How Filming B-Roll Helps to Tell your Story

Videos are the best way to capture the attention of your audience. Whether you're trying to attract new customers, share information about a new product or attract applicants to your open roles, video is (or should be!) the medium of choice to communicate information in a way your audience will remember. "In 2022 the average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes per day watching online videos."

With the rise in popularity of platforms like TikTok, it should be no surprise that consumers expect to learn through video. Even Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have unveiled new features that mimic TikTok. Short-form video is compelling for today's consumer! And video can be key to finding the next applicant for your open roles. 

Because video is so popular, more and more people are watching and recording. There are thousands of videos on almost any topic vying for your audience's attention when they go online. If you want to stand out, you'll need to make a video that's different from the rest or, if not different, more captivating. But doing that is easier said than done. So how will you create a video that stands apart? There are a lot of services that help you to create employee testimonials about your company— and while that is powerful, it leaves out a critical piece of the puzzle. 

One of the most underutilized differentiators is B-Roll. Videos utilizing interview and B-Roll footage are much more captivating than just a talking head. 

But what exactly is B-Roll? 

B-Roll is an old-fashioned term from when film was collected on rolls. So you had A-Roll footage, which would be spoken or interview footage, and B-Roll, which was environmental or contextual footage that helped tell the story in a more compelling way. This can be confusing though, so here's an example. 

Let's say there's a documentary about a corn farmer named Bill. We see Bill on the screen talking about how he harvests corn, but we never see him actually harvesting the corn. That would be a pretty dull documentary, right? Wouldn't you rather see the corn being harvested on the screen while you hear Bill talking about it? I certainly would! And that video footage of Bill harvesting corn would be considered B-Roll. Essentially B-Roll is video footage that helps to tell your story visually and it is played over or between the speaking parts,

Need another example? 

Imagine you turn on the nightly news, and you're watching the story of a dog who goes to visit people in the ICU. You'd want to hear how the patients felt about the visiting canine, but you'd also want to see the dog in action! Just one or the other would make for a boring story. That's how you need to think of the video content you are creating! 

How can you tell a story visually— not just verbally? What should you record for B- Roll? 

A good rule of thumb? Say it, see it. What does that mean? 

Show the audience what you're talking about if you mention something during an interview or speaking segment. If you start talking about this fantastic perk of free breakfasts at your company, but the viewer never gets to see it, it will be a little bit of a letdown. When you show that type of thing, your audience can more easily imagine what it would be like to work for your organization. Anything you talked about on camera becomes the answer to what makes good B-roll. This could be video of you at your desk, your team collaborating, or anything interesting to someone applying for your company. 

Now that you know what kind of content to record let's cover the technical aspects of recording it. 

Record a lot: You can never have too much (well, not never, but it is pretty hard to record too much). More B-Roll gives you (or your editor) more opportunities when you're editing your video together! That weird pause you took or the coughing fit you had in the middle of an answer? Don't worry— you can cut that out and use all the B-Roll you recorded to cover the cut and make it look seamless. 

Get various shots: Decide which to get before you press record. When you're getting ready to film B-Roll, it can be tempting to film like a 90s home video— following the action wherever it happens. But that isn't always the best way to record B-Roll. Before you start recording, you should decide whether you want this shot to be moving or still. If you want it to move, you should plan out the movement ahead of time so it looks intentional, and before you stop recording, make sure you stop moving around— this can give your viewers vertigo, and you don't want that! Incorporating a mixture of still and moving B-Roll will help to make the video even more visually interesting as the viewer doesn't know what to expect next. Subconsciously they'll stay tuned because they don't know what's about to come next. Additionally, it is better to keep the camera still if things or people are moving in the frame. Too many things moving at once is unsettling. 

Length: How long should you make your B-Roll? A good rule of thumb is anywhere between 10 seconds and up to one minute. Anything shorter than ten seconds will likely be unusable because it is too short and will feel jerky to viewers. Anything longer than one minute will most likely be redundant. 

These are all good rules to remember when you are ready to film B-Roll content. Of course, like any rule, you can break it if you have the knowledge, skills and experience to know when it makes sense to bend the rules. However, these rules will give beginners a good foundation for capturing B-Roll and giving your videos that extra punch. 

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