Guide to self-filming: how to shoot good cutaways
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Guide to self-filming: how to shoot good cutaways

Author: James Cresswell | Posted on: 18 February 2021

Last week, we ran through the basics of self-shooting to create a vlog-style piece to camera. Perhaps though, you now want to make it that little bit more visually engaging.

Cutaways - also known as “B-roll footage” - are short bits of footage that can be edited into an interview or piece to camera, which can really help with the flow of your video by further illustrating what you’re talking about.

As with shooting the vlog, you’ll want to be shooting horizontally in landscape mode, and using these camera settings, where possible:

  • Set your camera resolution to the highest possible setting. Ideally, this will be either be…
    4K, or Ultra High Definition (3840 x 2160 pixels), or
    1080p, or Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels)

  • Set your framerate to either 25 or 50fps (frames per second).

  • Then, the shutter speed will depend on what you selected for the framerate:
    1/50 if you chose 25fps, and
    1/100 if you chose 50fps.

What should I be looking to film?

This is where your own creativity comes in: having finished filming your piece to camera, the next step is to look through what you’ve said and think about short shots that can visually complement what you’re talking about.

When we made our “Day in the Life” student videos with Birmingham City University, for example, we asked the students being profiled to film their own cutaways, reflecting their own individual university experience.

As you can see in the video above - Conor talks about balancing studies with part-time work, so we see a few short clips of him working on a computer alongside his colleagues; and, when he’s talking about his love of travel, we get glimpses of some of the places and landmarks that he has visited.

What should I think about when capturing footage?

When filming for your own cutaways, it’s best to think in terms of scenes. Think of how you can illustrate what you’re saying by telling a short story in a few short 10 or 15 second-long shots.

Say you want to show yourself cooking dinner, for example. You wouldn’t film the entire process, but could concisely convey it through this series of shots:

  • A wide “establishing” shot that introduces the action, clearly showing that you’re in the kitchen.

  • After this a few more close-up shots would focus on individual actions around the kitchen: cutting vegetables, switching your oven or hob on, stirring your sauce…

  • Finally, you’d conclude this by showing the finished results: focussing in on the finished meal.

Whatever you capture, make sure you film things for long enough, but never for too long. For editing your final video together, it’s best for the individual B-roll shots to be around 10 to 15 seconds long - this is long enough that they can definitely serve a purpose in the edit, and short enough that an editor won’t be sifting through minutes or even hours of content.

 self-filming cutaways

Finally, when you’re out and about - remember to ask permission from people before you start filming them. You don’t have to worry too much about people in the background of your shot, but you should make sure you have consent before filming a colleague, friend, or member of the general public.

Once again, if you'd like to learn more about how the Ember team can help you – especially when it comes to developing video ideas with you in pre-production, or editing the filmed footage together, then please don't hesitate to get in touch with us via our contact page.

Author: James Cresswell

James Cresswell gravatar avitar
James is our copywriter and social media manager here at Ember Television. He joined us after studying an MA programme in Film and Television: Research and Production at the University of Birmingham.
Guide to self-filming: how to shoot good cutaways



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