B-roll footage is often the saving grace of a bad video or the oomph to dress up a good one. The extra shots you collect on set and pull from the archives serve many purposes for your company’s film, and should never be overlooked.
What is b-roll?
There are two types of shots filmmakers need to create a visually-compelling video: a-roll and b-roll. A-role is the main footage – the interviews, narration, graphics, etc. B-roll is the supplemental footage – backgrounds, landscapes, alternate scenes, and other kinds of shots that fill out the story and draw in the viewer. For example, if you’re A-roll footage is a patient testimonial in a pharmaceutical video, a b-roll might be a shot of them visiting their doctor with interview audio overlaid.
There are several different types of b-roll, including atmospheric, candid, archival, and storytelling. These are the pieces of the video that bring a video to life. Without b-roll, a corporate video is just a series of moving slides. It may still be informative, but it is not effective, engaging or inspiring. This supplemental footage offers several practical advantages both during production and post-production.
Ease your subject’s nerves.
When time allows, I like to shoot b-roll with my subject before we shoot any speaking parts. This establishes on-camera trust before we ever step on set. This way, my video subject can become familiar with the filming process and the crew without the pressure of being “on.” It can also save my subject’s breath. Let the b-roll set the scene and fill in the details. That way, your subject can focus on telling only the most essential parts of the story.
Bring your story to life.
Some stories really come to life when the b-roll is added in. When Tribe was choosing subjects for a video series for pharmaceutical company Actavis, we came across many illuminating employee stories. Keith Maynard’s personal journey inspired us. Keith gets emotional when telling us about losing loved ones to leukemia, and how he raised money for cancer research by walking from one English coast to the other. The scenic shots of Keith trekking across the countryside tell their own story beneath his narration. The b-roll brings his world into view.
Great b-roll yields a great performance.
As a director, I try to find ways to make the b-roll feel natural. Sometimes, the CEO I’m working with will offer better suggestions than I could think of. This comfort in front of the camera is a welcomed by-product of b-roll. And, ideally, it’ll calm some nerves for the speaking parts to come. The more collaborative I can be as a video production partner, the more comfortable my client, and that’s when that impending a-roll performance really gets its potential to shine.
How to shoot great b-roll footage:
Shooting b-roll isn’t just an opportunity for the producer to connect with the subject; it’s also an opportunity for the video production team at-large to get creative and try new things. Make the most of your b-roll footage; brainstorm and plan out ideas ahead of time, and get your subject in on the process. Always shoot more than you’ll need; you never know during post-production what might change in the editing room. Plus, you’ll add footage to your archives for future projects.
Perhaps most importantly for companies looking to break the mold with the artistry of corporate video production, play around with your b-roll. Shoot in wide angles; climb trees; get a drone. In the editing room, experiment with transitions, fades, and blurring that contrasts the b-roll from main shots. The right creative approach to your b-roll footage can take a corporate video from standard fare to something so engaging, inspiring and effective that it disrupts and breaks from the status quo.