Tips for how to shoot A-roll.
Throughout the video production process, keep the following things in mind:
Pick a decision-maker.
Typically, the director and DP (director of photography) go through the script and hash out the shot list or storyboard for the script. Determine which one will make those decisions from the beginning to smooth out the process. Bring a shot list to the set or on location too.
Some people wait to see the scene with the actors on set to know what types of shots would feel best. Ultimately, the more you can plan, the less time you’ll waste. This production phase can be expensive, and a good shot list will cover every detail the crew needs to capture A-roll, as well as a guide to shooting B-roll footage, to help keep costs down.
Whether it’s a feature film or short film, connect an idea to an inspiration. “I try to connect my ideas to something true in life. That's when I know there is a good story. It’s a good, artistic way to portray and make people feel a point of view,” says film director Jhosimar Vasquez. The key is figuring out what you want to make people feel. Essential A-roll footage is critical to stir up those emotions.
Be deliberate when selecting your A-roll shots. For example, establishing shots help viewers adjust to a change in location, whereas an extreme close-up on dialogue tells viewers that it’s an important part of the story. If you’re struggling to decide which type of shot to use, put yourself in the character’s shoes to choose what would feel right.
It’s always a good idea to overshoot. That way, you have more to work with in post-production, which is important, since you may not be able to go back and reshoot scenes. Just make sure to use shots that will contribute to the story.
Think about your audience.
Whether you’re creating a long or short film, there are several factors to consider. Length and genre are important if you want to make sure that it works in the festival world. Consider who the work is for and why you want to create it.
“Even in features, we all talk about our audience, and short films also have an audience. Who are you trying to reach?” says film director Helen Alexis Yonov. It’s all about bringing reality to the script to appeal to many perspectives.
With short films or any sort of filmmaking, it may feel like there always needs to be a narrative. But if you want to do something like a micro-short film, you can think outside of the box. Think about what is going to captivate someone to make them want to go see a short, interview, or video. “It’s about figuring out if this is going to make people interested in what I’m doing,” says Yonov. “Find what speaks to you as a filmmaker — that’s also a huge thing.”