What is B-roll?
If you’ve worked with a video agency before, you’ve probably heard the phrase “B-roll”.
This phrase stems from the early days of film editing, where an editor would need to combine rolls of tape together to tell their story. The “A” roll would contain the main interview, piece to camera or other primary action. The “B” roll would contain supporting footage that could be used to hide errors or obscure the stitches when they changed between tapes.
Things have moved on a lot since the era of tapes and reels, but a lot of the terminology is still around. If you hear the phrase “B-roll”, it now commonly refers to any video clips that support the story, rather than tell it. Sometimes this type of footage is referred to as “Cutaways”, because they cut away from the action.
B-roll is still frequently used to hide unsightly edits, like joining two different takes together or cutting out errors and pauses in a piece to camera.
How to create great B-roll
Quite often our customers will send us video clips to incorporate into their videos. These can be shot by the customer themselves, or might be provided by a supplier or partner.
We appreciate that not every opportunity allows for our professional crew to come and capture it. So to help, here are some tips for capturing high quality B-roll for your next video.
The most important rule is: capture more footage than you think you need. This way, the editor has options and can choose the best clip, rather than being stuck with the only one they’ve been given.
Here are some other useful considerations:
Hold the camera horizontally (in landscape mode)
Whether you’re using your phone or a proper video camera, always hold the camera horizontally to record video. Don’t film in portrait unless you’re specifically recording content for phone screens.
From an editor’s perspective, it’s far easier to crop the sides of a horizontal video than it is to try to use a portrait video in a horizontal film.
Hold the camera steady
When capturing B-roll, hold the camera steady and stay on the shot for at least 10 seconds so that there’s plenty of footage to edit. It may feel like a long time, but it won’t in the editing process!
If the camera needs to move to capture the action, try to only do one movement at a time. For example, an up, down, left or right movement. Walking with a camera is often a big no-no unless you’re using stabilising equipment like a gimbal.
If you’re holding the camera in your hands, make sure you hold it with both hands and tuck your elbows into your body to keep it stable. Even better, use a tripod or gimbal – although these aren’t strictly necessary for good shots!
Position your subject
Keep the subject in the middle of the frame. Unless you’re trying to get arty – in which case do as you please. But in most cases, we suggest keeping it simple for yourself. It’s easier to reframe a good shot in post production than a bad one.
Your subject (the person or object you’re filming) should be visible in the frame. When filming people, make sure their head isn’t cut off the top of the image.
Stock footage libraries
If you’re after footage of something quite commonplace, it might be worth saving yourself the hassle and looking for stock footage. For example, there are plenty of stock clips of everyday scenarios (home, office and travel), city skylines and landmarks.
Sometimes it is just not possible to get all the shots you need by yourself. And even if you could get them, they might not be as good as what a professional has made available as stock.
Of course there’s far more to filming great B-roll than this. Most of our team literally have degrees in the subject!
But this should give you a few practical tips for getting better quality B-roll footage.
If after reading this you think you might need some professional help to film your B-roll footage, then why not get in touch?
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