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When to insert B roll?

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Jon Fidler
When to insert B roll?
on Aug 12, 2009 at 12:59:11 pm

Hi

I have been watching a lot of short movie featurettes on youtube and have a questions about this style of editing. Im trying to understand when to insert b roll and when to cut to a speaker.

I hope this question isnt too vague. Im aware it depends on the tone of the piece, as well as covering up mistakes or jump cuts when the interview is trimmed of unnessary words or pauses as well as generally keeping things smooth etc.

But creatively when is a generally good place to insert B roll when somebody is talking? Is it usually a casr of illustrating the points the speaker makes?

Also sometimes they will cut back to the speaker after b roll, before the next point is made, why is this?

I know there obviously isnt a definitive answer by any means, but just a push in the general direction as to what I should be aiming for when editing would be very helpful and appreciated.


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Mark Suszko
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 12, 2009 at 2:54:26 pm

Sometimes you cut back to speaker because that was all the b-roll you had:-) I don't know of any editor that ever claimed he had "too much" b-roll.

You touched already on most of the points regarding useage of cut-aways. They are at the lowest level, simple "band-aids" or "duct tape" that bridge and cover the joint between two discontinuous clips. That's the lowest level of how they are used, you see that done in very simple news cutting, for example.

The second level is a literal showing of what the speaker is telling. He's talking about a polluted lake, you SHOW the polluted lake with his voice behind it. This is mostly to collapse the story told into a shorter time, and add narrative clarity.

A third level is to use the cut-aways to convey emotional subtext. Spooky woods while a guy is talking about fear, time-lapse clouds while talking about heaven, etc. But what if you put the "wrong" b-roll against the narrative, on purpose? Talking about harmony, and showing dissonance, you can create humor where there was none, or make a point about what is true.

The higher levels of usage involve adding the visual and cutting to or away from it as punctuation to what is said, and sometimes to impose a "third meaning" on the synthesis of two other stand-alone ideas, what the guy was saying, and what the visual was showing. Each of those alone have a singular and obvious meaning, but if you combine them right, you synthesize a third, new meaning, one different from either of the stand-alone components.

That's montage. That's the power of an edit. To collapse time and space, to define emotional subtext, to suggest things that were never there, to convey a third meaning. That's where you earn the big bucks.




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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 12, 2009 at 8:04:11 pm

Thanks for the excellent responses, what excactly do you mean by punctuation on your final point?

Thanks


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 12, 2009 at 3:00:40 pm

Hey, Jon.

Yeah, you've nailed the illustrative and cosmetic reasons for inserting B. The bottom line is when it feels right and enhances the piece rather than distracting.

You mentioned 'The Speaker'. Are you asking about cutaways in a narrative or documentary?

In a Doc clarity generally tops the list. So B should be inserted just as you said.

Narratives offer a lot more flavor due to Diegesis - simply the telling of a story by a narrator. Parts of a film can either be diegetic or non-diegetic. Mostly applying to sound, it can also apply to inserts that depict something that is not taking place in the world of the film (a non-diegetic insert). Titles, subtitles, and voice-over narration (with some exceptions) are also non-diegetic.

Here's an example: In "The Truman Show," while Truman sleeps soothing music plays, as is common in such scenes. However, after cutting to the control room, we see that the mood music is being played by Philip Glass standing at a bank of keyboards. The shift is from apparently non-diegetic to diegetic, and is a joke.

Whew! Aren't you glad you asked?


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Juris Eksts
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 13, 2009 at 5:34:40 pm

I think that you absorb far more information from an interviewee when you can see their eyes, see the emotion with which they're speaking.
And when they're saying something emotionally, that's the best reason to cut back to them.
When a B roll doesn't give any more information than the speaker themselves, don't use it.

Juris


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 14, 2009 at 1:00:15 am

Then there's always B is more interesting than Talking Heads.


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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 14, 2009 at 3:25:10 pm

Thanks for all the answers they have been very helpful.

Can someone exaplain to me, or give a few examples of the idea talked about above about using B roll as punctuation to the points, im a little confused by this.



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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 15, 2009 at 12:37:33 pm

Does anyone know?


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 15, 2009 at 2:35:51 pm

Evidently only Marky-Mark. He's the one using the phrase in a posting filled with generalities and the obvious puffed up to be larger-than-life.

Ask him.


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cowcowcowcowcow
Mark Suszko
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 15, 2009 at 9:53:04 pm

He was asking me; I've been working in the field and too busy to come back to this. Frankly I thought someone else would step in, there's been a lot of good suggestions/comments so far.

Pick out a middle-length, simple declarative sentence. Repeat it out loud, each time emphasizing a different word. Try it as an exclamation, as a question. We can force similar changes in how the sentence is understood by a listener, in the choices we make during a cutting session. Welles had a good quote about this: "Whether the story has a happy ending or not, rather depends on where you decide to stop telling it"


Say you're doing a piece about a guy, I dunno, let's call him "Anthony", and it is about his assertion that he's been really good friends with this guy named, um "Max", and that the current tiff between the two is a simple mistake that will soon clear up. Your shot choices are the medium shot of the guy making his statement, a tighter close-up of his face from a second camera, and various b-roll taken about the same time as the interview, before or after it.

So, you run with just the wide shot, that's fine, it is a neutral effect as far as in that you didn't overlay any meaning to it. Break in the middle of the speech at a key moment with the matching close-up, BAM, you've called the change out as having some kind of significance. Depending on what "Anthony" is saying at the precise moment of the change, you can reinforce his assertion, emphasize it, or, you can flip the order around, tight to wide, and diminish the power of what he said, without altering a word of it. maybe his face in the close-up looks honest, but the side shot shows a body language that says otherwise. Or maybe the close-up is showing some kind of "tell" that suggests he's lying. Adding a quick cut-away next to that, say, of his hands wringing or fingers drumming or foot tapping... you just changed how people think they should read this guy. You made him less trustworthy.

It could also be done with the choice of where an L-cut happens, when you cut from a person talking to what it is they are talking about. Depending on how you layer it, people can ascribe a different meaning to the combination than what was there before.

Closeup of Exxon executive: "We are so proud Forbes named us the most ecologically-advanced company this year! " (Cut away to dead birds gassed by leaks from plant, over this next part. Voice-over continues) "We've really shown that working together...) (Shot of crews shoveling up dead birds into sacks for disposal)" ...we can improve the environment (cut to shareholder dinner, table full of roast fowl) "...and still serve our shareholders in the best possible way." (cut back to speaker, full) "We look at it as a win-win partnership."

Now, that was a very crude example, I didn't have time to finesse it, I'm late for an appointment, but maybe it gets across the "Punctuation" concept.




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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 16, 2009 at 2:53:49 am

Hey, let's do lunch.


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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 16, 2009 at 3:37:55 pm

Thanks for the excellent response.


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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 2:25:39 pm

Thanks Mark, thats as very helpful.


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 16, 2009 at 1:54:37 pm

Sure.

Always make sure to put a period at the end of every sequence, and when there are two different visual causes, separate them with a comma, dash or semicolon.

If there's a visual list use a colon.

Easy.


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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 16, 2009 at 3:28:12 pm

Commas and Semi Colons? How am I meant to do this visually though?


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 1:53:19 pm

Are you serious?

The post was a knock at pomposity and narcissitic idiocy. There is no such thing as visual punctuation. It's BS.

Look, Man. Why not do it yourself? Create your own style. If you're green the skills will happen. Trust yourself.


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Jon Fidler
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 2:08:04 pm

Notthing wrong with doing your homework first, if I went for a paid job and did what "felt right" you would get blacklisted within a week, imo.


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 2:13:28 pm

Whatever.


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Mark Suszko
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 10:48:31 pm

Who micturated in your bowl of bran flakes, Tony?

Pedantic, yes. I'll cop to that. Didactic even, sometimes, but not really condescending; he wanted it simple, I tried to keep it simple. If you knew me you wouldn't call me pompous.

But you're being rude here by making personal insults, and we don't play that here.





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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 2:46:50 am

Hey, let's do lunch.


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Mark Suszko
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 3:36:32 am

I think that's Mamet code for an expletive. Or not: it depends on the inflection with which it is delivered.


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Tony Stampalia
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 12:33:43 pm

Hey, let's do lunch.


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 5:37:23 pm

Tony,

You really are a whiney little one, aren't you?

Anyone that doesn't agree with you is instantly mocked and branded as an idiot or whatever other vitriolic pronouncement you wish to spew?

Well, let's just say that your spewing days are over as you must pass the COW's minimum age-level requirement to post here and you clearly are below it.

Goodbye.

Ron Lindeboom


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grinner hester
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 17, 2009 at 8:59:34 pm

I cut to broll when wanting to see what is being talked about and I go to talking head when I don't have b-roll or to introduce em. The only person who wants to watch a talking head is the head who was talkin'.



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Mark Suszko
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 18, 2009 at 3:50:22 am

[grinner hester] "I cut to broll when wanting to see what is being talked about and I go to talking head when I don't have b-roll or to introduce em. The only person who wants to watch a talking head is the head who was talkin'."

I know you didn't mean that in a universal sense.
You CAN do this, but doesn't always mean you should. It really depends on the actual material. With a certain person, talking about certain things, the talking head is the most interesting and entertaining and informative thing you could possibly show.

The tight CU of the face, the eyes and mouth expressing and emoting... these things are eternal, elements of the very basis of storytelling art. This is what Hollywood producers spend millions to fake. If you can get that, real and for free, by all means you should use it.

Sometimes the best editing you can do is to know when not to mess with what's already there. Just clear some space around it so it can be appreciated as-is.


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David Dickerson
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Aug 20, 2009 at 3:19:31 am

IMHO, Jon, there should be a reason for every edit (cut to B rollin this case). If the speaker says it better than the B roll, then let the speaker run with it. Usually, though, B roll keeps the viewers eyes on the screen. But I do think Mark's last sentence said it best, and perhaps another way of saying it: if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.

DD


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Chris Bové
Re: When to insert B roll?
on Dec 8, 2009 at 8:10:15 pm

...or just do this






______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.



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