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On the B-Roll: Taking Your Videos to the Next Level

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What is B-Roll Footage and Why Do I Need It?

If you’re diving into the world of video production, (whether for your brand or your job), B-roll footage is a term to add to your vocabulary. This term can seem kind of complicated when you first read it, but it’s actually quite simple. B-roll footage is simply the extra clips that would be considered secondary to your primary (or A-roll) video.

B-roll footage is easiest explained with an example. Imagine you’re filming an interview with a YouTuber. Your primary footage is of her talking during the interview, you asking her questions and her answering. To enrich the visual experience of your viewers, you should include extra clips that visually depict the content of her interview. There may be a photo of her editing a video, or a video of her filming, or a shot of her filming setup.

B-roll footage plays a huge role (see what we did there?) in visual storytelling. Unfortunately, it is not often given the same level of consideration as the primary video footage. Videos that only include talking heads can be boring and visually monotonous for your viewers. B-roll footage allows you to create a more visually exciting experience for your audience to extend the viewing time – especially for those with short attention spans. Aside from the extra excitement, B-roll also provides “safety footage” for whenever you have some “technical difficulties” with your video recordings, but still have good quality audio. For example, if your subject scratches their nose or goes out of focus, you can cover up the mistake with a simple B-roll cut.

How Much B-Roll Do I Need?

There’s honestly no set amount that you need, but it’s always recommended to take more than you think you need. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing recording, going home, putting everything together, and realizing you don’t have enough footage. There’s no going back to shoot more, so make sure you get enough.

A good rule of thumb is to shoot enough B-roll footage to cover about four to six times the amount of interview length. 

You’ll make video production life a lot easier if you’re able to plan ahead. This is, admittedly, easier if you’re working with a script or if you’ve created a storyboard; you’ll know what will be covered during the shoot and what footage you’ll need, so you’ll be able to map out what you will have to play with in editing later.

After All of This, How Do I Shoot B-Roll Footage? 

There is more than one way to get your hands on B-roll footage – buying stock video, creating graphics or animations, using photographs – but here we’ll be going over shooting your own B-roll footage, which is the fun part of filming. You are one of the best sources of B-roll you’ll find. When you’re filming an interview, potential footage is all around you – all you need is a little creativity. Of course, it can be hard to start out when you don’t know what to look for, so here are a couple of quick, helpful tips:

Listen to the Interviewee 

In order to get great, consistent B-roll footage, listen to what the person you’re interviewing has to say. Incorporate it into your footage. For example, if a woman you’re interviewing talks about how much she loves her dog, include a clip of her playing with her dog or a picture of the dog. It’s consistent, engaging, and enhances the story.

Get B-Roll of the Person You’re Interviewing

Along with footage of them talking during the interview, include footage of your subject going about their business with the voice-over. This footage can be of them doing whatever it is you’re interviewing them about or just being themselves and minding their business – it just allows your audience to connect with the subject by showing them in a more personal setting.

Capture the Details

Utilize those close-ups and get nice and personal with your subject! Close-ups help reveal character by offering intimacy and allowing your audience to connect with the subject. They can also illustrate important details in an environment that help tell your story!

Move Around!

Don’t just rely on those static shots. Pan, follow your subject, zoom in/out – whatever it takes to get those dynamic shots and capture your audience’s attention!

Variety is Key

A lot of people get lazy with this part. The key to dynamic, engaging, and exciting B-roll footage is variety. Shoot wide shots, close-ups, bird’s eyes, low angles – experiment with as many different shots as possible to see what best catches the eye and what fits your narrative.

However, Be Consistent

Pairing the right B-roll footage with the A-roll footage you already have is an essential step to the process. You want to be consistent so that your video flows well and isn’t visually confusing. You don’t want to be filming an interview with a fireman and then show B-roll footage of kittens playing, for example. It’s always a good idea to film your B-roll footage right after you’re done filming the interview because you’re most likely already in a prime location. Keep the setting consistent with your topic and the visuals that you already have in your A-roll footage.

With B-roll, there’s honestly no limit to the number of ways you can tell the same story, and it deserves the same consideration as the primary A-roll footage. Just remember: videography is all about creativity. Sure, there are tips that can help guide you, but in the end, it’s all up to you. If you do want a few more tips before you take a nosedive into the world of video production, be sure to check out our previous article about Video Production: Do’s and Don’t’s. 

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