What’s B-roll footage? How to use b-roll in video edits? How can starting filmmakers and social influencers use b-roll to enhance their videos? We’re covering these all here. Dive in!
Let’s start with this scene from Gladiator. The wheat field and the bird (0:43) are perfect examples of b-roll.
Now that we’ve visualized b-roll in a scene, let’s dive into more details.
As you saw from the above Gladiator scene, b-roll is that supplimentary footage or alternative shots that are used in contrast with the main footage or primary shot (A-roll). In other words, B-roll is secondary to the main shot. Secondary does not mean it is less important. B-roll helps set the tone and enhances the emotion of the scene. Filmmakers argue whether B-roll can be as impactful or even stronger than A-roll when used properly and timely.
In simple words, when you shoot a social video for Instagram or Tiktok, the shots with you (or main characters) talking in the camera are your A-roll. B-roll will be the actions or activities you may be inserting while your voiceover is playing on top of the footage.
Why is B-roll used?
B-roll is used for both storytelling and esthetics. If we refer back to the Gladiator video above, B-roll is setting the tone and emotion to the story. When it comes to esthetics, b-roll is useful to make the video more engaging and less boring.
B-roll can be compared to all additional ingredients and spices that make a dish more delicious.
How is B-roll shot?
Here is a practical tutorial explaining the basic techniques in adding and shooting b-roll for video projects.
Types of B-roll
B-roll can mean a wide range of scenes that help enhance a video. Anything that supplements the main footage can fall into the category of B-roll.
In our list we’ve identified use cases that you spot easily in films or Youtube videos. You can also see some Tiktokers applying the same techniques in their longer videos.
Establishing shots are great examples of b-roll. Filmmakers enjoy using aerial footage or urban scenes as establishing or opening scenes in their film projects. Such footage, which we can call exterior B-roll, help establish the exterior location of the video.
Just think about the movies you’ve seen recently. Right before a new scene begins we may sometimes see a generic shot of a building or a city. This is done to prepare the viewer to the next scene. Say, a shot of a bank building helps us understand that the next scene will take place in a bank.
Also, exterior footage is an interesting way to transition from one scene to the next or even change the subject of the video story. The same above example of a scene in a bank can be followed by a shot of a house, which sends to the viewer a signal that the action is moving to the character’s dwelling.
Here is how you can improve your establishing scene footage:
Inserts (or more professionally “cutaways”) are the B-roll footage that help build a narrative by interrupting the main shot. This filmmaking technique gives the viewer more information about what’s happening. Here is a good example:
A insert or cutaway can be inserted to show a closeup of an object or body part, etc. so that the audience is focused on that aspect in the story line in that scene.
Stock videos are great tools to use as b-roll. We call stock videos our “b-roll shortcuts” as we don’t need to shoot b-roll ourselves, which saves us a lot of time.
Stock footage are video clips that are available on paid or free stock video sites like Stockvideosecrets.com. These videos are meant for general use and can be used across multiple project types.
Let’s take this free flower collection from our site. You can insert these free flower videos in summer scenes. The same is valid for these videos with animals – a scene at a farm may host inserts with such free video clips.
Creative Tips to Shoot B-roll
In this short tutorial you can check 5 easy ideas to shoot b-roll footage. See the reveal shot, wide-to-macro shot, pan up and down, frame your subject and static shot.
Practical Tips for B-roll Shooting
Whether you are shooting your new Tiktok or Instagram story video, here are several useful and practical tips for you to shoot quality b-roll.
Overshoot or undershoot
Definitely, overshoot. More b-roll footage is so much more better than not enough. You will thank yourself when editing the video when you have more than enough to deal with.
Shoot at various focal lengths
Shoot b-roll at various local lengths to allow for more options in edit. Try zoom lenses, add wide and closeup shots to the mix. Don’t be stingy!
Shoot in high frame rate
If your video gear allows you to shoot in high frame rate, do so. High-rate videos will give you the possibility to slow the footage down in edit. This will help insert slow motion moments into your video, which can elevate your video’s value by giving it a more cinematic look.
If you need b-roll urgently, check out these free stock videos.
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