OK, so I should have titled this piece “What is B-Roll and how to do you get it?”, but frankly, most people would not have understood what I was talking about, let alone be interested. It is not a very exciting title, but if you want to start producing better video content, to help with sales or product releases, then you need to get interested. It is one of the best techniques I have come across for making your content look professional, while working on a budget. Great video production today, with all the amazing high-quality affordable camera gear, is about knowledge and creativity much more than it is about the budget.
So let’s get you interested!
So what is B-Roll?
In any video sequence, you will have the main hero of the piece. The main message you want to convey. The key topic you want to explain. The new product you want to feature and explain the benefits of. Let’s call the footage you shoot for those requirements, the A-Roll. The trouble is, that may be very static. It may even be a monologue of you or an individual talking through a script. Once the viewer has watched that for more than a couple of minutes, even if you are really interesting, it can start to get monotonous. That would be a fail!
You need to break up the sequence with some footage that changes the focus. That gives the video some dramatic impact or explains the topic from another angle, literally. In a sense, you a distracting the viewers with dramatic impact and it is all part of the art of storytelling.
B-Roll is essentially a range of secondary footage you gather on the related topic, that you can use to fill the story or sequence. To provide some variety in the course of the video.
It is all about gathering some extra footage you can use to add impact and explain your topic visually, which ideally adds to the telling of the real story.
What are some obvious examples? If you are talking about a product, then take some footage of that or people using the product. This is obviously helpful in selling it. But try and make the camera angles interesting. Or the backgrounds impactful. Or the situation and usage dynamic. Get creative and don’t be afraid to experiment. If you have the time, take multiple options and then just use the best.
If it is a less tangible topic, then find some scenes, or groups of people in settings, or even just relevant human interactions in context, that will add some variety. Avoid cliches or stereotypes, and try to be fresh and creative.
You need to become an always-on content creator, or at least try!
To help visually with the explanation, I am going to refer to this great video by Peter McKinnon. Check it out for some great ideas on how to be an always-on content creator for your brand, and gather B-Roll that will add dramatic effect to your next product or branded video. Any Vloggers reading this, you can’t miss it. Remember, great content should be entertaining as much as informative.
The key is to think about what supports the story, but will also look good on screen. Gather some extra footage while you are shooting the main sequence. Or just have your camera handy when you are out and about, and shoot anything that you think will be useful around your brand and storylines. Even footage on a late release smartphone, is good enough quality for B-Roll fillers.
Check out our other recent post on “Shooting great quality video of yourself, without any help“
Credit to Peter McKinnon for his great tips.