b roll

In my days as a one-man-band videographer at a Charlotte news station, shooting B-roll was a daily adventure. In this blog, I will discuss B-roll and how you can capture the best footage for your needs by knowing your purpose and planning.

What is a B-roll?

B-roll is the video that overlays the audio of interviews or voiceovers. It is notoriously challenging, despite the fact it’s available everywhere. Everything your eyes look at can be a B-roll. Coordinating to shoot it for your video project and ensuring it looks “camera ready” is daunting.

An industry classic parody video explains B-roll magnificently “We got that B-roll.” B-roll should support your main video message. It should add visual context, emotion, and variety for pacing to keep viewers interested in your video. But B-roll can also be tricky for clients to choose the best scenes to shoot and the best shots to select.

As is common for many organizations, getting permission to shoot clients, setting up a shoot day at their facilities, and managing the day were too much for our nonprofit client to handle, so they asked us to come to their office and shoot their employees. They asked us to use B-roll of their caseworkers over top of interviews describing their clients. While the employees created a B-roll opportunity, it didn’t help the video’s message and was misleading. You’d hear dialogue about clients and see videos of employees. That distraction wouldn’t have helped their message to the viewer. We always want video and audio to match and we never want to show video of something that detracts from our video goals.

Know your purpose

Before you start planning or shooting B-roll footage, have a clear idea of what your video is about and what you want to achieve with it. Ask yourself these questions. What is the main story and five to seven messaging goals (ranked in order) that you want to convey? Who is your audience, and what do they need to know or feel?

Your B-roll footage should directly relate to your main story or message and communicate those points. Knowing your purpose will help narrow your options and select the most relevant and effective B-roll footage. It will also save you money.

A consistent downfall for video productions I’ve done is clients who say, “Shoot everything; we’ll decide later.” The lack of direction typically ends with content never used because no one knows it’s there and also with missed opportunities to reinforce a message with a visual. An example could be the videographer misses the main donor, doesn’t shoot any red roses, which are part of the branded decor, or thinks a new piece of equipment deserves five minutes of video when it’s not the focal point of your story.

The old rule of thumb, “See it, Say it,” should guide all your video goals. When visuals reinforce the words of the story, your message sinks deeper.

b roll footage

A higher education video production client hired a crew before hiring us, and that crew took their money and shot five days of B-roll on campus with two different cameras. It was 2TB of content- a lot of content. The issue is there wasn’t a plan. It was a beautiful video, no question. However, only white professors were featured; the video team captured “small town” imagery which the university wanted to avoid, and the video team shot sports that weren’t continuing into the next season so they couldn’t be shown in the video.

When Sunshine Media Network was hired, we assessed the video they already paid for, identified gaps in the video needed to align with their 5-7 messaging goals, and scheduled one shoot day to check all the needs off in one day. Scheduling B-roll days like this is a lot of work, but doing that work ahead of time saves everyone money and time in the long run.

Plan ahead

Once you have your message goals, plan and think about what kind of B-roll footage you need and where you will get it. If you shoot your B-roll footage, consider the location, lighting, sound, equipment, and permissions you need. Remember that university? Well, the day we shot our B-roll was lawn maintenance day, and we had yard equipment noises in the background of all the shots and interviews. Since the crew was a vendor, they wouldn’t stop their work to allow production to be uninterrupted. This was a serious oversight of the university team who scheduled the shoot day.

Many clients ask, can we buy stock footage? Unfortunately, there are myths that stock footage is plentiful and affordable. Most times, we encourage video production clients to create the content ourselves. But, if we use stock footage, we have to search for quality that matches your company’s brand, the licenses to use available, and the cost of the clips that you want to use.

Stock video is often more expensive than if our video crew were to shoot it for you. However, we had a client who needed a “cyber hacking” video, and it made a lot more sense for us to buy a stock video of an ominous guy in a hoodie behind multiple computer screens. In that case, we advised our client to approve a budget to purchase stock footage.

Also, remember that stock video providers still lack diversity and representation. I’ve often searched stock videos and only seen one type of person, which can be a damaging message to your brand. For example, that cyber hacker video, every option was a 30-something white guy in a black hoodie. Stock footage tends to be stereotypical imagery, and we carefully advise clients on the best ways to use it if it’s needed.

If we’re going to shoot your B-roll for you, before we start, we make sure you have a location, permission, consent forms from people in the video, and all types of people that represent your client base. For one project, the client assured us they had people booked for their B-roll shoot day. It was a luxury car service, and they relied on the owner’s daughter’s high school friends to be the talent in a website video that positioned the company as a Prom service over a CEO travel brand. The whole point of our video campaign was to align them as a CEO travel brand. So, in that case, we had to go the stock video route.

In conclusion, remember that knowing your purpose and planning are the two best ways to get the most out of your money and time with a video. At Sunshine Media Network, we are here to help you accomplish your goal. We help our clients with many skills, from media training to corporate communications; if you’d like to learn more about our services, contact us today!