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Basic Videotaping Techniques-Shooting B-Roll and Getting a Variety of Shots

To do it well, video editing and visual storytelling requires an abundance of visual and auditory elements to work with.  As you piece your show together in the editing room, you will be grateful to the field crews for getting as many angles and scopes of the action as possible.

Generally speaking, your final show will be more appealing to a viewer if your visuals contain lots of variety and you present them in a fast pace, changing shots rapidly.

The videos on this page are two I created for Darlene Quinn, an author who wishes to promote her award-winning books and increase the number of invitations she receives for speaking engagements.  My goal as the video creator was to help her brand herself and make clear the benefits of hearing her speak.  As with many projects, I made two versions, one longer than the other.

 

This post is an analysis of the video from a video production standpoint, not a marketing or content standpoint

If you watch the videos, you will see where I took multiple shots of her books from every conceivable angle possible. I used these shots in long swaths repeatedly in the finished videos. This project was a good example of having to manufacture compelling visuals when in truth you have nothing exciting to work with.  I had some books.  I love books, but they just are not as visually exciting as explosions, sorry.  But regardless, from a video production standpoint, all subjects should be covered from multiple angles and multiple distances.  Movie Making 101:  wide shots, medium shots, close-ups and extreme close-ups edited together into a sequence.

So, I make the books as visually dramatic as possible using every angel and scope I can think of.  I took thirty-nine shots of the one book to be exact. Now that is a lot of shots of a book! Video like this is called b-roll. B-roll is an extremely common term in video making and it means the shots you use to create your story. B-roll does NOT include interviews. Interviews are known as A-roll, but that is not as common of a term as b-roll.

To edit a fast-pace, visually spectacular video you need A LOT of b-roll shots to work with, so you have to get creative.  In this case, the visual possibilities were slim.  I had a book and a website.  Talk about milking it for all it’s worth…I took nearly forty shots of just the book! This way, I could keep a fast pace to the video and not just hang on one boring shot of the book.

That kind of video variety usually surprises video novices, but it’s standard technique in the professional world.  Take a look at just about any show on TV.  If you want to be able to switch shots every 5-10 seconds like a professionally produced TV show, you need as much variety as you can possibly get.

By watching the videos, you can better understand how the technique works.

No matter what I am shooting, I always use this technique to one degree or another.  You always need as much variety with your b-roll as possible. When the subject matter is a book, I have to carry it to extremes or I simply won’t be able to edit a video of the caliber I want. More visually stimulating stories would feature objects, or people, who actually move so getting a variety of b-roll is easier but trust me it is almost always a challenge. This video shows you my raw b-roll.

If you want to learn to be a videographer, learn to see video in individual shots:  tiny segments of the world that have meaning and help tell a story.  When you really look at the book cover for Webs of Power, you can easily see the multitude of possibilities I was able to capture.  I could have gotten another twenty shots but I didn’t need THAT many.  🙂

Look around your environment right now and see if you can duplicate the practice.  Isolate at least ten different shots–  close, medium or wide– of the room you are in, or, of an object in the room you are in.  That’s video making in a nutshell!

The more you get into professional-quality video making, the more you will see the word around you in terms of b-roll shots.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips
Lorraine Grula

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula has enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. Wow Lorraine! That was so interesting how you took those 39 clips plus multiple other shots and put it all together for that masterful creation. You certainly have a voice for video. You’ve taught me to take lots of photos of products I want to sell online and piece them together like you did. Thank you so much for these tips! Bill Cobb

  2. Thanks Bill! You are more than welcome. I always love to help people learn to make video. Beginners usually have no idea how to milk all the video possibilities out of whatever they are taping. That is why the book is such a good example. 39 shots of one book? Good grief! That’s video making in a nutshell!
    Thanks for being such a loyal reader Bill!
    Lorraine

  3. This is very nice Lorraine! I learn so much in this short video. I really do appreciate
    all that you are doing.

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