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How to Make Addictive Cooking Videos for Social Media

Cooking videos (and how-to videos more broadly) are some of the most addictive content on the web. Tasty, Buzzfeed’s food-video offshoot that coined this particular type of short, bird’s-eye cooking videos, launched just 17 months ago but its Facebook videos already receive 1.8 billion views each month. In March 2016 alone, the juggernaut saw more online engagement growth than any other U.S. publication. And all of that traffic was driven by cooking videos on Facebook.

Who wouldn’t want a slice of that engagement pie?! So to celebrate the new era in Spark Video featuring video clip support, we teamed up with indie food publication GFF Magazine to bring one of its most decadent, beautiful desserts to news feeds everywhere. See this magazine star make its video debut:


(See the full recipe on GFFMag.com)

Editor-in-Chief Erika Lenkert founded GFF Magazine to show that eating gluten-free doesn’t have to come at the expense of taste. Since its successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Erika has spun the quarterly high-end print publication into a website, newsletter, and commerce site all centered around Good Food (Forever) that happens to be Gluten-Free (Forever). And now, like the 3 million other small businesses that shared video on Facebook last month, she’s using video to help her content go further and engage potential readers and shoppers.

You can get your social media engagement cookin’ with gas too with video. Read on for the essential ingredients and tips and tricks to making viral food videos. (As in food videos that go viral…we don’t recommend viral food.)

INGREDIENTS

A digestible, doable recipe: If your primary platform is Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram as it was for GFF’s example, the goal of your cooking video is to entice your viewers to click through to your site. As such, you want something snappy, easy, and visually engaging. In general, dishes, like soups, stews, and some meats, don’t have enough color contrast in order to be as visually enticing as bright desserts, cocktails, or anything with gooey cheese or drippy chocolate. Erika’s individual chocolate cake recipe fit the bill perfectly for its simple steps and elegant presentation that wows with little effort. If you’re making a how-to food video for YouTube, viewers tend to stick around there longer and click through less so your goals for that platform may call for a video with a slower pace. On Facebook, however, it’s all about generating enough sizzle to stop thumbs from scrolling.

A camera or two: (We probably didn’t need to tell you this.) We used an iPhone 7 for the aerial view and a DSLR camera (Canon 5d) for the side view, but a second iPhone will work just as well. You can also get away with just one angle—it all depends on how much variety you want.

Bright, soft lighting: Lighting is to photography as flour is to baking: It’s essential, but you don’t necessarily need anything traditional or fancy to pull off your desired effect. Still, even well-lit spaces may need a little extra lighting love, especially if you’re using an iPhone, which works best in bright light. Here are a few easy, inexpensive tricks you can do to fake cinematic lighting:

  1. Make sure your light sources match in color: Natural daylight is bluish in color, while indoor lighting tends to be warm or yellow. Both indoor or outdoor lighting will work as the iPhone’s white-balancing technology will automatically adjust, but you want to avoid mixing the two as the iPhone won’t know how to color-correct. In order to get clean, crisp colors at production, choose one type of light.
  2. Buy “soft” LED or CFL bulbs: LED and CFL bulbs, sold at any grocery or hardware store, are great affordable options that work with any household fixture. Be sure to look for the word “soft” on the label. Definitely avoid using old school fluorescent bulbs—those energy-suckers will cast your food in an unappetizing green hue.
  3. Cast a diffused glow: Harsh lighting will cast sharp shadows, so unless your goal is to create a film noir of horror flick vibe, you’ll want to fill the room with soft, diffused light instead of shining your subject in a spotlight. To cheaply and easily diffuse any harsh light sources, grab a “China ball” paper lantern, found in any Ikea and most dorm rooms, and pop that on the light source. This brilliant hack is even used by professional filmmakers.

Read more iPhone food photography tips.

An uncluttered, pleasing workspace: Clear off counters or create a high-contrast background by using construction paper or fabric. In GFF’s case we chose simple butcher paper as our workspace.

Camera-ready tools: Bright colors translate best on screen. At the very least, make sure your pots and pans look shiny and clean. Before you start shooting check your materials for any labels, price tags, or anything you don’t want in the shot. Check twice; film once.

A tripod: Most cooking videos include a bird’s eye view of the action. Some tripods have a reversible center post that will create an aerial shot. Or you can buy a tripod arm attachment. For super crafty producers, you can even make your own out of a PVC pipe for under $10. The most important thing to remember is to avoid moving your camera so you capture a seamless shot.

A second tripod (optional): Your main view is the overhead shot, but it might be nice to capture another angle to mix in for variety. We like to use the tabletop GorillaPod that comes with the iPhone attachment because it’s super flexible and can help you get eye-level with your food. It can also hang from almost any surface, allowing you to capture all sorts of interesting, eye-catching angles.

PREP

Storyboard your rough draft
Before ever picking up a pan or adjusting your tripod, plan what you want to communicate and how you’ll film each step. Spark Video allows you to storyboard within the app, which makes editing even more of a breeze. Add text to slides to remind yourself what imagery goes where and to make sure you’re not forgetting to capture something important. You can always reorder or cut unnecessary slides with one tap. In general, cooking videos tend to follow this construction:

  1. Food porn shot that introduces what you’re making
    Thanks to Facebook’s auto-play, you need to capture attention within 3 seconds. So consider starting with the finished product or your most visual clip to set up what viewers are looking at.
  2. An image or a few seconds showing the ingredients
    Note you may end up scrapping this for time, but gather this content just in case so you have the option. You can always use it for the blog post where you go into further detail.
  3. The action or steps
    Often sped up, these shots take viewers through the steps of creation. Keep the action going by subbing images or icons to communicate the passage of time or anything that’s boring to watch.

  4. Ending food porn shots
    End the way you begin with mouthwatering clips or glamour photos of your finished project.
  5. A call to action
    Let viewers know where they can learn more by adding text or your logo to the ending slide. Be sure your call to action is precise and simple. In general, only ask your viewers to do one thing per social post.

Tricks, Tips, and Hacks

  • Make a draft that’s way too long, then trim the fat.
    Remember that outline you created at the beginning? It’s probably painfully long, but it helped you make sure you got all the content you needed and acts as the basic structure of your video. Get started by adding content according to your outline, then refine by deleting slides or shortening clips that slow down the action. Try rearranging slides to play with different orders if it makes sense. Don’t be afraid to break with the traditional recipe format! Look for places to consolidate the information or simplify, knowing that viewers who really want to make your creation, will probably need a written step-by-step guide anyway. Give them a reason to visit your site by not giving away all your secrets in the video.
  • Multiply your video’s impact with the duplicate feature.
    Say you want to test how different calls to action work or you want the food video you post to Youtube to accomplish something slightly different than the video that goes on Facebook. Simply duplicate the entire project with one click and change minor things to test variables or make complementary content. You can also use the duplicate feature to compare two drafts side by side to see which one works best. Test them out on friends to get their feedback!
  • Substitute still images and icons.
    Did you forget to film an important step? Did the egg shell break all over bowl and ruin the effect? Mistakes happen in the kitchen and Spark Video helps you clean ‘em up. Instead of starting over, simply search the thousands of icons and free-use images in Spark Video to communicate your point in an alternative way. You may also want to use images or icons to communicate steps that aren’t that visually appealing or are kind of boring to watch. Check out another example featuring just still images, text, icons, and narration to see what we mean:
  • Avoid filming everything continuously.
    Spark Video works best with short clips. And because the tool shows the first frame of the clip, it will be easier to find what you’re looking for if you pause the filming every so often. We recommend following your storyboard and filming 1-3 minutes at a time. Just be careful not to move or bump your fixed camera.
  • Consider adding clips to your Spark Video project as you go.
    You can potentially save time and remain organized by adding clips to your project after you capture each. You can refine the project with one-touch trimming while your dish cooks and potentially have a video almost fully baked by the time you pull your finished product out of the oven.
  • Adjust the speed of your video in production.
    The most impactful recipe videos are a minute or less. You’ll notice that Tasty often speeds up the action shots. You can capture the same effect by using Timelapse feature on iPhone. Adjust the speed of your Timelapse to the desired effect in the settings.
  • Spice it up with a theme.
    Instantly change the mood of your video with 11 ready-made themes that alter the fonts and transitions of your video.

Try whipping up a how-to video with Spark Video today! Don’t forget to tag #adobespark when you share it for a chance at getting featured.

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