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Shooting Lingo A:Roll & B:Roll, Shooting Strategies

Class Notes: Video Production with Ben Henretig

Ben Henretig is a co-founder of Micro-Documentaries LLC, a team of filmmakers that shoot 1-minute, actionable documentaries for mission driven orgs and businesses to help them build support for their work. In 2008, Ben worked with behavioralist, BJ Fogg, to develop and execute a highly effective video campaign for The Stanford Fund that increased donor participation 23%.  Ben continues research with Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab focusing on Persuasive Video, and has spoken to diverse audiences on topics ranging from best practices for video production to emerging trends in web video.

Notes from Ben Henretig’s talk in class on Feb 16, 2012 :


Getting footage : “A roll” & “B roll”

What is “A Roll” & “B Roll”?
It’s pretty simple…
A Roll
 = Interviews
 or Primary Action : Content that has critical sound (like dialogue)
B  Roll = 
Details & Atmosphere : Often called cutaways

Why should you care?
It’s useful to make these distinctions so you can gauge what footage you’ll need to make your video work. “They” say that a video is made in editing, it follows that footage you bring into the editing process is all the material you have to work with. You need material. Think of it as cooking. If editing is making the meal, shooting is stocking the pantry. A-Roll is then your entree, B-Roll is your spices and seasoning. You need both for a good meal.

For A Roll think in terms of:

For interviews: What you want you or your subject to say about the background of the story, the intent of the project and the call to action or ask.
For scenes (action): What do you need to show happening? How will you capture it to show all the needed details? Shoot the same bit multiple times to cover all the angels (see coverage below).

For B Roll details think in terms of:
What do you want to show about the context?
What is your subject doing that conveys your intent?



A few rules to live by. 

Always overshoot.
Shoot more than you think you’ll need. Roll on anything that looks remotely interesting. It will all come in handy later.

Hold detail shots for at least 10 seconds.
Leave room at the beginning (head) and end (tail) of every shot. If you ask a question, leave a moment of silence after the subject answers. It may feel slightly awkward in person, but all awkwardness can be overcome with honesty and humor.

The gist of coverage is to shoot the same event multiple ways. It gives you material to work with in editing. Coverage is a well known term in the film industry and follows some specific and set rules (like getting a wide shot, then over-the-shoulders, then close ups, etc.) No need to worry about these specifics, but do shoot things a few times so you can get a wide shot of the action and close ups of the details & reactions. One note: change the angle from one shot to the next (get a wide shot from one location and a close up from another angle).

Hold steady.
Use a tripod for critical shots. This helps you get set and forces you to consider the framing before shooting.




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