Creating Useful B-roll Footage

The B-roll refers to supplemental or alternate footage that is used to intercut with the main shot in an interview or documentary. A good cameraman knows how important the B-roll footage is. Your B-Roll can make or break your piece, and there are some very simple decisions you need to make that will get you out of any tricky editorial situation.

As a rule, you should always shoot one hour of extra footage for every minute of final footage you shoot. When you do this, you will have it much easier when it comes to finding cutaways to cover your talent. It is now also easier to cover long, visually uninteresting interviews.

When all the pauses and 'uhhm's are removed, there will be about fifteen to twenty edits in a minute for a normal interview, and every one of them needs to be covered over with B-Roll, so you can see why you need all of this footage.

Creating good B-roll footage

Usually the interview is shot first because all essential participants are available. Also, their comments may provide more information about the story. After the interview, you start shooting your B-roll. Some editors or directors give you a list that tells you in detail what he needs, and what he wants.

Before the shoot starts, look around for shot possibilities and write them down. Locations scout before the shoot starts helps tremendously. Also make sure you speak to the subject at hand and try to find out some shots that will work with the overall theme.

  • Look for small things happening in the background, such as human interaction, or someone staring.
  • Check for signs, especially signs that are related to the interview subject.
  • Create specific and general shots that will provide visual support to whatever is mentioned in the interview.
  • Don't forget to shoot enough close-up shots.
  • Create some moving shots. Whether it's a pan, zoom or rack focus, this is where you want things livened up.

Your Comments

3 months ago
Thanks Scott, I've edited the text.
scott pharr
3 months ago
Just found this website and falling in love with it. Just wanted to give you a heads up that the second paragraph in "creating good B-roll footage", It says 'soot' instead of 'shoot'
Keep up the good work.

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