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Shooting Documentary Short Films

Lesson 9 of 16

What Makes Good B-Roll & How to Capture It

Griffin Hammond

Shooting Documentary Short Films

Griffin Hammond

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Lesson Info

9. What Makes Good B-Roll & How to Capture It

Lesson Info

What Makes Good B-Roll & How to Capture It

I like to think that the interview is the audio track of my films a lot times, I'll start by cutting that's funny because I just went and looked at the rough cut of what steve is look working on and he's doing the same thing I would do, starting with the interview clips, picking him out, laying him out in the timeline and cutting him up into the the sound bites we need that will be our audio, but man, it would be boring to watch talking heads for five minutes, even just five minutes. That would be really boring. Um and you get a bunch of jump cuts, we'll take a look at jump cuts in a little bit, but be role is so important because it covers up your edits. It had so much more visual variety to your piece we were talking during during the break about kind of like we're talking about news and who? What? Where, when, why? On how I like to let my b roll do that? I don't feel like you need to tell your audience everything like a documentary doesn't need to feel like television news all the t...

ime, it doesn't need to be like here's, what happened this your b roll, khun, tell the story you have you have people actually talking about their experiences in the shots, but the b roll could be your chance to say here's what it looked like to be here. I just want to take you into the story that I lived and my b roll can do that, so we're gonna talk about what makes good b roll. Um, we're going to take a look at a video that of me in the field capturing b roll well, actually, look at the b roll I shot I actually haven't had much time to look at it so well scrubbed through together, we'll take a look at it for the first time. Stephen is actually looking at it for the first time to it's like we're doing exact same thing he's going to my people right now going, yeah, that's, that's good, I don't know that's just terrible and trying to pick out the good ones it's not all good, but we'll take a look at it together and they were going to talk about the ratio of how much we really, really need and how to organize all of this content when you get started with the other thing, we're also going to talk about the simple list editing trick that just like every everyone should do if they're an editor it's not even hard and if you do it it's going to be just so much better we're talking about that and then finally in this third segment, we're going to talk about the ethics of editing and what's okay to do we were talking in the lunch break some of you about what we can do to, like fix a shot, and I think some things are appropriate something's or not, we'll talk about those and tricks you have at your disposal to fix things. Um but yeah, back to b roll, we will take a look at this video of me me shooting um but I think people religious boils down to options you want so many options, so much options figure editor, I'm the editor for a lot of my pieces, so I'm just trying to do myself trying to help myself out by shooting a variety of things, a variety of shot types, a variety of of subjects of the shot variety of movements, whatever you know variety of cameras even and we'll take a look at those things. So when we look at what my b roll experience was like yesterday, this is really this is my favorite part of the day is just shooting this kind of stuff this is where I have the most fun when it comes to be role, I'm just looking for any beauty shots, you know, that I'm inspired by the environment around me and a lot since I liketo let the environment do the work, you know, something very interesting like this there's a lot of movement, I could probably just set up a static shot even though I'm not a tripod I like handheld, I could still mimic tried five shots, I'll just hold it steady let the movement happen in front of camera, especially if I know something about the walk into frame, how much will let them walk in rather than following them in because too much camera movement could be pretty gimmicky you get you gotta use pans and tilts sparingly now when it comes to ford and backward movement, I think that could be a little bit more cinematic than handing until things, so when I think about this, you know, it might be funda mimic the movement of those devices falling in, so I'm just looking for I don't know something I'd be proud of looks interesting way, so I like the idea of using the things in the environment I don't have a dolly with me, but this could make for an interesting shot it might need to be stabilized, but this might be kind of cool to walk through some of the areas, see what I get right now I'm just looking for the best place to roll this thing you know right down the middle of the nile it could be really interesting we'll get a nice symmetrical shot here it might be something I could stabilize and speed up or maybe just looks cool is a regular dolly shot no, this kind of shot on ly looks good when the cameras zoomed all the way out twelve millimeters this looks pretty interesting if I was zoomed in you wouldn't get that field feeling of movement you kind of have to be kind of a point of view shot a wide angle shot just feel the things passing that's one of things I really love about this lens good for things like this it was two minutes of video something ah sign for safety glasses and I thought, you know safety is one thing you talk about peace or could talk about uh maybe there's something interesting here if I could get a pretty shot out of it I might mess around for a while and I feel like right now I'm getting a glare I might play around with shot tried a few times and still I'm happy with it so when I find an angle I like I usually just set up the camera and just wait for action to come into it I'm not moving the camera around a bunch trying tto see everything that's happening just waiting for that a moment when the item comes to me when the first to make a move that'll make for an interesting shot way, talking the piece about old machines and there's. Something about these little labels and the knobs that look especially old. They look like they're from the sixties, so I just feel like probably better than a wide shot. Could that little close up will help demonstrate that point. That this's, old stuff that needs fixing toe to stay alive, and sometimes I just don't find a shot. I like, I don't want that. One thing I find myself doing with this lens is because it's so wide angle. I like getting really close to things, and it kind of distorts how large they are. Whereas getting a shot from back here and zooming in just have a flatter look I like kind of the dimensions of things especially when I'm in a big factory wide angle can help kind of show large something is you don't diminish the size of it if that's the point that I'm trying to get across well as soon as I approach this piece of glass I'm mindful the fact that maybe I might be reflected in it but I know that if I'm on the left side of it then I need to be concerned about what's on the right side that were bouncing into my shot so I just know that if you looked carefully enough you could see the people from over there being reflected here I want to make sure I'm not against all reflections I want to make sure the things that shouldn't be in there like tripods and stop are out of the frame with way ah another thing I'm looking for a b roll is layers and sometimes like a foreground obstruction like this thing might be kind of interesting out of focus on the left side of the frame with that behind it I'm not often trying to say square up against something and sealed it clearly sometimes I want parts of it are in focus and deep parts find it aren't and that creates a visual interest that way look interesting to the human eye but it's just a bunch of white in white. I don't think it'll look that great on camera, so I'll skip it. Well, we know that we don't want an entire piece of documentary to be talking heads, and so, while that's great to get an interview, we need other shots to complement that footage and cutaway to need a lot of it. So if we're talking about george the entire video, then we need a bunch of shots of george aren't interview shots way just know we're gonna need a lot of so right now I'm gonna in one set up, try to probably get fifteen different good shots of him doing the same thing, but I could get a wide shot of medium shot close up, so we have plenty of options for the editor. I've chosen this camera over some other larger cameras because it lets me it's, lightweight, aiken, aiken, hold it over my head for long periods of time I get into positions, I just wouldn't be able to with a giant shoulder camera, for example, and having the flip out lcd is so important because I can't shoot a shot like this unless I can see it see that it's in focus, uh, so I just have to have a camera that has this. I guess I know that in the anything I'll throw out a lot of the shots, I'll just decide they don't look that great, so I just kind of keep getting different angles, trying new things until I'm really happy. And when I find an angle I like I'll usually get a few different shots, you know, zoom in a little market, a little tighter version of the same shot shots great. And the anything I may want to cut from a wider version where you see what's going on to the close up, where you really see the detail, you know, especially when something like there's, not a lot of activity and there's not a lot of things changing. So just to keep visual interest, I need to inject myself a lot of angles. I mean, fortunately, there's a lot of things in the shop, never interesting, a lot of angels angles I can choose from. I have a lot of colors and detail that I find just pleasing to the eye and hopefully the audience to have the microphone here. It's getting audio may not be as good as a love mike, but it's something and there's these little moments that happened where george, maybe talking or maybe someone would come in and talk to him, and you never know what might be interesting because they're not sound breaks and I may want to put some of them in the peace if they shed more light on what's going on so I'm always capturing audio and seeing if that could be helpful it's good thing I was recording audio just now because that may make for a pretty interesting that sound breaks the sound of the compressor pushing air through that little mold part made always whistling sounds let's be an interesting moment for the piece maybe it will yeah, the weird thing about yesterday was me trying to do my thing and being stocked the whole time by buying the scenes camera by stephen because b roll for me is a lot of experimentation same with editing I like to try things and see if they work and so it's always weird for someone so look over my shoulder while I had it on the same with shooting you caught me a few times going like yeah okay maybe now that's terrible and I feel almost ashamed like why did I even think that would be a good shot? Of course it's not a good shot and you also picked up from the piece that I have a certain style that I like and it may not be your style for b roll I like to be hand held its the way I like to move I feel locked down by a tribe but what happens when I have a tripod is I bring it in, I put it down and I go no that's not the shot and then I have to, like, raise up the centre column and set it and it just doesn't work for me I like to build just like okay, what about you know, I could experiment fifty more times in one second uh when I'm handout and that's just a style that works for me, my pieces have that, but what I do is I kind of mimic the idea of being in a tribe, you notice that even though I'm not on a tripod, I'm going to be stationary and I've always loved that visual style I've always loved that wide angle shots, an establishing shot of a building and just a little bit wobbly I don't know there's something very like indie film about that, I think just it's anaesthetic I enjoy you also noticed the anaesthetic I really like is just wide angle stuff I used to be I think when I was younger because of the camera I had, I loved getting really extreme close ups because you get that blurry background and it was just like so much detail, especially shooting in standard definition you kind of need to be close to get detail since you know, a few years ago when I went to hd and I've started to get lenses that I like maurin white angle I find myself gravitating mohr towards that like really wide angle, distorted sort of shot but it's really just up to you. What gear you using and how can you exploit its ability for me? That twelve to thirty five millimeter lens? I never took it off and those are the kinds of shots I always want. Everytime I zoomed in from a distance, I was like, yeah, don't look that good and the closer I get to something the less dramatic thie shake is gonna be mean already have image stabilization on the camera, which is great, but if I'm zoomed all the way out, the focus is is more forgiving. Thea, the shake is going to be less less there that's just my style but there are beautiful films shot that I am so envious of where people put it on tripod and they have, like a little well, some people have jobs like this skye, this camera that we have in the classroom today, some people have a little sliders and they get just get those beautiful here's a beautiful motion jim shot over our head. Uh those beautiful slider shots that's just not my style so much it's, because I like travelling so light that I don't like having to bring all this extra gear so my style is born out of my desire to always have that backpack on my back and it's not killing me all day long and that's, just what I've gotten decent at, but if I got in there with a tripod and a little slider, I probably could have gotten a completely different look for the day that we've been really beautiful, and I kind of thought, like, maybe I should, but I think I think this stuff worked out pretty well, so let's, take a look at some of the bureau I got. So here you guys saw me shooting like this shot it's, not even stable like it's, handheld it's, a little bit jerk, because I'm moving at the same speed, it kind of looks in things I really wanted two I could take that into adobe and add warp stabilizer on it and maybe really make it feel like it's a it's, a perfect slider shot that doesn't shake, but actually, I kind of like it the way it is. Um, I even got I got a couple shots where I was actually on the conveyor belt so quick, I wondered, I don't know if steve will be able to try it, but we talked about what if you started with this shot, I wonder if you cut or dissolved real fast, like I wonder if you could create a shot where these air to start together? Probably not. This is probably too much, but jump cut, especially the little black parts are going to jump somewhere else. But imagine, if you like, started on conveyer belt. Looks like way off would be pretty fun. So I'm really just looking to have fun. Uh, and one of things that taught me a valuable lesson about b roll is having the gopro grab it real quick. Um, my little it's stuck to my over the shoulder rig right now to little pieces of gear have changed my life. Um oh, once the clam pia go pro which the fun camera? Um but it's it's, not that great of a camera like compared to my dear florrick has its challenges. It's important to recognize what your camera khun do? Well, like I like the wide shots on my tour, this also has a really wide field of view. So, like, you better put it close to things or it's just not going to get something that interesting, but also because it's so small, it has the power of being attached to things that could be a very powerful thing, but just playing around with this camera, it completely changed the way I shoot, because now I realize I can mount this to things like amounted to myself. I could attach it to something when we pull up a piece of b roll we looked at it before I wanna look at it again. Uh, more detail. I see the behind the scenes over here. So I mounted this on the forklift and here's an example of how wide angle the gopro is it's only maybe it's this far from that mold. It looks really far. I did it. We did something on a selfie stick with a gopro at a recent political event I was at and we put it up over the scrums, the candidates and all the reporters around him and it looks like a drone shot because it looks like it's ten feet up but it's like really it's hovering over on one side like right here but it looks pretty high up just exaggerates everything. Quick tip on the gopro I actually like to shoot in four by three but what I'm doing is I'm shooting nineteen twenty across and fourteen forty down so it's it's, it's hd if I blow it up it's a ten eighty shot but now I have the choice of do I want to frame it here, here, here I want to get it perfect in the shot scrub through this thing it's interesting because of the movement it's because it's locked on if I walked in there and went like hey let's go see what this fork lift is doing that's gonna be a horrible shot but I'm taking advantage of the benefit of this camera and I'm because it could be locked on to something and that is a point of view just would never get especially when we speed this up and kind of see like what it's like to carry this thing around and drop it in and I'm essentially getting he's like slider shots it's almost like a gym shot watching the forklift to go up and down just it's so interesting to me I like that I should show you real quick many of you have seen sir raja the last shot of sir raja it was another example of me like looking for a way to let the environment do something cool for me uh I don't I don't usually travel with a jib or a slider but there are opportunities like when I put it on that dolly that I can get something that just couldn't get with my dear um here was an example of me putting a tripod on a forklift because partly just thought I need to show how many barrels of suraj are in this factory so I should get up there and see it and I said you know could we put a camera on the forklift and then they would get that aerial shot that I want and it was on ly while it was going up that I realized like oh that's actually a really nice movement of that forklift like it's not just the shot I need but that movement could be really cool and here's the final shot of my film I just love no so that is also taking advantage of that really wide angle lens I have because that factory is big it's not that big like I mean it is it is huge but that lens makes it bigger I mean that's a great real estate lens it makes all your hear hear all your rooms look bigger on I and I take advantage of that when I'm shooting b roll I mean the gopro makes makes things look spaces look larger um so I'm just using what I have and tryingto get the get the best result out of what I have to see what else we shot uh yesterday I'm shooting a lot of stuff like like I said, I'm experimenting as I go and some of this is great and some of its terrible close up just looking at some plastics um and if we're talking about plastic that could be it could be useful um let's see what else do I like here's that safety goggles shot um I'm kind of playing around like what's the angle going to be that works best for this yeah maybe that's the angle I sit on it for a few seconds now I have it ah let's see here's a bunch of george working on stuff and so here I I know I'm gonna need so many shots like I said in the piece so I'm gonna have to be creative like how could I shoot the same thing over and over and over again on one weighs like george could be in the shop but maybe it doesn't need to be the focal point like this piece could be um we need lots of shots of his hand's doing this stuff uh from different angles a wide shot a close up it really close to his face his eyes but I often find myself revisiting shots like here primitive did the same thing twice like here's a shot of george and then later he took his glasses off like that could be a better version of that. So I'm I'm never done I'm kind of like I keep going until I have the shot that I want and it means that I'm gonna have a bunch of stuff that gets thrown out or unfortunately for steven actually probably unfortunately for me it means he has so much to sift through that he's probably gonna miss all my best stuff that's hopefully, you know, this would be a recursive process and we'd go back and go actually you could put that shot and that I really liked this was after I talked to george and realized he told me about how molds get filled with guns and realize no yeah, I get that the mold full of guns can she see real quick? It was like a slight jumpin the focus because right there I decided like, let me just check my focus, push the autofocus down real quick and then I'll hold it right there for a couple seconds now all of this is about giving editors options and some editors might look at my footage and go like griffin you just like moved the shot around forty times in five seconds how am I supposed to use that? I've learned my editing style? I'm a very frenetic like I just I need a lot of energy and a lot of changes I probably don't let a shot sit for a little more than a second most of time except for like that great end of suraj is shot means nice days like end on a slower pace and movement can make a shot longer I mean, if something's happening let it happen but if it's just a static shot of something, I'm probably going to go boom boom boom a few different shots to show that thing so I've just got into a rhythm where I like no let me mess around for the first five seconds okay that's the angle hold it for two to five seconds and then let's let's be done some editors would say you need five, ten even thirty seconds on something I mean if you're working in a traditional news capacity your bosses are gonna tell you put it on the tripod get your shot hold it for twenty seconds and then get your next shot and the other thing that I've learned it was valuable in news when I was when I was a student learning news one of the greatest piece of advice was just especially as it takes so long to set up a tripod in the way that you want it once you get your shot on the tripod of something you got your angle I talked about a little bit of the pieces get a wide shot zoom in a little bit get the medium shot a little bit more get a close up you might as well you just spent time setting up if that's a really cool thing you're shooting get all three varieties because that's just more options for your editor you don't know how the final piece is going to come together you might think the wide shot is the best and maybe it is visually but maybe your editor just showed a wide shot that established everything really well and they for visual variety of they're going to need a medium shot you don't really know so give yourself options get all three and then a lot since what I would do is get three here and then go alright what's over here zoom in get those three hold him each for five, ten seconds over here get this thing over here I mean you wantto be in and out as quickly as possible and that's part of reason I don't use the tripod is that I want to be quick but the certainly way to do that right? So like I said, don't move the camera too much because you know your editor might need more of it um also just like not that much camera movement, I talked about how I think it's kind of amateur to move a camera too much part of that is because I think by moving the camera too much, you're kind of saying like I don't understand what editing is because editing will give you the power to show a lot of different things you don't need to make all those choices as the shooter and it's just it can induce motion sickness like you gotta think about all these shots your audience is going to see they don't all need to be moving and super handheld mean just take a moment and I have to bring the camera into my body and just kind of try to stabilize it as much as possible like I want that handout look but of course I don't want my body and sick that's why people you shoulda riggs that's why people use steady cam's to get it smoother I think whatever you do just get a smooth as you can especially the bad camera uh putting it on tripod will really help hide that it was a shot I like this was actually on a tripod and I got this on a tripod for a reason just because I knew if I wanted like we're talking about how long it takes george to do something I could just speed this up because it's on a tripod I couldn't do that ah handheld shot normally I mean let's go look at a normal handheld shot um like this was a static shot you know it's like even though it's handheld I'm kind of holding it like it's a tripod shot I'm not moving around and looks okay but if I speed it up now it's like on and that's really weird so if you know you want to speed something up it has to be locked down likewise those let's look at those dolly shots wherever those landed see how early did I do that? If you see a shot they like a lark I see that that is tell me uh I don't even know why I did that how the promises. Because it's, a two minute clipper here, this, yeah, only one shot is another one that if I wanted, I could stabilize it. But it's already like relatively stable there's, something about the fact that it's locked to the ground. I mean there's a little bit, but unlike a handled shot, it is locked in a certain position. The camera can't really move that much, so you get a much more steady movement, and that means that I can speed it up this much, and it looks pretty good. I can't do that if I'm walking down the hallway, that's. Why I need a glide cam to do that. So, again, it's, just about understanding what kind of shots you want, which year you have is going to get you there on dh. Really important, just getting variety.

Class Description

Today’s media landscape is largely made up of regular folks who know how to spot a good story and use basic gear to document the world around them. Find out how you can join their ranks and make compelling, marketable shorts in Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 

Griffin made a name for himself with the ode to an iconic hot sauce, Sriracha. In this class, he’ll teach you how to identify, shoot, and share documentary-style video. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize and tell a good story
  • Capture high-caliber footage with low-budget gear 
  • Incorporate all the essentials for online and TV news
  • Produce corporate work clients love
  • Find your audience and monetize your work

Griffin will share tips on lighting, framing, and interviewing subjects so you walk away with lots of usable footage. You’ll watch as Griffin shares clips from a one-day shoot and you’ll learn exactly what it takes to turnaround a complete documentary-style short on a deadline.

You’ll also learn a handful of helpful editing techniques and get insights on the ethical and legal responsibilities of documentary filmmaking.

If you want to learn how to tell meaningful stories that look great and sell, while working on a shoestring budget, don’t miss Shooting Documentary Short Films with Griffin Hammond. 


Bruce Gruenbaum

First off, if you have not watched Sriracha, go and do that. The techniques that Griffin used in it are pretty incredible. This course expands on those techniques and what really surprised me about this course is how simple the setup is that he uses to make some absolutely amazing documentaries. The quality of what you can produce with the most basic of equipment is really mind-boggling. Some of the most interesting stuff was about B-Roll and how to use it to create a visually interesting presentation. The idea of a lot of small clips that show specific information is invaluable. The techniques he uses to create shots like the one where the camera was placed on top of a cart and pushed down an aisle was amazing. More than anything else, the ideas and tips I came away with have helped me find ways of making my own videos much more interesting.

a Creativelive Student

Griffin is a great storyteller and I was hoping to learn a LOT from this class. But I didn't. I'm an experienced corporate video editor/shooter who's always dreamed of doing a documentary. About half of the class is the very basics of video production (b-roll, rule of thirds, good audio) and the other half is interesting content that seems to cut off just as it becomes engaging. I'm not sure why Creative Live edited it that way other than to extend the number of segments? Although the next segment doesn't seem to pick up where the previous left off. I've never felt that way before about CL, but it seems like every segment is cut right as it gets to things I'm interested in. It did have some great information about revenue streams for a short form documentary, but I was left wanting to learn more. If you're just starting out... this is a great resource to learn the basics of non-fiction filming. If you already work professionally in the field I would pass.

Tim Greig

This is brilliant. Griffin is such a generous, self-deprecating filmmaker you just can't help but love him. He goes into great detail on just how he makes his documentaries and other work and is so inspiring, mostly because he is a one-man band and produces such interesting and wonderful videos. Thank you Griffin and CreativeLive for offering this.