Whatever your current video project may be, if you’re aiming for a professional and polished final product, you’re going to need B-roll material. This extra footage is vital for creating smooth transitions and setting a tone for your film, documentary, or other commercial video production project.
What Is B-Roll?
What is Broll exactly? The term itself comes from the early days of film production when A-roll (main footage) and B-roll (background footage) would get spliced together to smooth out transitions between shots. Nowadays, Broll video refers to any footage that doesn’t involve the main subject of the video.
While modern-day film doesn’t require the film splicing of the past, B-roll is still considered a crucial part of production. Archival, original, and stock footage can establish a scene or atmosphere and help avoid jarring or sudden transitions between scenes. Broll video is necessary for most professional filmmaking.
Undirected footage refers to any footage you’ve shot yourself during filming that is then used to accompany primary footage.
In the video below, the beginning and end serve as an undirected B-roll footage example. Shots of city life and crowds of civilians sandwich the main, “A-roll” interview footage.
Stock Video Footage
Depending on the video you want to make, stock video footage may work best for you as B-roll material. Online sites make it easy to search for the exact stock footage you need.
As with stock photos, you’ll generally have to pay to use stock footage in video production. Below is a good stock footage B-roll example.
These shots, as you might be able to tell from the name, are used to establish a setting, including time and place. In the B-roll example below, the establishing shot shows us the building exterior before panning to the primary footage of Peter Parker, helping set the scene for viewers.
A-Roll VS B-Roll
We’ve now answered the question, “what is B-roll in film”, and we’ve addressed the basic differences between B-roll and A-roll. Now let’s get into some of the specifics.
Your primary footage, A roll, needs to be perfect. Everything from lighting to sound should be spot on since this footage is the focus of the final video. This footage helps to tell your story.
B-roll can help to set the tone and pacing of your video. B-roll can help guide your story along.
How B-Roll Footage Can Improve Your Video?
We’ve addressed what is B-roll video, and we’ve looked at the types of B-roll, but how can this be used to make your videos more professional and captivating?
Provide More Context for the Story
B-roll provides valuable context that complements your primary footage. Let’s say your A-roll is an interview. Where does the interview take place? Does the interviewee mention something that needs accompanying footage? Is it clear when and where this interview takes place? This is where B-roll comes in.
Always remember that B-roll should support your narrative rather than contradict, or worse, harm it. Make sure that B-roll footage is relevant to the primary footage, or it could take viewers out of the story, negating its intended purpose. B-roll material is meant to help pull viewers in.
More Visually Appealing Image
As we’ve mentioned, there are many different types of B-roll, and, used correctly, they can add variety and visual interest to your video. It can be boring to watch someone talk nonstop on the same topic with no change in visuals.
The phrase “show don’t tell” is commonly used to help writers, but it can be just as critical to bear in mind when putting together a commercial video. For example, if you were creating an instructional video, B-roll can be used to visually show a narrated process, rather than just telling viewers how it works.
Hiding Cuts & Edits
Your primary footage will often need to be cut or edited to remove mistakes. Whether it’s noises in the background or a mid-take sneeze, you’ll have to take it out of the final product. B-roll can be used to splice together the beginning and end of the primary footage while removing the issue.
How to Film B-Roll
Taking the time to capture B-roll during production will serve you well in the long run. It’s important to plan ahead when you’re shooting Broll video since you’re only in certain settings for a short period of time. Make sure you’re always setting aside time in your schedule to get some B-roll shots.
Another good tip is to scout out locations for B-roll ahead of time, since you may not have too long to get the actual shot in a time crunch. Looking ahead and basing where and when you get your B-roll footage on your main shooting schedule will be helpful.
It can also be useful to get multiple different angles and perspectives of the same thing since this will help add variety to your film and leave you with plenty of shots to choose from.
And of course, never underestimate the importance of having a large bank of footage to choose from. A higher quantity of shots will give you the assurance that, should you need more B-roll, it’s there for you to choose from. Even though you may not see the use of something now, you never know what might be useful in editing.
B-Roll Camera Angles to Use
Variety is the spice of life, which is why it’s so important to get multiple angles of your B-roll. Here are a few options.
- Wide-angle shots make for the perfect B-roll footage example of an establishing or environmental shot that sets the tone of a scene.
- Medium or “waist” shots are portraits of your subject but from a medium distance. This helps balance out close-up visuals.
- Close-up shots highlight certain details of a scene. Is there something you want to emphasize that viewers might otherwise miss?
Best Uses for B-Roll Footage
There are a number of uses for your B-roll shots. Examples range from ads to full-length films, all of which benefit from transitional footage.
Testimonials are necessary endorsements for any product, and they significantly impact a customer’s decision to purchase. Customer testimonial video filming is improved by B-roll footage that establishes authority and demonstrates the uses and value of a product. B-roll also helps ease sharp transitions in these videos.
Ads video production is a critical part of marketing. These videos need to be visually interesting and captivating for the viewing audience, which B-roll is great for! As we’ve mentioned, B-roll footage adds variety to the A-roll, complementing the main footage and keeping the story, however short, exciting, and engaging.
Movies and TV Shows
A vital part of movies and television shows is establishing the setting and tone, and that’s why B-roll is so important in these long-form videos. Shots of commuters walking through the city or footage of the building where a character lives pull the viewer into the narrative and help them navigate the setting of the film.
Like movies and television shows, documentaries require you to set the scene and tone for viewers. However, B-roll isn’t just used for this purpose. Since documentaries are often educational or informational in some way, B-roll can also be used to establish a sense of authority in the video.
This might be the most classic example of a video that requires B-roll footage. Without B-roll, news reports might be overly dry or boring, losing the viewer’s attention. B-roll breaks up what would otherwise be a monotonous report and adds visual interest while engaging the viewer in the news coverage.
Now that you know what is B-roll video is, you’re ready to create your original video project! We’ve gone over the many types of B-roll and how you can utilize various shots to not only set a tone but also establish setting and authority and create visual interest. Whatever your project may be, B-roll footage will help you create a professional final product.
Once you’ve captured your B-roll material, it’s just a matter of incorporating it into your video. If you’re looking for a Wisconsin videographer company to help with your professional video production, contact Gillespie Productions and get a quote today!