What is B-roll ?


Video production can be confusing to those who might not know the lingo.  One of the most common terms you need to know what is b-roll and its importance to film production.  


So…what is B-Roll?

In the times of tape deck, there were A-roll and B-roll. The A-roll was the main footage that showed a character speaking or the reporter on the scene. The B-roll footage was everything else, and the term used for this type of stock video footage stuck by.  It was the "landscape" or "people walking in and out of an office" or "cars driving by".  Usually, there is no sound associated to the B-roll footage, this allows voice-overs to be placed over it.  B-roll footage was used a lot to hide transitions from camera to camera and to disguise unwanted content or anything that might have bothered the director like a blip or a bad shot.  

How is B-roll footage mostly used?

The most common and notable use of b-roll footage is in newscasts.  Imagine a news anchor talking about a story, then the shot cuts to stock video footage of that story while the anchor is still talking.  That is b-roll footage.  Another great use is in documentaries and informational videos where the footage cuts to landscapes or other shots that are related to the film.  It is also a great tool to break up a film from cut to cut so that there are no repeating shots of the main footage.  It keeps your video interesting, increasing the attention span of the viewer.  

Today, video gear and software have become more affordable. Not only high-class professionals like video editors or producers can now utilize stock video footage for their needs, but also anyone familiar with basic editing programs can make videos for their website, product, or YouTube channel. Since the audience is becoming wider, the demand for high-quality royalty free footage has skyrocketed. There will never be enough b-roll footage due to the demand for new, never seen before high-quality video clips.

What are the most popular topics for B-roll footage?

The most popular topics of b-roll stock footage are "people", "nature", "science", "industrial", and "big cities" (Groner, 2013).  In stock video footage, people are commonly portrayed in an office setting, playing sports, walking the streets, or working in a hospital. Basically, doing something related to the video or film.  Nature and big cities, like sunsets and city traffic, are usually seen utilizing time-lapse stock video footage, or aerial stock video footage.

Think about going from day to night in a big city or having leaves change in nature.  For scientific films, sometimes molecules or organisms are used to enhance the story.  And finally, industrial b-roll footage could be best described as an alley during the day or a warehouse at night for criminal investigation stories (Groner, 2013).  

You can actually be inspired by anything around you. Modern b-roll footage includes demonstrating gadgets, co-working spaces, pets, and kids.  This imagery is very trendy for web commercials, Kickstarter campaigns, and YouTube videos.

What do you need to shoot B-roll footage?

You will need decent gear and inspiration. But here is some additional useful advice:

1) Planning is necessary when shooting stock video footage. Before filming, scout the location and create an agenda for your shot list. This will ensure you have the right equipment for the job. Then create the intended shot list and shooting schedule.

Tip: A great thing about b-roll footage, is that usually, you don’t need audio since it is not the main feature of the film. If you still don't know what to make your first b-roll package about, visit our HOT TOPICS page, with suggestions coming directly from our customers.

2) The consistency of the shots is also important.  You want to keep in mind that the lighting should be the same, if not similar, to the rest of your b-roll footage to avoid having to fix the inconsistencies in post production.  Also, you definitely want to keep all of your shots of reactions and cutaways. It is always better to have extra stock video footage than not enough.

3) Model release forms. If you have any people in your b-roll footage, they must sign a model release form so their image can be legally used in your video.


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