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