GEAR & TECHNIQUES FRAMES PER SECOND
The ABCs of B-roll
Great B-roll is the foundation of great video. BY GREG SCOBLETE
THE TERM “B-ROLL” may carry a faintly derogatory air, like the
“B-team” some of us were relegated to in high school sports. But
that’s merely the rhetorical baggage of the film era. In fact, B-roll
can be the visual engine driving your video narrative forward, or as
filmmaker Grant Slater says, B-roll is what “keeps people from being
bored” by talking heads.
Since B-roll usually constitutes the most visually interesting
and creative elements of any video project, it can be a challenge for
camera operators and directors to decide just what to shoot, how to
shoot it and how much footage they’ll ultimately need for a given
project. But it’s also an opportunity to show off your creative chops,
impress directors and make your mark on a project. We spoke with
several filmmakers to learn their B-roll tips.
PREPPING THE B-ROLL BAT TLEFIELD
Approaches to B-roll are as varied as the films and video projects one
can tackle. Some directors prefer to record B-roll themselves, while
others will entrust the duty to second (or third camera) operators.
For those shooting their own B-roll—like Slavik Boyechko and his
partner Travis Gilmour—keeping a running shot list in their heads, if
not formally on paper, ensures visual variety.
“The one question we ask whenever we’re doing a shoot is,
LEF T: Jonathan Chapman’s series for United Healthcare featured 60–90 second
videos culled from nearly 30 minutes of footage. BOT TOM: B-roll may sound like the
video equivalent of the boondocks, but it’s a perfect avenue for showing off your
creative chops, says director Jonathan Chapman.