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The ultimate guide to B-roll

The what, the why and the how of user-generated b-roll

Freddy Cleveley image

Written by Freddy Cleveley

7 Jul, 2021  –  4 min read

In this article, we’ll explain what B-roll iswhy it’s important and our top 3 ways to start collecting it yourself.

What is B-roll?

B-roll is any additional footage (videos or photos) that is considered secondary to your main footage (known as A-roll). An easy way to think about it is ‘cutaway footage’, clips you can use to break up a video and add some variety.

Watching people talk directly to the camera for an entire video can get boring, so use b-roll to keep the audience engaged and provide visual variety. The key thing to remember is that B-roll needs to be relevant to the video’s narrative and so be sure to use relevant footage.

Watch the video below for a quick overview and read on to find out more. 

Why is B-roll important?

B-roll is like gold dust when working with user-generated video (and any video, to be honest). It can transform your video from monotonous talking heads into a dynamic and engaging story.

Not only that, but it also really helps smooth out transitions and tell a story. B-roll is a super useful tool when transitioning from one contributor’s clip to another’s or moving your story on to the next sequence or topic. For example, when used alongside employee perspectives, B-roll showing fun cutaways or clips of your team can help build an image of your employer brand.

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See how both video and photo b-roll is used to transition between contributors and topics in this video by Amazon:

More than just making for a smoother edit, using B-roll can inject personality into your video. These shots are often candid, give a peek “behind the curtain”, and add elements of humour to break up more serious subject matter.

Our top 3 ways to collect B-roll

So you know what B-Roll is and why it’s essential, but how should you go about collecting it? Here are three ways you can start to build up your B-roll library.

👆 B-roll can be photos or videos and are a great to add some variety of tone and energy to your videos

1. Ask people to contribute 🍿

If you are already embracing the world of User-Generated Video then asking your contributors to go out and capture B-roll content for you as part of an existing project. Specifically asking for B-roll content is best practice, and let people know this can be anything from bloopers to background footage.

A couple of great ideas to get people comfortable with this include:

  1. Holding a briefing meeting: this is an excellent opportunity to explain what b-roll is and to share some top tips for filming
  2. Sharing lots of ideas and examples: write a list of things that would be great to have when editing and drop ideas for these into your brief, share visual examples.

👆 Contributors were asked to provide B-roll for this video which really helps keep the pace

If you are not familiar with User-Generated Video, check out our guide to User-Generated Video to see how it makes the task of capturing B-roll so much easier. When you are ready to get started, be sure to watch our webinar on how to get started with UGV.  

2. Run a B-Roll project 🎬

With B-Roll more is more. To avoid being left wanting, consider running a project specifically designed to capture B-roll. Think about what content would be most useful for your videos and tailor your project to fit.

For example, if you’re making content to attract talent to your business, perhaps team or work-related shots are up your alley. If employee wellbeing is a focus of your videos, you might be looking for shots of people relaxing. It’s a nice idea if there’s something in it for the contributors, whether that’s kudos with teammates or a chance to win something.

At Seenit we have an ongoing project set up for the purpose of collecting b-roll, just search seenitbroll in the Seenit Capture App. We also run a B-roll challenge where we ask employees to plan, shoot and edit videos completely made up of b-roll content. It’s a lot of fun! 

3. Shoot it yourself 📹

Alternatively, why not take matters into your own hands? One of the best ways to learn how to film great b-roll content is to do it yourself. So assemble a willing crew - your team, a community of video-literate people (interns, grads, engaged employees such as ERG members) and get creative!

For lots of other video production tips, don’t forget to check out the Film school or check out our other video production posts

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