Week 15: Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Nutella & Ferrero Rocher

In honor of World Nutella Day (did you ever know such a thing existed?), we make a batch of Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. Delightfully sinful, we go through the whole process from making the batter, to baking, all the way to frosting and tasting!

Recipes courtesy of:
Joy of Baking:

Lick The Bowl Good:

It’s no secret that besides filming great video, one of our other great loves is cooking (and perhaps more importantly, eating!).  So for this project, we went through the whole nine yards to make sure that the final product would be well worth the wait (if you noticed, I had posted a “preview” of this same video a couple weeks back – it’s been brewing for quite some time now).  Besides, we are official 1/4 of the way through the “Studio 52 Project”, and this video effectively sums up a lot of the learning I’ve gathered along the way, including:

Proper Lighting

While I don’t have big softboxes lying around, I do have some very hot 500W Halogen lights and a 45″ Westcott Umbrella + light stand.  If we had taken some behind-the-scenes (BTS) footage, you would’ve seen that we placed the lights above the fridgerator, and then used the umbrella to diffuse the light around the subject’s face as well as the countertops in the kitchen (you can actually see the reflection of the lit umbrella in many parts of the video!).  This allowed us to shoot at a relatively moderate ISO (800) and still get good quality video.  We also made sure that the subject and various cooking utensils were in the optimal place for good lighting – this tedious placement was done for every shot and every scene (yes – it took a whole night to do!)

Proper Audio

The ambient noise (clanking spoons, whirring of the mixer, oven timer) was all recorded using the regular in-camera mic.  This was ok since it only needed to be there to help place us in the right environment.  However, I knew I wanted to get the dialog recorded separately for better fidelity, so I went with using my trusty Zoom H1.  The lav mic was placed on the subject’s lapel (you can actually spot it during the pan at the end, through the window of the cupcake box – my mistake!) and the H1 tucked behind the subject’s apron.  I later sync’d the audio to the video in post, making sure to map the single channel of audio to both stereo channels in the final mix (Recall that while the Zoom H1 is a stereo recorder, the mic itself is only mono, so we have to copy the channel over in post).  In the end, the audio recordings worked out quite nicely, with a couple of cross fades thrown in to help the transitions move along smoothly.

Proper Stabilization

No hand held shots here!  While I do believe that handheld has its place (Reality TV, war movies, Blair Witch Project, etc.), the difference between handheld and stabilized is what sets apart films from home movies.  So each and every shot was done on my Manfrotto 190XPROB and 701RC2.  This slowed down the cooking quite a bit (I had to reposition the tripod for each shot – even jumping on top of the counter top and shooting downwards to film the cupcakes, mixer, etc.) but the varying vantage points (i.e. not just staying next to the counter the whole time) are what make films so unique and fun to watch.

Proper Editing

The music I chose for this video didn’t give me a lot of time (less than 1:30!) and we had taken at least a hundred shots through the course of filming (many of which didn’t make it to the final cut – tho I did try to salvage a couple by throwing them into an extended “credits” scene :P )  Luckily, I had  learned how to use the “Crop” video effect when working on my recent NOLA video since I was battling something similar there: trying to show lots of action in a limited amount of time (actually inspired by the editing from one of my favorite films, “Ocean’s 11″, where they often try to show multiple events going on simultaneously).  With this new knowledge, I was able to cram in lots of video, making the whole thing very action packed (there’s lots to look at – maybe too much at times?)

Another technique I used towards the end was the idea of “pan & scan” photos.  Anyone who has used Google’s Picasa has seen this in the automatic slideshow feature.  The technique also calls for the use of “Ease Out / Ease In” keyframes to keep the movements very fluid and not so “linear”.  The photos are worked in during the credits scene and feature the best ones that I shot on my white studio background (aka unused white bedsheet!).

Lastly, cross-fades are always good for blending between two different scenes – but I discovered that they work even better when trying to show a passage of time.  In this particular video, I cross-faded some of the batter mixing before and after the addition of the cocoa.  With the tripod in the exact same place for both shots, the cross-fade beautifully infers the passage of time to the viewer – seamlessly bridging the gap as the film progresses.

Timelapse for Video

One of my favorite techniques shows up in this video as the cupcakes are baking in the oven for 15 minutes.  Early on after my purchasing of the Canon 7D, I bought an inexpensive YongNuo intervalometer (which I accidentally left out of the credits), which allows you to shoot stills at a regular interval.  Timelapse is commonplace in modern film and broadcast journalism, and so I brought it to the cupcakes as well, allowing me to cram 15 minutes of baking into just 4 seconds of video (I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way!).  Looking back, though, I noticed two issues: 1) I had forgotten to disable autofocus during the timelapse recording, causing unstable focus through the sequence, and 2) my own reflections show up in the glass throughout the timelapse!   The 2nd issue isn’t too bad, but it’s definitely noticeable as I keep coming back to check on the cupcakes and the exposure in the LCD preview of the camera.  I actually have quite a few timelapse sequences recorded from previous events (sunset over Lake Travis at The Oasis, inflating hot air balloons at the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and clouds passing by the George Washington Memorial, just for starters), so I can assure you you’ll be seeing much more of this very soon (as soon as I can figure out how to put it together in Final Cut Pro!)

Where to from here now that this 1st Quarter Review is now complete?  Well – definitely want to continue learning!  Here are a couple things on the Q2’11 Roadmap:

  • Learn proper transcoding techniques for Compressor / Final Cut Pro
  • Learn how to do basic editing and transitions in Final Cut Pro
  • Learn how to put together timelapse sequences in Final Cut Pro
  • Publish at least 3 videos done in Final Cut Pro
  • Figure out if Final Cut Pro is really better than Adobe Premiere CS5 in terms of workflow, editing, color correction, etc.
  • Learn some of the advanced titling and animation techniques featured on Video Co-Pilot, enough to make an animated lower-third or animated credits sequence
  • Animate the AM3 Photography logo in 3D
  • Determine the need for recording proper in-camera audio (using a Rode Video Mic Pro or similar)

Guess that’s all for now – hope you all have been enjoying the videos!  Stay tuned for lots more in the coming quarter!

3 Responses to “Week 15: Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Nutella & Ferrero Rocher”

  • I went ahead and paid like 30 bucks for Quicktime pro to put together the time lapse. I didn’t have FCP at the time

    • george:

      Yeah – I haven’t messed around enough with FCP yet, but I’m hoping to figure it out tonight if I have some free time.

    • george:

      As it ends up, I found that Quicktime Pro is still the best way to put together the timelapse (“Open Image Sequence…”). I ended up having to transcode the timelapse video into ProRes 422 LT anyway – otherwise the raw image sequence itself was pretty taxing…

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