Cinematic B Roll Challenge at Largest Mall in North America

Shooting a BRoll Challenge in West Edmonton Mall — Jared VanderMeer

Last night was a sleepless night because I was too busy dreaming about… you guessed it! B roll!

There have been some incredible B roll challenges on YouTube in the recent past. We were inspired by the Peter McKinnon B roll challenge. So, with that goal in mind, Q and I had it out in an epic cinematic B roll film challenge.

We decided to film in West Edmonton Mall (WEM) — the largest mall in North America. We knew it would give us a ton of opportunities for amazing B roll footage, and we probably wouldn’t even cross paths while we were filming. Here are a few fun facts about WEM:

1) It covers 5.3 million square feet.

2) It’s accredited as a zoo.

3) There are over 800 stores, plus some cool attractions like the World Waterpark and Galaxyland.

4) Over 30.8 million people visit each year.

Once we got to the mall, it was “pro” vs. “Joe.” As our team’s professional videographer, Q had the advantage, but I was eager to prove that I can put my creativity to work behind the camera and capture/edit an epic B roll sequence.

Here were the rules for our B roll challenge:

1) Choose your equipment upfront

We divided up the equipment with just one camera and lens per person. We were both working with different tools and were very limited, which made it a bigger challenge for both of us. I took the Sony a7R3 and the 24mm wide-angle lens. Meanwhile, Q got the Sony a73 and a 50mm lens, plus the gimble.

Q’s biggest challenge was shooting with a single lens. He’s used to having a full line-up of equipment, so working with just one lens and camera wasn’t easy. Meanwhile, I had to overcome stabilization issues since I didn’t have the advantage of the gimble. Check my top tips below to see how I dealt with that issue.

2) Take one full day to edit

Q and I decided that after a few hours spent at the mall shooting, we’d have one full day back at the office to put our videos together. After that, we’d play both videos back to back and decide on the winner.

Top Tips for Shooting Stellar B Roll:

While shooting, I wanted to share a few of the challenges I came up against and how I dealt with them. Here were some of the top tips from that day:

- Stability is tough when you don’t have a gimble. Since Q had the gimble and I didn’t, I had to use what I had on hand, which was my camera strap. This gives me three-point stabilization for slow pans that aren’t going to be shaky. Some people would call this a crutch, but when you don’t have other options, it’s the best way to get smooth shots.

- Great editing comes from great planning. For me, editing is harder when you haven’t thought through your shoot properly. So with that in mind, I worked hard during shooting to make sure I had everything I needed once I sat down. For each shot, I took a stable shot, a panned shot, and up/down and left/right transitions. This meant I could edit my shots together virtually however I wanted to.

Recently, I also did my own B roll challenge in pure white winter conditions. Check out the video on my YouTube channel for tips on how to deal with all-white conditions when shooting B roll.

The Results from Our B Roll Challenge

Once we’d put together our videos, we sat down at the office to see what each of us came up with. We were actually surprised to see how different the videos were in style. Q’s was slow and had great sound design, whereas mine was faster and set with music. One of the biggest takeaways was sticking to your own sense of creativity and style and staying true to your own vision.

Another great takeaway for us was the teambuilding aspect. Just seeing how different our videos were gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other. At the end of the day we declared it a tie because how can you compare apples to oranges? Every videographer has a different style and it was crazy to see how two distinct concepts played out so well in the final edit.

After our day at West Edmonton Mall, we’d say this: If you’ve been thinking about a B roll challenge for your team (or just for yourself), get out there and get to work! It’s a great learning experience, and you’ll only get better as you create more video content.

I recently published If You Sell, You Lose, my first marketing book designed for businesses, brands, and marketers. Videos and marketing tips on YouTube.