Amazon Prime Video recently released “Bake Off Japan,” a Japanese adaptation of the global hit show of the same name, where passionate home-bakers compete under the same iconic white tent for the title of the best amateur baker. On-screen, the show exudes softness and warmth, but the work that goes into capturing the cooking show is harder than it looks.
“To be mindful of all the cameras and to maximize coverage felt like solving a puzzle. Everything was captured in a single take, so there was no room for error. All placements must be carefully considered and, while the shoot was ongoing, proper repositioning of the cameras was crucial to provide production value and diversity. It felt like directing an orchestra,” says DP Alexandre Bartholo, who, together with show director Hyoe Yamamoto, had to meticulously choreograph camera movements and lighting placements on set.
Bartholo continues, “Bringing simplicity to the operators was a key factor for me. I wanted to make sure each of them had access to the tools they needed at their fingertips and to minimize the parameters within the shoot.” These circumstances made working with reliable equipment and capturing consistent images imperative for the production team. Thankfully, ARRI Japan was able to supply their needs.
The show was shot with six cameras—two ALEXA Mini LFs, two ALEXA Minis, and two AMIRAs—which were divided into groups and given specific assignments. The main group was on rolling tripods, covering interactions between contestants and the host. A second group, equipped with Easyrigs and ARRI Master Grips, was free to move around to catch interesting moments. Bartholo explains, “This combination armed operators with the liberty to compose great shots and rack focus independently, with the Master Grips maintaining good stability.” Finally, the remaining camera, attached to a long zoom and put on a cable cam, acted as a turret and was able to cover any space in the studio.
The consistency, reliability, and ease of operation with the ARRI equipment made them the perfect tools for the Japan-based cinematographer. “There were going to be dramatic changes in lighting, temperature, and humidity, so I made sure I would get the same images across all cameras without worrying about over or underexposure caused by passing clouds,” says Bartholo. “With the cameras’ broad latitude and good reaction to various mixed lights, keeping the lighting in the tent at constant key temperatures was not a concern. If anything, the camera and lighting combination made everything more precise while also being very forgiving.”
Bartholo used 20 SkyPanels for the interior of the main tent. S60s were placed slightly behind each contestant, serving as their backlight and simultaneously providing fill for the next table. Breaking down his lighting setup, he explains, “We settled on working with XY coordinates as it gave us a wider range of parameters while maintaining the standard white balance. Towards the end of each day, we would start to dim down all the SkyPanels so they wouldn’t overpower the exterior lights while keeping a nice and soft diffused look.”
Much like the cameras, simplicity and consistency were also a priority for the show’s lighting, and ARRI’s Stellar app came in handy. “We would measure inside and outside the tent at various times of the day and use Stellar to match the interior to the exterior light as close as we could,” reveals Bartholo. “Having only SkyPanels on the main stage and using the app made it easy to adjust while recording. This arrangement allowed us to be more lightweight, flexible, and less dependent on a big lighting board with a dedicated operator.”
You can catch “Bake Off Japan” exclusively on Amazon Prime Video Japan
Photos: Alexandre Bartholo and Amazon Japan