If you spend any time around video production people, you’ll hear the term “b-roll” thrown around a lot. So what is b-roll, anyway?

Very simply, b-roll is footage that is used to support the story being told. As an example, think of an interview with a gymnast. Rather than just showing the gymnast speaking on camera, we may want to add in shots of her doing the things she’s talking about — a gainer, a front handspring, etc.

Why would we want to do that? There are a few reasons:

  • To make the video more visually interesting.
  • To add context and specificity to the story.
  • To cut out speaking gaffs like “ums” and “ahs” without showing a jump cut.
  • To create transitions.

The term “b-roll” comes from the old days of editing on film, when there literally was an “a-roll” (the primary footage) and a “b-roll.” The editor would cut back and forth between the reels by physically trimming and splicing the film. Today, editing is done digitally, but the terms have survived.

This profile video we did for the Drexel University College of Medicine has a nice mix of a-roll and b-roll.

And now you know.

Bill Haley

P.S. Have a question about video? Let me know and I’ll try to answer it in a future post.