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What is B Roll?

The term “B-roll” often crops up when we’re talking to clients about creating captivating video. But what exactly is B-roll, and why is it so important in the filmmaking process? Let’s dive into the secrets of B-roll and uncover its significance in enhancing the overall quality of video production.

B-roll – sometimes referred to as ‘cutaway’ – refers to supplementary or secondary footage that is intercut with the primary footage, known as A-roll, in video production. While the A-roll typically features the main subject, an interviewee or primary action, B-roll serves a complementary role by providing context and variety, adding depth to the visual narrative.

The Purpose of B Roll

Enhancing Visual Appeal

B-roll is the secret sauce that elevates the visual appeal of a video. It adds layers of interest, making the content more engaging and visually stimulating for the audience. Whether it’s presenting information, telling a story or showcasing locations, people or brand values, B-roll helps to set the tone, evoke emotion and illustrate your key messages. Through these effects it can go a long way in enhancing the overall viewing experience

B Roll Supports Voiceovers and Interviews

In scenarios where voiceovers or interviews are central to the narrative, B-roll forms an essential part of the edit. It allows for visual illustration of the spoken words, preventing monotony and adding visual interest to the production. In particular when an interview has been reduced in length, B-roll footage effectively ‘papers over the cracks’, hiding the cuts in the footage, to create a polished final product.

Seamless Storytelling

B-roll plays a crucial role in storytelling. It helps bridge scenes, cover edit points, and create a seamless flow between different shots. By incorporating relevant B-roll footage, we can maintain continuity and unfold a narrative more coherently .

B Roll Provides Context

Context is key in effective communication. Whether through establishing shots of locations, close-ups of objects, or reactions of individuals, B-roll contextualizes the story, helping the audience better understand the narrative being conveyed.

Production Planning for B Roll

When shooting a video, depending upon the type of production, most videos require at minimum the same amount of time allowance to acquire B-Roll as A-Roll, though this can be substantially more depending upon the complexity of the storyboard.

So, even for a quick half day of interview, you will need to allow for at least half a day of B-roll acquisition and possibly a lot more. Your director will be able to advise you on this as this content will be highly dependent on the script or interview content.

If your film is based around interviews, no matter how carefully you plan the messaging, surprises always crop up and these can often be new messages that you want to include in the production. So, get your interviews done first – and ask your production company for a draft narrative edit, because the topics mentioned in the narrative edit, will indicate the B-roll subjects that you’re going to need to film. This might involve all sorts of scenes from casual people shots, close up details of products or machinery, aerial filming, broad panoramic scene setting as well as more specific details that directly relate to your narrative edit.

Planning and shooting this way allows you to refine your thoughts once production is underway and means there the final edit will fulfil your hopes and intentions, and may even exceed your expectations.

Wrapping Up

‘But I don’t need B-Roll – I can do my presentation to camera in one take’, I hear you cry.

OK – that may be so, but no matter how attractive or engaging you are, doesn’t the audience deserve to be entertained or educated with some additional imagery that supports your story and helps maintain interest?

And what about that loud conversation in the neighbouring room, the leaf blower or motorbike outside that forces a number of separate takes?

You’ll be glad of B-Roll when it comes to the edit. B-Roll is your savour, your explainer and entertainer in one.

In essence, B-roll is the unsung hero of video production, contributing to the art of storytelling and visual communication. Its versatility and ability to enhance the overall quality of a video make it a must-have for filmmakers, content creators, and anyone aspiring to create compelling visual narratives. So, the next time you’re engrossed in a well-crafted video, take a moment to appreciate the thoughtfully incorporated B-roll that enriches the storytelling experience.