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B-Roll & Use in Storytelling

Lesson 15 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

B-Roll & Use in Storytelling

Lesson 15 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

15. B-Roll & Use in Storytelling


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

B-Roll & Use in Storytelling

B-Roll. What is B-Roll, and how do you use it, and all of that. So, B-Roll is the term that was used in filmmaking early days It's like the extra stuff. It's the extra, that they would put over the main presenter or the main interviewer or whatever, and so the B-Roll kind of helps fill in this story. For family films, I feel like it's, it enriches the story particularly if you choose meaningful, if you film meaningful B-Roll. B-Roll is the extra, things like picture frames on the wall, or it might be a sling that the mom used to carry all of her babies and so, you know, shooting that and incorporating it whether she uses it or not, that's B-Roll that's meaningful, right? Or there might be an heirloom in the home that was passed down from the mother, or the grandmother or whatever. And, so. And this kind of goes back to knowing what your clients. What is meaningful to them, 'cause you can't go into a home and guess. So it's helpful to know that stuff in advance. But B-Roll enriches a st...

ory by shooting, incorporating meaningful items in the home that you might not, as a photographer, go and take a picture of, but you film it and then you bring it into the film and it adds meaning. It also tells us about the where. So, B-Roll tells us where we start, it's location, it's telling us about the home that the people live in, it's telling us about the location, wherever it is that we're filming and usually that's meaningful and so why is that meaningful? It also helps transition between scenes. I always use B-Roll to introduce the next location, or introduce the next scene, it's a transition for me. I use it to, like if we're moving from, the, the family room or the master bedroom, or whatever to the kids' room, I will have gotten some B-Roll of the kids' room of maybe just some toys they love or some decorations, particularly if parents have put a lot time into decorating their kids' room. Spend a bit of time filming that, you might be able to use it. So I would then, if in my film, was moving from that scene to a scene where the child's in their room, I would start with the B-Roll that I shot in their room to introduce this is the next room that we're in and then this is what's happening inside that room, okay? So, it's helping transition between scenes, it's telling us about the where, it's enriching the story by giving us other meaningful information that might not have been filmed otherwise, okay? So I'm gonna hop over to my computer. Do a demo real quick. Not this one. This is a film that I did of a family in Dubbo, New South Wales, which is like country, pretty rural. And there's not a whole lot of B-Roll inside the home, but there is, 'cause we do a lot outside, there's a lot of B-Roll outside and I'm gonna just break it down and show you how I use it to help me transition between scenes. This one was probably one of the more challenging ones. I feel like all of them are challenging, really. But it was one of the more challenging ones so I'm gonna just break it down and show you where, exactly highlight what the B-Roll is, what I would consider B-Roll, how I've used it, and why. So this is an opening intro shot you can see them, they're blurred out in the background, and this just 'cause the leaves are moving and they're pretty. ("My Heart is Set" by Handsome and Gretyl) ♪ All that I know is you're the one for me ♪ ♪ While the world is fleeting ♪ That's delicious. ♪ You are all I'm needing ♪ Okay, so that was the first B-Roll clip. This. This is just, I think that things blowing in the wind is really pretty. (laughing) So, it is so much better if I'm shooting on a windy day than when I'm shooting on a really still day. Everything is just so much more beautiful because the leaves are blowing in the wind and the branches were, I loved this tree 'cause the branches are like hanging down I love Australian trees in general, but this one was just pretty and I was like, yeah I'm gonna film that. Just movement, right? I'm just looking for movement, something to add to the story, add to, tell us more about a location. Also keep in mind that these are the things they see every day, right? And so, you're looking for things that they probably see a lot. Be really observant and think about yourself and put yourself in their shoes. What are the things that you would maybe wanna remember again yourself? Like what would be some things that, if you were sitting in your garden and you just noticed, you know, and they would not be able to answer that question if you tried to ask them, so talk to them, get to know them, guess those things. ♪ No there's nothing you could do to lose my love ♪ So, I think a lot of people think that this clip right here might be B-Roll, but it's not. It's more of the what of what's going on, right? She's feeding the horse the hay. It's a close-up, it's a detail, but it's not, I wouldn't consider this B-Roll. ♪ Even on bad days ♪ ♪ Leaning on the good things ♪ ♪ As sure as the moon falls ♪ ♪ Sure as the sunrise ♪ So this one, I would consider B-Roll, 'cause what I had to do was, I had this, I shot this clip, and was like, I don't know how that's gonna look, don't know how that's gonna turn out, but I liked it 'cause the horse was running and I thought that was cool. I did this because I had this clip right here of the horse going in this direction, and the next clip that I wanted to use, the horse was going in the other direction. I needed something between those two clips. Because that doesn't work, to have them going in opposite directions side-by-side. So, I used B-Roll to do that. ♪ My heart is set on you ♪ ♪ Oh my heart is set on you ♪ ♪ No matter what you do ♪ ♪ Oh, still my heart is set on you ♪ Okay, that was another B-Roll. This one was kind of a interesting shot that I did here, but it was sort of like, in the moment, there was a lot of walking under these trees, and I was just like, I'm just gonna shoot what it feels like to walk under these trees, and so, you know, I do that a lot and I'm like, I don't know whether I'm gonna use this or not, but while I have the time, while we're transitioning, while I have this moment, I'm gonna do it, and then I'll use it or I'm not. And I liked this because I needed to have. I needed to transition from this scene where they're with the horses, to where the little boy's climbing into the tractor, right? So I, and see 'cause dad, you can see his shirt there, he's just been with the little boy on the horse. I can't jump to them now all of a sudden getting into the tractor, that doesn't make sense. So B-Roll allows you to, it allows the viewer who's watching to fill in the blanks in their mind. So it gives them that opportunity to fill in the blanks in their mind of okay, they're now in the tractor, but it's not as jolting as it would have been if you had put them side-by-side. 'Cause then the viewer's like, wait a second, they were just with horses, and now they're on the tractor, how does that work? The moment that happens, you've lost your viewer, right? The moment they start asking questions, then they're not as engaged in what you're doing. ♪ We'll always be kin, be kind, be bringers of light ♪ ♪ Making me feel gold ♪ The only reason that those two clips worked side-by-side together, sorry I'm just getting away from B-Roll here, but we've got Dad like, putting the thing on the thing (laughing) You guys! What is that, a pallet on the tractor? Anyway, so I've got him there and then I've got him and the little boy's like in the tractor and they're riding off, and so you're like, wait, how'd Dad get back in the tractor? So, you know, it's not, that's okay 'cause you can't really see Dad, so you don't really, you don't worry too much about that. But that's kind of one of those things where I look for those things when I'm editing. I'm like, really mindful, and I'm like, can I get away with that, or can I not? But since we don't see Dad in the next clip, it's okay. Our focus goes on to this sweet little moment where Mom's doing that. ♪ Making me feel golden ♪ ♪ Clinging to the one who makes my heart to sing ♪ ♪ As long as the earth turns ♪ That's one of those moments where I filmed longer than I probably normally would because I was waiting for the waves, and for him to wave back. Okay, I think. Yeah, so we move inside, right? I need to figure out a way to transition from being outside to inside. So when I was inside at one point, there wasn't a lot of B-Roll I felt like I liked inside the house and there wasn't really anything that was super meaningful to them. I got some picture frame stuff, but it wasn't in the best light. And I really liked this, I love windows and I thought this was an interesting window and I liked the leaves blowing in the wind and the iron set table-chair thing out there, so I did this. I don't love the bottle that's on the thing, but we're ignoring that. So that transitions us into the house and you don't feel like, wait a second, how'd they get from outside to inside? ♪ My heart is set on you ♪ ♪ My heart is set on you ♪ ♪ No matter what you do ♪ ♪ Oh still my heart is set on you ♪ ♪ Whoa ♪ ♪ Whoa-oh-oh ♪ ♪ For better or for worse ♪ See, and there's no B-Roll clip there between those two and it's not ideal, there's not always, you're not always gonna have the options there available to you, it doesn't always work. If I have to make a transition to a different location without B-Roll, what I do is I look for the specific phrase in the music, the change to a new phrase in the music makes that less jolting. I'll talk about that later in editing, but that's one thing that I do and I think as you're watching it's less noticeable than if it had been in the middle of the phrase. ♪ In laughter and sorrow ♪ ♪ In sickness and in health ♪ ♪ We lend and we borrow ♪ ♪ In worry and peace ♪ ♪ In mountain or valley ♪ Okay, so, I wouldn't call this B-Roll, but this is how I transition to this next scene where we're inside. I really like to introduce in a close-up way before I then show the whole thing. Like, it's like just a subtle introduction to then what we're going to see the rest of. So I love this. ♪ Valley ♪ (children laughing) Ready, try not to smile, ready? ♪ Oh, come what may ♪ ♪ My heart is set on you ♪ ♪ Oh, my heart is set on you ♪ Okay so they were about to feed the horses, so I had B-Roll that I had shot at a different time to this moment, but that worked side-by-side of the horses like, walking down. ♪ No matter what you do, it's all ♪ They're clearly not walking, they're running. ♪ Can do, my heart is set on you ♪ ♪ Oh my heart is set on you ♪ ♪ No matter what you do ♪ ♪ Oh still my heart is set on you ♪ ♪ It's on you, it's on you ♪ ♪ My heart is set on you ♪ I wonder what this can be! (child babbling) ♪ It's only you ♪ ♪ It's only you ♪ Okay and then so B-Roll at the end of the sun flare. I feel like I always walk away being like, oh, I didn't get enough B-Roll, I know I didn't get enough B-Roll. And I will go to the edit, and I'm like, gosh I wish I had more B-Roll. It's one of these things I think that's hard to get out of the moment and think to shoot, especially when you're really like, you're worried that you might miss something of what's happening with the people. And so I usually try to think about it as you know, when there's a natural break in what's going on, I just walk away and try and shoot some B-Roll. Or if I feel like the kids have maybe had enough, or like the parents need to have a little chat with the kids about something, and I don't necessarily need to film that, then I'll walk away and see what in the home I could shoot some B-Roll of. And I really try to do that throughout the session, sporadically, rather than all at once, right? Because light also tells a story, so if I am, if all of my B-Roll is from the morning, and the light is different at the end, I'm not gonna necessarily be able to use that B-Roll at the end 'cause the light's gonna be different, it's not gonna make as much sense. I mean, it's probably more, a better example would probably be like sunset, where the light goes really warm, but it's something that I just think to myself, okay it's been a little while since I shot some B-Roll, so I'm gonna go and just see what is interesting in the house that inspires me to shoot. The thing that I'm the most inspired to shoot is usually light, so anytime that I can incorporate direct sun flare like this, I will. And so, yeah, that is. And again, I don't always have enough B-Roll, like even at the end we move from outside to inside, the song was ending and I'm like, we gotta just go inside now, and then there wasn't any B-Roll that filled that in but it was all right. So you know, do the best that you can, and try to, but it's, yeah, it's one of those things you get better at the more you do it. So that song was My Heart is Set on You by Handsome and Gretyl which are one of my favorite artists, licensed through the MUSICBED.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work