A Beginner’s Guide to B-Roll Footage: What It Is, Why It’s Important, and How to Capture It

Learn how to capture amazing b-roll footage

Image: Jakob Owens

If you’re new to the art of video production, you may be wondering why your videos never seem to look as amazing as you want them to. There could be many reasons for this. But one often overlooked element of professional video is b-roll footage.

In this article, we’ll look at what b-roll footage is, why it’s important, and how to capture it. If you can master b-roll, your videos will take a giant leap forward in quality. Let’s dive in!

What is B-Roll Footage?

B-roll footage, sometimes shortened to just b-roll, is a video production term. It refers to the secondary film clips captured during a video shoot. Put a simpler way, it’s the bits and bobs that your camera records outside of your primary footage.

For example, let’s pretend that your company is shooting a snazzy commercial and you’ve been invited to the shoot. As you take in the scene, you notice that the video crew has their main camera trained on the actors during each take — no surprise there. But you also see a secondary camera filming the actors between takes. This “behind the scenes” footage would be considered b-roll.

Other examples of b-roll include atmospheric clips of specific locations, establishing shots, and stock footage. Basically, if it’s not footage of your video’s main subject, it’s b-roll.

Why is B-Roll Footage Valuable?

B-roll footage is valuable for many reasons. It can help you set the tone for your video, make it seem more professional, and help you hide mistakes. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three benefits:

Set the Tone

Every video — whether it’s a personal vlog, a commercial, or a Hollywood blockbuster — has a tone; a specific feeling that viewers get while watching. B-roll can help you establish the tone you want your content to have.

Let’s say that you want to shoot a product demo video for your company. You could simply stand in front of the camera and demonstrate how features A, B, and C work, upload the footage to YouTube, and call it a day. Or, you could splice in b-roll clips of your customers enjoying the product while you demonstrate how it works.

The second approach will make viewers feel like the product you’re demonstrating is exciting and trustworthy. After all, other people seem to be having a great time using it! Do you see how b-roll footage can help set the tone for your videos?

Boost Professionalism

B-roll footage will also make your videos appear more professional because it’s what your viewers are used to seeing. When they watch their favorite movies on Netflix, they see b-roll. When they view advertisements during T.V. commercial breaks, they see b-roll.

B-roll footage is everywhere. So if you try to show your viewers a video without it, they’ll quickly notice that something isn’t right and they won’t continue watching. Your creations will come across as amateur — definitely not the impression you want to leave!

Hide Mistakes

Finally, b-roll footage can help you hide any mistakes in your videos. What if the person you’re interviewing tends to ramble? You can keep the best parts and splice in b-roll to cover up your edits. Or what if a boom mic can be seen at one point in your primary footage? B-roll can come to the rescue again and be shown at the exact moment the mic makes its appearance.

Even the best videographers make mistakes or have to deal with unforeseen circumstances. B-roll footage can help you cover up any “undesirables” in a completely professional way.

How to Capture Great B-Roll Footage

We’ve covered what b-roll footage is and why it’s important. Now let’s talk about how to capture it! Here are three tips to help you shoot amazing b-roll.

1. Plan For B-Roll Footage

The only way to get great b-roll footage is to plan for it. So make sure that you schedule a few extra hours on location to capture secondary clips. Know what your primary footage will be ahead of time so that you can brainstorm a few ancillary shots around it. And understand what you’re trying to say with your video.

For example, if you know that you’ll be interviewing your boss in his office, plan to take time to film the hallway leading to his workspace. Get a few clips of his view from the window. Scan the bookshelves next to his desk if it helps to convey your video’s message.

Whatever you do, just try your best to plan for it from the beginning.

2. Capture Multiple Angles

One great way to capture b-roll footage is to shoot the same shots as your a-roll but from different angles. For example, if your main clip is a straight shot of your interviewee, get a side view as well. Or a wide angle shot that records the background as well as your subject.

If you have the resources, you should also consider hiring a second shooter. That way they can film b-roll at the same time your primary footage is being filmed. Your second shooter will be able to get unique angles that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

3. Don’t Be Stingy

Finally, don’t be stingy! When it comes to b-roll footage, more is definitely more. You’ll want to have a wealth of video clips to work with when you (or someone on your team) sits down to edit your creation into the masterpiece you hope it is. So get into the habit of shooting a lot of b-roll footage. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. 

Take Control of Your B-Roll Footage Library

B-roll footage will help set the tone for your videos, make them appear more professional, and help you hide any mistakes made during the filming process. But here’s the thing: b-roll will take up a ton of space on your hard drive! It can also be tough to organize and keep track of.

That’s why you need CleanPix, a digital asset management (DAM) service that’s both powerful and intuitive. Our software will let you upload all of your b-roll clips to the cloud, easily organize them with a robust tagging system, and quickly relocate them via a simple search feature.

Try CleanPix today for FREE today and experience it for yourself!

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