At the beginning of this week, we received a bad news that one of our protagonists said he did not want to take part in another documentary filming since he had several similar shootings before, which brought a great inconvenience to our shooting work. What made me feel angry is that I had given a detailed introduction that our project is a documentary themed entrepreneurship when I first contacted him a few months ago. Why he agreed at that time, while regretted before the shooting? It really annoyed me, but as the producer, I had to comfort my team members and tried my hardest to find an alternative protagonist. Fortunately, I quickly contacted an entrepreneur engaging in the beauty industry. She agreed to participate in our shooting nicely, and invited us to shoot her birthday party as the b-roll next week.
Meanwhile, we have started the shooting of the first protagonist Eric. I prepared all equipment beforehand, and then went to Eric’s home with my team members. Because of time restriction, this was our only chance to shoot in his home, so we filmed the b-roll at home as much as possible. After that, we rushed to his company with Eric and shot the interview part. On the road to the company, we shot the footage in the car, but when we arranging it after coming back, we found the pictures too shaking and there are very few available materials. Thanks very much for every member’s efforts, which enabled us to complete most of the shooting smoothly within one day.
B-roll footage is very important for documentaries, I found some tips can help us shooting B-roll:
Start with your wide lens. When you arrive at your location, before you meet your subject, quickly shoot the exterior with a tilt or pan, or a diagonal combination of a pan and tilt.
Shoot entrances & exits. When you shoot your subject walking or moving — e.g., as they walk into your location, let them enter and exit the frame without following them with the camera.
Capture comings & goings in one clip. You can get a shot of the subject coming towards you andwalking away from you, even with the subject walking in and out of the frame. After they walk past you, quickly pan your camera to a position ahead of the subject; then shoot them entering the frame.
Lens changes take up valuable shooting time. So while you still have your wide lens on, shoot all your wide shots, including a pan/tilt establishing the inside of your location, a shot above the shoulder, a low shot looking up at the subject, and a wide slider shot (if you have a slider).
Find a foreground. When you change to your zoom lens, take a couple more slider shots. Find a foreground like a doorframe, or any out-of-focus foreground, to slide into a “reveal” shot.
Do background checks. Always consider your background when framing a shot. When you focus on an object or your subject, think about how you could move the camera to showcase a better background (even if it’s blurry). Avoid bright windows, and try to shoot your subject with a lot of space behind them, to increase the depth of field.
Compose with layers. Similarly, when you can, try to shoot with multiple layers in your frame, including a foreground and background.
Make moving pictures. After framing your shot, take a moment to “move into” the image. You can do this with a tilt or pan into your subject, with a tripod, or you can move into your subject from out-of-focus to in-focus. This definitely helps with editing. And when you’re handheld or on a monopod, you can move your body slowly to create slight camera motion.
Blur for focus. Just like in your slider shots, shooting with a deliberate blurry foreground helps the viewer focus on the subject, and creates a nice distant perspective of us looking into an intimate moment.
Try to avoid conversation with your subject. For B-Roll that will go over an interview audio, it’s easier to use shots of your subject when they’re not moving their mouth talking to you.
Add angles. After you think you’ve got your primary shots, look around for interesting shots or angles that can add variety. For example, with a monopod, you can establish really high angle shots, or turn the monopod upside down for low shots, and later flip it in post-production. Make sure to get at least 5 seconds per shot, preferably longer, before moving on.
Shoot first (ask questions later). Most importantly, if you spot anything happening that you may not get a chance to shoot again, quickly focus and shoot it for at least 4-5 seconds without adjusting camera exposure or focal length, to make sure you get the shot without considering the ideal aesthetic. Then if you have more time, adjust the camera settings and shoot again. The last thing you want is an important moment becoming unusable because you’re moving, zooming, or adjusting exposure or white balance while recording.
Combine the ingredients, mix together, and serve. Once you start laying down B-Roll in your edit, you’ll want to build sequences of your different shots and angles, and go back to the interview shot as a transition between sequences and locations. A typical edit would look like this: wide interior pan, medium shot looking up at subject, over-the-shoulder close-up of hands at work, interview shot, and then new sequence. Whenever your subject is talking about really deep stuff, and you want your viewers to pay attention, use B-Roll without a lot of action, or better yet, close-ups of the subject’s face for that deep, introspective look. Add music, export, share, and then go eat an ice cream cone, you deserve it.
Slavik Boyechko. by Slavik Boyechko
Boyechko, S 2014. How to shoot B-roll, http://transom.org/2014/shooting-b-roll/.