How to shoot b-roll that enhances a video

By: Abe Loven

B-roll is the supplemental footage for a video, but it is vital for telling a good visual story. 

If used correctly, it can tell its own story that enhances the message of a video. Used incorrectly, it can distract from other content and ruin a video. 

Here are some guidelines for making sure that your b-roll will help your video be the best that it can be.

Make sure your b-roll is relevant

The biggest mistake an organization can make when getting b-roll is using footage that doesn’t relate to the video’s message. 

B-roll should add quality content to a promotional video – it’s not just filler. 

Each clip should be added for a specific purpose. In a video driven by narration or an interview, what the viewer sees on the screen should be related to what the audio is talking about. 

In a video without narration, camera shots should still be edited together in a logical sequence that clearly tells a story, no matter how small.

Look for points of interest, action and “moments”

Engaging video makes the viewer wish they could’ve been there to see it in person. B-roll shouldn’t be generic, boring stock footage.

When you’re out in the field wondering what shots to get, look for what catches your own eye. Pay attention to what grabs your interest, and then shoot it.

This could  be anything from simple human interaction to unexpected visual details, but it’s often the small things that add interest to a story. And don’t be afraid to bring the camera close to these details. 

Remember that in many great videos, up to 50 percent of the shots are close-ups. Keep this in mind when shooting.

Have a plan before shooting

Make a list of several ideas for interesting shots before you go out to shoot. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment while out grabbing footage and completely forget to get a shot that you need for your video. The list that you make should have a large variety of ideas, including shooting locations, people, actions and details that you want. 

Have several backup ideas in case one of them doesn’t pan out. And always shoot more footage than you think you’ll need. You can always edit out footage, but you’re out of luck if you didn’t get enough footage in the first place. 

This rule applies to each individual shot as well – always hold the shot for longer than you think you need to. On average, you’ll want to hold each shot for at least 10 to15 seconds before you stop recording. Shots that aren’t held for enough time can make an editor’s job a nightmare.

How to shoot b-roll that enhances a video