A few years ago I came across this mock infomercial called “We Got That B-roll.” Anyone who works in video production, or who is familiar with the industry, will find the video humorous. It takes aim at the generic, overused, and sometimes unoriginal b-roll clips that fill up so many documentaries, commercials, and news stories. B-roll is an extremely important part of telling a story on film or video.
It provides the viewer with context.
It helps to explain concepts and ideas.
It offers up visual variety.
It holds an audience’s interest.
Despite its importance to the production, it’s amazing to me how so many people are willing to rush through the process of capturing b-roll. Shooting b-roll can’t become an afterthought. It needs to be an integral part of the shooting day. Here are a few things that need to happen to ensure that you capture great b-roll for your next project.
Work it into the schedule. Give yourself and your production crew enough time in the day to set up, light, and shoot b-roll. The last thing you want is to rush around during the last hour of the day, trying to cross all the items off of your shot list. And that leads me into my next point…
Create a shot list for your b-roll. Don’t wait until you get to the location to try and figure out exactly what you want to shoot for your b-roll. You will end up with a lot of footage that just won’t fit into your story. And that leads me into my final point…
Make your b-roll relevant. Don’t just shoot the building because you think the architecture looks cool.B-roll should compliment and enhance the subject of your story. It should relate to what’s being said, either by those on camera, or the narrator.
B-roll can become a very stale and unoriginal aspect to a video, if not thought out properly. Or, it can be a visually striking element to the production and round out the story like nothing else. Its success or failure depends on how much attention to detail you give to the process during pre-production and production.
Now, more than ever, consumers want advertisers to speak WITH them, not AT them. A disconnect has formed between advertisers and consumers, because…
consumers feel as though brands aren’t really listening to them
that brands don’t really understand them
that brands aren’t willing to adapt their products/services based on consumer feedback
So, the way in which companies approach commercials and marketing videos has to shift. This is illustrated well in a short video that we posted to this blog last year, entitled The Break Up. Based on this change in attitude and behaviors, marketers and video producers have to be more focused on providing viewers with an experience. Tell them a story. The old marketing strategy (shove your product front-and-center and brag about how awesome it is) isn’t effective in drawing viewers in. Don’t misunderstand: There’s still a place for showcasing all that a product or service can do for a consumer, but companies have to be a bit more creative in how that message is communicated.
Even before YouTube, BMW was already buying into this strategy by creating a series of short films, starring Clive Owen as The Driver. Each episode featured Clive Owen driving a BMW vehicle, but the car wasn’t the focus of the story. The car was simply IN the story. If you had taken the BMW out and put any other car in, each episode still would have worked. There’s a reason why ancient philosophers, prophets, and teachers used parables to instruct; it’s because people learn and retain information best through stories. Think about how you can utilize storytelling techniques in your own videos to market your company, products, and services.
Opinions matter. They help us to make decisions about where to eat, what products to buy, and whose services to use. They help us to see certain issues from various perspectives so we can get a better understanding of cultural, societal, political, and world events. They can also help us to refine and improve our marketing and advertising messages, so that the products and services we offer can gain the most traction among our target audience. But after we gather and sort all of these various opinions, there comes a moment when we must formulate our own ideas and opinions about what direction to take.
When producing a marketing, sales, or promotional video, there are many different approaches one can take in terms of concept, script, tone, and visual style. Some might know instinctively how they want their video to look, while others may need to conduct extensive research and talk to others to uncover what they like. Some don’t need to show their video to anyone during the post-production process. Others may feel the need to pass the rough cuts around to various contacts to get initial feedback and suggestions for revisions.
If you are working with a video production company on a video project, don’t feel bad if you would like to show the rough cut to people you trust in order to get their opinions. After all, video production is a collaborative effort. Talk to your friends/colleagues about the video. Find out what they respond to. What worked for them? What didn’t? How can the video be improved? Also, talk to the video’s producer and director. Find out why he/she made certain aesthetic, or editing choices. Understanding the motivation(s) behind such decisions will help you gain a better understanding of the editing process.*
Take time to listen to the opinions received from friends and colleagues. Weigh those against the insights and professional experiences of the video producer/director. From that information, you can formulate your own opinion about how you want to revise the edit. Remember, when you start showing the video to different people, you will get a wide range of opinions. It won’t be possible to please everyone. You might make one revision to the edit that’s based on one friend’s opinion, only to disappoint another friend who wanted it done a different way. Changing the edit in an attempt to please everyone will only leave you (and the video’s editor) frustrated. Throughout the video production process, remember that this is your video. You hired a video production company because you value their experience and trust their capabilities to create a professional presentation for you. Ultimately, the purpose of the video is to market/advertise/promote you, your company, your people, your services and your products. Opinions do matter, but in the end, it’s your opinion that carries the most weight.
*Remember, I’m talking specifically about post-production; the point at which the final structure of the video is formed. Any changes to the concept, the script, or the way certain scenes were shot will almost certainly require re-writes and re-shoots.
I received an email recently from one of our blog readers in regards to our article on the Art of Storytelling. He had a question regarding the role music plays in telling a story, which I feel is a very important topic to discuss when it comes to video production. I have always supported the use of music throughout a short film, feature film, TV commercial, corporate video, etc. The right music, used in just the right way, can really enhance the mood and emotion of a scene. In other words, music should compliment the story. However, I am against relying solely on the music to encourage an emotional response. If the story is structured well through the writing, cinematography, direction, and the editing, then the audience will feel the appropriate emotion. Leaning on the music to elicit an emotional response that otherwise can’t be earned by the story is manipulative. Concentrate first and foremost on telling a good story by the way you edit the video. Then find the right piece of music to fit the mood you have already established. The video will be stronger as a result.
While in college, I majored in film/video production and minored in art with a photography concentration. When it comes to sketching/drawing, I am capable, but by no means am I an expert. That’s why, when it comes to storyboarding my projects, I am much more comfortable writing out a shot list with simple diagrams. Drawing storyboards is just too time consuming for me.
Pre-visualization is an excellent tool for any video/film project, including marketing/promotional videos for a client. To have the ability to show a client what your vision is (rather than describe it) is a huge plus. That’s why my eyes almost popped out of my head a few months ago when I ran across a storyboarding app for the iPhone. It’s called Hitchcock and it’s from Cinemek. The app allows you to create professional storyboards by using the phone’s camera. Simply take a photo, add in camera directions, and lay it on your timeline. You can even insert music and other audio if you’d like. Once the storyboard is complete, you can export it as a pdf and email it to your client or others on your crew. Take a look at the demo below.