Take Your B Roll to the Next Level with Andy To

Cinematic B roll footage is a great way to elevate your next short film. We hung out with filmmaker Andy To and learned six tips for capturing epic B roll!

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6 Tips for Better B Roll Footage

Cinematic B roll footage is a great way to elevate your next short film. B roll helps with transitions, creates context for main scenes, and plays a supporting role in storylines. We spent a day in New York City with talented filmmaker Andy To checking out the streetscapes and scoring some B roll while we were in town for MIFF. Here are our six favorite tips for taking your B roll to the next level.

Shoot the whole scene.

Think of each scene as a sequence that you can piece together. A line of yellow taxis turning a corner in a sea of concrete and silver sedans, waves crashing into a pier, people going through a subway turnstile—it all creates setting for a film set in New York, but you need to shoot several clips to have those few seconds when everything lines up.

Find good character in your surroundings. 

Character can be a single person, a place, a feeling, the texture of a chain link fence against a railyard—whatever draws your eye and helps tell the story. B roll might follow someone as they commute or zero in on one small detail in a bustling cityscape.

Not everything has to be on a gimbal. 

Gimbals are more affordable and portable than ever, but that also means they’re being overused. Not all B roll footage needs to be silky smooth gimbal pans. Static perspectives of moving objects can tell a powerful story and help ground the footage between scenes. And handheld shots can be stealthy, quick, and even shaky for cinematic effect. Use the gimbal as a tool, not a toy!

Sound is just as important as what you are shooting. 

Oftentimes B roll helps set the stage for the next scene. The sound of traffic whirring by or wind whipping through the trees does just as much for atmosphere as the visual elements. No matter what you’re shooting, clean audio is important.

Mix up your shots. 


Shoot the standard, beautiful angle, then think of something a little off-the-wall. The fun thing about B roll footage is that it gives you a chance to play with angles, subjects, and techniques for a few seconds at a time.

Real-time is Still Real. 

Phones are getting better and better at shooting slow-motion footage, but slow-mo is still a tool for capturing certain shots. Cinematic footage in 24 fps (real-time) puts the focus back on the art instead of the phone’s ability to capture slow motion footage.

B Roll Takes Your Films to the Next Level

No matter what you’re shooting, B roll makes it better! From smoother transitions to more context for your storyline, there are so many ways to use B roll footage. The name might suggest that it’s second-best, but using B roll the right way is one of our favorite tricks for taking films to the next level.

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