The Importance of B-Roll Footage for Creating Engaging Videos

Have you experienced watching 30-second clips that felt long and boring, while some 10-minute videos seemed engaging and interesting? It's not always about the length of the footage. It's about how you tell the story.

The Art of Storytelling

Storytelling is an art of its own. Whether you write, take stills, shoot video, or edit video footage, you can tell a story in a captivating way if you know how. Mastering that is not easy, nor can you learn it from a single tutorial. There are lots of pieces of the complex puzzle of storytelling, and Peter McKinnon shares one of the important aspects of creating engaging videos: using b-roll footage.

What's B-Roll?

B-roll is additional video material that's cut together within the original content. It is used to supplement the storyline, so viewers can see the visual information in more detail. Shooting b-roll is like shooting coverage for movie scenes. Each cut tells the viewer: "look here, that's important, you have to see it." It's the same when including b-roll. It makes the story richer and more interesting.

Simple Story With and Without B-Roll

In his video, McKinnon shows an example of how he creates an engaging behind-the-scenes clip. Although he uses high-quality footage, great video doesn't always mean you need to have expensive instruments for capturing the raw material. You have to be able to edit it in a smart way, so viewers can feel connected through the sound and visuals.

McKinnon describes a project in which they went into the woods and shot some pictures and video of a guy with colored smoke grenades. It's a simple and somewhat casual story. In order to illustrate how this can be told in a boring way, McKinnon shows it without a b-roll. Next, he includes a little bit of supplemental footage, and immediately, the video becomes much more interesting. While the viewers may think "it's good enough," McKinnon shows how to refine the editing so that it's not just a bunch of cool b-roll cut in a random way, but carefully selected clips showing a high-level view together with close-up details of the story. This way, the viewer is immersed in the project as if they were there.

How Much B-Roll Do You Need?

You need an abundance of b-roll. You can use it not only to complement to the story, but also to cover up visual mistakes being made during the video recording. It's better to have more b-roll, because you don't know when you might need it. You can shoot regular b-roll footage to create a database for future use in your projects.

For more great tips and advices from Peter McKinnon, check out his YouTube channel.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Tihomir Lazarov is a commercial portrait photographer and filmmaker based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the best photographer and filmmaker in his house, and thinks the best tool of a visual artist is not in their gear bag but between their ears.

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Thanks for this article! Very useful

You're welcome, but in the current case I'm just an echo of someone who did the quick tip video :)

That is awesome .. Thank you

Thank you. 100% pertinent.

Those smoke grenades are sick and watching the video makes me wanna dabble more in make short clips and etc. Thanks!

So, the clip did its job :)

Amazing article that makes life easy for those who are just starting out... These tips are so helpful....

Thanks. And good job to Peter who created the video.