5 Point Philosophy for Shooting Run-and-Gun B-Roll
Shooting b-roll on the fly can be tricky, but these tips should really help.
B-roll is essential for a well-rounded and interesting story that makes sense visually. Not having it is like eating bread without butter.
Whether you're shooting travel films or a feature with a skeleton crew, you're going to want to know how to shoot beautiful b-roll that doesn't require a ton of planning, manpower, or money.
And that can be super tricky.
Plan Story Not Shots
Shooting b-roll can be a little dangerous because it's, well, it's pretty easy to point your camera at a subject and shoot. It's not a part of your principal photography, so whatever, right?
While planning your shots isn't always necessary (sometimes it really is), planning your story and shooting accordingly is often more beneficial and leads to better results, like being able to capture all of the shots you need for your edit.
Shoot in Sequences
Speaking of getting all the shots you need, one tip Haapoja mentions is to "shoot in sequences." In other words, make sure you get enough coverage. Get establishing shots, mediums, and close-ups. Get over-the-shoulder, tracking, and dolly shots. Get pretty much everything you think will make your edit that much better...or your editor that much happier.
Plan B-Roll Around Lighting
If you're shooting b-roll for your travel film, you're going to be getting a lot of exterior shots. This means that your biggest challenge is going to be chasing down sunlight. To ensure that you can stay on top of it, plan your shots around lighting. Use your trusty sun tracking app to know when sunrise, noon, and sunset are going to occur in your location, and then plan your day so you're able to pick up shots in your desired locations at your desired time of day.
Stabilize Your Footage
If you can afford them, camera stabilizers are a lifesaver when it comes to shooting buttery smooth footage. However, don't be down in the dumps if you can't afford them, because you can use some effective techniques to stabilize your shots without them. These include the "ninja walk"...which is just a slow, heel-toe movement, holding your camera close to your chest, or shooting your footage at a high frame rate, like 120, and slowing it down in post.
At the end of the day, it's important to know why you're there shooting your project. It doesn't matter if you have a ton of the most beautifully shot images in the world...if they don't serve the story, then they're pretty much useless.
So, not only should you plan your shoot according to your story's needs but you should also approach your b-roll so that it's always in service of your story. Point, blank, period.
What are some other helpful tips for shooting b-roll? Let us know down in the comments.