If you have good interviews, that’s one thing. It’s another to have strong visuals.
B-roll is the non-interview footage. It’s the shots of your programs, events, people, etc., and it visually tells the story of who you are and what your organization has to offer.
B-roll footage can add depth, context and visual interest to any video you do, and it can keep your audience engaged in your content.
Most marketing people will collect B-roll from their phones or personal cameras, but they will fail to learn the videographer. So the visuals will remain stale, and the quality will be lackluster.
You deserve top-notch work that is clearly and consistently improving.
Here is a deeper exploration into how you can shoot any video significantly better.
Plan with Purpose
Before picking up your camera, take the time to plan your shots with a clear purpose in mind. You would, first, need to have a grasp of the story you want to tell, and what message you want to communicate to your target audience.
Then, ask yourself:
What do I want our audience to see in addition to the interviews?
Do the visuals need to match what is being said, or do I need to show a little more?
We create a shot list or storyboard to map out the types of shots we’d like to get.
We’ll map out different kinds of shots, and we try to get around 60 percent of them. We’ll include reference shots as an example. This helps us sketch out the ideal video we’d like to create, and it keeps our team focused on the end goal and vision.
A shot list may include information such as locations, shot descriptions, camera angles, camera movements, actors or subjects involved, and any specific details or instructions for each shot. Additionally, you can reference your shot list in editing, though don’t be disappointed if it makes sense to veer a different direction than your original plan.
What’s Inside The Frame?
Composition is the foundation of powerful B-roll.
Composition refers to the arrangement and organization of visual elements within a video frame (the image). This involves the deliberate positioning, framing, and movement of subjects, objects, and backgrounds to create a visually appealing and engaging video. It helps convey meaning; it sets the mood; and it guides the viewer’s attention.
When you think about the composition, you’ll be making your visuals way more interesting than a boring, motionless shot of, say, the outside of your building.
Don’t be afraid to try different angles, perspectives, and camera movements to create visually dynamic shots. It keeps your visual way more interesting than a still shot showing a building. Utilize techniques such as leading lines and depth of field to guide the viewer’s attention and add depth to your visuals.
Key elements of video composition include:
- Framing: How the subject or objects are positioned within the frame, taking into account the rule of thirds, symmetry or asymmetry.
- Balance: The distribution of visual elements within the frame to create a sense of, well, balance or imbalance.
- Leading Lines: The use of lines within the frame, such as roads, fences or natural features, to guide the viewer’s gaze and create a sense of depth or movement.
- Depth of Field: Modifying what’s in focus and what’s not.
- Movement: How the camera moves within the frame, including pans, tilts, tracking shots or handheld movements to add excitement to your shots.
- Lighting: The use of natural or artificial light sources to light up the scene and create a specific mood or atmosphere. If you’re in a dark room or area, it might be hard to clearly communicate a message.
How To Diversify Your Shots
B-roll should provide context and add depth to your story. Look for opportunities to capture close-ups, details, and establishing shots that showcase the environment, people or objects relevant to your organization and the message you’re trying to communicate. Diverse shots help your audience better understand the main idea.
Here’s how B-roll can add context:
- Environmental Context: B-roll can capture the surrounding environment, location or setting where the story takes place. It helps to establish the atmosphere, provide a sense of place, and immerse the audience in the world of the story. For example, if you’re documenting a nonprofit project in a rural village, B-roll shots of the village landscape, local architecture, or natural surroundings can provide a better understanding of the community and its context.
- Visualizing Experiences: B-roll can visually depict experiences, actions or things that are difficult to convey through interviews. For instance, if you’re highlighting the impact of one of your programs, get B-roll shots of individuals participating in the program or engaging in activities.
- Supporting Information: B-roll can show your audience what you do. It’s one thing to tell them, it’s another to show them
- Adding Emotion and Depth: B-roll footage has the power to evoke emotions and add depth to the story. For example, if you film one of your program’s, you’ll have on camera moments of happiness, joy, fulfillment (I hope), and that will exponentially help the storyline. B-roll can also show how troubling certain situations are. Personally, I have plenty of visuals of places that were inaccessible to me, and — you guessed it — it helped prove my point. 😁
- Transition and Continuity: In a perfect world, you want your footage to guide your viewers on a visual journey. B-roll footage can serve as transitional elements between scenes or interviews, maintaining a smooth flow and avoiding abrupt cuts. Check out our piece on Scherrone for an illustration of this. Notice how the first shot sets the scene: Scherrone’s neighborhood in Virginia. Next, we transition to inside Scherron’e kitchen, which is in the neighborhood. We cut to the interview, and switch back to a tight shot of item in their kitchen. This helped our viewers understand where they were (a neighborhood), and where we were taking them (to an apartment).
Wes Anderson is a highly acclaimed filmmaker, and he is known for his meticulous attention to detail and carefully composed frames. His films, such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” are visually impressive, with symmetrical compositions and a vibrant color.
Anderson often incorporates close-ups and precise framing to highlight intricate details within the scene. He pays attention to set design, costumes, and props, ensuring that every element contributes to the overall aesthetic and storytelling. This creates a visually rich and immersive experience for the audience.
Terrence Malick captures the poetic capabilities of visuals. In works like “The Tree of Life,” “Days of Heaven,” and “The Thin Red Line,” Malick highlights the natural world and the intricacies of humans. He uses shots that reveal the smallest details — blades of grass, sunlight filtering through leaves, movement of water — and it creates a sense of intimacy and connectedness.
Vary Shot Types
As we’ve discussed, mix wide shots to establish the scene, medium shots to capture interactions or actions, and close-ups for detail or emotion. Try slowly moving your camera from left to right (pan), up an down (tilt), and following a subject (tracking). It’s interesting, and it was one of our focuses when I worked for the Bg Ten Network.
There are several different types of shots you can experiment with.
Here are a few:
- Wide Shot: The establishing shot. This shot captures a wide view of the scene or location. It sets the context and provides an overview of the environment.
- Medium Shot: This shot frames the subject or subjects from the waist up, similar to how we frame our interviews.
- Close-Up Shot: This shot focuses on a specific subject, typically showing only their face or a specific detail. Think about the tight / close-up shot of the fake plant in Scherrone’s piece. These types of shots can convey emotions, highlight important details or intensify the viewer’s connection to the subject.
- Over-the-Shoulder (OTS) Shot: This shot is taken from behind one person, showing the subject in the foreground and part of another person’s shoulder and head in the frame. It can establish the perspective of the person in the foreground and creates a sense of interaction or conversation.
- Point-of-View (POV) Shot: A POV shot is captured from the perspective of a character, showing what they would see. It immerses the viewer in the character’s experience and can evoke a sense of empathy or identification. My accessibility video from college was shot entirely from my POV.
- Aerial Shot: An aerial shot is captured from an elevated position, such as a drone. It offers a unique perspective and can be used to showcase landscapes, architecture, or large-scale events.
I know this may sound like too much work. I understand, trust me. I’m with you.
Your skills are not going to improve if you don’t allocate a little time to getting better.
Just try out a couple concepts here and there to see how they feel and look. If something really pops, you can put it into your video.
If not, no big deal. We’re all learning.