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Evaluating B-roll

From: Creating a Mini Documentary with Premiere Elements

Video: Evaluating B-roll

One mantra of editing is show don't tell. And the way we show in a video project is using what's often referred to as B-roll. Now B-roll has become somewhat of a generalized term. Some documentary editors would say, "Oh well those are observational shots," or, "Those are Cinema verite or direct cinema shots," and that's all accurate. But B-roll has come to mean all of the different types of footage that you may use besides the interview to help tell your story with pictures. And that's the way we're using it here.

Evaluating B-roll

One mantra of editing is show don't tell. And the way we show in a video project is using what's often referred to as B-roll. Now B-roll has become somewhat of a generalized term. Some documentary editors would say, "Oh well those are observational shots," or, "Those are Cinema verite or direct cinema shots," and that's all accurate. But B-roll has come to mean all of the different types of footage that you may use besides the interview to help tell your story with pictures. And that's the way we're using it here.

Just a general term for all of the footage that's not the interview. We've already evaluated our interview, and we've already put all of our B-roll in one folder. Now I want to go into that folder, and I think I'm going to switch back to Icon view so I see a nice, big image. Yup, that's great. In a brief overview I can see even from these thumbnails that I have a nice variety of shots. I can see that I have close-ups, as well as wide shots, and I have shots that look like they're going to cut together pretty well.

I also notice that the clip names are fairly informative, so Glass_Blower_Design, Glass_Blower_Process. Now some of these might not be different from each other, but I have a basic understanding of what to expect in these general shots. My goal, then, is just to look at these shots and augment that information with additional information that will be helpful to me in the editing process. As I look at these shots, I notice that they fall into a few basic types.

I have ones that seem to focus on the process, and I know that by the words but also by the pictures. And then I also have some shots that show my final products, and again, they say Product on them. But then I also have some shots that look kind of like beauty shots to me Like, look at this one. I kind of want to just set that aside because it's pretty, and that's almost a different category to me. You could say its process, or you could say its finished product, but to me it's just beautiful.

So what I want to do is create a few more folders inside B-roll to organize this. We'll call this Process, Finished. My last folder I'm going to call Keepers. And that's just a note to myself, saying I'm setting these aside for later. They're my keepers. They're my special shots.

And then I want to start opening these one by one, and the information that I want to put in there is information about the framing because that's going to be important to me in the editing process. So is it tight, medium, or wide? So I'm going to take a look at these shots. There is the good part there. And once I know what it's about, I'm just going to go into its name, make a little notation of the framing.

So CU for Close-Up. And I want to put this in the right folder. It's going to be easiest to do that in List mode, down into Processed. And one by one I want to look at each of these. I'm not necessarily going to play full- speed. I like to kind of a scrub through. Once I know what it's about, rename, again Close-Up. And that is a finished shot.

I'm going to work through every one of my B-roll pieces, and here's the one that we looked at before. I really like this shot a lot, so we are going to rename it MS for Medium Shot. And this one I'm going to put in Keepers because I like it so much. What's important here are not the exact words or abbreviations that I've used, but that you're using an organizational schema that makes sense to you and is going to make it easy to find the things that you want to edit with later.

Remember, pictures tell the story. For a really good edit you want to use your B-roll in a way that it is showing you what happens in this story, instead of always relying on the interview to tell you.

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Creating a Mini Documentary with Premiere Elements

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Jason Osder
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