B-roll? Overlay? Cutaway?

How to plan for compelling supporting visuals



B-roll footage plays a massive role in the storytelling process. Imagine for a moment you are watching a video on how a driverless car works. You hear and see a person talking, it sounds interesting, but there is no footage to help illustrate their story. Not very effective.


B-roll (overlay or cutaway) footage is the imagery you see intercut with the main shot. In documentary-style videos, the main shot, or A-Roll, is often the interview. Any alternative footage, such as cutaways to surroundings or significant places, will be your B-roll.




Not only does B-roll create a more visually engaging film, but it’s also referred to as "safety footage". If you’ve got moments that work for audio but not video, perhaps a moment where an interviewee stumbles, then the B-roll footage is used to mask the shot.

In any circumstance, B-roll is just as necessary as the interview or the main action set-up. It helps the editor control the pace of the clip and increases engagement for the viewer. However, we have found that clients don’t always understand the importance of planning for B-roll during a videos pre-production process.



Tips on planning to shoot for b-roll footage


There are several ways to shoot B-roll footage. This is often the most straightforward way of capturing footage and can also (at times) be the best way because it feels authentic for the viewer. For example, when creating a factual or documentary-style video, there may be opportunities to film footage 'in the moment' or ‘as it happens.’ Other times the footage needs to be planned out and 'staged.' For this approach, we either create short scenes to film or plan for particular shots that may be required, depending on the nature of the video and how specific the messaging is.


Sometimes b-roll can be made up of some pre-existing footage supplied by a client or stock footage that is carefully selected to help illustrate the messages being conveyed.


B-roll footage is essential to any video production. It adds necessary dimension and depth to your storytelling, helps cover potential errors, illustrates and demonstrates action that's otherwise unexplained. Alongside the edit, it is the key to keeping your audience actively engaged.


Please get in touch if you have a video project in mind and would like to talk further about what might be possible.