Your primary footage may the key storyteller of your film -- your interviews, etc., but your b-roll is the glue that holds it all together. Getting good b-roll is supremely important in not only documentary filmmaking, but in virtually any type of filmmaking, because it helps hide transitions, gives information, and adds flare to what could be a long and tedious block of exposition. But, if you're finding that your secondary footage is falling flat, Slavik Boyechko of Alaska Video Shooter and PBS series Indie Alaska, breaks down pretty much everything you need to know about shooting b-roll in this awesome and exhaustive tutorial.
It's pretty common when filmmakers first start out to get a little lazy when it comes to shooting b-roll -- especially if you capture it after you've finished shooting your primary footage. (Why lie -- even if you're a seasoned vet the process can get tedious enough to make you get loosey goosey.) However, b-roll footage not only plays a huge role in the storytelling process, but it actually takes up the lion's share of the screen time. Transitions need to be hidden. A talking head needs to be cut away from. Objects, places, actions, and people being talked about need to be seen in order to keep the story alive and interesting.
So, knowing how important b-roll is, it's imperative to not only capture enough of it (seriously -- I can't stress that enough), but capture it well. An article from Transom showcased Boyechko's tutorial, in which he not only breaks down the many, many ways to shoot better b-roll, but also details camera movements, stabilization gear used, and how the shot serves the story. It's a great learning opportunity, so if you want to up your b-roll game, check it out below:
The documentary piece Boyechko was shooting in the tutorial was actually an episode of Indie Alaska called I Make Wearable Art. Check it out below:
Shooting b-roll may become tedious, and you might slack a little bit more, since there's less pressure and more freedom while you shoot. But, the quality of your secondary footage could truly make or break your project.
For a visual breakdown of the techniques Boyechko talks about in the video, be sure to check out the full Transom article.
Do you have any advice on how to shoot better b-roll? Share your own techniques and methods in the comments below.
[via Filmmaker IQ]
It must be related to the story otherwise it feels forced when used in a sequence
February 17, 2014 at 12:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
My frustration is when the interviewee is discussing content that is far more conceptual instead of visual in nature.
VO "Investors can expect a profit yield of between 15% and 30% over the course of the next 12 months, as long as interest rates stay the same..."
B-Roll for this type of sentence is going to be pretty vague, and may have to resort to motion graphics.
That, and I hate interviews... :D
June 16, 2015 at 11:56PM
excellent point, and an organic feel is so important.
June 17, 2015 at 7:05PM
Good as in simple explanation - but his they had to spend some money on grey card or at least fix the mercury green in post, very distracting to watch a tutorial lacking the basic need of a watchable WB.
February 17, 2014 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Totally agree, the image looks super green & muddy. Somebody needed to white balance for fluros. Hard to make a point stick when your final product don't look so good. Even though I know that wasn't the point of the tutorial, it definitely makes me question the shooter's judgment.
February 17, 2014 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I like how he not only discussed shooting b-roll, but when to compromise aesthetics for the sake of getting the important stuff. Just a really thought-out video.
February 17, 2014 at 1:09PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
C100? Footage looked awful...
February 17, 2014 at 1:23PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
The available light in the room did not look very flattering
February 18, 2014 at 5:42AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
C300. It's fairly easy to look at the environment and understand that they were not shooting in optimal lighting conditions. I don't think it's much of a reflection on the camera so much as the context and execution.
February 18, 2014 at 7:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Oh geez, their will always be someone to bitch about something. They put out something trying to be helpful and they get criticized for their execution. I'm sure they are very sorry you didn't get your money's worth.
February 17, 2014 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
February 17, 2014 at 2:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
February 19, 2014 at 5:45PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I know, the commenters on NFS love to complain about everything they can, I guess they have a lot of free time since they probably aren't actually making their own videos. I thought this was a really great and concise video. B-Roll is one of those things that isn't focused on enough even in school, so having a simple video like this just covering the main bullet points is really helpful to keep these simple ideas in mind.
February 17, 2014 at 2:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I love the people complaining that there are too many people complaining about the quality of the footage in thiss tutorial. Heck, I'm complaining about the complainers who are complaining about the complainers. Bring it on!
February 17, 2014 at 4:37PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
So, are you comping the comparative merits of the complain composers? Or do I not compute?
February 17, 2014 at 10:45PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
haters gonna hate bruh.
May 5, 2015 at 7:22AM
I really appreciate the fact that this video contains useful information on B-Roll and has good BTS in regards to shooting in a difficult space.
Other videos have really interesting locations and beautiful natural light, and this wasn't one of them, yet the final video that was produced was pretty good.
Maybe it could use some color grading, but after watching it twice, I thought that the green color actually worked. Sure it was raw, but it kept me thinking that this designer does amazing work in a small little space with bad lighting, but doesn't let that stop her from creating amazing pieces.
Coloring might improve it technically, and yet it might work against conveying some of the emotion.
Either way, happy this video was made and shared.
February 17, 2014 at 1:43PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
How about shooting the person from another angle at the same time... Seems like the most obvious option to cover cuts in an interview wasn't covered.
February 17, 2014 at 1:47PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
To be fair, the post is specifically about b-roll, not how to shoot an interview.
February 17, 2014 at 3:22PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Best B roll ev-ah!
February 17, 2014 at 3:59PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
my laughter to that video was prime B Roll material.
February 17, 2014 at 10:15PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
that was an epic b-roll video lol
February 19, 2014 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Nicely done, glad you shared. All very good points. I shot some follow-up b-roll for an MTV reality show and they had a "shooter's bible" that was similar but more detailed. Always good to have your checklist and stick to it.
February 17, 2014 at 5:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Great short tutorial on b-roll. Thank you so much for sharing this video V Renée. I am happy to come across it!
To Commenters: I am surprise a lot of people commenting about how he shoot the piece. Please keep your dislike comments to your self. Obviously, have nothing to do the tutorial and post. Its just jacked up. Lets be a little more respectful to him as an artist. I am sure you all want people to respect your work too. If you want criticism about your work. Please post your work and I would love to share with you my thoughts. Only if you ask for it. Truly, R
February 17, 2014 at 5:32PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
This tutorial video is really useful. Basic and proven techniques that anyone can easily learn and apply. Thanks Slavik.
February 18, 2014 at 1:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Funny thing is the negative comments made me watch the tutorial, so thanks, your negative comments did have some use. We mere mortals are appreciative of NFS for posting this while we await your 'Hollywood' quality video tutorial.
February 18, 2014 at 2:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Thanks for sharing, I found it to be very useful
February 18, 2014 at 2:48AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Instead of bitching I ll add some more points to what was said about Broll and GVs.
- Shoot for the edit!
When I see people filming tons and tons of Broll it annoys the hell out of me. Shoot economically. This refers mostly to documentary filmmakers of course (not involving rehearsed scenes with actors) - the best directors will tell you only 5 to 10% of what they shoot doesnt get used.
Saves harddisk space
Saves battery life
Saves your subjects time.
- When there are actions going on that are likely to be important to the explanation of whats going on or the VO shoot: WIDE, MID, CLOSE. this will give you more options and allow the viewer to enter the scene easier.
February 21, 2014 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
B roll is the best part!
Shooting talking heads is boring...fun to light (lighting close ups never bores me)...but 30 seconds in and I'm already tuning out. Blah blah blah...blabbady blah...whatever, bored now. B roll is an exploration, finding the good angles or good light or new ideas.
Doing b-roll for a couple bigger DP's...I realize I'm getting the more fun stuff.
Finding time, the directors or producers or talent want to move on...etc...etc...but when you don't have 2 shooters, you gotta fight for it. And when you finally see it, all that extra footage always seems to get used after all.
February 23, 2014 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
So true! Even when you think it's unnecessary when shooting, in many projects a lot of the B-roll you shoot ends up in the edit, even in small amounts, and you wonder what you would do without it.
Thanks to everyone for their comments. I never thought this video would get onto nofilmschool, and I'm incredibly honored if even a small amount of the tips are useful to the nofilmschool community. Cheers, Slavik.
February 25, 2014 at 12:47AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Great article. I struggle with B-Roll often, I really enjoyed this.
-and was able to get past the bad WB. Also, admittedly a white balanced shot likely would have looked a little better, still those were totally cruddy industrial fluorescents, combined with ISO probably maxed you get what you can sometimes.
February 27, 2014 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
News flash...this tutorial is NOT ABOUT WHITE BALANCE or LIGHTING
It's about B ROLL, which is covered and explained very well. The tutorial
accomplished what it set out for. I will never understand why people hiding
behind a computer will find anything to bitch about.
The tutorial was informative AND funny.
March 6, 2014 at 1:19PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM
Be aware of what you look at in the scene... Where you're eyes go... And shoot those things. Did you notice the Fidgety fingers. The cat was doing something. There's rain on the windows. A pot is beginning to boil. The pendulum of the clock is swinging... You get the idea.
June 17, 2014 at 9:54PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM
All these points are pretty valid and annoy the shit outta me whenever I get given footage to edit (especially the adjusting exposure in the middle of the shot, even though the exposure LOOKS FINE!). That said, this guy needs to work on his audio - the final product has some pretty inconsistent noise - he needs to learn to record atmos!
June 17, 2015 at 12:21AM
That video reminded me of this YouTube video about shooting BRoll for a documentary. The one thing that I think this guy missed in the video that this video highlights is using b-roll to do more than just cover the cuts of your interview but also help tell your story.
June 17, 2015 at 8:41AM