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Elements of a video series – #2 B-Roll.

In this series we look at the different elements that make up a video, to help you make more informed decisions in your video marketing. If you haven’t watched our video on interviews, go and check that out here:


What is B-roll & how does it make your videos better?

B-roll helps to keep your videos pacey

B-roll is the visual footage edited over your interviews to add interest and context. It’s also used to cover up a jump cut in an interview or cover up mistakes. People say a lot of ‘uhms’ and ‘buts’ in their interviews and b-roll allows us to cut all these out and then smooth over the interview with footage to cover up the cuts. So b-roll allows you to piece together the best parts of a conversation and it’s always best to shoot more b-roll than you think you’ll need.

In addition to this, b-roll can help to shorten your video to keep interest. Instead of someone saying something, you can just show it on screen, thereby shortening the interview. Because in video, often less is more!

B-roll editing

When you watch a video you’ll see the b-roll shots while still hearing the person’s voice continue in the background.

It’s important your b-roll shots compliment what’s being said in the interview. 

What can you shoot for b-roll?

We often tend to film b-roll footage of the person in the location of their interview. This usually looks like we have ‘caught them in the action’ but more often than not, they are scenes we have set up. For example a fake phone call, a meeting, or someone working at their desk. What we shoot will differ depending on what your video is about and we’ll usually have a shot list ready on the day with the types of things we want to capture that will be relevant. This can also include your branding or signage, or shots of your wider team and office. In any case, we always make sure we get lots of smiles! 

We shoot these scenarios several times from different angles and then they cut together nicely as a mini sequence which helps to make it look more filmic. 

When we’re shooting testimonial videos we are aware that your client is probably doing you a favour, so we always try to be as quick and efficient as possible in our approach. It’s always a good idea to let them know in advance that we need them for at least 1 hour (half an hour for the interview and half an hour for B-roll). This way they know what to expect and they don’t run off before we have everything we need.

Some more examples of b-roll

Here are some more examples of what you can use as b-roll:

  • If your business is office based, you could shoot clips of people chatting, the subject working on a computer, making a phone call, meeting a client, walking through the office, your awards cabinet, etc… 
  • Head shots of the person, looking into the camera, smiling – these feel very unatural to shoot but look great in the edit!
  • For an outdoor adventure or activity related business, you would shoot clips of the adventure or activity
  • Existing videos or photos can also be used as b-roll shots and can be cut into animated templates to add more interest, i.e. a slide show
  • Using stock video or photos can be more cost effective than filming scenes
  • Animation is good b-roll if you’re explaining something complex in your interview
  • Timelapses are great to add a touch of production value while also setting a scene establishing shot (showing the outside of your office buidling for example)
  • Screen capture can be used to show details of your website or software

We are going to be covering all the above elements in their own dedicated video – so watch this space!

Why we create a b-roll shot list

Before we show up to conduct an interview, we’ll have compiled a list of questions and loosely scripted answers to ensure we get the right key messaging into a video – this means we have a framework for the narrative. And because videos work much better when what you hear is also what you see, we’ll then use that narrative to create a shot list. I.e. if we know someone in a testimonial will be prompted to talk about your amazing telephone helpline, we’ll make sure we get a shot of one of your team on their headset smiling and talking. All this planning makes the editing process easier and the end result better. 

The right b-roll can save you money

It’s worth shooting enough b-roll shots as it will save time in the editing process. Because if a video isn’t working without the correct peice of b-roll, we may need to resort to stock clips instead. However, these take time to source and cost money to buy, so it could cost you more in the long run. That’s why we always leave sufficient time on the shoot to capture the right b-roll. 

How we film amazing-looking b-roll

We have a few tricks up our sleeve to make our b-roll sequences look more professional.

The general rule is, we start with a wide shot of the location or scene (the establishing shot) and then our shots get progressively closer in, until we are looking at specific bits of detail. These shots can be edited in whichever order to create a filmic sequence.

Another way to add production value to the b-roll is to add movement. Rather than taking a static shot of someone typing on a computer, for example, we use things like sliders to add sideways movement, or gimbals to push in to a shot or follow someone walking. If we need to shoot fast (as often the case of testimonials) we can also add movement by shooting handheld with image stabilising lenses and add more stabilisation in the post production process if needed. This way you can still achieve a high end look without taking up too much time of the subject.

If there is time, we may also bring in basic lighting to light up a scene. In any case, because we are only interested in the visuals here, we don’t need to worry about audio, so the process can be fairly fast. 

Now see it for yourself! 

All in all, b-roll clips will help to keep your video pacey and keep the interest of the viewer. That’s important because in a manic digital age, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and for example a 1-minute boring video can feel longer than a 2 minute pacey video with lots of interesting b-roll.  From swooping sailing shots to cute cow shots – here are some examples of our own talking heads style (interview) videos using b-roll to good effect:

Nisos Yacht Charter

James Duke Case Study

dotmailer – HR Video based in their office

What now?

If you want to chat through your video project with a real life human, fill in the form on this page and we’ll get in contact with you. Or alternatively give us call on 07766306310 or 07789712314