The Importance of B-Roll

Ever wonder why one 10-minute video could have you completely engrossed while another 30-second clip loses your interest halfway through?

When it comes to film, it’s not always about the length of the footage that matters. It’s about how you tell the story. And you can’t adequately tell that story without b-roll.

In this lesson, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the role b-roll footage plays in filmmaking and how, when it’s used properly, it can help tell your story in a much more captivating and engaging way.

Ready to begin? Let’s “roll!”

What is B-Roll

You may remember us touching on b-roll in a previous lesson. In case you need a refresher, b-roll is additional video material that’s spliced in with the main content. Simply put, it’s used to support and supplement the story line by providing viewers with more visual context. By incorporating b-roll footage into your film, you’ll make your story richer and more interesting.

The key to being successful with b-roll is being careful and selective about the clips you use. Rather than just cutting in shots randomly, you want to use b-roll strategically to achieve a balance between a high-level view and close-up details of the story. That way, the viewer becomes immersed in the final product.

When and How to Use B-Roll

There’s no magical formula for exactly when and where to place b-roll footage. It will all depend on the purpose of your project and the story you’re trying to tell.

Generally speaking, I like to follow this rule of thumb: if someone says it, you should show it.

For example, if you’re filming a tire expert who is discussing the difference between regular tires and snow tires, inserting some b-roll footage of either an image or video of tires while the subject is talking will make the video much more engaging.

In addition to complementing and supporting the storyline, b-roll footage can also be used to cover up mistakes that were made while filming the main footage. For instance, let’s say you just got finished filming an interview with the CEO of your company. Now that you’re looking at it, you’re realizing that there were a few not-so-great clips and, well, he sort of carried on a bit too long.

Maybe he got off topic or went into too much detail during some scenes. Maybe he started coughing or kept glancing down at his watch during filming. Or maybe he just took too much time thinking about his answers before responding.

Any of these scenarios would result in a video that looks poorly produced and probably won’t hold viewers’ attention for very long. You could simply edit all of these parts out, but that might impact the integrity of the overall project.

Here’s where b-roll comes into play. First, cut out the parts of the film that are simply not relevant, such as the coughing or off-topic tangents. Then, insert b-roll footage on top of those edits. Voila! You’ll end up with a condensed interview that shows only the best parts and doesn’t appear overly edited. And, if you do it right, your viewers will be none the wiser.

How Much B-Roll Do You Need?

I probably mentioned this in my previous lesson about b-roll, but when it comes to these supplementary clips, the more footage you gather the better. You don’t have to necessarily use it all in your film, but trust me – having too much is way better than running out and having to capture more. Not only is that a pain to have to do, but it could end up delaying your project – especially if you’re already at the editing stage when you figure it out.

Because you’re going to be using b-roll both as a complementary component of your films as well as way to fix errors and tighten editing, I recommend regularly shooting extra footage and storing it away. That way you’ll have a nice little database to draw on for future projects.

Ready to get started but don’t know where to begin? Feel free to circle back to our previous lesson on b-roll. That should help get your creative juices flowing.

That’s it for now! Hope you enjoyed this lesson and we’ll see you in the next!

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