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The Art And Science Of Advertisements' High-Flying Food

Flinging food isn't just for unruly kids—Ed Fountain proves that it takes some mechanics.

CLICK TO EXPAND Popup-Icon | Photo by David Yellen

That would be Ed Fountain, the 60-year-old mechanics guru who has made food fly—and bounce and explode and collide—in hundreds of TV commercials. Here’s how he does it.

Cut up flying veggies
Mechanical knife

A small electric motor rocks a knife up and down roughly 350 times a minute—just enough to keep pace with the director's high-speed camera. Meanwhile air cylinders shoot presliced veggies upward at the knife, to make it seem as if they're being speed-chopped. "It's a real mayhem shot," Fountain says. "But it's good because the veggies are so pretty, and there's water flying, and the [slow-motion playback] makes everything look luxurious."

Past Client Dunkin' Donuts (for a breakfast omelet)
Takes to get the money shot 2 to 3

Drop a stack of cheese
Tabletop rig

First, Fountain stretches rubber bands across an upside-down, U-shaped frame; then, he layers slices of cheese on top of them. When the bands are cut, the food flops down "in perfect sequence," he says. "I've used [the device] for tortillas, pancakes, bread, meat—anything flat, really. It's one of the oldest tricks I know."

Past Client Assorted regional restaurants
Takes to get the money shot 2 to 3

Bounce chicken nuggets

By stretching a piece of latex sheeting across a wood frame and then dropping the nuggets from a conveyor belt, Fountain creates what he calls a "happy action. . . . The movement is random, playful, and unpredictable." And the food, in turn, "seems fun and appealing."

Past Client T.G.I. Friday's
Takes to get the money shot 2 to 3

A version of this article appeared in the March 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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