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B-roll Production: Why Supporting Footage Means More Engagement

B-roll is a somewhat antiquated term. We now live in a decidedly digital world. It’s jargon from back from the ‘olden times’ of  film & tape-era production and is now just a legacy colloquialism for the additional supporting footage used in a video edit.  In other words, B-roll is what makes an interview more than a ‘talking head’. It’s purpose is to help tell the story, illustrating the points visually that are being made in audio via and interview, voice-over or even text.  B-roll is one of the main ingredients that make videos more engaging. When used effectively, the combination of things like B-roll and music are what can really make your video content have maximum impact. It can become more illustrative, more emotional , more memorable and more sharable.

Here are couple examples of when you might want to use B-roll and why it’s important:

  • You could use the Powerpoint slides from a presentation as B-roll to help viewers more clearly see and understand what was shown on screen.
  • It might be nice to show your product or service being used while a company representative or client explains more about it.
  • It could be helpful to take a few clips of customer testimonials talking about an event and use some event footage to help those who couldn’t make it know what they missed.

How to get good B-roll:

  • There’s an old video production saying ” If you say it, show it”.  That’s what B-roll is all about. Show the viewer what you are talking about in the video.  Humans are visual animals.
  • It’s usually helpful to think about shot sequences based on a process. What steps might you want to show?
  • Try and schedule your production time so that you have enough time to get a variety of different B-roll shots. It’s  a common mistake to want to fill and expensive and challenging production day with as much as possible, but if you can’t get enough good stuff, you are likely hurting the final product. Less can be more when you focus on planning and quality.
  • Fake it till you make it! Don’t be afraid to have people get ‘volunteered’ to pretend to be working, talking, walking, etc. Think about what is being said and make something relevant happen.
  • It’s also helpful to get posed ‘hero shots’ of people smiling or just looking into camera and establishing shots of locations. These are helpful when people are being introduced or at the end of a video when we typically talk about the future or give closing statements.
  • If your shots aren’t interesting, you might not be close enough…or far enough away. I find that close up shots and interesting angles and framing really increase engagement. They are intimate.
  • You might also want to consider time-lapse photography and slow motion styles to help increase drama. If there is anything noticaible that changes over time, both of these can have a very powerful impact as B-roll.
  • I like to use what I call ‘the rule of 50%’ for shooting good B-roll that will help. I find that if you plan on using 50% or your production time for B-roll, you’ll be in good shape for your edit to make engaging content. This isn’t always the case or even possible. but it’s a nice way to think about the importance of B-roll in the overall plan.
  • You can frequently also use archive photos from your subject and use them as B-roll, they can even be animated in a ‘Ken Burn style’ or perhaps in a Steroscopic effect.
  • If you have the time and budget, I like to plan for additional B-roll harvesting during the edit, once many decisons that shape the story have been made. Once you have a basic structure, you can see where the holes are and then make  a plan to fill them with B-roll that will help your video be successful.

    It’s actually challenging to imagine a scenario where B-roll wouldn’t be useful in helping to tell a story.  We all have short attention spans and need a little help visualizing concepts at times. I have noticed, as an editor with 20+ years experience, that when an audience see’s the subject matter on screen, they seem to tend to absorb and retain the information more than if they just hear about it in interview or voice over. B-roll is powerful tool to ‘double down’ on audience engagement potential and help make a bigger impact with your video content.

I hope these B-roll tips help make your video content more engaging. If you want some more helpful video perspective, check out our complimentary downloadable guide outlining 5 ways you can use video to help your business grow, complete with case studies and examples!

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Also, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help answer them.

Good luck!

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