a-roll, alternative, b-roll, Brooke Bunce, Cavus Media, cutaway, documentary, footage, intercut, jeff riegel, landscape, primary action, production, Shutterstock, supplemental, supporting, visual interest
In film and television production, B–roll (B roll, or Broll) is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. In fiction film, it is a technique used to indicate simultaneous action or flashbacks.
Think about the last really great short film or documentary you saw. What was it that held you the most — Was it the dialogue? The way the light hit the subjects? Or the way the camera captured a quirky detail shot, a breathtaking landscape, or a background movement so subtle you’d miss it in a blink?
Though the most compelling films seem to center around the action, watch carefully and you’ll see that a lot of magic hides within the moments in-between: the transitions, the lingering pauses, the movements into a new place or the exiting of another. Despite its relegation as second-class footage, what really holds a production together is the b-roll.
You may think of it as an afterthought, but top-notch, creative visuals can make the difference between run-of-the-mill videos and those that capture and captivate the viewer. Working together with what’s called “a-roll,” or your primary action and interview footage, highly engaging b-roll can add visual interest and show us the story without having to say a word.
If you’re feeling stuck in a shooting rut, follow these tips and techniques that will elevate your b-roll to new level.
1. Match Your B-Roll’s Mood to That of the Entire Video