Depending on what it is that you’re intending on featuring on your YouTube channel, there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself in need of B-roll. B-roll simply means footage that you capture and then overlay into your video while you’re speaking – much like stock footage except that you captured it yourself.
This is a crucial skill to add to your YouTube creator repertoire and one that is sure to come in handy at some point. Read on and let’s deconstruct the art of b-roll…
What is B-Roll, Exactly?
If you’re looking for examples of b-roll, then just turn to any big technology channel like Android Authority, The Verge, Techno Buffalo, Engadget etc. Any of these channels will feature a lot of product reviews, previews and comparisons and during those videos, a lot of the screen time is filled with footage of the device. Often the phones and computers will be placed in exotic locations for example, while the camera pans slowly around them to show them in their best light.
In other cases, the devices might be on rotating platforms or being used by the reviewer in a natural fashion.This footage helps to showcase the device and it also breaks up the video. Otherwise, a review threatens to be a single long take of someone speaking into the camera!
How to Create Panning Shots
If you watch any b-roll on the aforementioned YouTube channels, then you’ll notice that it always uses a lot of very smooth, long panning shots. This is important because it creates an air of professionalism that has an unconscious effect. Conversely, if your panning is done by hand then it won’t look terribly professional and will come across as jerky and awkward to watch.
So if you’re going to be doing this a lot, then you’ll need to invest in a panning head. This is a device that will attach to the top of your tripod and provide you with friction in various directions, as well as a handle that you can use to turn it around the pivot. You’ll then be able to adjust the angle of your camera, as well as the amount of friction. And by gently pressing on the handle to twist, you can create those really smooth panning segments. Manofrotto do some good panning heads.
Getting it Just Right
The key is to be very slow and deliberate when getting this type of footage and to only place very gentle and even pressure on the handle. This is what will allow it to twist gradually and smoothly, rather than being jerky and sudden. Also important is to set up the shot correctly in the first place.
The background should always complement the device nicely but you need to make sure to avoid potential reflections, glare or even things in the environment that might ruin the image you’re going for (like a blob of bird poop!). Check the area and then use the manual focus to bring out as much definition in your subject as possible.
Then you’re good to go!