Most videos need a lot of B-roll. They help us cover edits, and they add variety.
As a shooter, you might find that you sometimes struggle to come up with ideas for B-roll.
This B-roll list can help you unleash your inner Sherlock Holmes and notice the details around you. Get more B-roll with ideas like the ones in the list below. I counted 113 sample B-roll ideas, separated into 31 categories.
First, a few things to keep in mind…
- The average length of each clip in the final edit is usually about 3 seconds.
- If you’re making a two minute video, you might need 40 shots in the edit (120 seconds), so you need plenty more than 40 shots to provide editing choices later.
- A video that’s nothing but B-roll is actually just a video montage…which can be pretty, but it tends to lack a story. Make sure you already have great A-roll.
Download the B-roll List
You can print it out and take it with you on your next shoot if you want.
Here’s the list…
B-Roll List for Inspiration
- Body Parts: Subject’s hands, feet, hair, neck, side of face
- Location: Outside shot of building, vehicle, wide shot of environment
- Machines Working: escalators, robots, hydraulics, conveyor belts
- Tools: sanding, brushing, sawing, welding
- Reaction Shots: audience laughing, interviewer smiling, looking concerned, nodding (aka noddies)
- Gathering Places: malls, airports, concerts, sporting events, tourist attractions, clubs
- Low Angle Work: Subject is doing their work (typing, painting, using tools…and camera is showing them from a very low angle)
- Faces: people staring directly into lens (not talking), smiling or serious
- Holding: People holding something in their hands and showing camera
- Playing: running, sports, playgrounds, surfing
- On the Shelf: framed photos, awards, trinkets and doodads
- High Contrast: Silhouettes, shadow patterns
- Creating: painting, drawing, sculpting
- Training for the Big Event: lifting weights, running, pushups, rehearsing
- Transitions and Changes: Faucets on and off, power switches on and off, turning key in ignition, day turns to night, anything changing from one state to another
- Coming and Going: Car, motorcycle, airplane, boats, skateboard, horse, dog, person walking toward, person walking away
- Relationship Shots (between people or things): father with his baby, a girl and her motorcycle, a teen and his smartphone
- Hot Shots: Fire, smoke, fireworks, sparks, explosions (humans love seeing fire)
- Driving: Drive-by, backseat point-of-view
- Mounted Camera: Mount the camera on something that’s moving: taxi, car (windshield, hood, dashboard, etc.), bicycle, grocery cart, dog, drone
- Signs: Name of location, open/closed sign, public signs, funny signs, ironic signs, symbolic signs
- Details Inside the Location: tables, menus, the bar, bar tender’s hands pouring drinks from tap
- Landmarks: statues, famous buildings, famous businesses, famous bridges
- Weather: rain, wind in trees, storm gathering
- Nature: ducks in a pond, insects, squirrels, flowers
- Entrances and Exits: People walking into building, walking out of building, getting into and out of vehicles
- Busy-ness: Roads, freeways, intersections, overpasses
- Bodies of Water: beaches, lakes, rivers, pools, fountains, streams, rivers, waterfalls
- Time-Lapses: Sunrise, sunset, stars, long projects (construction), slow projects (pottery)
- From High Up: from roof, looking down, looking across to other roofs
- Panoramas: scan the horizon
Ideas to Stylize the B-roll
- Focus Blur: Frame the shot. Hit record. Count to five then slowly blur the image by adjusting focus. Slowly bring the shot back into focus. Count to five again.
- Tilt: Frame the shot. Hit record. Count to five. Then tilt up or down to a new frame. Count to five. Tilt back. Count to five again
- Pan: Same as tilt, but pan the camera to new frames instead.
- Diagonal: Same as tilt, but use a diagonal shot using both pan and tilt together.
- Slider: Mount the camera on a slider. Use low angles or high angles, and slide the camera slowly for a count of 5 as you capture your shot.
- Movement: There needs to be movement…something moving in the frame or the camera moving, or both. We’re not using still photos, so movement is a plus.
- Extreme Low Angles: Shoot from an extreme low angle (such as setting the camera on the ground)
- Extreme High Angles: Shoot from an extreme high angle (using a monopod – or hands – to hold the camera high up)
- Slow Motion: Shoot any of the above B-roll clips at a high frame rate so you have slow motion footage later
Get Your B-roll
With all the ideas in this B-roll list, you shouldn’t have any problems getting the B-roll you need.
But if you do… Here’s a video that made me laugh the first time I saw it years ago.
Anyway, I hope you find the B-roll list helpful!