About “This Is Radio: Jonathan Goldstein”
If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about with video, tossing around the term “B-roll” is a good start.
B-roll is footage of anything other than the main action or focal point of the video. So, say you’re filming a bike race. The main footage, the A-Roll, would be footage of the people racing. The B-roll would be stuff that’s on the periphery: people watching, the officials at the finish line, the rolling scenery, the blood doping — you get the idea.
A-roll — main stuff. B-roll — all the rest.
So for a video portrait or a documentary that’s based on an interview, like the ones in This is Radio, the B-roll would be anything aside from the actual interview footage.
B-roll serves a couple of purposes in documentary video work. First and most ideally you want it to add context and depth to your story. It sets your scenes, and gives visual clues to flesh out your subject, or it can highlight certain themes from the interview. It can often be your most dynamic and interesting footage. Interview tape is the heart, but B-roll is the body.
But the real beauty of B-roll comes down to a more practical application. Remember in video, unlike audio, you can see where you made cuts to the interview. B-roll covers those cuts up and makes your interview look seamless.
I picture my interview footage as a freshly painted wall in my living room. Once I’m done editing, that wall is going to have tons of holes in it. And I think of my B-roll as a stack of framed pictures to choose from. I hang them up to cover the holes. But I also don’t want to just hang pictures willy-nilly; I want to group them to complement each other, to be aesthetically pleasing and to make thematic sense.
Take for instance the footage of Jonathan in the subway in this video. He told me he takes the Montreal Metro to the office everyday, so I convinced him to let me tag along on the way home. It just seemed so him, and fit the tone of the video so well, plus it was an opportunity to film him doing something. That alone seemed like a good way to break up the interview. But I ended up using it as the backbone of the video: in the intro to set him up as a character and then returning to it at the end to underscore the tone and ideas he closes on.
One last tip on B-roll: get lots of it. You’ll be glad you did.
For more on filming B-roll, be sure to check out this video.
- Out of focus B-roll can be useful to cover contemplative parts of interview tape. There’s none in this video, but I used some in the Roman Mars and Kitchen Sisters installments.
- Great thing about taping radio makers — you can often interview them in a nice, quiet soundproof studio. Makes for great audio and looks nice and radio-y as well.
- The subway scenes were filmed using a monopod. It gives your footage a little bit of camera shake, but not too much. It worked especially well in the station — less so on the moving train. In my defense, those Metro cars are super shaky! Maybe next time I’d rent one of these fancy camera gyros.
- That’s it for This is Radio! We’re hoping to do a second season and are on the lookout for funding — hoping to make it even bigger next time around with a new group of radio makers. In the meantime, make sure you’ve seen them all! And follow Transom.org on Facebook so you’ll be the first to know about any future videos.
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