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Is throwing B roll on top, really a solution like others say?

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  • Is throwing B roll on top, really a solution like others say?

    When it comes to watching editing tutorials, or film school, if you are editing a scene, and you are stuck, because you do not have enough coverage, of a certain section, a lot of times people will just say throw some B roll over it.

    But does this really work? I haven't had to do this much, but once in a while I tried. The problem is, is that it comes off as awkward, forced and jarring. I think B roll only works, if the scene was written that way, script wise, in pre-production. Otherwise the pacing of the scene is off, in dialogue or in the action of how the scene is written and shot itself.

    But then again there are lots of movies out there just covered in it, and sometimes I cannot tell what makes a scene work for it, and what doesn't. Am I write though about it being a mostly unrealistic solution unless the scene was written and storyboarded in a way to accept it smoothly?

  • #2
    I don't understand what it is that you're describing.
    It sounds like you're asking about situations where people are talking but instead of seeing the person who is speaking you see either the other person (listener) or something else that's going on in the scene - wide shot, shot of the background, etc. Is that it?
    If so, I think that can be more interesting than always doing a shot of the speaker.
    Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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    • #3
      B roll has been around since the beginning. That should tell you that it works.

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      • #4
        "...throw some B roll over it."

        That sounds like throwing something at the wall and seeing if anything sticks.

        B-roll should be shot with specific editing in mind. It should be part of sotryboarding so that you do not forget to get it.

        If B-roll was shot randomly you might get lucky and have something that will work for your edit, but that would just be luck. When the storyboard is done or the shotlist written these are the pieces of the puzzle that are needed. This is what will be used for editing. The shots are chosen. The way they are used is decided later in editing to increase the pace of a scene, up the intensity, or to grab the audience a certain way.

        If there were some shots or B-roll that was not shot then you have to get creative. You hit it on the head when you said throwing B-roll at something felt forced and jarring.

        You can't be building an engine for a car, realize you are missing an intake manifold and carburetor (yeah, I'm old) and just throw some more rockers at it instead and think it will run. You need to have the elements of your story. That is what pick-up shoots are for.


        Steve

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        • #5
          Steve: Unfortunately many film makers shoot, then the cast and crew scatter in the wind. Pick up shots are pretty damn hard to get. We finished shooting Us Sinners the night before the lead left for a National Tour. Had we needed pick up shots, they would have had to wait a year for him to return. I'm proud to say Mr. Brandon Schraml who recently returned after high praise for his performance as Sweeny Todd has finally made it into SAG-AFTRA. Well deserved, he's a brilliant actor. A complete natural talent.

          Basically if you don't have enough footage you have to re-edit the scene to somehow make it work. A quote I use all the time "There's the script you write, the film you shoot, and the footage that's edited to make a movie. They have very little in common."

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          • #6
            The real key is to take a wide shot, whatever it you are shooting. Pull it back as far as you can. Run the whole scene through. Doing this shot means that if you've got something a bit dodgy in there, maybe lack of continuity or a gap you just cut to the wide shot. Flaws in dialogue or continuity won't be so noticible and it forms a natural bridge bridge between shots that would otherwise be jarring. Much safer than b shots which can't be used ad hoc and often leave the audience feeling "why is this here?" (though often they work great though!)

            Alex
            ShootFilmsNow

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            • #7
              The real key is to take a wide shot, whatever it you are shooting. Pull it back as far as you can. Run the whole scene through. Doing this shot means that if you've got something a bit dodgy in there, maybe lack of continuity or a gap you just cut to the wide shot. Flaws in dialogue or continuity won't be so noticible and it forms a natural bridge bridge between shots that would otherwise be jarring. Much safer than b shots which can't be used ad hoc and often leave the audience feeling "why is this here?" (though often they work great though!)

              Alex
              ShootFilmsNow

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              • #8
                Okay thanks. What are 'pick up shots' exactly?

                When it comes to doing a wide mastershot of the whole scene, I have trouble getting the mic in close enough, especially if one actor is standing and one is sitting, there is going to be a lot of space that you have to keep the boom mic above. If you want an actor to be sitting while another actor circles around, the boom mic will be closer to the standing person, so his voice will sound quite a bit closer than the sitting person, even if they are both far away in a wide master. How do you deal with that when it comes to wide masters?

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                • #9
                  Pick up shots are shots that you didn't get, or didn't come out properly when you did shoot them. With wide shots if you don't have wireless mics to hide on your actors, then you just get bad sound and have to use the wide shots sparingly or where the sound sync isn't obviously off. Of course that's also what ADR is for.

                  You'd be surprised how often wide shots mouths don't sync to what the actors are saying. If you look for it, it's noticeable. If you're not, you'd never know the difference. It wasn't till I watched a program on film making where they pointed out Lauren Bacall ADRed lines and they don't match what she said. I never noticed the ten times I'd seen the picture before. Now, I can't help but notice.

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                  • #10
                    I really love older movie styles, like if you watch movies from the 30s-50s, they concentrate on wides a lot more. I would like to use styles like that. Did they use lavs for all those productions back then?
                    Last edited by ironpony; 08-17-2015, 09:29 PM.

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                    • #11
                      They've been around since the 1930's.
                      Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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                      • #12
                        If I understand the problem correctly, yes, you can "cover" an awkward picture or sound edit with the use of an extraneous clip. While it's not necessarily B-roll, per se, for the purposes of discussion we can call it that. In many conversation scenes, a line may be dropped if it's redundant or muffled or just a bad reading. Take it out if it doesn't confuse the audience.

                        This may make the A-roll takes not match exactly--resulting in an awkward cut. I would then look thru the A footage for a reaction shot of someone listening, maybe. Sometimes I grab this from the tail end of a take after Cut has been called.

                        The point is to find a short piece of footage you can use. Often, in my case, anyway, the footage I use was intended maybe for another place in the same scene. It should be a character and not the door. A shot of the door I'd argue would be B-roll, but it would look silly to cut to the door in the middle of a convo...especially if no one's knocking.


                        ~K.

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                        • #13
                          if the b-roll isn't planned and in your script, you're doing it wrong.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Matt Knight View Post
                            if the b-roll isn't planned and in your script, you're doing it wrong.
                            That is not neccessarily true: it is possible to shoot great b-roll that is not in the script.
                            Using arbitrary shots in any edit is doing it wrong.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ironpony View Post
                              ............. I haven't had to do this much, but once in a while I tried. The problem is, is that it comes off as awkward, forced and jarring.................

                              ................ Am I write though about it being a mostly unrealistic solution unless the scene was written and storyboarded in a way to accept it smoothly?
                              You once tried, so it doesn't work?
                              It probably didn't work, because the shot was arbitrary and made no sense.
                              Or because the whole edit was no good anyway and you were hoping to fix it this way.

                              You are making a mistake in your thinking.
                              You describe b-roll as a solution for something, while b-roll is (or should be) an addition to the edit instead of some kind of fix.
                              (Although sometimes it is a solution.)

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