It’s easy for B-roll to become the afterthought of most film shoots. Largely considered supplemental footage, many crews will not put much effort into planning and shooting it—which can be a costly mistake in the long run.
While A-roll is the footage that tells the story through interviews, dialogue or text, B-roll is the footage that shows the story beyond words and it should be considered as equally important in crafting a video that is multi-dimensional, visually appealing and interesting—especially in destination marketing.
Not sure how to improve your B-roll footage? Don’t fret, because we’ve compiled a list of tips below:
Plan Your B-Roll Shots and Make a List of Your Equipment
It’s easy to get absorbed in dialogue, interviews or the script of a video. This often leads to leaving B-roll to the last minute. But, you can avoid falling into this trap by planning your B-roll well. For example, you should make a full list of the different shots you intend to take, the angles and perspectives that you’d like to film, in addition to the tools and equipment you’ll need to get this footage.
Also, ask yourself important questions, such as
- Do you need tripods or GorillaPods?
- How many people do you need to help film?
- Will there be action shots, landscape shots or aerial shots? If so, you’ll need drones, go pros, cranes or dollies.
You may need to divide your B-roll list into essential and non-essential footage too. This will help you determine which shots you must have for telling your story, and which ones you can leave until you’ve finished everything else. If you’ve really planned well, you should have time for everything. If things go awry, however, then at least you’ll have enough footage to complete your video. Planning well also helps determine the allocation of budget for film resources.
Connect Your B-Roll to the Narrative
B-Roll needs to connect to and fill the narrative that you are creating. Stunning mountain shots are impressive, but if your video is meant to highlight the diversity of your terrain, then you’d also want close-ups of various environments, including flat, rocky, earthy, green, lush or barren landscapes. Likewise, if your dialogue discusses travel or the experience of travelling, then you need shots that express this journey, from packing a suitcase to taking a taxi to opening a map.
Consider Lighting and Time
If you leave B-roll until the end of the day, you may miss the best lighting. Alternatively, depending on the piece you are filming, you might need to film the B-roll at the start of the day to capture that sunrise or early morning light. All these variables make time management essential to successful B-roll filming.
A warm sunset glow creates a vastly different film atmosphere than bright daylight, and these details must be thought of in advance. You might not have the resources and time to always get the best lighting, in which case you’ll have to think about alternative shots that can create the same atmosphere or message you’re trying to get across. Or, you might have to rely on stock B-roll footage. The important part is knowing all of these details before you film, so you’re not frantically trying to figure out how to get that mountain shot when there might be perfectly useable footage in your stock folder.
A great way to ensure you understand how time, weather and lighting will affect your shots is to visit your filming location prior to filming. Observe the areas with lots of light, large shadows, obstacles or visual impediments. Do research on filming in the area. Find out from others what pitfalls to avoid and what times of day are best.
Another trick experts like Matti Haapoja of TravelFeels recommend is setting up a time-lapse camera in addition to your other cameras. He says, “Time-laps can be a really great way to show the passage of time. The speeding up of things just shows that, okay, time has passed now and then you’re in a new place.” Not to mention, if you end up missing some critical footage to explain narrative elements related to time, time-lapse will cover all your bases.
More, More, More
When in doubt, always go for more B-roll footage than less. Anyone who has edited a video knows that the more B-roll you have, the better the story you can tell. Additionally, any gaps in the narrative due to poor interviews, acting or other unforeseen errors in A-roll shooting can easily be fixed if you have enough B-roll at your disposal.