Have you ever wondered why food and product visuals look better than what you buy? Well, there are all sorts of tricks and, if it’s not a complete digital rendered/animated recreation, a lot of what you see on screen, box, and billboard is dolled up with fake ingredients and special effects to make them look more appealing. Photographer and “visual engineer” Steve Giralt, creates some of the most stunning product visuals you’ll see and he provides some behind the scenes insight as to how they’re put together.

steve giralt

Take for example this simple Pepsi visual. If you think that splash of soda is 3D rendered, you would be wrong. It’s actually real soda sprayed across a plastic lid sporting the Pepsi logo. Using a nozzle to spray the soda and a strainer to break up the liquid, Steve was able to evenly distribute the Pepsi across the lid so he could get the perfect shot mid-splash. Here’s how it happened:

This is similar to how he created the commercial for Pepsi Black. Using slow motion cameras, Steve and his team dripped, dropped, and splashed gallons of Pepsi Black around to get some sweet close-up shots of caffeinated soda. It’s pretty eye-opening how much work is needed for a short 30-second commercial, but the visual results are definitely worth it.

One of the more complicated shoots Steve had the opportunity to direct was this commercial for a cheeseburger with the ingredients falling onto each other. Using a 3D printed catapult, they created a midair collision between ketchup and mustard and captured it on camera.

The segment where the camera zooms in on the ingredients as they fall was made possible using a rig which held the bun, bacon, patty, and veggies in place with rubber bands. Once shooting begins, knife-laden servos activate to cut rubber bands holding the ingredients which then fall in series atop each other onto the tabletop. The trick here was to keep the camera focused on all the objects as they fall.

The landing of the ingredients to make the finished burger was an entirely different shoot. This time, instead of keeping them suspended over a large space, the ingredients are much closer together so they fall in place when the rubber bands are cut. It’s ingienious. So what’s the tech behind it all?

Steve calls the brain of the automation P.A.T.R.I.C. – short for Precision Arduino Timing Relay Imaging Controller. It uses an Arduino Mega that allows Steve to control events in a shoot down to the millisecond to get things exactly as he wants them to be. Coupled with a high-speed camera-wielding robot arm, he and his crew were able to get an INCREDIBLE slow motion shot of a burger falling into place.

steve giralt

Onto something other than food. This still shot of an outdoor boot getting splashed by water is made by launching the boot off a catapult and quickly dousing it before it can hit the ground. Lights turn on just before the boot Is launched and it actually takes a slow motion camera to capture the entire process before it ends.

Steve has much more footage of behind the scenes for the various commercials he’s worked on, all of which can be found on his webpage along with other visuals and more on visual engineering.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.