What is B Roll

All right what is B Roll?

“In film and Television Production, B-Roll, B Roll, B-Reel or B Reel is supplemental or alternatives footage intercut with the main shot. The term A-Roll referring to the main footage has fallen out of usage.”

So, for example if I’m talking about snowboarding behind an ATV and how fun it is, this right here is the A Roll, we don’t really call it the A Roll but it would be the A Roll and then these are the B Roll clips showing how I’m suiting up getting ready to snowboard behind an ATV.

These are the B Roll clips and now we’re back to the A Roll so that’s what the B Roll clips are.

So what’s the point of B Roll?

Well it’s to put visuals to the things that you’re talking about.

In an ideal world your B Roll fits really well with the things that are being talked about or the overall theme of the video. It’s so much better to show and tell instead of just telling the things that you’re trying to get across.

Usually for me I like to make my B Roll really nice and cinematic that’s kind of my style. But not all B Roll has to be this epic 120 frames per second cinematic eye candy as long as the B Roll fits your video, then that’s good. It doesn’t have to be 120 frames per second like a lot of people think.

And there is nothing wrong about 120fps, I just want to say that you don’t have to use it.

There’s all sort of different ways of showing B Roll. Find out what is the best way for your video and do it that way.

B Roll should enhance your storyline. So if I’m taking about how I love travelling to warm places, I’m gonna show clips from Maui or somewhere like that and not clips from Iceland where it’s not warm. And okay that’s really obvious but sometimes it’s not as obvious what kind of B Roll to show and a lot of people show just unrelated B roll and that gets boring really fast. The brain kind of tunes out because it doesn’t understand why are you showing this clip. This has nothing to do with the things that you’re talking about.

Unrelated B Roll can be really distracting so you need to really think about what fits your storyline. And it doesn’t have to be just, you know literal B Roll of the thing that you’re talking about. You can symbolise things or you can have an overall narrative over time. Or you can use things like passage of time. This is one of the things that a lot of vloggers kind of miss out in their videos, they go from one place to the next without any kind of B Roll in between.

And B Roll is a really good way of just showing that time has passed from this point to the next. So, if you’re traveling by car, get a few shots of you driving in a car, if you’re flying somewhere, a few shots in there…anything to kind of link the two things together.

Time lapse can also be a really great way to just show passage of time but just you know the speeding up of things just shows that okay time has passed now. And then you’re in a new place.

Okay, how can we make sure that we get the best B Roll for every single video we make?

I’m gonna give you guys a few tips and I’m going to use the snowboarding ATVing that we did with Peter as kind of an example for this.

Number one and I’m always talking about this is, planning it. Plan your shoot out, plan what kind of B Roll you need and how you’re gonna get it. What kind of equipment are you gonna use to get that B Roll.

So think about your storyline, what’s going on if you’re doing an interview of a surfer, you’re gonna have some surfing footage in there, maybe he’s waxing his board, anything like that. Maybe you’re talking about your hometown, so show some clips of your hometown, or in this case we were ATV-ing behind a snowboard so there was just a ton of different B Roll we could get setting up for it and actually riding around, all that stuff.

But you’ll also need to plan how you’re gonna capture that?

So what kind of gear are you going to use? For example with the snowboarding we use some GoPros and then we had some Gorilla paws just stationary so we could just drive by it because we didn’t have anybody else filming us. So we really had to think about how are we gonna get enough footage even though nobody else is filming us.

If we would have gone there for example without GoPros, without thinking about it; we would have missed a nice bit of B Roll getting those GoPro action shots. So plan out what kind of shots you need and how are you are gonna get those shots.

Number two is coverage. I’ve talked about this before, don’t just film random shots, film them kind of in sequence. Film a wide shot, film some medium shots, film some close-ups, film all sorts of different angles, so that you have enough when you go to edit.

You can never have too much B Roll. So again, with our snowboarding we could have just filmed the actual snowboarding but no. we filmed Peter suiting up, me suiting up, putting on our helmets getting the tow rope ready. Putting on the snowboard, turning on the ATV, all that stuff we filmed because the more B Roll we have, the nicer edit we can make, and the better story we can tell instead of just going from me talking and vlogging to all of a sudden being behind a snowboard. We have this nice build up to the action.

You’re gonna have a way better time in your edit because you’re not gonna be struggling to find the right shots. Or you’re gonna be struggling because you don’t have enough shots. And you’re also gonna be telling a better story.

Number three, be creative.

Figure out some really cool different kinds of shots once you’ve gotten your basic kind of coverage shots, think about what kind of interesting creative angles you can get? We were trying to rack our brains where we could stick the GoPro and it wasn’t really working out, but go through that process of thinking about what kind of creative angles you can get because those are sometimes the coolest shots in the whole video and because they’re not your typical shots, people are kind of wowed by those shot.

This is the rig that I used to get that intro shot. I put some plastic wrap in here so it wouldn’t get my lens all dirty. And then I opened it up and I could still film at the same time.

So I went through the trouble of just for that one shot bringing up the whole thing and I think it pays off. I think it looks cool, it’s an interesting way to open up the video, so in your B Roll think about how you can be creative.

Number four, I would say take your time with B Roll. A lot of people just kind of rush with B roll on it: Oh that’s good enough.

Do not say that’s good enough.

B Roll is probably one of the most important things in your video. This is really the place where your footage has an opportunity to shine, where you can really flex your creative muscles and show what you’re capable of.

In any given portfolio or reel when people show off kind of their work, it’s all the B Roll, you’re not showing these talking faces very much, because the B Roll is the really high quality stuff. So don’t rush it. This is where you have the chance to shine and kind of show what you’re made up of. If it doesn’t look good, switch it up, try something different, keep working at it, until you have some really nice looking B Roll.

And one of the big things here is to use light properly, that’s really gonna help you out. So trying different angles to work with the available light because a lot of times we don’t have a light setup, use that light and you’re gonna get really nice B Roll.

With B Roll do not say good enough, keep working at it, make it the best it can be.

Number five, always leave time for B Roll.

B Roll can sometimes be like the last thing on the To-Do list like… alright let’s just get some B Roll if we only have five more minutes, let’s just do this really quickly and that can be one of the worst things for your videos because the B Roll is so important. And I’m guilty of this especially with YouTube, there’s so many times where I’m just wishing in the edit that I had some more B Roll to make it a little bit more interesting, or to show what’s going on. But because I didn’t leave enough time, I don’t have enough B Roll.

So make sure you’re prioritising B Roll especially if you have a crew that you’re working with make sure there’s enough time to shoot B Roll, in between the interviews or whatever else you’re doing so there’s some kind of practical tips on how to get really good B Roll. There’s all sorts of creative stuff that we can do, think about composition and lighting and lens choices and all those things but these are the practical things that you can kind of ensure that you’re getting the best possible B Roll for every single video that you’re working on. You want to be consistent and these things are going to keep you consistent.

What is VOX-POP?

In broadcasting, vox populi (/ˈvɒks ˈpɒpjuːli/, /-laɪ/ voks pop-ew-lee, -lye) is an interview with members of the public. Vox populi is a Latin phrase that literally means “voice of the people”.

Man on the street– A vox pop interview

Usually the interviewees are shown in public places, and supposed to be giving spontaneous opinions in a chance encounter – unrehearsed persons, not selected in any way. As such, broadcast journalists almost always refer to them as the abbreviated vox pop.

In U.S. broadcast journalism it is often referred to as a man on the street interview or MOTS.

Because the results of such an interview are unpredictable at best, usually vox pop material is edited down very tightly. This presents difficulties of balance, in that the selection used ought to be, from the point of view of journalistic standards, a fair cross-section of opinions.

Although the two can be quite often confused, a vox pop is not a form of a survey. Each person is asked the same question; the aim is to get a variety of answers and opinions on any given subject. Journalists are usually instructed to approach a wide range of people to get varied answers from different points of view. The interviewees should be of various ages, sexes, classes and communities so that the diverse views and reactions of the general people will be known.

Generally, the vox pop question will be asked of different persons in different parts of streets or public places. But as an exception, in any specific topic or situation which is not concerned to general people, the question can be asked only in a specific group to know what the perception/reaction is of that group to the specific topic or issue; e.g., a question can be asked to a group of students about the quality of their education.

With increasing public familiarity with the term, several radio and television programs have been named “vox pop” in allusion to this practice.

What is the Cinematography?

We love cinema. No mater how much the form of the audiences and distribution may have changed, we’ve been telling stories in motion ever since Lumière Brothers first brought us this gift, and sense that Inception, Great Thinkers have attempted to plan our connection with it. They have said that movies are dreams but there are windows into worlds and lives that are not our own but they allow us to sculpt in time.

But as poetic as these descriptions are, they don’t quite capture the specificity the art form in our ability to manipulate it, for if this is about the art of visual storytelling in the heart of cinema and cinematography. Now cinematography is not only about how we capture the action of the scene, it is how we show that action to the audience. It just means that cinematography is all about communicating with the viewers.

“Take earlier”.

But because cinematography is often so beautiful and so emotional, it makes us assume that the murky process of filming movies must be built on some murky instinct, but instead like all disciplines, Cinematography is built on principle of concrete understanding, just cinema is the language.

“What?”

It sounds so simple but it’s like zooming in on the atomic level, you can see how it really works on people. Think about it in terms of the language analogy. Words that means right sometimes a few of them.

But they have clear definitions we have, verbs, nouns and sentence structure.

These rules are critical to our use of language but also what we build on the fall from invert them ironically. The key to understanding is that rules at the heart of how we speak to each other. In our understanding of cinematography works the exact same way.

OKAY, NOW WHAT?

Now you may have all these things you want to do and it’s cool shot ideas and you want to try and mimic or invent, but they’re still the basics of cinematic language that must be reckoned with. We must zero in on the specific words and meanings.

Yeah…Whatever…

Tell you were filming scene wanted to show that someone was really scared. The first tool cinematic language he would be towards high angle. The subject looks down on the victim coward blow, showing the person in a place of being threatened. Now you could say all come on, it’s just showing a person scared and that’s why you think that. But the language of cinema doesn’t more than that. It emphasizes, it’s not just about the information AKA what’s happening on screen, it’s the way that information is being shown. The way to folks in motion and makes it more scary.

The way it goes right past the connection of our brains and dive into our nervous system. It’s able to do this because it understands perspective. To it, imagine if you pursue the Opposite Tact.

Say we wanted to no longer be with the monster looking down on the scared human, and instead wanted to emphasize with her feeling. In that case we would switch to a low angle with her looking up at the monster, our perspective would be her perspective. The monster towers over us with medicine violence and make us feel the same way she does.

The great thing is we instinctively understand it.

These are the kind of things that happen in movies all the time just with slider and more subtle emphasis. You think of that famous seen the Graduate where Dustin Hoffman is being guided around at the party by his parents. They take up the sides of the frame dominating over him as he shrinks into the lower center.

It’s the same exact principle as the over our moving shots we talked about before. Just use them much more subtle context.

“Yes I see now.”

Cinematography is obviously not a series of mechanical static angles. Cinema is alive. It moves, and just like with angles the way the camera moves tells us something too. The smoothness of the Steadicam or tracking shot and stills us with confidence if and omnipresent godlike ability.

To go through action clarity and impunity a docu style organic movement makes us feel uneasy like we are witnessing the real world.

Dutch angle make us feel like the world is off kilter skewed and we can use any number of technique to go beyond the layers of surface and peer in that the people lay under them to unfurl the world before us.

These tactics reveal the heart of cinematography where you put the camera doesn’t just allow you to tell the story.

It tells you to think and feel about the story you are watching. We set it before but cinema is effectively the movie God’s view and sometimes it can seem like this movie God is actively investigating people, sometimes this movie God is trying to show us something about these people they don’t even want to show themselves because the god of a movie universe is the storyteller behind the cam.

Therefore it is up to you to decide what you wish to communicate to emphasize, to make us feel something you may think that you want your action heroes to be unstoppable cool badasses but doing so can easily lose the dramatic effect of a fallible your own danger making the audience feel that way too.

“We are going to die.”

Either way it’s all about what you want to communicate to your audience. Cinema is a language. So it’s time, we start talking.

Directing – The Fine Arts of Blocking and Composition

Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have been creating ways to tell stories through moving images. Throughout this time, there has always been a set of directorial skills that had separated the good storytelling from the great storytelling. And those are the fine arts of blocking and composition.

Let’s start with the basics. In cinema, composition is the visual aesthetics of the shot. The shapes, the light, the colours, everything that you see in the shot is the composition. Whereas blocking is the movement and positioning of the camera and the actors in a shot. This can include things like camera tilts and so on. Now, you can compose a shot to allow for dramatic introductions of things into the frame, like new shapes or new character, like this. Or you can block a shot to allow the camera to follow the actions of your characters all while staying in the same shot. This allows people to remain in the film and can make for a more cinematic experience.

An important aspect of blocking is coverage. Coverage is the amount of shots in different angles used to show what’s happening on screen. Good coverage provides clarity to the audience and also gives the director more opportunity to swap between his best takes. Whereas bad coverage can either complicate or undersell a scene. We’ll be looking more at the importance of coverage later on.

Now let’s have a look at some classic blocking and composition with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. This entire film could serve as an example of classical blocking and composition, and with good reason. Pay attention to how Spielberg has staged and composed this sequence. Specifically to draw the eye to chief Brody. Here are two consecutive shots where Spielberg uses a line of people’s heads to draw the eye to him. Even with me talking over the top, you will still look at him, that’s why this works. There is also a strategic restraint on the use of close-ups, especially those focusing on sole individuals. This allows the audience to understand the most important characters and dialogue in a scene.

This is all classical filmmaking because it’s all about creating contrast through movement or shapes. It’s all about directing the audience to what they need to be looking at. Compare this style of filmmaking to something more contemporary, like another townhall meeting scene. Like something from JJ Abrams’ Spielberg-tribute film, Super 8.

(20 microwaves, gone.)

JJ Abrams directs with a much blunter style of filmmaking. When people are upset, he cuts to people shaking their heads. Characters are static as the camera moves around them. There’s also a much larger number of cuts, with almost the same amount of shots, none of which have the same care going into blocking and composition as the previous example. Big players are given close-ups even when they are just saying jokes, as a result, this feels like a very direct but much looser style of filmmaking, which is fine, but it does have its drawbacks. For example, count how many shots JJ Abrams uses to show a crane going up in this sequence.

Clever blocking not only minimises excessive cutting between shots during, something like a tense sequence like this, but it also rids the film of clumsy staging, something that would bring you out of the experience. Like this shot here where a character walks into a pack of dogs running at him, only to move right back to where he was? And watch it again and you’ll see that the camera’s actually what motivates the action, rather than the action motivating the camera. This is part of why that feels fake. Or this shot where the camera starts low and wide and moves in for a dramatic beat, (Sheriff?) and then moves right back to where it was. Why not start at the door then move out after that dramatic beat? This feels overly slick with nothing (gains) from it.

It’s important to note that good composition often aids blocking, so let’s look at how James Gunn frames one character threatening another in this scene.

(You’re the only one I’ve been soft on. Now don’t you worry about Mr. Quill.)

Now here is Clint Eastwood tackling a similar sequence in Unforgiven.

(Get your damn hands off my rifle Mister.)

Even ignoring the tilt by simply keeping the weapon in frame while Ned and Munny react to it, the threat becomes much more tangible.

Filmmaking is constantly evolving, and certain styles and trends come and go. Each has their strength. Some are brilliant set invoking intensity but may require a given number of shots to pull that off. This leads us back to coverage. Different styles require different coverage. But poorly planned coverage can lead to poor direction. Let’s have a look at a film that employs different styles, with Snowpiercer.

(Oh, I love that one. Such a tonic.)
In this riot sequence, when the stunt acting is bad, it is masked with coverage by shaking the camera. Look at that. But when the stunt acting is good, the coverage also becomes overdone, and then cut too fast. It becomes a blur. Comparatively, this fight scene later in the film is much calmer. Its takes are longer with extensive blocking of the actors (with ). Each shot is well-thought-out and rehearsed, and nothing here feels fake. Unlike that earlier scene. This is likely because this is a style the director feels more comfortable with. But it also appears that smart blocking can sell a fight scene.

For some brilliant fight choreography and camera blocking, check out Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. Its style is the polar opposite of the Bourne films. Almost every fight sequence is filmed and blocked incredibly clearly. With fewer cuts and shots in total, each fight uses wide, static shots, and longer takes. Also show off its stellar stunt work. Its coverage is minimal because the director has a precise vision for what he wants. This style of action direction also translated incredibly well across scale. To prove my point, here is Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins.

Not only is every shot thoroughly blocked and rehearsed, but every shot is composed in a way that’s still aesthetically pleasing while still doing its job of showing the action. The composition also compliments the stunt work in turn, as well as the acting. Blocking is also used to transition new characters in and out of a shot. This film’s 45 minute climatic fight sequence is so well thought-out that even the 50 year old actors performing these stunts look like total badasses. This entire film is proof that you don’t need to shoot and cut action scenes like your cameraman is slipping on marbles wearing roller skates and having heart attack. I’m looking at you, Taken 2. Can’t believe this director is has a job you call this directing just makes me want to [%$^&]. Well, that’s better, and more violent.

Let’s switch to something a little more light-hearted, shall we? Ah, there we go. This is a great film, look at this scene from Guardians of the Galaxy, and keep in mind everything we’ve spoken about regarding composition and blocking. Notice how amazingly flat and front-on this scene is. The actors hit their mark, they stand still and deliver their lines to camera, that’s it. Static blocking is the right method for powerful emotional scenes in film. But for a scene of crisis like this, it’s the dullest way to direct it. It mars a perfectly confident legible scene, there are thousands of ways to if not smarter ways to direct. But all of them are more rewarding for the viewer. Instead of planting your actors front-on to the camera, why not dolly back and rack focus to introduce new characters into a shot?

You can give your characters a sense of urgency (Michael’s in the pond) by zooming in on them as they pass static objects in the foreground. You can pair shots with similar camera movements to compliment each other, and you can always direct the eye through movement as well. Heck, if you’re gonna have them stand still, you can really stage them dramatically. You can isolate your characters in the brightest part of the image, since that’s always gonna be where the eye looks. And this works whether the shot is empty or incredibly busy like here, just try not to have old guys on the left ruin your take by walking into the shot when they’re not Jamie Bell. I see you guy walking back into the shadow you can’t fool me. Get outta here. Speaking of shadow, you can do the opposite, you can cast them in silhouette against the bright background. You can obscure your characters using shapes in the frame to imply deceit and deception. You can lead the eye with the geometry and the perspective of the shot. (to stop Wilfred’s miracle train, and go outside. And what do we call this event, Magdelena?) You can block and compose an image, so that one character’s movement transitions the shot from one frame to the next. And if you’re really clever, you can use lighting, set design, framing, and timing to make ridiculous shots like this. When directors and cinematographers start thinking more creatively, that’s when filmmaking begins to show its storytelling potential. That;s when you start to get things like this, in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love.

And that’s only half the shot. Sometimes when films are being made, things don’t always go to plan, sometimes it’s because of an act of god, most of the time it’s human error. But if you’re a budding filmmaker who wants to direct, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice: think carefully about every scene of your film. Think about different ways to direct that, ways that don’t involve a shot-reverse-shot formula. Seek inspiration from the films you love, and don’t simply point the camera at talking heads. But above all, don’t be boring. Remember you’re telling a story, your direction is how you weave that story. If you’re asking people to spend their time and money, you better entertain them, or they’ll shut you out before you’ve even begun.