5 Tips for Capturing BTS Footage

When I was designing and producing our DVD packages for Journey to Kathmandu, one of the things that I knew that I’d had an abundance of and might be attractive to purchasers of the DVD set was a slew of extras. I figured that I could make the package something that documentary film enthusiasts and documentary filmmakers alike would be interested in.  

I’d been appreciating Criterion Collection DVDs for some of my favorite films for years.  The amount of extras was often worth the price of the film alone.

Doing EPK or electronic press kits is tailor-made for us doc filmmakers.  We have the gear and we know how to tell stories. EPK and BTS, behind-the-scenes type of work go hand-in-hand.  And the people that produce them professionally have helped make some incredible dvd packages over the years – not the least of which are the aforementioned Criterion folks.  

The EPK work has diminished considerably over the years. The major studios have decided that it wasn’t making financial sense to continue putting money into building out and producing extras.  I suppose the thinking is that because of digital platforms, people aren’t as interested in extras or making-ofs or behind-the-scenes.

In my humble opinion, this creates an opportunity for the independent documentary filmmaker. As with the dvd packaging for Journey to Kathmandu, I believe that we can be taking advantage of this lack of EPK or BTS material, to better produce sellable packages – and that most certainly includes digital distribution platforms too.


5 Tips for Capturing BTS Footage


1.  Get Best Possible Audio

So the first best practice that I’m going to mention for producing DVD extras is to get the best possible audio that you can.  Audio can sometimes take a back seat to what you may be shooting for your extras for your film.

Don’t make that mistake.

Often times you’re not just shooting images that you’ll put together as a montage over some music, in fact, it’s often the soundbytes that you capture that really resonate with people.

When I was shooting some making-of content for the soundtrack for Journey to Kathmandu I knew that the sound that was being created from the music making was going to be important to capture, but also I knew that I wanted to get a bit under the hood with some of the musicians.  So I made sure that I had a good shotgun mic and also made sure to put a lav on each musician that I wanted to spend some time with.

I was very happy to capture some great, clean audio. Not only of the lovely sounds of the music being created but also of some cool moments and interactions of their creative process.



 2.  Involve the Crew and Subjects

Because most of us now have very good cameras built into our mobile devices, I would encourage anyone working on your film to be taking photos and video of the various events.  You never really know how you might use these later on – whether it be for key art for your film, social media, film extras.

What’s important is that you not only encourage people to shoot this kind of content, but also that you make sure that you get access to the photos or footage asap.  

It’s really easy to forget about it or assume that you can get it later on, but it’s easier to ask people when it’s fresh on their mind than it is a year or two down the road.

Make sure to get a signed release for all footage!


3.  Keep a Film Journal

Whenever I am working on a particular project, I am often keeping a written journal of events.  It’s a way for me to decompress after a day of shooting and it allows me to get out some ideas or thoughts that I might want to remember for later on.  My film journals allow me to process what is happening on my film while it’s actually happening.

Many of my blog posts often are borne out of my journal entries or at least an idea that was spawned from the stream of consciousness writing.  And a number of my extras come from things that I’ve written down in my film journals too.

You might consider a video journal or, I suppose, even vlogging, for that matter, if you don’t want to write down your thoughts.  Certainly the video can be used in many ways for film extras later on down the line. And if you do any vlogging and share that content it be great at getting people excited for your film and building an audience, well before the film is released.  And we all know the importance of that!


 4.  Storytelling

It’s easy to get in the mindset that if you’re shooting BTS you’re just getting B-roll type content.  But that is by no means always the case.

You might be covering things like crew meetings or travels, fundraising parties, or the recording of music for your film. There are many opportunities for shooting behind-the-scenes type content that isn’t of your actual film shoot. So, it’s important to remember when shooting your BTS, you are still a storyteller.  You still want to be in the mindset of a storyteller.

Again, it’s hard to say until later how your extras might be used, so it’s a good idea to get in the habit of always thinking story story story. Just as you would when shooting your actual film.  


5.  Offload Footage at End of Day

The last thing that I want to mention deals with the offloading of your BTS footage, which you’re going to want to do at the end of the day, just as you would all of you’re a footage from the actual shoot. This really is about any BTS footage that might be shot on a mobile device, since anything shot on the main shoot’s camera will obviously be transferred with all of the other footage.

The reason you want to offload it at the end of the day is that when you go to look for extras footage it’s much easier to find it by day of the shoot since you know what folder of what drive it’ll be on. If you’re not regularly offloading your BTS, you risk it sitting on your phone for who knows how long. And then when you finally do dump it, you’re going to have it mixed in with anything else that’s ever been shot on your phone since the last time you dumped photos and videos.  

Having to go through that mess every time you want to find some specific BTS is such a waste of time. So, just as you would with the daily footage, make sure to offload all of your BTS stuff as well. It’ll make life a lot easier for you, trust me.


..and another thing!

When you’re in post, pull aside any clips that you don’t use for your film that you think might make some good behind-the-scenes, or film extras footage.

If you’re deliberating, just pop it into a sequence and be done with it. That way, you can always come back to it later on when you start putting together extras for the film, or find yourself in need of some video for social media purposes.



Host and TDL Founder, Chris G Parkhurst

Chris is a documentary filmmaker and the founder and host of The Documentary Life, a platform which aims to inform and inspire documentary filmmakers from around the globe.

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