‘What makes a cooking video engaging?’

For my research project I wanted to look at the different methods and techniques used in cooking videos and tutorials. I asked the question ‘What makes a cooking video engaging?’. From my research I discovered there are different types of cooking videos and there is a variety of popular formats. I touched briefly on the traditional cooking show format. This consisted of a host or chef talking to the audience in a conversational manner and narrating their actions as they cook a particular dish. The main format I focused on was the ever growing revolutionary format of the ‘Tasty’ Video. This is a company that produce short, sharp, snappy cooking tutorials that are generally always filmed from a birds eye view. They are generally viewed through Facebook and are consumed within a matter of minutes. Facebook is a good platform of dissemination for these videos as people don’t have to actively seek them out, they simply pop up on your news feed if people you know have liked them, commented on them or tagged you in them. They are also well suited to Facebook because they are short in length, people can just view them quickly without having to commit to a half hour program. With new media development peoples attention spans are becoming shorter, they become disengaged more rapidly and require more stimulation in order to grab and maintain their attention. This way viewers get an understanding of what the video is about after only watching for a number of seconds, then they can decide if they would like to continue watching the remaining few minutes or not.
In my Meatloaf video I chose to use a range of fatty products to see if the indulgent food was more popular with audiences. These included meat, sausages, bacon, cheese, bread and butter. This was my 1st video attempt and I wanted to use it as some what of a control. Here I familiarize myself with the typical ‘Tasty’ style of video and experimented with the birds eye camera angle and elliptical editing. I used a variety of ellipsis by either cutting chunks out of the footage and removing them entirely or speeding up the action. In some cases these techniques blurred, when I sped up the action fast enough it would remove chunks of footage on its own. I was worried about this being jarring on the viewer but in conjunction with the music it worked quite well. The music gave them another aspect to focus on which distracts from the cuts. I also think they ultimately the audience would be less perturbed by jumpy cuts and editing then they would be by watching the tutorial in real time. I still did my best to edit to the movements so the action appeared somewhat continuous and cyclical.
My choc chip pudding video experimented with desserts and sweet ingredients. I focused on the technique of zoom in and zoom out. I wanted to look at this as an element of visual intrigue and see if it makes the video more engaging. I think it was successful although it was over used in this video. Maybe it could have been used in conjunction with other techniques. Otherwise it could have been minimised by only showing each ingredient once rather then zooming in and out on the packaging, zooming in and out on the product in its raw form and then zooming in and out once the ingredient has been incorporated into the mixture.
The Cheesecake was formed using entirely still photography. Although this allowed the video to be even shorter I think there was too much foreshortening of time which took away important details and makes it more difficult for the audience to string each cut or separate image together into a unified thread of chronological information. This video also experimented with narration vs visual/written instructions. Written instructions worked well on the other forms of video but they provided insufficient information in conjunction with the still photos. This required a voice over narration. Otherwise there were too many separate elements that the audience have to piece together, taking the focus away from the cooking. Whether you are making a easy or technical recipe the tutorial should make it as clear, simple and easy to understand as possible.
The Sweet Potato Burger tested the popularity and appeal of healthy food. Although the ingredients are good you the recipe is not complex. It is a quick and simple one bowl cook which appeals to time short people.
The Peanut Veggie Burger was the traditional cooking video.
I asked questions such as how important is the technical ability of the chef? How important is the personality of the chef? How important is it to be able to see the chefs face?
My final video was a Mushroom Strudel in which music and rhythmic editing was my main focus. I edited the footage according to the beats in in the music. I think this makes the editing less jarring and unites the audio with the visuals to create 1 unified product. I’m not sure if I took the editing and motion too far and turned it into an experimental piece rather then a cooking tutorial.


Collaboration is a vital part of tackling any large scale products. It is a process that involves a number of people coming together and uniting their work to achieve one final product. There are advantages and disadvantages to the collaborative process. Some people work well in groups, they feed off the pressure to achieve results and meet the same standards as everyone else. They don’t want to let anyone else down and enjoy assisting others. These people also enhance their skills with the encouragement and enthusiasm of the other team members spurring them on. Some people find this intimidating which can hinder their productiveness. Some people have strong views and opinions and prefer to work alone. These people often have a very clear cut idea of what they want the final product to look like and dont want external influences coming in and altering this. If someone has a particularly unique and distinctive style it ca be difficult for them to work in conjunction with others and maintain a cohesive product that is not jarring.Communication can also be another issue, if people aren’t clear about their ideas, roles and responsibilities then teams may be working to achieve different outcomes. Work can sometimes be doubled up on whilst other tasks are overlooked without proper planning and organisation. Delegation of tasks is really important. This allows everyone to work intensively on their own specific areas of interest and utilize their already existing skills. This works well when everyone has different interests but can be an issue when multiple people have similar skills whilst other areas become neglected. Power balance can be a problem in team work. Sometimes certain members dominate, they become controlling and feel the need to micromanage everyone else which is an inefficient use of time. A good team member is the balance between someone who can take direction and advice but someone who can also show initiative and contribute to the project in their own way. If your team has a compatible dynamic and can cooperate it means that everyone will be able to work efficiently within their own specialties, using their unique skills. Each aspect of the project will be completed by someone whose talents lend to that area. It means that each individual gets to work on what interests them, without getting overwhelmed by the scale of the project as a whole. Finally it will result in a more professional piece with people working to their strengths and uniting to achieve a common goal.

Video 6: Mushroom Strudel

I wanted this video to be a musical experimentation. My usual working process it to start with music and build the work. I generally cut on the beats because I find it makes the transitions between shots less jarring as the audience are distracted by the sound. They have more to concentrate on and therefore the audio is diverting their attention from the sudden change of image. I enjoy experimenting with rhythm and melody. I do not have the technical skills of a music composer which meant that when making this video I had to source already pre produced music. I found a piece that had a consistent and strong beat although I would have liked for it to have a bit more diversity because it became repetitive after a while. I tried to experiment with repetition of shots, fast forward, rewind and image rotation using the sound as key motivators for the change in image. By having the audio as the driving factor in the different cuts and edits this film became a music video of sorts. I question whether this was too heavily edited though and became a cheap and cheesy experimentation with editing techniques.

Video 5: Peanut Veggie Burger

For this video I wanted to experiment with the more traditional form of cooking video. This contains a presenter/chef demonstrating how to cook something in a tutorial format. The presenter is speaking directly to the camera and therefore addressing the audience directly. This makes for more of a personal and relatable performance. I question how important personality is in this factor. You have to get that balance between someone who has the skills but doesn’t take themselves to seriously, someone who’s reliable but relatable, someone who’s bubbly and entertaining without being irritating and annoying. I also should have paid more attention to the dialogue. When I began editing I realised that majority of the shots began with ‘So now’ or ‘Alright’, this introduction became repetitive and clunky and hindered the overall flow of the film. One of the major disadvantages of this format is the length of the films. It does allow the audience more time to cook simultaneously to the video without having to constantly pause, stop and rewind the content in order to keep up with the steps. I wanted this video to be unpolished and contain some flaws. I didn’t want the cooking process to be polished and refined. I wanted there to be some flaws making the video more human and seem achievable and realistic. However watching these full length videos can be tedious. I wanted this video to provide the audience with more detail then the others and to aid them with technical skills E.g how to slice an onion. I should have given my chef more ideas of things to speak about while she is completing the tasks so the audience have something to listen to instead of just watching repetitive action continuously in silence or with soft music in the background. They needed more stimuli like the information about the flour alternatives and substitutes for special dietary requirements. In regards to camera operation, I should have been more conscious of camera angles and movement. Most of the shots were static, maybe I should have used more movement, zooms and focus pulls. I should have used a variety of angles and shot sizes and taken more note of my actors positioning so that their actions wouldn’t block the view of the audience. Food presentation and product placement should have taken more focus. I was also unaware of the reflections in the oven that revealed more then I intended. My last major issue was with the audio levels, these varied allot between LS and CU as the distance between my actor and the camera changed. Also the sound of the bowls against my marble bench was often loud and piercing in contrast with the dialogue.

Video 4: Sweet Potato Burgers

This was a quick video I made where I wanted to focus on a few things, simplicity being one of them, this includes simplicity of the recipe as well as simplicity of the shots and film techniques. Majority of this video is filmed in 1 take on a screen that shows the mixing bowl surrounded by all of the ingredients. I thought the technique of a 1 bowl cook would appeal to audiences, especially those who are time poor and want to whip up a quick and easy meal. In this video I also wanted to use some different angles and shots and move away from the video entirely in a birds eye, aerial format. Filming the food side on would give a new perspective and maybe bring the process and final product back to reality a bit because we never really cook or eat at a completely parallel angle to our food. In this video I used a recipe with healthy ingredients but something that still produces a filling and satisfying meal. I’m interested to see how people respond to a healthier video as apposed to the high sugar/high fat ones. Other considerations for these videos have included the use of text and font. I wanted a font that was bold enough to make an impact but also to not take over from the film. I tried to choose something that was classic enough to be timeless and not get out dated without being boring and reminding audiences of written documents and files. The colour of the text provided another issue. Overlaying the text on top of photographs with contrasting colours made it challenging to decide on the colour of font. I didn’t have the technical skills to make the text 3D, or blend colours and create outlines e.c.t. so I ended up making my text black or white. Sometimes the text would then get lost in the highlights or shadows of the background. Music was another questionable element of my films. I needed to have some element such as music to provide extra aspect and area of interest to the film. It concerned me though that the music became comedic and almost childish. I was worried that the music undermined the footage, it removed an element of sophistication and made the films more cartoony. This was not ideal but I think the format of the short, sharp snappy videos made this more acceptable. Colour match was another challenge. When the lighting and colour tone changed due to sunlight e.c.t I struggled to match the colour exactly. I later discovered that I should have merged the clips into one so then the edit to colour tone would look exactly the same rather then varying from clip to clip and ruining the fluidity. Sometimes the elliptical editing also had a jarring effect on the film as things would move in shot e.g the food would melt, the spoon would move from one side of the bowl to the other, the colour would change after cooking e.c.t This video was the only video where I didn’t put a photo of the final product at the beginning and end of the film. I should have done this because this helps hook audiences at the start as it prepares them for what they are going to be making. Then the ending shot concludes the cooking process and provides a tangible result. This aids the audience by providing a visual form of gratification as a result of watching the video. This visual gratification represents the edible gratification that would be experienced as a reward for going to the trouble of actually cooking this dish.

Video 3: Chocolate Nutella Cheesecake

For this video I wanted to experiment with using still photographs for the entirety of the video. I was aiming to discover whether these stills would be effective enough to communicate the baking process or whether they would become lost in translation without the movement and physical display. Does this technique allow the audiences creativity and imagination to come into play whilst consuming the artefact making it a more personal and involved experience? Is it just difficult for them to process and create links between photographs in order to visualise and understand how these sequentially ordered photographs would combine to make this dish? I tried to make aesthetically pleasing photographs using a variety of angles and platforms. I composed the images using different accessories and props as well as interesting, patterned bowls and plates. I tried to create different shapes and play with contrast of colour and texture of the different ingredients. I could also have varied the environment and background. I decided I would do 2 edits of this video, one with the instructions being in the form of written text and the other in the form of voice over narration.
Edit 1: No Narration
– For this edit I used text to guide viewers. I decided it would be best to place the text on the screen over the images. This way the image and instruction are being processed by the audience simultaneously making the tie between the two stronger. I thought this would be more clear to the audience and create a less jarring piece then if I wrote the instructions first on a screen of their own before following with a shot of the associated image. (text, animation to provide movement, visual motion for the eye to look at seen as though the images are entirely static.)
Edit 2: Narration
This cut provided the extra assistance of a voice over narration. It is more personal then purely written information. It provides a voice which people can find easier to associate with then a having a computer screen barking instructions at them. This method still has flaws, there is a voice but it is omnipotent. There is no identifiable face or figure. This has 2 main negative effects. One being that many people prefer to see someone’s face, that way they feel like they are having a more direct interaction with them and being able to see the person assists in building trust and reliability as the chef is willing to put their face to their work, making them more credible. The second main reason is that without having this iconic figure it can be difficult to brand and market a collection of cooking videos. How will people draw the links and associations between each video and realise them as collective pieces that all fall under the same bracket and have the same creator? There is no consistent factor to tie all the videos together.

Video 2: Choc Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding

This video put emphasis on zoom in and zoom out as a form of transformation. I used this tool to transfer the ingredients from their packaging to raw from and then from raw form to incorporating it into the dish. I began by placing the product close to the lens then moving it directly away and then back again. When the screen was dark and blurred and the frame was taken up by the product, then I cut to the next shot and repeated this process. I considered using a fade or cross dissolve to assist in blending the shots. This did make the transformation more smooth and seamless but it meant that there was a prolonged period of blackness, which interrupted the video too much. This zoom in and out tool provides a point of interest for the audience and gives the video a new dimension. Although it provides visual aid it could have been more efficiently used in this video. I wanted it to be the overarching thing that ties this video together but it was over used and became dizzying to the audience. It also muddled up the exposure as the camera was set to auto. The shot was correctly exposed but as I moved the item away from the camera the shot over compensated for the influx of light and became over exposed an blown out before it corrected itself. It was difficult to communicate simultaneous action occurring in this video. An example of this is when the hot cross buns were baking in the oven whilst I combined the other ingredients. When the hot cross buns returned to shot I question whether the audience know where they have come from or if they get confused. I also wondered whether I should have adjusted focus in addition to exposure. This would mean the ingredients were in focus the whole time. I decided not to do this as I felt the blur of the item as it came close to the camera would assist in blending between shots.

Video 1: Meatloaf

The 1st video I attempted to shoot was a Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. I wanted to shoot this in a Tasty format with a birds eye view of the bench. I wanted everything to be shot quite tight and for the bowls, tins and pans to take up most of the screen without too much negative space. I chose a recipe that is reasonable complicated, especially compared to most of the other videos of this format. The meatloaf is also quite fatty and contains allot of the ‘key’ ingredients that I feel stand out to people. These include, bacon, beef, sausages, bread and cheese. I used various ellipsis tools in this video including foreshortening the footage via fast forward, as well as cutting from before to after shots and removing the middle part of the cooking process. I was worried that the latter would look disjointed but I think it worked okay. An example of this is the sautéing of the onion. I showed myself stirring the raw onion, then stirring the semi cooked onion and lastly stirring the finished onion and removing it from the pan. Although the movement is not continuous and my hand does jump from one side of the pan to the other I don’t think its too jarring on audiences. I believe that this ellipsis, although not completely smooth is probably more engaging then showing the full process, I feel that audiences would favour the ellipsis over the real time take. One problem that I encountered on this shoot was trying to achieve the birds eye view. I wanted to fill most of the screen with the bowl without cropping it. It was difficult to achieve this without getting the tripod legs in the bottom corners of the frame. This was especially difficult when I was filming over the stovetop as it was difficult to position the tripod legs around the other gas burners. There was an overhead fan/vent, which restricted my tripods vertical movement. I also had to balance the camera so that it wasn’t too top heavy for the tripod and so it didn’t tip over. Another consideration was the steam when cooking the onion, I had to turn the fan on and cook the onion slowly in order not to fog up the camera. The use of multiple bench spaces provided further difficulties for this film. It was a challenge to move from the bench, to the stovetop and back whilst trying to maintain the same composition so items didn’t jump around in the shot. I could have tried using marks to reposition the camera in the same shot.


Study Areas:
– Narration (voice narration/written/no narration)
– Personalisation (omnipotent person/recognisable face) is it important to have personality and character or do they just need to be a skilful and talented chef that can teach the audience techniques?
– Subject Matter – Nature of difficulty (Can technical things be communicated in short period of time. Will people become frustrated watching tutorials and not being able to achieve the same result? Do ingredients need to be simple, accessible cheap? Do they have to be fatty to get peoples attention? Certain foods seem to ring alarm bells in peoples minds and gain more views and popularity E.g cheese, bread, mince meat, pasta, butter, cream, icecream, nutella, peanut butter, chocolate, Oreos)
– Tasty videos assume the audiences intelligence and doesn’t underestimate them. They don’t feel the need to show every bit of information. They cut out details and know that the audience will be able to assume an understanding of what has occurred within that gap of time. There is allot of ellipsis but there is enough information to gain an understanding of what is going on. Any capable adult should have the common knowledge from past life experiences to understand and assume what is going on on-screen. They should be able to take initiative to continue the actions for themselves. Although these videos are simple if you showed the same videos to a child they may lack the life experiences and common knowledge to understand what has occurred within the cuts from shot to shot. If you make videos containing more technical demonstrations maybe your average adult would not have the knowledge to comprehend what is going on for themselves. Maybe these technical videos would frustrate audiences who cannot execute the product and achieve the same final result. On the other hand maybe they would be very popular with a riche audience who have a specific interest and set of capabilities.


For my area of study I am focusing on food and cooking. I want to explore the different ways in which cooking programs are covered. I believe cooking coverage is something that has evolved rapidly in recent times. Traditional cooking shows used to consist of face to face interaction between the camera and its subject, (the chef). The chef speaks directly to camera and dictates their actions in real time. These can be long, drawn out shows where people loose attention. The recent revolution of the ‘Tasty’ cooking video is cooking coverage with a complete polar opposite approach. Tasty is a company who have produced short 1-2 minute videos generally filming a birds eye view of the bench. These speedy videos provide quick demonstrations of how to make simple foods. They contain various ellipses tools to shorten their length. These include fade in and fade out to before and after shots, e,g a cake before/after baking. Fast forward is another common shortening tool. The Tasty videos have become a hit on Facebook and have been replicated and reproduced by make other companies and individuals. These videos are much shorter and less time consuming but does that make them more engaging? Maybe people like relaxing and watching traditional cooking programs at a slower pace. Maybe they enjoy watching and cooking as they go without having to constantly pause and rewind the videos. I want to look at the different tools and techniques used in cooking videos. I want to explore the most engaging and successful methods adopted by filmmakers. Is there a perfect recipe to a cooking video?