This article is also available in Vietnamese.
In the world of advertising production, close-up shots that capture scrupulous details of an item hold power to mesmerize audiences and convey premium production values. However, the screen images are often so flawless that not everyone knows in real life, production houses managed to seize those appealing scenes solely on a tiny table.
Advertising Vietnam (ADVN) caught up with Ginger Shots, the widely-known TableTop studio in Vietnam, to discuss in-house TableTop production. We spoke to four members from their close-knit team - Joel Spezeski, Cinematographer & Creative Technologist; Duckie Chu, Special Effects Technician; Thanh Trinh, Prop Master; and Duy Tran, Motion Control Operator.
Established in 2020 at the heart of bringing world-class production quality onto the market, Ginger Shots thrives with experienced specialists and professional technical equipment in motion control. As one might notice, the most charming yet arduous mission of TableTop production is to capture production movements that happen faster than the human eye can see. Correspondingly, the Ginger Shots team must work in an integrated framework that differs from other local production houses.
Joel Spezeski: Ginger Shots has adopted Mark Roberts Motion Control’s robotic system as our technical solution. MRMC is without a shadow of a doubt the industry standard to generate sharp and impressive footages at very high frame rates. And because these robots have become expected norms in the production world, they are integrated with all the post-production softwares.
In other words, the system allows us to control every part of production mechanically. We can connect all the lights to the software, then create dynamic lighting changes as the robot moves through the shot. It enables a sequence of devices so that a cue on one computer can trigger another to execute a programmed task with electro-mechanical components. The interconnected workstations also enabled us to detect where the camera position is at any given time and send that to our post-production house. As a result, when they work on visual effects, it saves their time to track the camera positions and angles.
Joel Spezeski: TableTop production is now associated with the term “visual engineering”, which indicates that we are engineering a visual. The advent of motion control has opened creative opportunities that cinematographers have never experienced before - the capacity to move faster with greater-than-ever precision. With the help of these technologies, every shot is no longer a game of chance but rather an engineering project creating stunning imagery. It is exciting how Ginger Shots can now film images that were impossible fifteen years ago.
a. Engineering testing
At Ginger Shots, figuring out how to make a creative idea happen in the real world and capture it by cameras is their daily task. The robots are part and parcel of this process, yet what lies beyond is the camera and lighting to capture extremely fast action and an effect that will put a liquid on an exact spot.
Joel Spezeski: We spend days, sometimes weeks, on the stage of testing to build high-speed camera moves and special effects for the film. Every shot is a challenge. There are lots of things that can go wrong, so experimentation is a must. In that sense, we see every stunning piece of work as an exciting science experiment.
Thanh Trinh: I remember when Ginger Shots embarked upon the Vinamilk Love Yogurt project, prop testing played an extremely pivotal role. Our challenge was to develop a creamy texture resembling real yogurt. Since the director has set several aspirations on the liquid's smoothness and watery, I had to implement countless tests to discover the adequate formula. If the texture comes out not as he wishes, it is apparent that we must remake until we meet the requirements.
TVC Vinamilk Love Yogurt - a collaboration between director Pedro Costa and Ginger Shots.
Duckie Chu: Testings for the AFC project also marks a breakthrough for our studio. I felt like growing old when designing rigs to film AFC cookies (laugh). The audience may view it merely as a beautiful and satisfying shot, but it takes a lot of hard work to achieve such details. I spent time researching specific machines to make the objects fall at a specific time and on a particular spot. Besides, practice is essential as we want to ensure consistency in the resulting footage no matter how many times we shoot.
TVC AFC - Remotely directed by Ronald Koetzier and produced by Ginger Shots.
b. The precision per millimeters
Ginger Shots’ destined path to the realm of visual engineering is full of precise measurements.
Joel Spezeski: By good fortune, Ginger Shots is well-equipped with the BOLT robotic system. This high-speed robotic arm gives us the means to capture exceptional actions, ranging from standstills to a complete stop in a millisecond.
Recently, Ginger Shots undertook an impressive project with Café Méo in which we follow a single coffee drop and capture its splash landing in a small cup. It is impossible to catch such subtle movements without automated robotics. Using BOLT and Flair software, we released a single drop of coffee at just the right moment, followed it down, and stopped the one-ton arm in such a way that we maintained a pleasant end frame for the splash.
It required several days of testing to refine various aspects, including timing, drop height, coffee viscosity, camera angle, focus, and acceleration. Despite hard work, we are pleased that the outcome impressed our clients with satisfaction.
Ginger Shots team is in Café Méo project
Duy Tran: From my end, “Ong Tho Condensed Milk” is another project that is worth highlighting. That time, we must bring to life shots that no human being can achieve without the BOLT system. It includes a super close shot that follows the condensed milk pouring into a glass of coffee. Our mission is to capture how the first milk drops tap on the coffee and join together.
TVC from Ong Tho Condensed Milk project
c. A strong team spirit
Joel Spezeski: The best thing about Ginger Shots is that we are a team and work together. It's the power of people uniting that would create intense energy and open doors for better developments.
Duy Tran: There might be several risks during shootings: hot lightings, fast robots, weighty equipment… But because every team member was already an expert in their field, we corporated effortlessly. Also, Ginger Shots get together every day to experiment and familiarize ourselves with accidental situations. With that in mind, I believe that our team spirit has granted us enough capacity to produce world-class TVCs.
Joel Spezeski: Remote production with overseas directors and international clients was always part of our plan. When COVID-19 started spreading in Vietnam, we were the only production team in town to film with Qtake.
Duckie Chu: Qtake is a universal tool for camera monitoring. When you do video calls on social media, there remains a few delays. But Qtake provides seamless streaming allowing staff to follow the instructions of directors immediately. The software is constant and precise, as if everyone were in the same room.
Joel Spezeski: Because of COVID-19, specialists cannot physically visit our studio and show us what to do. For the most part, our team gets to find solutions by ourselves. We take on this situation as a challenge to grow in a way, and I’m glad we did.
Fuelled with passion and professionalism, Ginger Shots aspires to build upon their experience, refine methods and extend capabilities. The team also aims to expand its purview beyond food, beverages, and vehicles to beauty, cosmetics, and fashion. Making efforts to produce spectacular imagery that keeps viewers away from the “skip ad” button, Ginger Shots promises to pursue opportunities in 6s and 15s web and social-media oriented advertising videos.
Hồng Ân / Advertising Vietnam