Ultimate Drone & Aerial Videography Guide

Here we are… a drone blog. Never imagined you’d be here did you? Yet here you are. Nerding out and talking about flying cameras. Welcome… 

We thought it’d be cool to share with you some of our experience and opinions when it comes to our aerial film and photography gear and techniques. It’s no secret that we’re a company that loves our drones. In fact, Big Slate Media was founded as an aerial film and photography company in the summer of 2015. 

Our founder Jonathan Halley was one of the first licensed drone pilots in Knoxville. Even before it was regulated and required a Remote Pilot License, Jonathan obtained a Sport Pilot License for Powered Parachute (PPC) and filed for an 333 exemption to operate commercially during the “Wild West.”


gif of R2D2 as a flying drone

We get tons of questions about which drones to buy for professional filmmaking. In our opinion, DJI is by far the most reliable, user intuitive, safe and professional drone manufacturer in the business. They make a wide range of products that will serve everyone, from the hobbyist with a few hundred dollars in their pocket to a feature-film drone operator. 

If you’re wanting to get your first drone and take your video skills to a… “higher level”… buy something you can afford to crash. Because you will. Especially early on, it can be hard to maintain perspective while flying resulting in you not realizing that tree is closer than it appears. 

Our first commercial drone was the DJI Phantom 3 Pro. These drones are great and come with all the technology you’d expect: Return-To-Home, GPS lock, and tons of in-app features that make flying really easy. Plus, they’re cheap; $500 should get you a decent set up. However, these days, we’d recommend the Mavic series to any pro looking to up their game. These drones are portable and have amazing battery life – two things we think make it worth the extra coin.

In 2018, we made the switch to the Inspire series from DJI. These drones (Inspire 1 and 2) enabled adjustable aperture and 10-bit color depth. Additionally, we have the option to upgrade the camera and swap lenses. These features were a must for us to help match the shots to our other cameras and also create a uniquely high-end look.


We’re big believers in using our gear to its fullest capacity. The biggest “tip & trick” we could offer up when it comes to getting cinematic drone shots is this – use all three axises in your three-axis gimbal. Meaning, a great shot is one that is moving forward/backward, up/down, left/right and pitching the camera up/down in one fluid motion. This isn’t written in stone, but it’s something we definitely consider when trying to get the most creative shot we can. 

Aside from movement, make sure your settings are correct. Your shutter speed should double your frame-rate, make sure your aperture isn’t too-low and use a gosh-darn ND filter so the sky isn’t blown out on a dark subject. Those may seem like common sense, but they really are essential to getting a great looking image.


1: No BUMPS – if there is a bump or you stop one axis during the shot, scrap it and do it again. The best looking shots are smooth and complete, not jittery or jerky. 

2: No illegal operations – just don’t do it. Jonathan will be the first to admit that he’s bent the rules a few times, and it’s gotten him in trouble with the FAA. It’s never worth it and in the end, you’ll just ruin the hobby for everyone else. Know the laws so you don’t break them. Ignorance is no excuse.

3: Maintain your batteries – Make sure you’re not operating a damaged or bloated battery. These things can literally explode like bombs. Also, don’t run your batteries all the way down to nothing. Lithium batteries don’t like that, and they’ll never be the same. It’s best to leave 10-15% on them. 


Photo of Big Slate Media team flying drones

1: How high will that thing go? 

A: Legally, we can go to 400 ft AGL (actual ground level) or 400 feet taller than any building/structure we are within 50 feet of. However, most of our drones will go to 1,600 ft AGL. 

2: How long does the battery last? 

A: Between 15-27 minutes depending on the winds and how hard we are pushing it. 

3: How far can you fly that puppy? 

A: With a 5-pound puppy, we can fly a mile or more before we start losing signal. However, we must be able to maintain line of sight or use a Visual Observer to report the drone position (Note: we can fly the same distance without a puppy).

4: How much does that thing cost? 

A: Roughly $5,000. 

5: What happens if you lose connection? 

A: It will fly back and auto-land exactly where it took off. However, most of the time connection is re-established before it gets all the way back. 

6: Do you have to have a license to fly that thing? 

A: Yes, for commercial purposes the Remote PIC (remote pilot in command) must have a sUAS Remote Pilot License. However, anyone can operate the drone under the direction of a Remote PIC.

7: Can you spy on my neighbor? 

A: I suppose, but the camera angle is really wide and you can’t zoom in. So unless we get within 50 feet of them, you can’t really see what they are doing. And trust me, they’ll know we’re there. This thing sounds like a swarm of bees. 

8: Do you have insurance? 

A: Absolutely. We carry insurance that covers the drone as well as liability insurance. 

9: Can you see what it’s looking at right now? 

A: Yup, we have a 1080p feed with very low latency. We can also send that signal to any TV, live stream to Facebook or to a broadcast truck (like we did for the Bassmaster Classic). 

10: How long have you been flying? 

A: Our pilots have a combined 10+ years of experience doing aerial filmmaking.

Wanna make a sick drone video with us or have any other questions about aerial videography? Drop us a line! 


Big Slate Media Team

2020 Knoxville ADDY Award Winners

We’ve officially reached Don Draper status… meaning we accepted some advertising awards with an Old Fashioned in hand.

Don Draper from Mad Men drinking and Old Fashioned

Each year, the American Advertising Federation (AAF) facilitates and hosts the ADDY Awards, the world’s largest advertising competition. The awards represent the true spirit of creative excellence by recognizing all forms of advertising from media of all types.

The Roaring ADDYs Logo

In February, the entire Big Slate Media team donned their greatest Gatsby attire and freshest flapper accessories to attend the AAF Knoxville 2020 Roaring ADDY Awards at the Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville. This was the first year we entered work for consideration, and we were thrilled to receive awards for every project we submitted!

We are beyond thankful for the work we get to do with our incredible clients and the team we get to do it with. The ADDY Awards were a great reminder of that, as well as how amazing and supportive the local advertising community is in Knoxville.

Check out our award-winning work:


Choose Knoxville – Knoxville Chamber

Choose Knoxville – Knoxville Chamber, Bronze 2020 ADDY Award

Pit Crew

Pit Crew, Bronze 2020 ADDY Award

Knoxville Water Quality – Knoxville Utilities Board

Knoxville Water Quality – Knoxville Utilities Board, Bronze 2020 ADDY Award

Love is All You Need – Childhelp of East Tennessee

Love is All You Need – Childhelp of East Tennessee, Bronze 2020 ADDY Award

The Peaceful Side of the Smokies – Blount Partnership

Big Slate Media Team

5 Traits of a Solid Video Production Pro

Video production folks are an interesting breed, but what makes the best of the best? 

People in the production industry are, well, people! They have their own personalities, processes and quirks. However, there are some general characteristics that can really help a production professional stand out and achieve more. 

Whether you’re a videographer hoping to grow in this field or a company wanting to know traits of an ideal partner for your next video project, we’re here to lay out five essential traits that make for a solid production pro.


Screenshot from a Shoot To-Do list from TrelloIf you heard our latest episode of the Know Content podcast, we discussed effective pre-production processes and noted that creatives aren’t known for being the most organized people out there… 

But what’s interesting about video production peeps is that they constantly walk the line between organization and improvisation (we’ll discuss the latter in a bit). 

There’s a lot that goes into just one video shoot, and missing any of the important details can unravel even the greatest concepts. These project details can be anything from creating a thorough shot list, ensuring batteries are charged, or setting up the perfect lighting for a shot. Any one of these factors (and many more) can drastically affect the quality of a shoot or final video. 

If you struggle in this area, you’re not alone (hi, welcome to the club). Be sure to utilize some project management tools and production/equipment checklists to make sure you’re not missing any of the pertinent details and to streamline your production process.


Gif of man bending over to touch his toes on each side.

courtesy of

It happens to every video production team. 

Despite your successful location scouting and detailed shot list, you arrive on set to find it raining/loud/crowded, etc. Any number of elements can alter a shoot entirely, and if there’s a tight deadline you may not be able to reschedule.

It can be easy to let this negatively affect your attitude or halt production while you scramble; however, the best video pros know it’s best to just go with the flow. Expecting the unexpected is part of the job. 

Once you learn how to navigate unanticipated scenarios with quick problem-solving, you’ll be invaluable on set. You may even create some of your best work along the way!


Gif of fleix the cat clock ticking

courtesy of

This may seem obvious, but we feel it’s important to note. 

No one wants to work with someone who constantly shows up late, but this characteristic extends beyond just personal time management. 

Video projects are time consuming, and every minute counts. With everything that goes into pre-production, shoot days and post-production, it’s important to ensure you manage that time effectively to meet deadlines and stay on budget. This is especially true when you’re juggling multiple projects at once. 

Make sure you’re keeping track of your time to keep things rolling! We use Harvest, which integrates with a range of project management software. 


A white wall with the phrase "Get the Creativity Flowing" painted on it.

Not everyone can be a great video production professional.

Sure, anyone can learn the right software and purchase high-quality equipment, but a solid production pro has a creative eye that can’t always be taught. Out-of-the-box storytelling and unique composition can take any video to the next level. 

If you’re in video production, don’t take a cookie-cutter content approach with your clients. Express your value and stand out from the rest with a creative mindset and unique deliverables.


A photo of BSM teammate Katelynn smiling at camera while shooting on anSony FS700 camera.

Our amazing DP/Camera Operator/Photographer, Katelynn, in action!

This may be last on the list, but it’s truly the most important. If you don’t love what you do, you can’t do it well. 

Passion is especially necessary in creative industries, and it truly yields the best, most fulfilling work. 

The BSM team attends the STORY conference in Nashville each year, and something we learned there is the true meaning of “passion.” Based on its latin root passio, the word means “to suffer for.” This means you can find and fuel your passion by evaluating what you’re willing to suffer for and recognizing your suffering when NOT doing something. 

Our president Jonathan discovered his passion for aerial videography and founded an entire production company around it! Since then, he has continued to build a team with the same drive to create amazing content (like this incredibly well-written blog post).

The power of passion is truly unmatched and is the foundation of success in any industry.



Big Slate Media Team

Best Video Production Company – Knoxville Big Wigs

We feel like the biggest wigs of all after the 2019 Knoxville American Advertising Federation Big Wig Awards.

Our team was incredibly honored to take home THREE Big Wig Awards this year, including Knoxville’s Best Video/Film Production Company. Additionally, our own Jess Gutman was awarded Best Social Media Specialist, and our newest team member Katelynn Oltrogge was awarded Best Intern.

Jess and Katelynn accept our award for Best Video Production Company at the Big Wigs.

Jess and Katelynn accept our award for Best Video Production Company at the Big Wigs.

This tenth-annual affair was a fun chance to connect with other advertising/marketing pros and celebrate the awesome people KILLING IT in our industry and community. The Big Wigs recognize behind-the-scenes advertising ninjas that flat out get. it. done. Printing companies, TV reps, radio reps, media buyers and more are awarded for taking their craft to the next level each year.

Nominations for the AAF Big Wig Awards are accepted from the public, and the top nominees become finalists. Winners are determined by popular vote, and this was the biggest year of voting numbers in Big Wigs history!

We are truly so thankful for this recognition and are grateful for the work we get to do every day with our amazing clients and partners. On behalf of our whole team, thank you so much to everyone who nominated and voted for us! All are welcome to swing by our office to bask in the glory of our new conference room trophies.

photo of three Big Wigs trophies on white background

AAF-Knoxville is the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF). They work to protect and promote the well-being of advertising through a unique, nationally coordinated grassroots network of advertisers, agencies, media companies, local advertising clubs and college chapters. We love being part of this organization and highly recommend getting involved.

P.S. Congratulations to our many friends/partners who were also recognized with Big Wigs this year! You can check out the full list of winners here.


Big Slate Media Team


One of the latest and greatest methods for engaging your audience is Instagram stories. 

More than 500 million people are daily active Instagram story viewers. It’s a great way for businesses to increase brand awareness, get on the top of people’s feeds, and drive engagement with their followers.

Stories allow you to connect with people in a more impactful and engaging way, and they help build that trust that makes people want to work with you.

In addition to video production, our company also manages several social media accounts in Knoxville, and we’re excited to share with you our top 5 ways to best utilize Instagram stories for your business. 

Let’s go! 


1. Use Them Regularly

Active posting is crucial because the more recent your story is, the more likely the content will appear first on top of someone’s instagram feed. If you’re wondering what types of IG story content works best for businesses, some of our favorites are: 

  • Behind the scenes – show people the inner workings of your business or life; it makes you more relatable
  • Teaser – if something big is coming up, get some hype built up around it by teasing it on your story
  • Polls – helps you learn about your followers, and is one of the primary ways to actually get them to engage with you through stories
  • Questions – a classic Q&A sesh allows your followers to ask you questions about yourself or your business, and  be sure to actively respond to them
  • Go live – this allows you to respond in real time to comments from viewers -nothing is more real than that

2. Encourage Engagement

Iphone with IG poll feature displayedIG stories are a great way for you to interact directly with your loyal followers and gain insights directly from them. Use polls to learn about your audience, whether it be the type of content their looking for from you or their favorite taco place, it’s a great way to engage your followers. 


Also, a Q&A session really allows your followers to engage with you as they ask questions about you or your business. You could even go live to respond in real time to their comments or questions.



3. Run Instagram Story Ads

75% of instagram users take actioniphone with IG ads interface on it – like visiting a website or making a purchase – after looking at an instagram ad. 

You can create story ads directly through the Facebook Ads Manager, or you can use the “promote” button on an existing story post to turn it into an ad (like boosting a Facebook post). 

These allow you to send viewers right to your profile, DM’s or your website. Make sure to use an active visual, like stop-motion, animated text or a regular video to capture the attention of your audience right away as their swiping through stories. This is a great way to get people to a certain webpage if you don’t have that swipe up feature that comes with 10,000 or more followers.



4. Utilize Instagram Story Highlights on Your Profile

Your Instagram profile is really like a landing page for your brand (business or personal), and using highlights allows your audience to view the content they’re most interested in. It also allows new visitors to your profile to get to know you right away. 

Use highlights to introduce your brand, your product or services, and show what it’s like to work with you. Make your highlight covers cohesive and branded to have a more polished look. We  recommend using Canva, which is a free online design software to create some awesome covers. They even have IG story templates already created that you can adjust to fit your brand.

photo of IG story highlight covers from the Peaceful Side of the Smokies account

Highlight covers on @PeacefulSmokies

5. Don’t Be Too Salesy

You’ll lose followers if you’re constantly using stories to make sales pitches. While you can definitely use them to convert followers to customers, stories are best utilized to show authenticity and create brand trust.

We hope these points gave you some ideas and inspiration on how you can best use Instagram stories for your business. If you ever have any questions about social media management, be sure to slide into our DM’s or contact us here. We’d love to help you out!

Big Slate Media Team


Visually engaging content is the best way to attract audiences’ attention and drive brand awareness – in today’s world, that means video. 

Compelling video can be used in a variety of ways across your social media channels, and it’s important to ensure the viewer’s experience is fully optimized. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation – each platform requires its own unique set of video specs and sizes. 

You shouldn’t have to Google every time you need to create a channel-specific video. 

That’s where we come in. Here are the most important social media video specs you need.

You’re gonna wanna bookmark this. 


Facebook offers this as a general rule-of-thumb for optimizing your videos: “Use custom settings when you export your video: With editing software like Final Cut Pro, Avid or iMovie, we recommend you try H.264 video with AAC audio in MOV or MP4 format, an aspect ratio no larger than 1280px wide and divisible by 16px, a frame rate at or below 30fps and stereo audio with a sample rate of 44,100hz.

Upload the highest resolution video available that meets file size and ratio limits.

aspect ratio guide for Facebook

from Facebook

Facebook Feed Video

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum width: 600 pixels (length depends on aspect ratio)
  • Aspect ratios: 16:9 (landscape), 9:16 (full portrait), 2:3 (vertical), 4:5 (vertical), square (1:1)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 120 minutes

Desktop News Feed Link Video Ads (Landscape, Square & Right Column)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape) or 600 x 600 (square)
  • Aspect ratios: Landscape is 16:9 | Square is 1:1 
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 240 minutes

In-Stream Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape) or 600 x 600 (square)
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 recommended
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Video length: 5 – 15 seconds

Facebook Stories (& Story Ads)

  • Minimum dimensions: 500 x 500 
  • Aspect ratios: 1.91 to 9:16, with colored gradient bars rendered above and below videos under 9:16
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 15 seconds

Facebook Cover Video

  • Recommended dimensions: 820 x 462 (min. 820 x 312)
  • Required length: 20 – 90 seconds



Like Facebook, Instagram’s recommendations are similar and you’re urged to use the highest video resolution possible.

aspect ratio chart for instagram

from YouTube channel Javier Mercedes

Instagram In-Feed Video (& Video Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1920 x 1080; 1080 x 1080; 1080 x 1350
  • Minimum resolution: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape); 600 x 600 (square); 600 by 750 (vertical)
  • Aspect ratios: 16:9, 1:1, 4:5 (& 1.91:1)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 60 seconds

Instagram Stories (& Story Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 1067
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (and 16:9 to 4:5)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 15 seconds

(Consider leaving roughly 14% (250 pixels) of the top and bottom of the video free from text and logos to avoid covering these key elements with the profile icon or call-to-action.

Instagram TV (IGTV) 

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum resolution: 720
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (and 16:9)
  • Max file size: 10 minutes or less is 650MB. Up to 60 minutes is 3.6GB. 
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4
  • Max video length: 15 seconds to 10 minutes (Larger accounts and verified accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes long, but they must be uploaded from a computer.) 
  • Recommended cover photo size: 420 x 654 (1:1.55 ratio)



Youtube video sizes graphic


Video Player (Standard YouTube Video)

  • Recommended dimensions: 426 x 240 (240p), 640 x 360 (360p), 854 x 480 (480p), 1280 x 720 (720p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p), 2560 x 1440 (1440p) and 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
  • Minimum dimension: 426 x 240
  • Max dimension: 3840 x 2160
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 (auto adds pillarboxing if 4:3)
  • Max file size: 128GB or 12 hours, whichever is less
  • Video formats: .MOV, .MPEG4, MP4, .AVI, .WMV, .MPEGPS, .FLV, 3GPP, and WebM
  • Max video length: 12 hours

YouTube Video Ads

Ads follow the same dimensions as the non-ad videos, but differ in video length

  • Skippable video ads: maximum length of 12 hours, skippable after 5 seconds
  • Unskippable video ads: max length of 15, 20 or 30 seconds
  • Mid-roll video ads: minimum length of 30 seconds
  • Bumper video ads: maximum length of 6 seconds



graphic of computer and mobile twitter video dimensions

from Zubtitle

Twitter Landscape & Portrait Videos (& Video Ads) 

  • Landscape recommended dimensions: 320 x 180 (256K bitrate), 640 x 360 (768K bitrate) and 1280 x 720 (2048K bitrate)
  • Portrait recommended dimensions: 240 x 240 (256K bitrate), 480 x 480 (768K bitrate) and 640 x 640 (1024K bitrate)
  • Minimum dimensions: 32 x 32
  • Maximum dimensions: 1280 x 1024
  • Aspect ratios: 1:2.39 to 2.39:1
  • Max file size: 512MB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 for web and .MOV for mobile
  • Max video length: 140 seconds



snapchat longform video specs listed on phone

from SocialPilot

Snapchat 10-Second Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Max file size: 32MB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV
  • Max video length:  3 – 10 seconds

Long-Form Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Aspect ratios: 9:16 or 16:9
  • Max file size: 1GB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV.
  • Minimum video length: 15 seconds (no max)



photo of three phones displaying Linkedin videos

from eDigital agency

Shared Video

  • Maximum size: 4,096 x 2,304 
  • Minimum size: 256 x 144 
  • Aspect ratio: 1:2.4 to 2.4:1
  • Max file size: 5GB
  • Video formats: .ASF, .AVI, .FLV, .MOV, .MPEG-1, .MPEG-4, .MKV, and .WebM
  • Minimum video length: 3 seconds (max: 10 minutes)


Video Ads

  • Required dimensions: 480 x 360 (360p), 640 x 360 (360p wide), 640 x 480 (480p), 960 x 720 (720p), 1280 x 720 (720p wide), 1440 x 1080 (1080p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p wide)
  • Maximum file size: 200 MB
  • Video format: .MP4
  • Max video length: 30 minutes (LinkedIn’s guidelines state most ads perform best at around 15 seconds)



aspect ratios of Pinterest videos on a phone

from Pinterest

Shared Video (& Video Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 600 x 600 (square); 600 x 900 (vertical)
  • Minimum video resolution: 240p
  • Aspect ratios: 1:1 & 9:16
  • Portrait recommended dimensions: 240 x 240 (256K bitrate), 480 x 480 (768K bitrate) and 640 x 640 (1024K bitrate)
  • Max file size: 2GB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV
  • Max video length: 30 minutes


Big Slate Media Team


Some of the work we enjoy most is helping our partners out with their incredible events! From elegant award galas, to multi-day, action-packed music festivals, to educational conferences and seminars – we love diving into event social media marketing and video production. 

There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing strategy, but we wanted to share some of our basic tips and tricks for creating some buzz around your next event.

Here’s the vlog with Lucas to get things going: 


You gotta pay to play on social media to get noticed. Run ads on channels your target audience uses – we recommend Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These can be general ads that simply provide event details, or a video ad with sponsor interviews, a hype promo video or ticket giveaways. If we’ve learned anything about pre-event social media marketing is that people LOVE free stuff. 

Seriously, they go nuts. 

The integration between Facebook and Instagram makes it super easy to manage your marketing budget and content for both platforms in one place – the Facebook Ads Manager. You can create custom or Look-Alike audiences to target the exact people you want at your event. 

If this is a first-time event without any prior video footage available, don’t worry! It’s still possible to create an awesome promo video with stock footage, animation or interviews with your talent or emcee. Just be sure to snag some video at the event for next year’s promotion.




The most important part of live event coverage is actively engaging with your attendees on social media and making people at home wish theywere there! 

Go live on Facebook or YouTube, get some shots of people having a great time and post it on your Instagram story and comment on posts about your event. Also, make sure your event uses a singular, memorable hashtag for all posts, and encourage others to use it as well. This provides you with user-generated content to repost, and increased engagement will ensure your hashtag is more visible on people’s feeds. 

Check out this Instagram highlight from one of our most recent events, Brimstone White Knuckle, to see some of the live event social coverage. 

white knuckle logo



A great way to thank your sponsors and showcase your successful event is to create a recap video to post on all your social channels. These are some of our favorite videos we get to create because we’re able to share some incredible experiences and show off just how awesome our partners are. 

Recap videos can also be easily reworked to make a promotional video for the next event. That’s some great double-dippin’ for all the video footage you capture. 

If you’re working on a shoestring marketing budget and have to choose between pre-event coverage or a post-event recap video, we recommend focusing on pre-event marketing (especially for the first year) – because you want people to actually show up, right? 

Here’s the recap video for the Brimstone White Knuckle event mentioned above! 


If you’re planning your next event and need some help with social media strategy or video marketing, give us a call! We’d love to offer suggestions and partner with you.


Big Slate Media Team

The Importance of B-Roll: Painting the Whole Picture

We have a rule here at Big Slate when it comes to any video project – commercial, company overview, event coverage, you name it – OVER SHOOT. This becomes especially true with pick-up shots or B-roll.

We talk about and utilize B-roll a lot. So, we wanted to share our thoughts on the importance of this footage and how it can be best used in your next video. (Roll that beautiful, B-roll blog…

What exactly is B-roll?

BSM team shooting b-roll

When shooting a video, shots of your primary subject are called A-roll. Therefore, any extra footage you capture in addition to the main subject is referred to as B-roll. “A” comes first, “B” comes second… makes sense, right?

Although B-roll is considered secondary or supplementary footage, it definitely should not be considered secondary in importance. Both are necessary in conveying a powerful message. While A-roll tells the story, B-roll provides necessary context.

No Film School has a great analogy for it. “A-roll is the hotdog and B-roll are the fixins. You have a full meal with just the hotdog, sure, but what kind of freak would eat a plain hotdog?

Don’t be the freak with the plain hot dog.

hands holding hot dog with ketchup and mustard on it for b-roll blog

Types of B-Roll shots

Really, the possibilities are endless in terms of what types of shots make good B-roll. Depending on the type of video, location of the shoot or the client, it can really be anything that adds to the video flow. This could be:

  • Establishing shots of the room, building or outdoors
  • People working on day-to-day activities (on a computer, machine, etc.)
  • Signage
  • Interviewee smiling, nodding, etc.
  • People holding awards, framed photos, etc.

You can see several of these types in this video we created for Helen Ross McNabb Center:

Why is it useful?

Beyond providing context and setting the stage for the primary story, there are many other practical uses for B-roll footage.

It can REALLY help during the editing process. Odds are, you won’t have perfect shots all the time, especially when shooting long-form interviews. It could be as simple as a sneeze that you need to cut out. If you want it to flow better than using a quick-cut to remove the shot, overlaying some related B-roll makes it a much smoother transition that no one will think twice about.  

Will Ferrel as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman sneezing gif for b-roll blog

Speaking of long-form interviews, a video can quickly become pretty dull if you’re just watching someone talk on camera for several minutes. Switching the shot over to some B-roll related to what they’re talking about makes the video much more engaging.

Check out this video we made for Sonny Brooke Stables, and imagine if we just kept the shot on Krystle the whole time… not nearly as fun as watching horse jumping (No offense to Krystle, she’s awesome)!

Make it part of the process.

Now that you have some perspective on the importance of B-roll, make sure it’s integrated into your pre-production process. Consider your primary shot and what supporting visuals could make it stronger. When scouting locations, also consider what pick-up shots and angles you should incorporate into your shot list. Be thorough.

It will definitely take your video to the next level.

If you ever need help with any facet of video production, or have more questions about B-roll, you know who to call.

Big Slate Media Team

4 Types of Content We Love Shooting in Studio

In case you haven’t heard – which would be incredible considering we’ve been BRAGGING for months – we built a studio near downtown Knoxville!

Besides having a new, controlled space for our hilarious internal video ideas, we’re super excited to have a location to create even more engaging, meaningful content for our clients. *Please note hilarious content below* 


There are so many possibilities when it comes to in-studio video content, and we wanted to share some of our favorites that work for any business across all industries.


This type of content is the best way to tell your overall story. Interviewing staff members to talk about company culture, what you do and why you do it is the foundation of every great company overview video. Similarly, recording client testimonials allows you to talk about your products or services through the experiences of people who are already utilizing them!


Both can be easily managed in a controlled studio setting. It provides the ability to ensure high-quality audio/lighting while allowing for multiple camera angles, making the video much more engaging for viewers.


Vlogging (or video-blogging) has truly blown up in the past year or so. They are simple videos, typically involving one person, just talking about what’s going on. A video studio is the perfect spot to shoot these if you’re like most people who don’t want to be doing this kind of stuff in public (You know, like the random guy vlogging his day around town? You’re not a celebrity dude, just give it a rest).

Describing what’s happening with your company – new products, events coming up, staff introductions – is fun, interesting content for your current/prospective clients because it can really show off your personality. Vlogs can also be used to discuss industry topics and position your business as a thought-leader.

Quick-cut edits, personable subject matter and tone-of-voice, and fun use of text and animation in post-production can make vlogs fun and engaging for all viewers.

P.S. This type of content can easily populate a YouTube channel.


This one’s easy. If you have commonly asked questions regarding your company, products or services, answer them on camera! It’s way more engaging than having an FAQ accordion on your website. You can even display and manage products when answering specific questions, which leads us into our final content type… 


NuCanoe Product Shoot in Studio

A bright, shiny studio can be an amazing setting for some stellar product shots or demonstration videos. It is so much easier to show customers how a product works through video content rather than explaining it in a body of text on your website. This can also provide great, bite-sized videos for social media and an archive of b-roll for future videos.

Now that you’re full of some awesome ideas for your own video content, book some time with us in our studio. We’d love to help you out with your upcoming projects! 

Big Slate Media Team

Picking an Interview Spot that Doesn’t Suck

You know those interview/testimonial videos where you can’t hear anything? Or see anything because it’s too dark or super pixelated? Or that are just really distracting because it’s on a train track or something?

Those videos suck.

Wether you’re using your iPhone or professional video equipment, an important factor you can control to improve quality of your video is the location. When choosing the best interview spot for the shot, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Reduce Noise

Reducing “noise” – both audible and visual – is key in finding a great interview spot. Make sure to choose a place that is relatively quiet without a ton of loud activities occurring around it. This will make it more difficult to hear the subject, which is the entire point of the video.

Also, a shot with a ton of visual “noise” – random objects, people walking in and out of frame a bunch, piles of trash in the corner – is distracting to viewers and should be avoided. You want people to be fully engaged with your video content, and distractions could draw them away from the message you are trying to convey..

We know sometimes it’s unavoidable to shoot in a noisy area – like when you’re shooting interviews at a horse stable – and in that case, you would turn to some quality audio equipment, and a whole lot of patience, to help out.

interview at Sonny Brooke Stables

Light it Up

When picking a location for an interview, try to find an area where you have some control over lighting.

Indoors: Rooms should have shades over the windows in case of harsh sunlight, and you should have the ability to turn off any overhead lighting.

Outdoors: Consider shooting during the “Golden Hour” – either the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset – when sunlight is more soft. This could prevent harsh shadows on the subject from direct sunlight. If you can’t shoot during that time, an overcast day works great as well!

Lighting is a huge reason we LOVE shooting in our new studio. Complete control of lighting makes for a beautiful shot, like this one of Kelly:

3to99 studio interview

Choose a Space with Options

The best interview locations are spacious areas with plenty of options for various angles and set-ups. Larger areas allow for a shallow depth of field – keeping the subject in focus with the background blurred. You don’t want a massive, echoey room, but there should be enough space for your entire set-up and team.

You also want the ability to change set-ups, especially if you’re interviewing multiple people in the same video. Changing angles keeps the viewer engaged and allows for a more dynamic flow.

Knoxville Chamber interview

Knoxville Chamber interview









These three simple things can drastically affect the quality of your video interviews, and keeping them in mind during pre-production can ensure your final product is stellar. Picking the right location with minimal “noise,” controlled lighting, and plenty of room for options can truly take your interviews to the next level.

Want to work with us on your next testimonial video or use our studio space for an interview? Hit us up!

Big Slate Media Team