What is “B-Roll” and Where Can I Get One?

When you work with a video agency for the first time, you might hear a lot of terms that are new to you or some that may sound familiar but don’t appear to be used the same way. One of the terms that I use that results in some of the highest perplexed eyebrows looks around is “B-Roll.” And it is a video production-specific word, so it is worth sharing a bit more about what it means and how it can benefit you as a marketer.

Not a Dessert Cake, And Not Emergency Toilet Paper

what-is-a-b-rollTo a newbie in the video business, the term “B-roll” can invoke images of things not typically seen on a video set (but for the record, bringing some good local pastries to your crew on shoot day will always help with morale!).

The term itself came from before the digital age when everything was done on real film. It was created to label a specific solution to a problem with 16mm film, which unlike 35mm film, was not wide enough to hide splices made for editing. To quote the exact technical description in Wikipedia:

“To avoid this problem, the intended shots were spliced to the opaque black leader, with the black leader hiding the splice. Two sequences of shots were assembled, the odd-numbered shots on the A-roll, and the even-numbered shots on the B-roll, such that all of the shots on one roll were matched by the black leader on the other roll, in a checkerboard pattern (an alternate name for the process was "checkerboard printing.") Unexposed 16 mm raw print stock was exposed twice, once to the A-roll, then it was exposed again to the B-roll.”

Later, in the 1980’s the term was adopted for use in linear video editing, where two or more tape machines were in use. The one with the main action to be used was labeled as the ‘A’ deck, and the 'B' deck was used to run tapes that held additional footage such as establishing shots, cutaway shots, and any other supporting footage.

You may see the term used as B-roll, B roll, B-reel or B reel. Ironically, the term “A-roll,” referring to the main footage, has fallen out of usage, which is why you only hear about “B-roll” now!

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Today’s B-Roll is Still Not a Dessert, but Something Better

Today, the B-Roll has evolved into something more productive. Not to be confused with “stock footage” it is simply the remaining available footage from a shoot that was not used in the final video.  What makes it valuable is that it can be leverage creatively to create additional content that may or may not be part of the original project. Here is a recent example of something new we created out of extra and re-purposed footage. Our original project was to do the first video for a specific purpose on their website, and the other two were done much later when they needed to do more succinct close-ups on two of their products:

 

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Your B-Roll is A Budget-Stretching Treasure Trove

All of the videos were shot on the same day, in the same location. At the time, we worked with the client’s marketing agency to develop shot-lists for “TBD” videos which might be needed in the future. A year later, when the client asked about doing something for these specific products, the agency called us, and we worked together to create these two additional videos in our edit room – because all the shots were already done.

By thinking ahead a bit beyond your immediate project needs, you can create a lot more value from a full-day shoot if you think of your “B-Roll” as an asset that you can create now and use later. In the above example, the agency we worked with provided shot lists for what they originally conceived as becoming FIVE videos, even though the client had only asked for and budgeted for ONE. Because the cost of a full-day shoot is fixed (the crew is paid for the whole day regardless of how many videos are being created), being deliberate about setting up your shot list can create a much more valuable content asset. You will be sitting on a lot of additional footage that can be used creatively for other videos, ad, social shorts, internal training, etc.

The “B-Roll” Package is An Easy Way to Get Started

With planning for 2019 already underway, now is a good time to think about how to maximize your content budget. After years of encouraging clients to think ahead and work this way, we realized that the easiest way to help everyone stretch their content dollar for videos is by providing an easy way to commit to multiple videos up front while still investing in the same number of days of shooting. It’s a pro-active option that gets us involved with the planning alongside you and your team (or your agency) so that your business will have a ready-made reel of content that can be edited and produced throughout the year and deliver fresh video content all from the original shoot done up front.

Get the most out of your content budget with our custom "Corporate B-Roll Video Packages"! 

We extend your content portfolio by leveraging your one-off video shoot into multiple finished videos that can be published "fresh" throughout the year as content for your website, social shorts, ads or more. Learn about our Corporate B-Roll Video Packages Here >

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