We’ve all seen B-roll in our favorite content, but how does a filmmaker shoot cinematic B-roll footage without a big budget?
Our video below will take you through these considerations step-by-step so that you can learn how to shoot B-roll efficiently while also elevating your music video, commercials, and narrative work. Lezgo.
How to Shoot B-roll Video
Plan out your B-roll video shoot
You already know you need a plan, but what goes in your B-roll plan?
Well, it starts with the five Ws.
This is probably the most important aspect, and it should inform every decision you make. As mentioned in the video above, shot specs can change the way we receive and interpret footage with the same subject.
This is why you want to plan out specs on a detailed shot list:
You can use the same piece of B-roll footage cut with jolly music, ominous music, intense music, or inspirational music and each time viewers will get a different feeling about the video on screen.
You can amplify this feeling through visual means when you know the final purpose of your footage, and you can alter your shot specifications to capture B-roll that supports your intended use with greater precision.
Seldom will B-roll footage feature human subjects that aren’t extras, or ‘civilians’ going about their day, but it’s smart to identify beforehand what you may need like, say, a clip of a festival dancer at Carnivale.
Often B-roll will be of landmarks, exteriors, bodies of water, animals, machinery, or really anything that helps build a more complete picture. Identify what you might need to give your video some extra flavor.
Do you need B-roll video of a sunset? It would probably be unwise to show up to your location at 10:00pm, which is why you need to plan out the most appropriate time to shoot B-roll footage for your projects.
Consider permits and legal ramifications for where you shoot B-roll video. Also, don't record B-roll video of a community basketball court for that manufacturing plant exposé… unless it’s some super slick metaphor.
This is where your “why” comes in to play.
B-roll Footage Example
Maximize B-roll with video techniques
Use cinematic techniques like shallow depth of field, slow motion, and gimbals to maximize your b-roll. These techniques not only give you cinematic looking footage, but make better use of your time.
You can shoot with a shallow depth of field like F1.4 to blur out any distracting elements and to get that cinematic blurry background.
Shoot in slow motion frame rates like 60fps, 120fps, or even higher to turn one second of recording time into three seconds of footage. You can speed up your B-roll video in post if you want it to play in real-time.
Setup your camera on a dolly or gimbal to give each shot some cinematic camera motion, and remember that shots are like stories — they need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end… with some resolution.
B-roll Footage Example
How to shoot B-roll video example
Let’s say you have a script with a line of dialogue that reads:
“I buried her under that tree.”
So, your first inclination is to find a tree, maybe with some grass, and then film the tree and cut your B-roll into your edit right after this line.
Wait… this line can mean a lot of things, right?
Maybe they buried a loved one under a favorite tree on some property.
You can shoot your B-roll at eye-level, in real-time, and on a wide angle lens to catch a little sun flare, and add a subtle dolly movement.
Perhaps this is a serial killer who is confessing something to the police.
You can shoot this b-roll shot at low angle and dolly in quickly to emphasize the importance of this spot where she’s buried.
Each will require a different approach to make your B-roll footage more effective, because music and context will only take you so far.
Both of these shots are still B-roll, and can be captured with the same equipment and camera, but the angle and movement may be slightly different. With some simple planning and consideration, you can visually communicate different meanings with the same subject.
Ultimate guide to Camera Shots
Now you know how to shoot cinematic B-roll without breaking your budget. Check out our post on Ultimate guide to Camera Shots where we go over various camera shots along with helpful with examples.