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Stories From Behind the Camera

What is B-roll and why is it important?

Posted on May 2, 2024 by Christopher Hagan

Whether you've made video before or not, it's likely that you might have heard the common production term "B-roll" used, even elsewhere on our blog. But what does the term 'B-roll' actually mean? 

The term B-roll, Broll or B roll refers to any supplemental video that is considered to be secondary to your primary footage.”

While “A-roll” is largely a vestige of film production methods (the “roll” specifically referred to a physical roll of film), and rarely used in modern video production, B-roll is still a widely used term that we use when referring to additional images or video that helps us tell your story. 

Why is B-roll important for your Video Strategy?

    1.  B-roll can fill in the gaps of your story

      In our preproduction process, Spotted Yeti takes great care and time to plan how to tell your story as best as possible. However, even on the most well-planned shoots, sometimes there are moments that just don’t work out as envisioned when we start editing your footage, or others that just “need something extra."

      Watch the credits of your favorite movie, and you’ll see that even the highest budget Hollywood productions hire "second units" to gather extra footage for this exact reason. Second Unit is a discrete team of filmmakers tasked with filming shots or sequences of a production, separate from the main or "first" unit. B-roll provides extra options to add additional cuts and moments to help make your story as compelling as possible.

    2. B-roll can help cover mistakes and vocal flubs

      At Spotted Yeti, we love telling personal stories that truly invest in our clients and convey what is unique about you. Because of this, oftentimes the person speaking on camera is not a trained, professional actor. Everyone is human and stumbles sometimes, no matter how well prepared. Cutting away to a secondary b-roll shot allows us to edit your audio and smooth vocal performance, so we can communicate your message as clearly as possible without resulting in distracting, visible jump cuts between takes.

    3.  B-roll can result in happy accidents 

      Sometimes b-roll doesn’t require pre-production, storyboarding, and other planning, and can actually have several advantages over A-roll, especially where your budget is concerned.

      By setting aside time on a shoot to let ourselves explore a location and be spontaneous, shooting B-roll often results in unforeseen, happy accidents. These moments have often led to some of our favorite shots, without requiring any additional production time beyond what it takes to shoot them the day

      Rosie Red from Reds Opening Day in Cincinnati, OhioAn unplanned shot that's since been used extensively by both Spotted Yeti and client.

    4. B-roll is often reusable.

      For many of our clients, the purpose of shooting B-roll is not just for the project at hand, but also to create a library of footage that can be used for years to come.

      For example, a single day of shooting for one of our clients produced not only the material we needed to create the commercial we were focused on, but resulted in a trove of content that is still being used for new ads to this day - all without any additional production costs.

    5. Stock photography outside of your production can quickly become expensive

      The terms “B-roll” and “stock photography” are often used interchangeably, and it can be confusing to know the difference between the two.

      Broadly speaking, stock photography is B-roll that is shot without a specific purpose in mind, and then sold on online marketplaces where anyone can purchase shots and use them for any project. Because of the upfront costs, it can be tempting to eschew shooting B-roll and rely on stock photography later on if it turns out that B-roll was needed for the aforementioned reasons. However, the two major drawbacks for this is that stock photography must generally be purchased a la cart by shot, and is designed to be generic enough for use by anyone.

      Relying on stock websites can quickly result in footage that is more expensive and less relevant to your business than taking the time to invest in shooting appropriate content yourself. The cliches of stock photography have become prevalent enough on the internet to become a meme unto itself.
    screenshot of stock footage library online Stock footage sites are sometimes a great idea, but not
  1. always as tailored to your project as we think b-roll should be.

Everyone loves to see a well planned shot come to life exactly as you envisioned it. However, by leaving room to be spontaneous and shoot unplanned material, you can quickly gain a versatile and reusable library of content that can pay dividends for years to come.

From adding to your story to smoothing out mistakes, B-roll is an extremely valuable storytelling asset that is comparatively far cheaper than more extensively planned video.

If you don’t have a B-roll library on hand, you may be spending money you wouldn’t otherwise have to. And if you do, it may be outdated and no longer reflect the changes that have occurred in your business since shooting.

Contact Spotted Yeti today to talk about how we can best bring your story to life and show the world you exist.


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