Video Production for Marketers Take 6: What the H*ll is B-roll?

The sixth instalment in a series of posts aimed at demystifying the video production process for the uninitiated marketer.

Talk to someone in the know about video production and you are bound to hear the expression “B roll”. When I first heard it, the other person slipped it into our conversation while rhyming off a number of other phrases and acronyms so quickly, it almost didn’t register.

Hmmm…be role? …be roll? …bee role? …b roll?

It makes more sense when you look at where (when) the expression comes from. It’s origin is in the days of shooting on rolls of actual film as shown in the photo above. Aha!

B-roll, B roll, B-reel or B reel is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot (aka A-roll).

Wikipedia

For example, B-roll can set the tone of your video just as the photos below might if your content piece was a blog post or magazine article. Another example would be to cut to B-roll of an athlete playing their sport while they answer your questions in studio.

Spooky and lonely vs. Hopeful and airy

Mood & Setting
forest | dusk | eerie | lonely
Mood & Setting
forest | daybreak | welcoming | hopeful

B-roll helps elevate your video to a another level. The piece is more dynamic and adds visual variety in an effort to hold viewers’ attention. Adding the right shots at the right times can convey authority, authenticity, and relevance as well. In particular, B-roll footage is typically classified as:

  • Insert Shots
  • FX Shots
  • Establishing Shots
  • Stock Footage
  • Pick Up Shots

Filmmaking Central has a great article on the various ways B-roll is used, so I’ll defer to their expert description of each type of shot!

Last but not least…have you noticed that aerial shots are now commonplace? Drones with cameras are readily available and fairly inexpensive, and they are easy and a lot of fun to use! You can now add a bit of ‘Hollywood’ B-roll to your video without blowing up your budget. No helicopter required!

Photo of medium-sized drone with camera held in a man's hand; misty mountains in the background.
Photo by Tyler Casey (Unslpash)

Have you seen a clever, unusual or flawed use of B-roll recently? Please share in the comments!

Unlike wild bears, feeding the content creator is encouraged! 🙂

This is the last post I planned in this series on video production fundamentals for the uninitiated marketer and small business owner. Would you like to see more Tips and Tricks on this or some other topic? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.

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