Shooting BRoll

This was an original post from a couple years ago. This is something we teach our Highlands College students still to this day. I decided to repost and add some more to it. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us some of your tips! If you don’t know, b-roll is video footage of something that is shown while the talent is speaking. For example, if your pastor is promoting small groups via video, it helps to have footage of some small group gatherings over him talking about it.

Here are some easy steps to ensure getting great b-roll and some things to avoid that will make your video editor (which in many cases is yourself) a happy camper.

1. Find a subject.

The worst mistake you can do when shooting BRoll is to record video and not have a subject or a point of interest in your shots. If you don’t have a subject you don’t have a shot. Find a subject, get a clear shot, and wait for a point of action before you stop recording. Then repeat.


2. Shoot subjects sequentially.

When you’re shooting a subject, try to get a wide shot, a medium shot, and a close-up. This ensures contrast for the video editor when cutting between two clips. Videos just look better when shots cut between wides, mediums, and close-ups. Then if the subject is continuing the action, move location to get a different angle and get the same thing from another angle. This gives you a reverse shot of the action and makes your broll have higher production value, tells a better story and gives it a cinematic feel.

2. Don’t be zoom happy!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a shooter can’t keep his hand off the zoom and never leaves me (the editor) enough room to get a good clip selection. When you’re shooting, think about how what you’re recording will look like in the video. Find your shot, push record, and then let your shot sit for six or seven seconds. Now you’ve got a solid wide shot and are free to zoom in and get your close up.

3. Monopods aren’t for losers.

You may think you have steady hands, but when your shot ends up on the projector at church, those handheld clips show their shakiness a whole lot more than it looked in your viewfinder. Get yourself a light tripod or monopod and start using it for gathering b-roll. You will be amazed at how good your stabilized footage will look. Handheld is necessary many times, but try it out. Your editor will love you.


4. Get a WHOLE BUNCH of footage.

Every shooter finds themselves at a place where they think in their head, “Okay, I’ve gotten enough of this stuff.” Guess what… you don’t. There have only been a few videos I’ve edited where I have had an over abundance of b-roll shots. You ALWAYS want more. Ask anybody who has shot a wedding, and they’ll tell you that when you think you have enough, it means you need at least ten more different types of shots for the edit.

5. Move around.

It doesn’t matter how many shots you get of your baptism service if you stand in the same place for all of them. Zooming in and out isn’t enough. If you need ten clips of people getting dunked, then your shots are going to start looking very boring at the third or forth clip from Mr. Lazy Legs. Get different perspectives. Shoot at various angles. Don’t be afraid to get really close to your subjects. Think about how what you have in your frame is going to look like after the previous clip you just shot. Thinking like a video editor will change the way you shoot video for the better.

6. Don’t be scared to direct your shots.

Just because you are documenting an event doesn’t mean you cant have some sort of control over your shots. Be a part of the experience. Engage with people if you feel comfortable to do so. People who might be in your shot may feel uncomfortable just because they don’t know what to do – so tell them!

• Get a shot of something and have somebody walk into or across the frame.

• Have the person repeat the action if you didn’t get the shot the first time.

• Get them to smile

People just don’t want to look stupid, so interacting with them may put them at ease more than ignoring them.