B-roll Footage

This is an industry term, but one that’s fairly easy to explain. B-roll simply is video where no one on camera is giving dialogue. There may be off-camera dialogue going on, but the speakers are not seen. Instead, the images show something else. Or, there may be no dialogue whatsoever, although there will most likely be some sound, whether music or natural sound related to the images being seen.

A city scene from New York. Or is it Chicago? Or Portland? B-roll gives you creative latitude to set the scene anywhere you like

A city scene from New York. Or is it Chicago? Or Portland? B-roll gives you creative latitude to set the scene anywhere you like

Here’s an example. Suppose you’re doing a travel program on Paris. You have a limited budget, so rather than sending a person to stand in front of various landmarks in the City of Lights, you just send your cinematographer to get the best pictures possible. When they return, you put together a video showing all of the wonderful sites with explanatory narration and wonderful music.

So, every second of video in the piece has just become b-roll.

Why might you need B-roll?

Suppose you’re doing a business presentation and want to have more than just static still photography to illustrate your points. You could be doing a short film about political intrigue in a coastal town. Trouble is, you’re shooting everything in Albuquerque, and while you can fake a lot of scenes, you really need a few random shots of people at the beach, waves crashing on the shore and boats pulling in and out of a small harbor.

Or, maybe you’re doing a documentary on how discoveries from ancient Egypt have influenced modern society. You have all the footage you need of Egyptian landmarks like the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings, but you need video of street scenes in a modern city or two, and maybe extra shots of places like an airport, a subway station, or a fast-food restaurant.

All of this is b-roll, and it’s something that Hencar can easily provide for you.

You may have heard another industry term called “file video”. What’s the difference between b-roll and file video? All file video without speaking or dialogue is b-roll, but not all b-roll is file video. The demarcation comes with frequency of use. Some b-roll may be very specific to a certain project and unsuitable for use anywhere else. Other video may be more generic, such as the street scenes mentioned above, if it doesn’t show specific landmarks that identify the locale. Or it could show people in the checkout line at the grocery store, framed in a way that obscures their faces and anything that could identify what store it is. It could have been shot in any city, at any time. So the video might be re-used again and again for various projects. That’s when it becomes file video.

Ways To Implement B-roll Footage

If you’ve hired us to do a full video for you, shooting b-roll may be part of the package. It can be used to help set up a scene, cover transitions between two scenes, and highlight specific things to help the viewer understand them more clearly. For example, if you own a jewelry store we can certainly show you talking about your fabulous selection of ruby and emerald jewelry.

If you want to give the audience a closer view of the jewelry there are a couple of ways to handle it. We can pan the camera from you down to the jewelry display and zoom in slowly onto the pieces in question. This technique is not the best, and frequently looks awkward.

A much smoother way to handle this is to shoot close-ups of the jewelry separately. During post-production, we edit the piece so that there is a smooth dissolve from you talking behind the jewelry display case to the close-up of the pieces in question, while your dialogue continues underneath. This not only looks cleaner but also ensures that the close-ups of the jewelry are framed and lit for best effect, and are properly in focus. All of these elements are harder to control if you’re trying to change the focus of the shot from you, the speaker, to the jewelry in one fluid movement.

The best b-roll is the kind that doesn’t stand out as b-roll, but melds in perfectly with the finished piece. Hencar will make sure any b-roll you need is a perfect fit every time.

View the other types of video content we offer: