Chicago Based B-Roll in Video Production

By, Chris Pagoria • Marketing Manager

Around Chicago you will find many iconic sites and locations! Some of the most famous sites have been featured in Hollywood movies for decades. Movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off filmed at over 30 locations around Chicago, including Wrigley Field and the Art Institute. Chicago has also be the backdrop to many action packed movies such as the Batman and Transformers series. Of course, there are also some smaller less used locations that are great shots for b-roll around the city and suburbs for even the smallest video production projects.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with video production, b-roll is the alternative footage that you use to supplement with a-roll footage. Your a-roll footage is your primary video clips, such as interviews, and your b-roll is supplementary footage, such as location or action shots. 

Chicago is home to over 570 city parks, many iconic buildings and a wide variety of outdoor art sculptures. With this large assortment of options you are sure to find a location that you can capture some b-roll footage to fit your next video production. Be sure to check with the Chicago Film Office to make sure that your production will not need any special permitting.  

One interesting option is to film on the CTA’s “L” train. The famous “L” track system which hovers over the streets of Chicago dates back to the 1890’s and is an iconic Chicago look. The Chicago Transit Authority, CTA, rents everything from operational trains to buses and can provide support staff to make them move!  With over 140 train stations and 11,000 bus stops in their management you are sure to be able to find something intriguing. 

Did you know that two of Chicago’s most famous landmarks are commonly referred to by incorrect names?  

Arguably the most famous landmark in Chicago is the Willis Tower. If you don’t know what the Willis Tower is you probably refer to it as the Sears Tower, which was its name from the 1970’s till 2009 when Willis Group Holding Ltd obtained the naming rights. The Willis tower held the title as the tallest building in the world for over 20 years and will probably be the tallest building in Chicago forever. Also many people don’t know that a box of cigarettes inspired the Willis Tower’s design. Famed architect Bruce Graham was intrigued by the way cigarettes coming out of a box could hold their position without falling back in. This was the inspiration for the Willis Tower’s staggered tube based design.  

Another well-known landmark with naming mistakes is the large shiny structure in Millennium Park.  Many Chicagoans just refer to it as “the bean” but the official name for the sculpture is Cloud Gate. The large stainless steel structure was unveiled in 2006 and has quickly become an iconic Chicago landmark. This landmark can bring challenges to a video production crew due to it’s reflective and mirror like surface but it wont stop you from including it in your next production. 

Did you know that another one of Chicago’s most famous landmarks doesn’t have a name at all?

It’s the large piece of steel art in Daley Plaza. In 1963 famed artist Pablo Picasso was commissioned to create a sculpture for the plaza. After two years of work he unveiled his work and announced that the piece was a gift to the people of the city. Picasso never applied a name to his sculpture and never gave details behind its meaning.  Today the 50 foot tall steel structure is commonly referred to as “The Picasso” or “Chicago Picasso.”  

All of these landmarks and locations can make for interesting backdrops or focal points for a b-roll shot of Chicago. If you company is proud to be from Chicago and wants to make sure people know it, b-roll shots of the city in your video is a perfect way to make that apparent. And if your organization just wants to express “big city” without the Chicago only tag, shots of non-distinct skyscrapers and skylines can accomplish that goal.   Remember setting your video with great b-roll shots will put the finishing touches and icing on the cake for your video to stand out.