But the rhythm of the room for much of the afternoon was: cut plexiglass, place plexiglass, light the beer and look through the camera. Then: talk, trim plexiglass, replace plexiglass, re-light the beer and look through the camera some more.
The director did explain how they modified the strategy using thinner diffusion paper instead of plexiglass and attaching it to a glass of lager so that they could get the same kind of inner glow with a glass as it was filmed sliding across the bar for another Yuengling spot shot later in the day.
But the biggest bag of tricks at the Fork & Wrench belonged to Lee.
“He travels with a lot of gear,” Bartolomeo said. “I think he asked us to ship 14 cases of gear through Fed Ex from L.A. He had a special truck, and he had a pneumatic tank, or some sort of air-gas tank, so that he could launch the beer into a glass rather than just pouring it out of bottle. And that was done from a special vessel he had that the camera could see into.”
If Lee isn’t a perfectionist, he does a pretty good imitation of one. He asked Yuengling to send him six cases of its best-looking plain bottles, and then, he spent a day upon arrival in Baltimore affixing special labels he had made out of a paper that would look better on-camera when the plexiglass-juiced light was pouring through it.
For all his technology and endless array of bottles and glasses, though, he spent a lot of time at the Fork & Wrench working the beer with what looked like a simple turkey baster.
“There are a number of ways to ‘activate’ a beer,” Lee said, laughing at the baster question. “I told these guys that my way of activating a beer and making it look good on camera is to work with room temperature beer.”
When you pour a cold glass of beer, he said, the glass gets frosted from its own condensation. But for camera purposes, it’s sometimes too thick and diffused to see the beer clearly. It can’t be controlled.
“But if I start with room temperature beer and add the condensation to the proper level [externally], that’s all under control,” he explained. “But I don’t put a head on it until camera’s rolling.”
Cue the turkey baster.
“When they say they’re ready to roll, I stick the baster in, I pump it up very slowly so I can control the shape and the height of the head,” Lee said. “And that way you can get a certain thickness and height in that specific glass because it varies from glass to glass and product to product, beer to beer, et cetera.”
Within that one “et cetera” from Lee, there seems to be at least a million more variables involved in creating the perfect TV image of a beer — a video illusion so vivid and compelling that you can almost taste the smooth, rich lager passing over your tongue and into your throat.
“You know, beer is the product, and you can never forget that,” Bartolomeo said when asked about special challeges in making the ads that are expected to debut in January.
“You know, how some axioms in Hollywood say never work with children or food, because it just consumes extra time. Well, liquid has its own unique challenges beyond that. Yeah, its own very unique challenges beyond that.”