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B Roll footage is extra or supplementary video that is used to add context, build tension or show separate action or scenery that is related to the main plot of the production. B Roll is used in all genres of videography and is spliced into the primary, or A Roll, footage in the editing suite.
B Roll footage can be shot separately by the production crew although it is often bought from stock video libraries. B Roll footage is often shot, or bought, after the main footage so that it can be fitted into specific places in the video to add a missing detail or fill in a plot point.
In news production, B Roll can be used to illustrate a story – for example, while the presenter talks about an incident in Mumbai, India, the production team will cut to B Roll shots of the city in the background. B Roll footage is often presented without sound and is only anticipated to support the primary footage.
In a documentary film, B Roll footage is often used to back up or portray things that an interviewee said during their interview. This is cut in after the interview after the primary A Roll footage is complete.
When you’re shooting a project it’s always a good idea to shoot some extra B Roll. This can be used to smooth over any gaps, fill in details and add interesting perspectives to the main footage. Incorporating B Roll footage in your projects will instantly make it look more professional and allows you to make natural transitions between scenes.
What’s the Difference Between B Roll and A Roll?
The primary footage of a production is known as A Roll. B Roll footage is secondary footage that is used to splice into the main footage to serve a wide range of purposes. Using B Roll footage to supplement the main footage makes it feel smoother and less clumsy than if you were to try to make a production without it.
Types of B Roll Footage.
B Roll footage has many uses and is a common feature of almost every professional genre of videography. B Roll is used to add more drama to a plot, build tension and provide supplementary details or perspectives to the action.
- Atmospheric and scene setting shots.
- Location shots that add context to the A Roll.
- Reenactments of an event (during an interview or documentary).
- Establishing shots that show the scene (aerial or panning shots for example).
- Pick up shots.
- Archival footage to give historical context.
- Stock footage.
What Are The Main Reasons For Using B Roll Footage?
- Set the tone of the production or a scene in the A Roll.
- Gives the editor more flexibility in post production.
- Helps to establish the characters – shots from their past and extra information about their current situation.
- Breaks up the monotony of the footage and makes it feel more professional, engaging and natural.
- Can be used to cover over any errors in shooting and fill in gaps in the plot.
Practical Tips For Shooting B Roll Footage.
When you’re shooting the A Roll for any project you should always be keeping the B Roll in mind. You can shoot the B Roll at the same time on location or after the main footage is shot. However you time it, the last thing that you want to do is find yourself in the editing phase of the project and realize that you need to go back to the location to shoot a 5 second piece of B Roll!
- Always shoot as much B Roll as you can: You can’t have too much B Roll when you’re in the editing suite so having more than you need is always preferable to having too little. Having plenty of B Roll when you’re in the editing suite will give you more flexibility and allow you to be more creative in post production.
- Plan Ahead and Work with the Script: When you’re shooting the B Roll try to visualize how it can be used later. Work with the script and look for any obvious gaps that may need to be covered over with some B Roll footage. When the script moves from one to location to another plan to take some B Roll that sets the scene – for example, zooming into a building or getting some aerial footage of the environment.
- ‘Must Haves vs Could Haves’: When you’re shooting B Roll there are two main categories. Things that you absolutely need and things that would be helpful – your ‘Must Haves vs Could Haves’. If you’re working to a deadline then get the most important things done first – such as scene setting – and then start on the extras like fancy aerial shots and additional shots of the environment which may or may not be used in the final cut.
- Scout Locations in Advance: If you have time then it’s always worth scouting a location out thoroughly before you start filming. This will give you the chance to look for some interesting perspectives and get a feel for the site. Having a basic familiarity of the location before you start shooting footage will give you a serious advantage when it comes to filming and making the most of the time you have on set which is especially important if you’re hiring equipment or paying actors for the shoot.
The 3 Types of Shots to Experiment With in B Roll Footage.
When you’re shooting B Roll angles and perspectives can make the difference between mediocre outcomes and stunning scene changes that are gripping and engaging. Experiment with different camera shots to give yourself more options in post production.
- Wide Angle Shot. This is a good choice for establishing shots and scene setting B Roll that adds context to the primary footage. Using a wide angle can really draw the audience into the scene and help the action feel more gripping.
- Medium Shot. This is a shot that is filmed from the waist upwards and creates an effective portrait of the subject in the scene. This can be cut into the A Roll and is most effectively used when the subject is speaking. Cutting in closer to the subject when they are speaking or acting helps to balance the scene and makes the footage feel more natural.
- Close Up Shot. Zooming into the face of the subject is a common way that videographers use to reveal the feelings or personality of the character. These close up shots can be cut into the main footage and can highlight a nuance or expression that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by the audience but is still important to the plot.
Who Uses B Roll Footage?
B Roll footage is used throughout videography and there isn’t a genre or sector that doesn’t make use of it in the course of their work. From TV news companies to Hollywood Blockbusters, YouTube creators to documentary makers – B Roll footage is a critical part of the videography industry!
You should always be shooting B Roll for your own projects but you can also sell B Roll to other creators who either haven’t got the budget or the time to make their own for a project. If you’re looking for a significant side hustle, or even a full time gig, then shooting and selling B Roll footage can be very lucrative!
What B Roll Can You Shoot That Will Actually Sell?
Trends are always changing in the B Roll market which reflects the growing parts of the videography sector. This has been largely influenced in recent years by YouTube and the easy access to digital cameras which has meant that more people are making and editing videos than ever but they can’t always afford to get the supplementary B Roll to make their footage look pro.
- People. This is a growing market and involves shooting B Roll of models or actors in a wide variety of situations – from playing sports, having a BBQ on the beach or checking into a hotel. You can focus on commercial footage for advertising and PR, educational style content for tutorial and ‘how to’ videos or generic footage that has broad appeal.
- Nature and the Natural World. Depending on your location, if you live in a scenic environment you can shoot some great B Roll right where you are. Youtubers, and other content creators, are always on the lookout for beautiful panoramic clips, time lapse videos and aerial drone shots to cut into their work.
- Industrial and Commercial B Roll. This is a great market to get into and requires you to shoot scenes of things like warehouses at night or the gloomy city streets. This kind of B Roll is used in docudramas, documentaries and other crime content to set the scene of an incident.
- Major Cities. This is one of the top performing categories in B Roll and has a whole multitude of uses from the point of the view of a creator. You can use a drone to film inspirational footage of the city at night or shoot footage of the main heritage and cultural icons in the city.
- Sunrise, Sunset and Other Iconic Scenes. There will always be a need for B Roll of sunsets, sunrises, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and the sea shore! Although the competition will be pretty steep you will always find customers looking for top quality B Roll of these types of categories.
Top Tip For Finding What Sells.
When you’re trying to figure out what might sell you are going to need to start by doing some serious keyword research into the various fields you might be able to provide B Roll footage for. Once you have found out what people are organically searching for you’ll have a good idea of where the demand is and then you can provide footage that supplies it! You can also do some searches on the main stock footage sites, such as Shutterstock, to assess what your competition is doing.
B Roll Footage – A Vital Part of Making Professional Videos.
No matter what genre you are working in, B Roll footage is a crucial part of the process. Your B Roll footage will allow you to make smooth transitions, cover over any mistakes or problems during the shoot in the editing suite and help you to create tension, highlight details and put together natural scenes.
As well as using B Roll in your own work you can also sell it as stock video on a wide range of platforms. With more people creating video than ever before the market for B Roll is growing all the time.
Whatever your relationship with B Roll, whether you’re a user or a producer, it’s the quiet unsung hero of top quality video production that rarely gets the praise it deserves!
Do you shoot B Roll footage?