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‘Noma: My Perfect Storm’ Captures Culinary Experimentation (and Excellence)

“I often find it is by observing the body language of my subjects...that I discover...who they really are,” director/DP PierreDeschamps says. “This is why I prefer to shoot [footage] myself.”

Director/cinematographer Pierre Deschamps describes his approach to capturing the mood and pace of Noma: My Perfect Storm as something between “classic documentary-making” and “cinematographic essay.” The film follows the unique culinary rituals of renowned chef René Redzepi and his approach to foraging and food presentation his Noma restaurant in Copenhagen.

“I often find it is by observing the body language of my subjects—or their nonverbal communication—that I discover the ‘non-obvious’ that [in turn] shows me who they really are,” Deschamps says. “It is unpredictable until it happens. This is why I prefer to shoot [footage] myself.”

In the Noma kitchen

The filmmaker used a variety of cameras, primarily a RED EPIC shooting at 5K (4K for slow motion sequences) and a RED Dragon. “The EPIC was used for the kitchen action, the food plating, nature scenes and the ‘fisherman and forager’ at work in natural surroundings,” the director says. “It enabled me to switch to a high frame rate and still have access to high resolution. But it was a great challenge because I was a single operator doing everything including audio and light.”

Deschamps used a GoPro camera to introduce Redzepi’s point of view while at work in the kitchen, as well as POV shots of Redzepi foraging in the forest and cycling around Copenhagen. “I shot at 2.7K resolution so I could have a bit of latitude in postproduction if I needed to reframe.”

He also used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, primarily for interviews. Deschamps believes the 5D provided greater intimacy and was “less intimidating” than the RED EPIC.

Director/cinematographer Pierre Deschamps

“My goal was to be as invisible as possible and to shoot at a distance from a fixed position,” the director/cinematographer says. “I played with a set of [ARRI] PL lenses to tell my story and capture what was in front of me. The wide lenses [11-16mm or fixed 12mm] were used to show the kitchen from a general point of view, and the medium lens [19-90mm] to get me closer to the action while still leaving some possibilities to play with the environment,” he says. For his tele-lenses, he used a fixed 100mm and a 200mm to capture facial expressions and details of the cooking crew’s hand movements.

For one segment, Deschamps collaborated with time sequence cinematographer Chad Gordon Higgins for a seasonal time lapse scene. “It was an interesting challenge. We shot 3,800 stills for the same 240-degree shot in each season during the year to portray the seasonal changes over 12 months,” he says. “I selected what René Redzepi had said about seasons and their produce and decided which time lapse should come first, the timing of each season, all of that calculated with the music I had chosen for that sequence.”  

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