Entertainment / Products

The Tech Behind: Here’s how 1440 Film Co. made a Philly-area company’s spicy production

Robotics helped make the new ad for St. Lucifer Spices in a cross-border collaboration.

The Bolt, a robotic camera arm, behind the secenes. (Screenshot via 1440 Film Co.'s video)

This editorial article is a part of The Tech Behind Month of’s editorial calendar.

The latest production of Wilmington’s 1440 Film Co. — a 30-second ad for the Greater Philadelphia spice company St. Lucifer — is a dynamic celebration of spiciness, filmed in the dining room of the upscale Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington.

The project, directed by Michael Fagan and produced by 1440 founder Mike Pfiefer, stands out not just because it’s a cool collaboration between multiple entities in Wilmington and Philly, but also because it was the first 1440 production to use a Bolt robotic camera arm.

The Bolt, a tool that’s starting to become fairly common in New York City creative firms, was non-existent in Greater Philly until Mike Greenberg, managing partner of Philadelphia’s Mocolab, purchased one in 2021.

Looking at it, it looks nearly identical to the robots you see painting cars in a factory — and that’s because it’s virtually the same tech. Greenberg operates the Bolt, which involves programming the robot for precise shots that can be repeated over and over again using a time-based system and an integrated 4K Phantom Cam.

Not unlike Steadicam technology Garrett Brown innovated in the 1970s, the Bolt, created by Surrey, England company MRMC, can create shots that would be impossible to do with a handheld camera (pay attention to the seemingly simple pan at 0:20 in the St. Lucifer ad).

“You can interpolate different effects, opening up a world of creative possibilities,” Greenberg told “It’s a little tricky, and it takes some technical prowess for directors to use it, but once they get it, they’re very excited about what to do with it.”

The collaboration was a first using the Bolt for 1440.

“I’ve known Mike for forever,” Pfeifer told “He’s very specialized. [The Bolt] is not for every project. That’s the fun part of all of this: There are so many people in their own little disciplines. You have art directors, you have director of photography, you have the boat guy, you have the special effects, rigging guy — bringing all these different disciplines together to push towards a common vision.”

Another behind-the-scenes innovator who worked on the project is Jean Charite, a Philly visual engineer who specializes in food and beverage photography.

“He has these contraptions that will shoot out spices, pop up food to [a certain height] every time so it’s repeatable,” said Pfeifer.

When Charite’s SFX rigging was combined with Greenberg’s Bolt filming, the end result was the dramatic flying peppers and shooting spices in the ad.

“What’s really cool about that is that the spinning mechanism designed by Jean and the actual spice-launching mechanism, we can control as part of our system,” said Greenberg.

The shoot at Bardea took two full days, not counting pre- and post-production. The resulting work is impressive, yet the effects look seamless enough that viewers might take for granted how much tech went into it.

“Oh, for sure,” said Pfeifer. “It’s why I always love doing the BTS stuff — Oh my god, we did all that for a pepper!”

So what did the shoot look like? Check out 1440’s behind-the-scenes video:

Series: The Tech Behind Month 2023 / The Tech Behind

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