Technical Notes

Capturing an accurate story.

Director's Notebook

Filmmaking technology is constantly changing, and while camera, hardware and software advancements make simpler what was difficult (or expensive) in the past, the basic elements and techniques of telling a story for film or television have remained the same. This is my process.

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Where’s My Food?! is a new documentary film that serves up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses, the powerful restaurant industry, and the real reasons we tip.

Now Available

You can rent or own "Where's My Food?!" online, or you can own the documentary on DVD.

Expert Insight

Featured experts in the film include Cornell University’s Michael Lynn, Ph.D., who describes how tipping works from psychological and socioeconomic perspectives.

Back of the House

Executive chef Michael Shafer shows how he (sometimes eccentrically) runs the restaurants he owns with an iron fist and a soft heart.

Film Reviews

This newly released documentary is already receiving positive reviews from viewers. See for yourself why "Where's My Food?!" is described as informative, provocative and emotional.

Your Motivations

Surprising revelations about what motivates restaurant customers to leave a tip. (Hint: The quality of the service you received accounts for only a small part.)

Same Since 1996

Americans spend half of their food dollars eating in restaurants, which fuels the industry’s ability to lobby lawmakers through the National Restaurant Association, sometimes referred to as ‘the other NRA.’ In 1996 the NRA successfully convinced Congress to keep the federal minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13 per hour. It’s been that low ever since.

On the Big Screen

The documentary "Where's My Food?!" recently premiered at a theater in Long Beach, California.

A Powerful Lobby

The NRA doesn't only support laws that favor highly profitable restaurant chains, they also WRITE those laws. Do those laws protect the rights or the health of the one-in-ten Americans who work in the restaurant industry? No.

Personal Stories

For many waiters and waitresses, this is their career and they love what they do. One of the nine restaurant workers featured in the film is a single mom raising four children on waitress wages. Another is a champion mixed martial arts fighter who’s also a waiter at BJ’s Restaurant. One waitress has worked at the same diner for over twenty years. Another waiter lives in his car, but arrives at work every day looking clean and energetic.

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Serving Up the Surprising Truth About Waiters and Waitresses
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Technical Notes on the Making of "Where's My Food?!"

Hi, I'm Lee Godden, the director of Where's My Food?! I hope you'll enjoy reading these notes about the processes and technology we're using to create this documentary film.

Filmmaking technology is constantly improving, and becoming less expensive. What hasn't changed is the artistic skill needed by cinematographers and editors to use their cameras (and now accompanying computer hardware and software) to tell the story in a way that's clear and compelling.

The Cameras

Capturing people's stories through interviews with a single camera is visually boring and it makes editing difficult. So for this documentary I selected a pair of Canon XF100 HD Professional Camcorders. The XF100 delivers superb, BBC-approved video quality, surprisingly through a 1/3" CMOS 1920x1080 HD image sensor. It records 60p/60i, 30p or 24p at up to 50Mbps, with beautiful 4:2:2 color sampling. The dual, hot-swappable CF card slots save the MPEG-2 files in an MXF wrapper, in either relay or backup mode. On-board sound mixing via dual XLR inputs is excellent. And, of course, matching cameras eases settings consistency and battery/CF card swaps.

The Canon XF100 zoom lens is 10x (30mm-300mm), but it's fixed, so when we wanted a nicer, shallower depth-of-field we turned to Canon 7D and 60D DSLR cameras. Regardless of the choice of video recording device, sound was recorded exclusively on the XF100s.

There are always exceptions. Professor Lynn's interview was recorded in his office at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York using a Panasonic AG-HMC150. A Canon HV40 was used to record Mark's interview and a part of Chuck's interview.  

Sound and Lighting

Interview subjects were usually lavaliere mic'd using one of our two wireless systems: the Sennheiser EW100 G3 or the spec-comparable Sony UWP-V1. Our handheld wireless mic was the ENG-standard Sennheiser MD46, which was used for person-on-the-street interviews. The XF100-mounted Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic was used in "run and gun" scenarios, like Chef Shafer's busy kitchen.

Natural lighting is best and was used whenever possible, but we always brought 2500 or so watts of daylight-balanced fluorescent panels to every shoot. 


We went with Sony Vegas Pro 12, which won Videomaker's 2012 Best Advanced Editing Software award. (In that comparison SVP12 beat out Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, Avid Media Composer, and Apple Final Cut Pro 7, yet Sony supports project interchange with those platforms.) Besides excellent color matching, proxy editing and other tools, SVP12 can encode to mastering formats up to 880Mbps. Our dedicated editing platform is a Gateway FX 6860-UR10P PC, sporting an Intel Core i7 3770 (3.4Ghz Ivy Bridge) processor, 16GB RAM, hot swap HDD bays and an AMD Radeon HD 7770 graphics card. We use USB3 for quick CF card data transfers (25GB in 70 seconds). Dual monitors are Asus VW246H 24-inch full-HD LCDs. Data backup is on-site, off-site and cloud.

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