WHAT IS B-ROLL?
B-roll is your visual narrative.
It is the footage that covers all the essential details that are useful to complement the overall A-roll. It is used to support or add depth and context to A-roll footage. In the case of interviews, B-roll is the additional footage interspersed throughout a video to provide further information.
Genuinely the B-Roll footage is what makes a story come alive. It brings out a visual experience for viewers. It is what adds flavour to your content. Additionally, with cinematic conventions, b-roll footage can truly add visual interest and production value to your content. However, in its raw state, b-roll footage is dull and doesn’t sound great as no sound has been synchronized to it yet. At this stage, the folder still contains un-useable clips as our videographers, while capturing the footage, might have tried to get the same shot several times to ensure getting the best framed shot with the best camera movement. Hence why, we prefer working straight away with our editors as they will know how to navigate these folders and make the best out of it.
In a nutshell, B-roll footage is just a compilation of shots used as supplemental footage intercut with the main shot (A-roll). Therefore, it is not in the B-roll footage that interviews, speeches in full—or any audio that drives the story forward—can be found. Consequently, you have to be sure if it is solely B-roll footage that you need as opposed to both A-roll and B-roll footage. B-roll footage, on its own only, contains content that is used to be interspersed throughout a video.
Hence, B-roll clips are 10 to 15 seconds in length in its raw state. Even though only 4 to 5 seconds of B-roll clips are later used in post-production, full clips usually last 10 to 15 seconds to give the editor enough choice to select the best 4 to 5 seconds in the clip. Some actions might require longer clips than 15 seconds. But other than that, it shouldn’t last more, because B-roll clips are supposed to share what is obvious to see visually. More seconds of the same information doesn’t do much for the audience. (If it does, then it is observational footage that may be required). Videographers shouldn’t spend more time than 15 seconds while shooting a B-roll clip, as they need to move around quickly to capture other B-roll clips with different angles to ensure a great variety of B-roll footage to provide the best contextual understanding to viewers.
As short as B-roll clips can be, they have three purposes in post-production:
adding production value,
breaking up the monotony of a-roll footage,
covering up a-roll jumpcuts.
When not edited, raw B-roll footage doesn’t have much value and doesn’t do much for audiences. But when assembled with A-roll footage and music, B-roll footage does so much in adding aesthetic and flavour to tell a story in all its dimensions.