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Three Quick Ways to Make Your B-roll Better

As a producer, I log hours and hours of video. There are three mistakes that I frequently see. They cut across all levels of experience. Fortunately, they’re easy to fix.

Don’t Talk When Shooting B-roll

It’s easy to think that you won’t need audio when you’re shooting visual sequences. But the truth is, b-roll is far more dynamic when it includes natural sound. B-roll with sound can be used for pacing between sections of your project or to cover interview sound bites and provide a rich texture.

If you talk while shooting, you lose this opportunity. You’re left with just visuals. While you can sometimes get away with this, say when you use music, it’s far better to have the option of using natural sound. If you have it, chances are that you’ll find a use for it.

Remember, no matter how softly you speak, the camera microphone will hear you. So once you set your shot, stop talking.

Don’t Take Still Pictures While Someone is Shooting Video

Sometimes photographers work alongside videographers. In these situations it’s critical to take turns shooting. If you don’t, you’ll inevitably record the sound of the still camera’s shutter. Nothing ruins a scene faster.

Working in teams is almost a prerequisite for creating great stories. It’s something we believe in and preach at our Storytelling Workshops. It’s essential that still and video photographers not only take turns shooting but also have an open and continuous dialogue about how to best approach each scene so that they are always working together.

Hold Your Shots

Too often I see video shots that are simply not long enough. I think this is because still photographers are trained to be on the move, looking for the next shot.

When using a video camera, however, one generally stays in place and lets the action flow past the camera. Video unfolds.

A good rule of thumb is once you have set up your shot and begun to record, leave the camera alone for the next 20 seconds. Don’t do anything. Your instincts will scream, “I’ve got this. I need to get other shots, now, now, now.” Ignore your instincts. This is how video works, you let the action happen before you.

When it comes to shooting b-roll, this is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn.


For more information on shooting b-roll, check out the MediaStorm Field Guide and MediaStorm‘s Online Training.

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