good, no one’s going to watch the show,” explains Elliott. “So it was super important for us to make sure the food shots looked perfect.”
With high-quality real-time monitoring, the director was able to see every succulent detail of the food they were filming as it was being shot. This made sure the production crew got exactly what they wanted every time they filmed, and was adaptable to tailgates, restaurants, and even car-to-car filming.
Having the Bolts also allowed the crew to operate with a low footprint. They were able to build a small video village where the director could monitor at a distance while keeping the entire set free of cables. This kept every filming sequence efficient, ensuring they acquired the extremely detailed shots Tastemade expects.
“I worked with Teradek before and I knew the Bolt was going to be an obvious choice. Since we were on-the-go all the time, shooting food was a challenge. Since we could monitor HD on the Bolt we could film with confidence and not have to shoot blindly.”