There are a lot of elements to a great video that most viewers don’t notice. Things like transitions, music choices, and lighting are often so good that you don’t even notice them—until, of course, you try your hand at becoming a videographer yourself. One element of video called B-roll is just as vital to the success of your video footage—and somehow, it flies even further under the radar than the aforementioned aspects. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, what it’s used for, and how to create a shot list for your next video project.

What is B-Roll?

You might have heard the term before, but still can’t help but ask one critical question: “What is a B-roll?” And seriously, what does B-roll mean, right?

B-roll is a term used by videographers to describe supplemental or alternative footage that editors weave into a project. Filmmakers and television producers often use B-roll footage to provide supporting imagery or create an establishing shot. 

For example, imagine watching a documentary about a band. In addition to interviews with band members that are taken specifically for the documentary, the filmmaker likely also weaves in footage of past concerts or awards shows. That’s all B-roll.

What is B-Roll Used For?

You’ll often hear YouTubers say that they’re going to grab some B-roll before switching to a seemingly unrelated shot of something else. B-roll is often shot by videographers, but it can also be pulled from stock footage libraries.

Why is it Important?

We alluded to this earlier, but B-roll or stock footage is critical to any video project. Videographers use it to add the necessary depth to tell a compelling story, explain actions that the video’s subjects otherwise don’t discuss, and ultimately keep the audience engaged. Plus, it’s an easy way to cover up mistakes you made during the filming process.

How to Capture B-Roll

Step 1: Think of Different Ways to Tell Your Story

Let’s say that you’re shooting a video about how to paint an unfinished table. The majority of your video will consist of shots of your subject painting the table. But think of other ways you can showcase the subject or the topic of the video, and create a shot list of other footage that might be useful. Perhaps you’ll film the patio where the table will ultimately be placed or take shots from your trip to pick up all the painting supplies.

Step 2: Keep It Moving

Some of the most basic videos I’ve ever made included transitional static photos or an occasional establishing shot. These made it obvious that a student—not a professional—had shot and edited the project. Instead, add movement with your B-roll. Oftentimes, YouTubers will simply shoot video from a moving car and use it as free B-roll.

Step 3: Use Different Gear

Even if you have a professional videography kit, change up the gear that you shoot B-roll with. In some of your favorite YouTube videos, you’ll notice that some of the video footage was shot with a smartphone or GoPro camera, which adds a fun change of pace to the primary footage.

Grab Impactful B-Roll For Your Video

Cinematic B-Roll—5 Essential Tips For a Great B-Roll

Written by:

Richard Moy