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Five Tips for Shooting B-Roll That You Can Actually Sell

By Danny Groner | Indiewire March 21, 2013 at 4:20PM

Five Tips for Shooting B-Roll That You Can Actually Sell
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Cloud B-Roll Shutterstock
Filmmakers who have got some extra footage leftover from a shoot should remember one thing: it might not work for your film, but other people might want it. Even the world's biggest directors aren't afraid to sell footage that they don't use, especially from shoots that allow them to see things or perspectives that aren't easy to see. Whether you're shooting b-roll specifically to sell or are selling unused footage, there are some things you should know about making money off of this footage.

Danny Groner, the head of outreach for Shutterstock, one of the companies that helps filmmakers sell their B-roll footage, has some tips for filmmakers looking to make a little extra dough. From his experience watching what sells and what's in demand, here are his tips for filmmakers:

You might think about B-Roll as filler inside of a video, to represent the passage of time, make transitions easier, or to set the scene. Some filmmakers might not give B-roll much thought since it's not their original footage and can be perceived as a way to cut costs during an expensive video shoot. But at its best, and with some careful consideration and implementation, B-roll can match any project's creative standards and make telling your story much easier.

The most distinguished and downloaded B-roll won't resemble traditional impressions of what B-roll looks like, and can achieve. As video has boomed online and simultaneously become a fixture of business offline, video creators have responded by producing more sophisticated and dynamic clips to meet the demands of the growing marketplace. Here are some examples of successful B-roll clips, and advice on how to capture similar ones yourself:

Timelapse clip by Tanguy Louvigny

Timelapse video is a traditional form of B-roll but it remain among both the most popular and most recognized types. In the example above, note how the different colors come together at once, giving the scene several layers to it and plenty for the audience to look at. It's the pace of the clip, though, that helps it excel. Inside of these 12 seconds, so much changes. It's easy to imagine a project that showcases the quick passage of a dark afternoon and impending stormy weather paving the way for a brighter evening. When choosing a timelapse sequence, it's obvious you should try to match the pace and framing to the rest of the project--but what is not obvious is that you can get a whole lot more by finding a clip that matches the mood and tone of the story.

Businessman clip by spotmatik

One of the common complaints when searching through B-roll is that the clips can be dull or lack distinction. Choosing one that conveys your point effectively requires the clip to be memorable in its own right. The clip above, for instance, takes something as mundane as a businessman hard at work. Typically, that stock footage would fall short. In this case, though, because there's so much movement happening around the subject, there's a certain urgency and importance surrounding the swiping the subject does himself. Besides, futuristic ideas have always enthralled us. If you want to spice up a boring or overwrought template, think about what we know about people's tendencies and gear it that way.

Seamless loop by Boguc

Keeping the audience's imagination running is key to any good B-roll. Science and technology are two areas that might only seem to appeal to niche audiences; but thanks to some clever methods to display complicated topics like molecules, as above, you can get people to give it a second thought. Seamless loops, where the first and final frames are identical, give you flexibility and control to hold attention. Repetition pays off in other ways, too. Popular CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" employs short snippets of rotating 3D particles between scenes, and it has become an effective transition device that the audience has come to know and appreciate.

Looking to shoot b-roll that sells? Here are five growing trends from Shutterstock Footage:

1. People. It might be laborious, but take the time to arrange to shoot models for b-roll. Models acting out business scenarios, or healthcare scenarios, or playing sports These are the most commercially viable clips.

2. Nature. Take advantage of the scenery around you, and consider doing it outdoors. Filmmakers are always looking for great panoramic clips. Timelapses are particularly popular.

3. Science. Get geeky. It's a hard thing to shoot yourself because it requires both knowledge and innovation to get it right. Digital producers depend on b-roll to fill in content gaps in their productions, as necessary.

4. "Industrial" is a growing category and has emerged as a top performer. These scenes are in demand -- "warehouse at night" is an example of a well-searched keyword on Shutterstock. It can be used to set up scenes for criminal activity, and more.

5. Big cities. Create timelapses that demonstrate the regular hustle and bustle of city living. Show the dark turn to day, how a blank landscape evolves quickly into a busy one.

Danny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships & outreach for Shutterstock.





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