Turning your B-roll into A-roll

Apr 24, 2017

8 tips for upping your B-roll game

B-roll is the bland but soothing footage that plays in some videos while the interviewee is talking about their company.

It’s usually of people working together and shaking hands and doing other weirdly stilted activities. Good B-roll is what separates a generic corporate clip, from a video that tells an engaging story. It’s worth getting right, and these eight tips will help you nail it.

Get slidin'

A slider is an easy shortcut to beautiful footage. I don’t know why an ancient part of our brain associates sliding footage with premium content, but you’d be a fool not to capitalise on it. Investing in a good slider, and a camera operator who knows how to use it, will give you at least a dozen b-roll shots that show the viewer you mean business.

Shoot in 50 FPS

Capturing all of your footage at 50 frames per second gives you the option to add some seamless slow motion to your final video. Slow-mo isn’t just for sporting videos or over the top Michael Bay fight scenes anymore. Even the most subtle and understated bits of footage, a smile or a handshake, can be made more powerful in slow-mo.

And in 4k

Obviously, you’re not going to export the final video out in 4K, because your viewer probably doesn’t have a $30,000 TV capable of showing that resolution. But by shooting in 4K, and exporting in HD, you give yourself the option to crop and zoom on your B-roll, giving you flexibility in the final edit. Don’t like that boom mic in the corner? Just zoom in 85% and cut it out!

Find those little human moments

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling life insurance, or a Las Vegas holiday, the viewer will be engaged by human moments, specifically emotional ones. So when you’re filming an exchange, even something as boring as a handshake, make sure to capture the smiles, chuckles, nods, and anything else human. In the editing process, you’ll see how powerful it is to use a one-second clip that captures the focal point of an interaction.

Organic footage is best

You need a crew that is reactive enough to capture these little human moments as they happen organically. A film shoot will always feature lots of behind the scenes ‘real’ moments, as the unsure group nervously try to act on camera. The best shots are often when the camera person gets candid footage of the group acting naturally, so always be on your toes!

Man-made footage can still be good

If you need footage of a team going through an ideation process, the absolute best practice is to organise for your crew to be there during the actual event. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible, as clients rarely decide to have a video made until after the project has been successfully made. So the next best thing is to get that same group of people to recreate the process at a later date. To make this appear as organic as possible, get as many of the real original resources to set the scene, and then direct the team throughout the shoot. Be prepared for people to drop out, as employees are usually busy, and make up for it with flexible directing.

Don’t be too literal

If the script talks about integration between two separate computer systems, you don’t necessarily have to spend two hours recreating that exact scene. A more generalised and emotive scene, such as employees at keyboards, will actually be more engaging for the viewer if it’s beautifully shot. Ultimately it’s more important to have an engaging shot that grabs attention, even if it isn’t a literal translation of the script.

Don't forget hero shots

A perfect example of this catch-all piece of emotive b-roll is the hero shot; footage that beautifully captures your interviewee in their element. They could be staring at the skyline, typing away at a windowsill, or mentoring a younger employee. Usually, it’s a close-up, or medium close-up, that uses focus pulls, lighting flares, or any other trick the cinematographer can think of, that captures who the subject is. You’d be amazed how well these shots engage the audience, create an emotional connection, and give the interviewee credibility.

Light Creative is a Melbourne-based creative, content, and digital agency.