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Four Steps To Better B-Roll

By Gary Hornstien on January 3, 2018

Happy New Year, folks! If you’re like me, you’re planning, strategizing and gearing up for a year full of stories, shoots, and edits. We could start the year off talking about scheduling or pre-production or time-lining, but there’s a good chance in the middle of your strat op, someone’s going to rush into your office and say, “we need to shoot that thing happening this weekend!” That’s right, folks. It’s time to get ready to shoot some b-roll.

If you shoot like me you only use about 10% of the b-roll you capture, maybe less. What if we could get that percentage up? That’d mean less time scrubbing thru your timeline to find the best (or let’s be honest, “usable”) shots and allow us more time fine-tuning the edit and color. So, with the new year upon us, let’s take a few minutes to check out some principles and begin shooting better b-roll.

1. Anticipate the Moments. Your b-roll won’t be moving unless you capture some real, authentic moments. Those can be easy to miss, though. So, how do we prepare for a future moment we haven’t experienced? With a mindset. It’s time to mentally be ready for any of these “visual crescendos.” That’s going to require a little knowledge of the event you’re about to shoot. Ask about it. You need to walk into the experience KNOWING when the stage lighting is going to change or when people are going to be greeting each other and when the big song the band is going to be playing will happen. You can’t anticipate EVERYTHING, but you can be in the best position – PREPARED – to capture the game-winning shot.

2. Look for Diversity. The more variety of people’s style, age, and environments you capture the more interesting your final edit will be. I get it, it can feel a little inauthentic, but sometimes that’s the role of a storyteller, to craft a moment, a phrase or a shot to move the audience to FEEL something. That’s all this is. Be mindful of capturing that diversity.

3. Change your Perspective. You were at the event, but what if your audience wasn’t? They need context. You can give that to them by shooting a wide, medium, and tight of every shot you can think of. If you’re shooting a worship service that would mean getting a wide shot of the room, a medium shot of the stage (where you’re likely to see someone on stage from head to toe), and a tight shot of a face or instrument. That’ll help with not only context but interest within your video.

4. Edit the Footage Yourself. This could be the best – and most surprising – tip of all. When you are the one tasked with editing a highlight video of YOUR b-roll, you will most definitely see the deficiencies in the moments you missed, the diversity you failed to find, and perspectives you skipped over. An additional tip, this is a great training tool for your interns and new hires. They’ll only have themselves to blame if they don’t have the b-roll they need and are less likely to make that mistake again.

5. Don’t Do it All Yourself. (Hey, Gary – I thought you said there were only four tips. Well, I like to give you more than you bargained for.) Shooting b-roll is a difficult job to do REALLY well, but an easy job to get started with. Use these moments to get more people involved. Ask that wedding videographer who should be volunteering with you to grab his camera and help you shoot the next event. Even if you’re shooting it as well, get him/her involved. It’s a low risk right?! Do this over and over and before you know it, you won’t be shooting EVERY event yourself and you’ll be a good steward of the resources God has placed around you: people. You can’t do it all yourself. It’s time to start thinking about how that could happen.

So, that’s that. Here’s to a year of shooting every service, story, conference, an event that needs b-roll. Happy new year and hit us back with any questions.

– Gary

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