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The Importance of B-Roll.

Even if you don’t know it by name, you are well acquainted with b-roll! It comes in many forms and is used for various purposes, but it’s present in nearly every video you’ve ever watched.

To understand b-roll, you must first know its counterpart: a-roll.

The terms a-roll and b-roll come from the time when all content was shot on film. The film rolls were labeled A or B to designate whether the reel held the footage that told the story (a-roll) or the supporting visuals (b-roll). A-roll content is typically dialogue or interviews from the main subject’s perspective that build the message of the video. For example, the a-roll could be an artist’s interview about their work, while the b-roll is footage of them working in their studio.

As the foundation of your video, it’s important that your a-roll is high quality. From a content perspective, you should carefully consider the voice that’s telling the story—both from their relationship to the subject matter and their ability to convey the message in a meaningful way. Depending on the goal of the piece, this could mean finding someone who is able to be succinct, have emotional depth, or share a unique perspective. Visually, the scene in which the a-roll is filmed should be meticulously crafted, as everything from the lighting to the environment impacts the way viewers connect to the message.

However, even the best a-roll is not complete without b-roll. B-roll has many functions in a video, each achieving a different goal.

The most basic use for b-roll is to cover edits. An interview will always need to be edited in one way or another, and to fit the right deliverable requirements or story objectives, this might mean removing sections, changing the order the information is presented, or adjusting the pacing of delivery (cutting out sections of silence or giving thoughts more room to breathe). Similarly, b-roll can be used to seamlessly transition from one thought to the next by adding visual cues for the audience to follow. Using b-roll to cover jump cuts, fill gaps in footage, and smooth transitions gives the viewer a distraction-free experience, allowing them to focus fully on the story.

B-roll goes far beyond just covering edits, though. The right b-roll shots will provide context for the story, deepen the viewers understanding of the subject, or add something to the narrative. An establishing b-roll shot, such as a landscape of a football coach on a field, can quickly tell the viewer where and when a scene is taking place and provide some insight into the subject. In interview-based videos, b-roll can inject emotion by showing the viewer action instead of just recounting events. Likewise, archival film or photography can be used to emphasize the history behind a story. B-roll can also set the tone or mood of the piece—a quiet, still scene of an empty classroom gives off a calm serenity while fast-paced cuts and close-ups in the back of an ambulance create a sense of urgency. The added texture the b-roll provides strengthens the connection between the message and the viewer, making the video more captivating and impactful.

Overall, b-roll simply makes your videos more enjoyable to watch, meaning viewers are more dialed in mentally and emotionally to the message you’re trying to share.

Someone without experience in video production might easily overlook b-roll, especially when looking at the written version of a video plan, but all video projects will suffer if b-roll opportunities aren’t considered early in the production process. It’s worth the extra time and effort to capture meaningful b-roll footage, even if it means extra shoot days and call times outside of typical business hours. In a world where everyone has a message to share, great b-roll can help your video stand apart from the noise.


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