Apr 18, 2017

Why Capturing B-roll is Crucial in Storytelling

You’re making a video. There is a sports legend sitting in front of you — he has an amazing life story and you’re prepared for the interview with over five pages of questions to ask. The storyboard segments his life into four distinct stories. There is so much potential content in this interview, it’s hard to imagine needing any additional shots.

As the interview progresses, it proves challenging. He shifts position multiple times, and rather than those sweet direct responses you were hoping for, the conversation drifts down tangents. There’s good content in the two hours of footage captured — but the editors will need to tease it out carefully.

Suddenly, b-roll footage becomes the key to making an engaging video.

What is B-roll? 

According to YouTube, online videos range in length, anywhere from 42 seconds to over 10 minutes. On average, most fall between 2–4 minutes. Keeping viewers’ attention for that long — especially in this day and age — is incredibly hard to do.

B-roll can help. B-roll is the extra footage that surrounds an interview. It’s critically important to plan out this supplemental footage when storyboarding and editing a film. The extra footage can provide different perspectives and dimensions to a story, engage viewers visually and keep their attention in check.

Without b-roll, interview-style videos would be dependent on chronological and seamless responses, making it hard to edit out unwanted content. Capturing peripheral shots will help you avoid underwhelming talking head footage — scenes where the main action involves someone talking either right into the camera or just to the side of the camera — and provides editors more options for voiceovers to visually piece together the best story possible.

And b-roll can be just about anything — a stationary shot of leaves swaying in the wind, a moving shot rolling over photographs on a desktop, an over-the-shoulder shot of someone rocking in a chair, historical news clips, vintage videos or timelapses. The options are endless, but they must be relevant to the story you are trying to tell.

How to Storyboard B-roll 

To ensure you’re getting enough extra footage, include b-roll concepts in the storyboard process. If there are shots that can be imagined on the whiteboard, then there is a good chance you can recreate them in film. Work with producers and videographers who have produced films with ample b-roll (essentially all other video that isn’t interview style).

It also helps to create a checklist of the b-roll shots you need to get while on location to ensure you’re not forgetting all of those great concepts you unearthed during storyboarding. Research relevant old clips and photographs to help complement the b-roll you shot while on location. Most importantly, never pass up an opportunity to get just one more shot — you never know if it will be the winning scene in the final video.

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