Why Does My Video Need B-Roll? August 24, 2016


Why Does My Video Need B-Roll?

We don’t recommend it, but there’s a reason why clients ask to include eight or nine interviews in a 3-minute video. From the client’s perspective, these interview subjects are important to the messaging of the video, or at least it’s important that they feel included in the project. Quick cuts, a couple of key lines and boom – everyone’s in, we’ve got a nice promotional video that hits the messaging, gets key personnel seen, and communicates effectively the goal of the video to the target audience.

Except no one is going to want to watch the final spot.

Without illustrative footage of what the interview subjects are talking about a video falls flat. That illustrative footage is called b-roll and it’s crucial to getting people to feel the emotion that separates a good video from a great video.

This is one of our standard projects – an interview based production with messaging that we have crafted into a story arc. Check out a cut below which does not include any b-roll.

Kinda boring huh? Even with good looking interviews and interesting subject matter, my eyes start to drift after just a few seconds. You can also see how we use b-roll to cover cuts, it’s really helpful in covering up the seams of a video. it’s an important part of what makes a commercial video production professional.

Okay now try the real video (with b-roll) which we made for the Denver Foundation this summer.

This is a much more visual piece. Structurally, it’s still a classic interview-based video, but there is illustration and emotion associated with the words, emotion that allows the messaging to sink in so much further. And it takes a lot of b-roll to accomplish that. Do you notice how little screen time is actually devoted to talking heads?

B-roll can take many different forms. To make a decent video, we like lots of action – a football practice is eons better than a town hall meeting. Beauty shots that set the location are a staple in our videos. The more we get to play with our video production toys – our Dana Dolly, Movi, drone, etc. – the happier we are and the better your video is. That being said, the b-roll needs to be relevant to the product. You (and we) should always be thinking about why we are showing this footage. And getting an interview subject involved in the b-roll (see below) is a great way to make your video more cohesive.

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If I were a client looking for commercial video production, I would try to spend at least twice as much time shooting b-roll as interviews, so a half day of interviews could be covered with a full day shooting b-roll. Of course, this is ideal for us as a video production company. But based on our experience, the most compelling videos are those filled with incredible footage to illustrate the story we are creating.

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