This method will leave you shooting B-roll like the pros

B-roll is a powerful storytelling tool that should never be overlooked. If you want to shoot B-roll like a pro, you need to learn the five-shot method.

In the video below, YouTube channel NicksFort goes over the five-shot method for B-roll that the pros use to construct their narrative. The video then goes over additional techniques you can add once you have your foundational B-roll shots. At the core of the video, it is a breakdown of how professional cinematographers approach B-roll.

Also, before we dive into it, let’s quickly discuss what B-roll is. B-roll is essentially extra footage that is used to complement the A-roll, the main footage. For example, NicksFort gives the example of footage of a vlogger talking into a camera as the A-roll and everything else is B-roll.

Now, without further ado, let’s watch:

The five-shot method

The five-shot method for B-roll is the five basic building-block shots that you should use to create a good narrative with B-roll.

First, get a wide shot

Wide shot
Wide shots establish the where of the story

You want to first get a wide shot when starting on your B-roll. The main purpose that the wide shot serves is to show the audience where the story is taking place. “It’s super important to have that shot for any situation,” NicksFort says. “You need a wide establishing shot.”

Next, shoot a close-up action shot

Close-up action shot
Close-up action shots establish the what of the story

Now that you’ve established the where portion of your story, you need to establish what is happening. The way to do this is to get some close-up shots of the actions happening in the video. For instance, NicksFort shows a close-up shot the video’s subject’s hands working on a drone. The shot establishes what is happening and gives more context to the viewer.

Third, shoot a close-up face shot

Close-up face shot
Close-up face shots establish the who of the story

Shooting a close-up shot of your subject’s face is to show who is doing the action that you just showed.

Now, combine the what and who in one shot

Over the shoulder shot
Over-the-shoulder shots combine the who and the what into one shot

After establishing what is happening and who is doing it, you need to combine the two into one shot. You can achieve this by shooting a point-of-view shot. One way of doing this is to shoot over your subject’s shoulder, looking down at what the subject is doing.

Last, get an alternative shot

Lastly, you should get a shot that is different from the rest of the B-roll that you’ve already taken. This one is more open to what you feel will add to the narrative of the story. Just make sure that it is different than the rest of the shots you’ve taken and that it adds something new to the narrative.

Additional shots that you can add

After you complete, the five-shot method is to add in some spice into your narrative. There are a number of shots you can add, like inserts. Inserts are shots that focus on the surrounding environment around the subject. It paints a picture of what’s happening around the narrative.

You can also add in some slow-motion shots. Usually, when shooting slow motion, you want to have something happening. Slow motion looks best when there’s action. And for those of you with drones, you can – and should – include some aerial shots surrounding your subjects. “[Drone footage] amps up what’s happening so much,” Nicksfort says.

Drone shot of a ridgeline
Add some drone footage to spice up your B-roll

The idea behind the five-shot method for B-roll is to get the foundational shots you need, and then maybe add in two or three of the other techniques the video discusses to make a great story. So the next time you shoot your B-roll, use the five-shot method and get the bare bones you need to tell your story. Once you get those shots, experiment with the rest of the footage you shot.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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