Behind the Dish

FIVARS 2023: Spotlight on Behind the Dish

Behind the Dish is a virtual reality docu-series that lets viewers step inside the fascinating world of gastronomy. FIVARS had a chance to speak with the creators.

What led to the creation of this piece?

We had been thinking about topics that could interest and arouse curiosity in many types of viewers. Our director, Chloé Rochereuil, is a fan of Netflix’s Chef’s Table and has always wished she could get more than she could see on-screen. TARGO documentaries always strive to push the boundaries of the technology available to improve VR storytelling.

Showing food in a VR headset in 8K stereo was already progress compared to watching plates on a 2D screen, but it wasn’t enough : we wanted to find a way to offer a radically new perspective on food. After a lot of research, we decided to build a tailored-made macro camera that would allow us to film food in super close-ups in VR. This unique camera works around the concept of human inter-pupillary distance (the natural “setting” of our eyes). By reducing this distance, the camera changes our sense of scale so that viewed in the headset, the food looks gigantic in front of us.

This led to the realization that the only way forward was to have a custom rig to film the dishes exactly like we wanted. We needed to include the chefs’ hands, movement, and rotation of the plate, which you couldn’t see in the plants and insects documentaries.

What was the production process for you and your team? What did you learn?

This series features two kind of images : the macro shots of the dishes, including the chef’s hands, movements and rotation of the final dishes; and 360° 3D videos of the chefs filmed in their daily lives, including working & cooking with the teams at their restaurants, shopping at the market or visiting producers.

Behind the dish is a series on food, but also a world tour of gastronomy and culinary traditions making you travel through amazing landscapes from France to Japan to the US.

To provide a spotless ultra-realistic experience, the entire series has been filmed in 8K 3D 360° video, going above and beyond the maximum resolutions virtual reality headsets allow.

We filmed most shots in a static manner, but some required a railing system that we used parsimoniously, but that lets the viewer travel inside the landscape we filmed.

Supported by six months of research and creative use of 3D stereography, Behind the Dish leverages state-of-the-art hypostereo techniques and macro filming. This technical prowess was made possible by developing a custom-designed 3D macro camera system.

Designed for busy kitchens and compact and easy to transport to several locations worldwide, this rig was uniquely fitted for VR live-action food filming and the needs of this series.

We worked on this macro stereo camera for six months with a specialized company based in Germany. We made many tests with random food items (a banana, an apple, and even an empty plate). When we were happy with our settings and cleared everything with our stereograph, we filmed the food the chefs cooked. This is also interesting because the three chefs prepare different ingredients and recipes.

For example, raw fish doesn’t stand the heat created by light sources very well, so we had to be quick and creative with Chef Chiba’s sushi plates. Meanwhile, Chef VanTrece’s dishes were fully cooked, so we wanted to capture their steam and their crunchiness before it disappeared. And Chef Darroze’s dishes were studied compositions of exquisite taste so we could play with that minute aspect and film the tweezers her team used to stage ingredients.

How did you become an immersive media content creator and why?

TARGO was created by Chloé Rochereuil and Victor Agulhon when they were friends in college. Chloé studied journalism and Victor economics. They were both fascinated by new technologies and new ways to tell stories. Virtual reality and 360° video quickly became their favorite medium.

What is the VR/AR industry like in your region?

There is a robust ecosystem of VR/AR companies in France. TARGO is lucky to have worked in partnership with Meta US several times these past few years.

What do you have planned for the future?

We are currently working on an immersive documentary chronicling the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the following investigation. We will release the entire “JFK Memento” experience in November 2023 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The first part won the 2023 SXSW Audience Award. TARGO’s main goal for the future is to keep providing premium mainstream VR experiences and contributing to the rise of the medium.

What would you like to share with fellow content creators and the industry?

We want to focus on high-quality experiences that speak to everyone and go beyond the VR niche. We want to share our love of experiences that are accessible in different settings to an array of audiences. The three episodes of Behind the Dish are short: ten minutes each to avoid getting tired inside the headset or losing focus. They don’t follow a particular order and can be “snacked on” anytime. They don’t need prerequisites because all the required context is explained during the sit-on interviews in the episodes.

Do you think VR festivals like FIVARS are important?

The festivals showcasing VR and AR storytelling have a crucial role in the ecosystem. They are the best way to meet other talents and professionals invested in making great XR content. They also draw a picture of the technologies and the topics popular and innovative at a given time. And they allow us to dialogue with our public, who is the first and foremost reason why we are making these documentaries in the first place. So, a big thank you!

Behind the Dish at FIVARS 2023 runs in person September 15-19th in Toronto and online through October 3rd.

Behind the Dish