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How to Make Your B-roll Work

By Mark LaVigne, APR

Television news is one of the most powerful and trusted news media these days, and to get a softer story into the TV newscast one must follow one paramount rule - have moving pictures.

In congested news markets such as Toronto, getting a videographer or camera assigned to your story is a challenge to say the least. If you're lucky, you may get one or two cameras out to your news event. That leaves another three or four stations, not including the networks that will not cover your story because they are not there with a camera.

PR practitioners can maximize their TV impact by investing in B-roll and hiring a news videography service. One such service provider is Permanent Images Video Production Inc. ( It's principal, Steve Dekter, is a 15-year veteran of Toronto's television news business, where he has worked as a front line camera operator and producer for the likes of CTV, Global, CNN and ABC News.

Steve offers his top ten tips to maximize the pick-up of your B-roll:

1. Hire a videographer with news experience - wedding video won't cut it!
2. Shoot it in Beta cam format.
3. It should be in edited, eye-catching footage and delivered in a timely manner.
4. Don't shoot shots - shoot sequences. Tell the story.
5. Produce a shot list to use as a rough guide.
6. Allow for time to light the shot properly.
7. Shoot as a news videographer would shoot it - don't make it too polished.
8. Keep the B-roll visually entertaining.
9. Work with the camera operator/producer to capture the best shots and sequences.
10. Hire a staging company when it is a news event so lighting, backdrop signage and audio feeds are all present and in working order.

Dekter adds that "at the end of the day, don't forget this is news, not a movie."

Distribution of B-roll is dependent on budget and timing. If it is a relatively hard news story with time sensitivities, courier delivery of the tapes will be necessary for a one-market focus, or through satellite if it's of national interest.

Ensure concise hard copy news materials accompany the BETA tape and make sure the B-roll is not too long - less than ten minutes is ideal. TV stations don't have the time or staff to go through long tapes!

Mark LaVigne, APR, is President of the Canadian Public Relations Society (Toronto) and runs a media relations and media coaching firm based in Aurora, Ontario. He can be reached at (905) 841-2017 or

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