Cinematic Tips for your B-Roll


The art of b-roll is crucial in today’s world of filmmaking, where you are often working on your own to do everything. So how can you make sure your b-roll footage doesn’t let you down without causing you to shoot late into the night? No doubt you know what b-roll is, but if you don’t then put simply; b-roll is the footage you capture to accompany an interview, so we’re talking about relevant cutaways such as location establishing shots, inserts of an activity, or basically anything that isn’t you’re A-roll (the interview). Many short doc pieces you’ll see now won’t even show the interview and will be made up entirely of B-roll, with only the sound of the interviewee playing underneath.

    No one likes to watch talking heads

So how can you make sure your b-roll is living up to your story? Well here’s three tips to cheat your way to wowing your clients.


Angles and perspective

It sounds simple, because it is. Shooting everything from the same place at the same height is boring, so mixing up it up with some low angles from weird places will make your b-roll far more interesting. But there’s more to it than dropping or raising your tripod. Try standing close to a wall on a wide angle lens and pivoting around…the changing proximity of the foreground to the background will make your move look far more engaging and complicated than it actually is! Not every shot needs to be a clean shot either, and sometimes shooting through something (such as some leaves) will give greater depth and intrigue in your b-roll. Reveal shots are one of the easiest wins when it comes to impressing your client, all you have to do is start behind a wall and slide to reveal the action going on in the room, you don’t even need to pull focus.


Slow motion

Of course slow motion has to be on here, who doesn’t love slow motion? Using slow motion is definitely a cheat; the better cinematographers do not need to use slow motion, but that said often on a corporate job you don’t have time to set up your rented crane and bring in your Steadicam operator. Shooting slow motion has three benefits.

  •     Cinematic beauty — we can’t lie, slow motion just looks more cinematic, and make even the dullest tasks look beautiful.
  •     More time in the edit — Shoot your b-roll at 120fps and you’ll have 4x more footage to play around for in the edit.
  •     Hides shakes and poor camera work — If you are shooting mostly handheld it will help stabilise your movements, as well as giving you something usable in that clip you only managed to hit the focus for a split second.



Last but by no means least, coverage. Coverage, coverage, coverage.

    “What do you mean you didn’t get the shot?!”

Have you got that outside shot of the building? Did you make sure you captured that iconic pencil that was never mentioned in the brief or on the day? Cover your own back by picking up as much as you can think of that will be useful. Don’t get confused with overshooting, there’s nothing worse than coming back to hours of b-roll footage to sift through, but making sure you have captured one decent shot of everything that might be asked can be a saviour. A good tip is to write a check list the night before.

  •     Establishing shots of building and location
  •     Key people ‘hero shot’
  •     Key product, wide and macro
  •     People smiling in office
  •     The list goes on.

Hopefully these tips will help make you more efficient and help you cheat your way to a cinematic film! Now get shooting that b-roll…
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