What exactly is B-roll footage? And how can you use it to make better videos? Videographers of all kinds—from those specializing in music videos to branding videos—need to understand what B-roll is and how to create and use it masterfully.
What is B-roll?
B-roll is extra footage you capture to enhance the story. It includes all of the supplementary video considered to be secondary to your primary footage. B-roll generally includes your subject and surroundings, but they are shown more passively as opposed to being featured in the shot (like a person being interviewed). This added material makes your videos more exciting to watch and also allows you to have greater flexibility for editing.
Extra video footage, animation, still photographs, and other graphics are all considered B-roll. It can be collected with another unit, obtained from stock footage, or gathered from sources other than your video. Whenever you see footage from the past — or that isn’t a talking head interview—you can call it B-roll video.
In contrast, A-roll describes footage that is considered main shots (primary), like the central action or those focused on your subject (like in an interview). Great videographers find a way to combine A-roll and B-roll by carefully planning their shots.
- Does not require sound
- Provides accompanying imagery and cutaway shots
- Can be used for establishing shots
- Can be taken from stock footage and other sources
Why is B-roll necessary?
Rather than only featuring the subject or main action, including other images that you can cut away to will add dimension to your storytelling. And audiences enjoy a variety. A video with different angles and shots make the video more attractive and engaging for viewers.
Besides making your video more exciting, having B-roll is essential to the editing process. Say you’re filming an interview with a politician, for example. You could grab some filler shots of the person door knocking, chatting with constituents, or at an event. The editor can then use this footage for flexibility if they need to smooth over distracting footage or hide a cut in the film.
B-roll shots are also essential in videos like the news, where they give the audience context for a topic they are covering.
Tips for using B-roll and planning your shoot
- Set a plan: even though B-roll looks easily spliced into video edits, a lot of planning goes into gathering these shots. You can decide when and what you need during pre-production.
- List your shots: List your B-roll visuals in your shot list or storyboard. Make sure that you choose ones that enhance your story. And if you run out of time or just need more footage, there are several royalty-free stock video sites.
- Divide and conquer: If you’re making a video that contains interviews, try evenly dividing filming between recording interviews and getting B-roll.
- Stay organized: stick to the plan you set out. You can save loads of time in post-production by keeping things organized—like having a set place for your video’s B-roll. Find a system that helps you keep track of things and stick with it.
Keep the B-roll’ in
Don’t underestimate the value of B-roll. It can strengthen the impact of your video, as well as serve as crucial footage for new videos created in the future. Understanding what B-roll is and how you can use it skillfully, will help you create compelling stories through your lens.