Just Because Your Location Is Meh Doesn't Mean Your B-Roll Has to Be

How do you shoot inspiring b-roll when everything you see around you isn't?

We've all been in a situation where we have to shoot some b-roll in a certain location but that damn location is boring AF. I'm talking boring architecture, boring landscaping, boring backgrounds. Maybe it's a location your client chose and it's balls. Maybe it's a location in your hometown that you've seen a hundred billion times. Maybe you're looking through your window and are nauseated by how mundane and dull the world is 30-feet outside your door. If you related with any of those scenarios, you might want to take a look at this video by Peter McKinnon. In it, he challenges himself (and you) to find an "uninteresting" place to shoot some b-roll that captures its beauty and uniqueness, an exercise that will surely test your eye for light and composition, as well a push your creativity beyond its limits.

I have to be honest, I'm a huge crybaby when it comes to locations. I mean, it could be Niagra Falls and I'd say, "Cool, I'm shooting water." I get it, I'm unimaginative. That's exactly why I was drawn to McKinnon's video because I think that a lot of us don't recognize those creative opportunities could benefit from learning the process of those who do.

So, if you have a hard time finding ways to utilize the light and compositional possibilities in a given space, give McKinnon's b-roll challenge a try. Grab your camera and a lens and pick a single location to capture 30 seconds of b-roll. It could be a nearby park, an alley downtown, or even you're friggin' bathroom, it doesn't matter. Then, look around your space and try to find things that pique your interest. In the video, McKinnon gravitates towards several things:

  • Objects in motion, like cars, waving flags, trees blowing in the wind,
  • Interesting light, like traffic lights that change colors, light rays breaking through trees
  • Leading lines, like those from buildings, crosswalks, and light poles
  • Interesting architecture, like old buildings and signage

Personally, I really like grungy, disgusting locations, like old factories, alleyways, abandoned buildings, dumpsters, old newspaper boxes, and graffiti, so if I were to take on this challenge, I'd force myself to go somewhere somewhat orderly or pristine, like City Hall or my bathroom, which is more sterile than an operating room. Wherever you decide to try this, the idea behind it is that you take a moment to actually look at your location more closely instead of writing it off as boring and uninspiring. In the famous words of America's most underappreciated bard, Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger, "If you're bored then you're boring." #micdrop     

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I don’t understand this. B-Roll isn’t about the location. It’s visuals that support a story. This is filmmaking 101 and like everything he shoots is in high frames per second. He shoots one very specific type of Broll doesn’t explain what it is or how it should be used. Using expensive lenses and 120 frames per second in any location without a story behind it is pointless.

Cinematography ha always been about finding lovely frames in any setting. It’s part of what a DP does in relation to the story being told.

If the Broll supports the story than the location shouldn’t ever matter.

Peter Mckinnon...inventor of Broll lol.

Maybe this is why you should GO to film school. Learn about the craft properly.

May 26, 2018 at 6:44AM, Edited May 26, 7:27AM


Peter has been a valued service to the youtube community for over a year now. With out him who would have taught us how to shoot the most boring, non-sense contribution to a video since drone footage became a thing?

Now with heavy color-grading, and 120p footage, what would essentially have been a 3 minute video can go over 11 minutes now!

In fact if you don't appreciate how much wasted time he's producing in his videos you're missing the point.

Peter is ushering in an era of the most beautifully pretentious and stunningly useless visuals to offset the fact he has no story, or real point. In fact, the less Peter has to actual share, the more he makes up for it with B-Roll of shit.

May 26, 2018 at 7:16AM

Jorge Falso
Director of Photography

You are so dense. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE LOCATION, IT'S ABOUT WAYS TO SHOOT B-ROLL!!!!! HE CLEARLY SAID, A WAY TO PRACTICE IS TO FIND A BORING LOCATION AND APPLY HIS TECHNIQUES!!!!! Maybe English is your second language, perhaps you have a learning disorder, in that case I'll give you break... Otherwise, STFU and stop trolling posts.

May 29, 2018 at 4:54PM, Edited May 29, 4:54PM


Why are you yelling? Again he’s fundamentally missing the point when shooting any Broll. It’s not about practice unless you are shooting to cover your story. It’s not trolling. English is first language, you don’t understand the purpose of Broll or how this exercise is pointless then you don’t understand filmmaking. Broll is motivated, practicing without motivation is pointless. This wasn’t a well thought out experiment and teaches nothing. I’m sorry you feel so strongly about people not buying what peter is selling.
Why should I STFU?! Why? Why can’t I speak my mind? You don’t like what I say fine, but I’m not going to STFU because you tell me. What world do you live in?

May 30, 2018 at 4:51AM, Edited May 30, 5:49AM


Is so sad to don't appreciate the value of others. Can I know which one of you has 2 millions of subscribers on youtube and almost a 1 millions on instagram ?

At least he's doing "something" for the audiovisual community, can you say the same?

May 26, 2018 at 12:47PM


Good point I forgot that too! Because he’s popular his useless videos and horrible tutorials are obviously more helpful because reasons!

May 26, 2018 at 2:43PM

Jorge Falso
Director of Photography

i do appreciate the value of others when there is actual VALUE. I don't believe (knowing the craft myself) what he is teaching is actually beneficial to the craft. I also don't put value in number of subscribers on either platform as a mark of validity. What is B-ROLL without story? Talk to me about that, not about how I don't appreciate someone because they have 2 million subs on youtube. You also don't know a thing about my background or knowledge base so I can tell you "yes I can say I am doing something for the AV community" ... by not totally accepting this video article share as a mark of expertise.

May 26, 2018 at 2:48PM, Edited May 26, 2:48PM


You obviously don't understand the world you live in. This is a typical problem for purists. Things change. He's a millionaire and this is what he does for a living. Why don't you put out that movie you've been thinking about for 30 years instead of trolling this guy?

May 29, 2018 at 5:00PM


Purists? No, just appreciate fundamentals. My projects are collaborative and they’re out there for the world to see. Some of them are shit some of them are great. Hes also not a millionaire I’m not sure where you come assuming that lol.

The fundamentals of film have been around for longer than you or I or peter. He cant change the “rules” because you say so.

A better execution of this challenge would be: Find a location, tell me a little about why you choose this location and what motivated you to capture the shots you did. That way there's a bit of a story leading the visuals vs just random obnoxious senseless music with shots that mean nothing me as a viewer.

See how easy that was? No? Okay I'm dense, or english as a second language or not a "millionaire" (like it matters if I am or not) “troll”. It would be wise not to assume anything given the ignorance of your previous statements.

May 30, 2018 at 4:54AM, Edited May 30, 5:51AM


"2 millions of subscribers on youtube and almost a 1 millions on instagram"

You urgently need to watch the Black Mirror episode "Nose dive" :-D LOL, social media nonsense!!!

May 27, 2018 at 2:02AM, Edited May 27, 2:24AM


I agree with Intruderstudio. These people are just mad that he has made himself relevant in a world they've probably spent years doing nothing in other than dreaming, toiling over focus charts and pixel peeping instead of shooting. I bet they can't produce a second of footage that they are proud enough of to share.

May 29, 2018 at 4:50PM, Edited May 29, 5:07PM


If that's the hyperbolic conclusion you come to based on being ignorant than fine. You're assuming WAY too much when you type and agree with such utter nonsense by the way. You have no idea who I am or what work I produce. My discussion points are to serve the actual craft and I speak from a position of experience. Only my work gets vetted by top network brass in global markets. So in a way it the quality of it gets more highly scrutinized than Peter's does.

How about discuss my actual POINTS vs trying to insult me for not being "relevant" lol. Honestly that's what people do when they don't have an argument to discuss. They lash out and personally attack individuals. Great work, TROLLING suits you.

Broll is motivated by story. Not technique, not location. No need to study pixel charts for that, just the experience of having your cut ripped apart by a network executive because there is no story that tracks.

Story is motivating factor in all film and video work. It should be the focus.

May 30, 2018 at 5:34AM, Edited May 30, 5:54AM


I'll take a step back, I was in a bad mood. I'm not apologizing for what I said, but I'll clarify what I meant. To me, this video was just giving people who are involved in other areas of film making ideas on HOW to shoot b-roll. There are people picking up cameras for the first time everyday, how are you suggesting that they learn HOW to shoot b-roll. Not WHAT to shoot, but HOW. That may be the issue. You seem to be focused on what he's shooting rather than how, the video was a 'how-to'.

May 31, 2018 at 11:27AM, Edited May 31, 11:28AM


Don't have to apologize, it's just a discussion :). I understand what you're saying but still it's random shots, the critical point about b-roll is it needs to be motivated by something. That's what makes it b-roll, it's images are telling a story even if you're not out there to tell a play by play story.

That's the fundamental thing that makes b-roll relevant and if you know that it makes it easier to shoot. The two are correlated, how and what to shoot. How to shoot b-roll is pointing a camera, at the thing you're discussing to show don't just tell me right?

I also didn't see any valuable takeaway on how to shoot b-roll in that video. It got people out shooting that's fine, but the challenge itself was missing a critical step IMHO that would have made both watching him react to it as well as sitting through various posts more interesting.

For me, if i'm out shooting broll it needs to be motivated. I need to establish my setting, maybe talk about why I like or chose this spot. All this would have given the shots context outside of just being slow motion shots with the trendy woosh and mask transitions.

I'll agree to disagree here.

June 4, 2018 at 4:01AM


Peter I agree with most of your sentiments, content/story is king, but what exactly is supposed to be the story in this video? lIt's just an exercise, shoot interesting looking footage of an uninteresting place. I don't think there is supposed to be a story.

IMO anytime you're out shooting is a good thing, regardless of your intent, so what's the harm in a little challenge? And for the record I think McKinnon is a douche and has gotten way more success than he deserves but I don't see what the problem is here.

And tone down the pretentiousness it's nauseating.

May 31, 2018 at 6:50PM, Edited May 31, 6:51PM


There should always be some story. You don’t have to do an elaborate complicated story for there to be some sort of narrative. Maybe a little about the location, why you choose to shoot there and what inspired you to shoot what. Just a quick 30 seconds or so. It would make each entry unique and worth watching as a member of the audience.

I agree getting people out shooting is important, but this got a blog share when imho it’s missing a critical piece that could have elevated it and really taught something these guys can walk away with.

My pretentiousness is a result of Peter getting a ludicrous amount of shares (which would be fine) if he was a more well rounded teacher. He is not imho and it’s ilk like him who are telling people not to “go to school” (in some regards) and that “the day job” is somehow a bad thing.

Oh and if you want to see pretentious, check out his insta story where he makes fun of a store in the mall for not hiring him because “he wasn’t a good enough photographer”. This isn’t hate by the way dont confusion heavy criticism based on his audience influence for hate.

Apologize for my sounding pretentious.

June 4, 2018 at 4:42AM


Like photography the rules were meant to be bent or broken of which you don’t seem to relate, Peter challenged the average or inexperienced film maker to go create something, anything that would stimulate ones creative juices. It’s a lot more than you have ever done to encourage anyone to learn the art of film making. Your envy will be the cause of your death because you will choke on it.
My challenge to you is go create something worthy of sharing with the community so we all can learn; and until you do STFU......

June 25, 2018 at 8:13PM


The mistake everyone is making here is assuming that what Peter does is teach visual filmmaking. He does not. Peter is a motivational speaker. He's not selling photography and filmmaking skills to you. He's selling you the self esteem that you can be as successful as he is.

June 26, 2018 at 7:09AM

Elvis Deane
Creative Director