What is B-roll?
A B-roll definition is simply secondary footage that supplements and improves the visual meaning of the primary footage (A-roll). (1) Although B-roll being a secondary video shot implies that it is of less importance. However, the statement is incorrect as B-roll is a better alternative shot for A-roll.
Where A-roll bores the audience by merely telling the story, B-roll presents and shows the story in a welcoming manner that captures the viewers’ attention throughout the footage.
For instance, A-roll can be likened to a turkey prepared without any form of spice and seasoning; the turkey will be bland and not inviting. However, a turkey prepared with enough spices and seasoning will make a delicious meal and appeal to the taste bud of the consumer. That simple act of making the meal desirable explains B-roll.
B-roll is also a good editing tool for cutting away unwanted clips from the video footage. For example, in a documentary shoot, B-roll can be used to cut out a part of the footage to introduce visuals that buttress the point of discussion.
Types of B-roll footage
Different video types require different usage of B-roll. Here are some common types of B-roll that video creators can use.
- Storytelling B-roll footage
Telling stories in an exciting and captivating manner is a common usage of B-roll. B-roll is used to show the narrative being told in the video. For example, a B-roll shot of a man suffering from partial paralysis driving around town in his car with a big smile on his face can tell a different story. This can change the audience’s perspective that there is more to disabled people.
- Atmospheric B-roll footage
Video shoots that require the video creators to change from one location to another. Atmospheric B-roll shots will come in very handy. This type of B-roll is also perfect for shooting take-offs and landing an airplane in a video.
- Cinematic B-roll footage
Every videographer’s wish is to produce stunning videos that leave their viewers in awe. A visual detail B-roll is the key used to achieve the said wish. With cinematic B-roll footage, videographers can capture every tiny detail about the subject and the background. It also brings attention to the viewers that are likely to be missed.
- Historical B-roll footage
Filmmakers use historical B-roll footage to tell and show stories that occurred in the past. The beauty of this kind of B-roll is that viewers experience the historical account as it happened in reality.
- Undirected video B-roll shoot
An undirected B-roll shot is the go-to in video shoots where the subjects do not need to be directed by the videographer. An undirected B-roll is a perfect choice for Interview videos focusing only on the subject’s facial expressions and hand gestures. Also, in documentaries where the character’s activities are being recorded.
A-roll vs. B-roll
A-roll and B-roll are some of the basic terms every videographer should know in filmmaking. Even though these footage rolls are identical, there is a clear difference between how each functions in video production.
When comparing A-roll vs. B-roll, the main difference is A-roll is the primary footage roll while B-roll complements the A-roll, and it’s the secondary footage roll.
A-roll plays a prominent role in talking about the story, such as in talk shows, interviews, or the news. However, A-roll makes long shots incredibly dull to the viewers.
On the other hand, B-roll is the technique used by filmmakers to capture their audience’s attention. Beyond telling a story, B-roll shows the story. B-roll footage complements the story being told by A-roll in an engaging manner. It is also used to edit and trim off unnecessary scenes in a video shot to distract the viewers. (2)
Why use a B-roll?
B-roll is undoubtedly the main drive for every exciting and engaging video clip. B-roll is primarily necessary because it gives a visual definition of the story being told using A-roll. B-roll uses visual support to make the story further attractive to viewers.
However, video creators use B-roll for other vital reasons, which are;
- As an editing tool
B-roll is commonly used as a video editing tool. It gives the video editor an avenue to cut away parts of the footage to introduce visuals to make the video more engaging. It is also used for masking flaws, removing errors such as a sneeze from the subject or background noise that may distract the audience.
- For easy transitioning between scenes
Changing from one shot to another is done using B-roll. Using B-roll, an editor can start a video with visual footage, introduce the discussion part of the video, and then switch back to other visuals to show-tell the story.
- For establishing the scene’s setting and tone
If the A-roll footage does not clearly state the scene’s location, B-roll can be used to clarify that. Apart from that, B-roll sets the mood for the primary footage. For instance, if the shoot takes place in a school, one could capture the B-roll of a library, students in a cafeteria, or cheerleaders in their uniforms.
How videographers use B-roll in their video is the main determinant if such a video will be an interesting one or not.
How to use B-roll in your video
What differentiates a pro videographer from an amateur is how well the former effectively uses the B-roll technique in their video. Here are some helpful tips to creating great B-roll footage in your video;
- Have a great shot plan
Creating an excellent shot list is a life-saving technique in using B-roll for a video shoot. The list could be mental or written. The videographer should plan ahead of footage that must be captured, which will make the story juicier.
For instance, footage of the entrance or exit of a building; the interior of the house will make a great B-roll for a subject being directed in a home. These may be easily forgotten during the shoot, but making a shot list will guide the videographer in creating the best B-roll from such a scenario.
- Shoot more than required
Often, video creators have been in situations where they could have used visual aids to show what a subject is telling the audience during an interview or documentary shoot; but found out they have no such B-roll. The solution to this hiccup is to overshoot video footage.
As the saying goes, better to have it and not need it than not have it and need it. As a videographer, shoot more than enough and keep in the bank. A woodpecker pecking a tree during the shoot may be an extra shot for a B-roll that better tells the story.
- Use different focal lengths
Here is another secret to using B-roll effectively in videos. Shooting subjects at different focal lengths allow for a variety of footage. With various focal lengths, shots will be taken at different angles, such as a wide-angle that covers everything within the frame or a close-up angle that captures more details about the subject.
Hence, videographers can use various shot angles of the same subject to tell different stories.
- Shoot videos at a high frame rate
For stunning and cinematic video results, B-roll shots taken at a high frame rate are the key. A high frame rate can produce slow-mo effects, giving the background a nice blurry touch. Not only that, high frame triples the footage size and also the standard footage time.
Also read: Best Cheapest Full-frame Cameras
A good B-roll should run for about 10 to 15 seconds for short videos.
The role of a B-roll in a video shoot is to increase the video’s value and give it a professional touch. B-roll adds visual meaning to a video and keeps the viewers glued to the end without getting bored.
Without a doubt, every videographer needs B-roll to tell and show compelling stories in their videos. However, a concise understanding of the term is required.
B-roll is a sound editing tool for masking mistakes, establishing the scene’s mood, and giving exciting meaning to the footage. However, to get great B-roll shots, videographers must use a variety of angles and focal lengths to tell the story.
Why do you use B-roll in your videos? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below
- Matt Eastland-Jones. (August 2021). What is B-roll? Retrieved from https://www.storyninetyfour.com/blog/what-is-b-roll
- Chris Roe. (N.D). A-Roll and B-Roll: The Two Types of Footage You Need to Tell a Great Story. Retrieved from https://blog.pond5.com/8324-a-roll-and-b-roll-the-two-types-of-footage-you-need-to-tell-a-great-story/