Seasoned filmmakers and beginners alike use b-roll to take their film projects to the next level. Why? B-roll evens the playing field—and if you’ve never heard of b-roll before reading this article, you can still use it to achieve incredible results. We’ll take you through the basics of b-roll and show you how stock footage fits into the equation. (Spoiler: You’ll end up saving both time and cash).
What Is B-Roll?
B-roll is the additional footage interspersed throughout a video to provide more information about the subject. Filmmakers often use b-roll in interviews and documentaries to break up some of the monotony. It can get pretty boring to just watch someone talk on screen for an hour without extra b-roll shots cut in.
For example, say you’re interviewing a marine biologist for a documentary about sharks—you’ll probably want to include footage of sharks in your film, rather than just watching people talk about sharks. If an interviewee mentions hammerheads, that’s a great moment to cut to a clip of hammerhead sharks swimming. The audio of the interview will still play over the shark footage, but cutting to the sharks provides visual interest and keeps the audience engaged.
So why is b-roll so awesome? We were serious when we said that b-roll levels the playing field; it adds a level of professionalism to even the most novice of projects and is instrumental in getting your message across. This means that b-roll is a valuable asset to films of any budget. For example, if a small business with limited resources wants to make a promotional video, b-roll will add polish and interest to the video without the need for an in-house film crew.
Why Do I Need B-Roll?
You might be thinking that b-roll seems like a nice thing to have, but do you really need it? Yes, yes, and YES. B-roll can literally save your project, and we’re not being melodramatic.
Let’s go back to our shark documentary example. You’re interviewing a world-renowned marine biologist and everything is going great, but suddenly she has a coughing fit in the middle of the interview. Everything else in the interview is fine, but when you go to edit the footage you run into a problem. When you cut out the coughing and edit down the interview to a reasonable length, the footage might look a little sloppy when you cut from one moment to the next.
What do you do? Your documentary features a famous marine biologist, you’ve put a ton of work into the project, and you want to do the sharks justice—messy cuts simply won’t do. This is where b-roll comes in to save the day.
Whenever you cut from one moment to the next, just insert b-roll on top. The audio will help maintain continuity, and the audience won’t have to see that you edited something out of the film. Audiences are already used to seeing constructive editing techniques around b-roll, so they won’t even notice the transition. Plus, who doesn’t love some good shark footage?
Who Else Uses B-Roll?
B-roll extends far beyond documentaries and interviews—it’s insanely useful in marketing as well. You may have noticed that a lot of Facebook video ads are fast-paced and quickly jump from one clip to the next, often with words zooming in and out of the frame. These ads are often just clips of b-roll strung together to complement the words on the screen.
The quick pace and simplicity of these videos grab viewers’ attention instantly. They’re also easy to share on social media and can create a ton of word-of-mouth buzz. Not to mention that with the right resources these ads can be inexpensive to produce.
Where Can I Find Good B-Roll?
This brings us to the essential question—where can you find awesome b-roll? Stock footage is an invaluable resource when it comes to b-roll, and we promise that we’re not just tooting our own horn. Even big-budget projects use stock footage for their b-roll needs—after all, the footage is professional-grade, versatile, and saves precious time and money.
For projects with more modest resources, stock footage can also be a game changer. What if our hypothetical marine biologist starts talking about Greenland sharks (yes, they exist)—you probably don’t have the resources to fly up north to film these cold creatures. That’s where stock footage comes in: just search the VideoBlocks library for footage of Greenland, and voila! You now have a shot that provides context for the Greenland shark.
Stock footage is more than just a convenient option—it will help increase the production value of your entire project. Using stock footage means that you don’t have to dedicate as much energy to planning when and how to shoot your own b-roll, allowing you to focus on making the rest of your project even better. With increased attention to the other shots, you’re more likely to end up with a high-quality finished product. What’s more, stock footage will blend seamlessly with your own professional-grade shots.
If you forget to shoot b-roll, or if you find that you’re missing a shot, stock footage will also save the day. It happens to everyone, and using stock footage will ensure that you stay on schedule and within budget. Crazy, right?
Stock footage and b-roll are the perfect partners in crime. Whether you’re working on a shark documentary or a killer Facebook ad, b-roll will become one of your most powerful tools. Get started on your next project and check out our awesome selection of b-roll. Your wallet and boss will thank you.
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