YouTube Cheating: The Overuse of B-Roll Is Becoming a Problem

What happened to b-roll? It used to be the sprinklings on top of the proverbial cupcake, but now, we've forgotten about the cake. There are far too many occasions now where watching a tutorial is just difficult because of the amount of b-roll in the video.

Warning: there is some profanity in the video linked above. 

When I'm watching a video tutorial, I really don't care if you're in Dubai, sipping orange juice next to a unicorn that has jet engines for hooves. I just want to know how to do that fade transition thingamabob that the title of the video described. Every 30 seconds, it's another minute of super slo-mo footage and lots of "buttery" smooth bokeh. Am I coming across bitter at all? 

On a more serious note, though, I am seeing more and more videos that rely primarily on b-roll and treat it as actual content. As Camera Conspiracies points out, b-roll is not content and personally, it gets really old really fast. If you only have a minute's worth of content, then great, make it a short video; people actually appreciate concise tutorials. I do appreciate the fact that b-roll can be used in an entertaining way and can have some wow factor. Let's just reel it in a little and focus more on the actual content.

Camera Conspiracies is fast becoming one of my favorite channels on YouTube. His dry humor and the delivery of his jokes get me every time. If you haven't subscribed to the channel yet, I highly recommend you do; his content is very enjoyable. Please check out the full video linked above. 

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Jeff Walsh's picture

I see you've seen a few Peter McKinnon videos

Yeah. I unsubscribed from Mckinnon and Froknows-Guy. Too much b-roll and bro-ishnish. Gets old, real fast.

John Dawson's picture

Amen! What about the King of B-Roll, Neistat? Dudes are re-inventing the term "B-movie"

B roll is the new A roll because we have run out of ideas but still want that sweet Adsense money and the ability to throw in undeclared sponsored videos.

Brian Albers's picture

Kinda related-

I work in the video department of a large community college in a fairly large city, doing promotional type videos, and lots of public events around town with witch the school is involved in one way or another, stuff like that. No tutorials.

And our videos used to be pretty standard stuff- some person talking about some program or event at the school, and we'd show that person talking on our soundstage and we'd fire up the Blackmagic with one of our prime lenses, and then throw in some b-roll here and there to give some context.

Then, sometime last year, the word came from on high (the Marketing Dept), that we are not to have any person talking on camera like that. The narration is fine, but only shots of the things that this person talks about are the shots to fill the video.

In other words, your b-roll is your a-roll. There is no such thing as a-roll any more.

Jordan McChesney's picture

“B-role isn’t content” is something I’ve been saying for a while and something I believe so deeply in that I think I should get it tattooed on my neck.

When it’s used effectively, it sets up the location or the situation (as seen in the work of Thomas Heaton). When used poorly it’s to make sure your video is at least 10 minutes and one second when the video could actually be delivered in 5 minutes... not calling any Toronto based YouTubers out...

user-187388's picture

I guess I've led a sheltered life. Now I know what B roll is.I agree there is a lot of useless stuff in some videos that just string you out for the "great"content at the end. It is annoying. I tend to hover over the timeline on youtube and work out when the content is showing that's been promised.On the other hand, going back to vinyl record days, the b sides of some 45's became some of my favourite tracks.It didn't matter if someone else hadn't heard the song.There is something of an analogy re the 2 subjects.

Wow! Give me a break. I see some surely salty people out here, original video included. The video expemplified sheer laziness and lacked any kind of hook, other then its click-bait title. PM, MH, and company do an amazing job telling compelling stories. I, for one, thoroughly enjoy the breaks and appreciate the amount of effort and work they put into it. Generational videographers are just upset bc they are putting pressure on them to up their game. I’m not defending all fo the wannabe PM’s and the non-engaging b-roll segments, but this video and the comments bellow seem to point straight at Petter McKinnon and company and that’s just being jealous or lazy. Also, I’m not saying that none of the b-roll detractors are unable to produce the content... just saying that I find it weird that they don’t want to, or feel the need to. Trust me, there are plenty of boring, 5 minute tutorials out there with a guy screen recording and voice overing their tutorials. It takes a real artist to make that segment entertaining AND informational. If you can’t do that, then I guess you should just keep relying on Click-Bait titles.

John Dawson's picture

How dare some people have a differing opinion and see excessive B-roll as another form of the very laziness that you attempt to point out.

John Dawson's picture

P.S. Speaking of laziness, you might work on your English grammar, composition, and punctuation skills.

I’m not looking for grammar points, and I do not believe this was a thread about proper English either. It’s usual for people to attack back with something completely unrelated when they don’t have a good response to the actual statement. People can have their opinions, just as I do. And yeah I feel it’s either a lack of skill, or laziness, stopping a lot of the people who have been doing this a long time from doing more engaging content. Speaking of PM only, most of the “Useless” B-Roll everyone one here speaks of is actually telling a bigger story then one single video and I thoroughly enjoy it. I watch his channel for entertainment and it’s a bonus that I’m learning something. That’s why his channel is exploading.

Usman Dawood's picture

If you don’t have content, rely on b roll lol.

The video is satire Richard. Getting outraged over something like this is really silly.

I’m assuming you’re better than this, so stop it.

I don’t think anyone on here believes this is satire and are taking it to heart and attacking artist that I enjoy watching and have become a fan of. It just all comes across as salty and snobby.

Usman Dawood's picture

Discussing, critiquing, lambasting, or even disrespecting any ideas or art is always fair game. Art and ideas are not holy they do not operate on any pedestal.

So what if people are making fun of a particular style.

Once again... stop it.

Wow... you can just tell people to stop? I agree with you, just as someone can attack and have an opinion one way, another can have an opposing opinion and defend what they believe, it’s called debating. I get fed up daily dealing with snobs who, when something different comes along, they immediately attack or attempt to discredit whatever or whoever it is that is new.

God forbid people ask for actual content from their “content creators”

Tutorials are tutorials. Why do they have to be artistic. What absolute nonsense.

Like I said, there are plenty of stale tutorials that are short and to the point, that people like yourself can watch. Why hate on someone who puts in the extra effort?

Richard, I agree with you. I've been following PM and MH for a few years now and watch absolutely everything they put out. I've learnt loads from both of them and really appreciate all of the work and artistic direction that they put into everything they do. Every video has a point to it and provides content, for free. Seeing their follower counts climb suggests that they're doing something right. I don't understand the argument against B-roll. Surely it's no different to slotting photos into a written editorial. It seems that the people with the biggest problem with it are snobs from certain photography communities. To go to the effort to make a video purely bitching about someone else's lack of content seems pretty ironic to me. In fact, one of MH's latest videos is about how to deal with haters.

Usman Dawood's picture

It’s clearly satire.

You keep saying this, but I don’t think anyone realizes that it’s satire. Especially when you read through the comments. That’s what I was mostly reacting to.

Usman Dawood's picture

That doesn't change the fact that it's still satire. Look at the comments on the video, most people understand that its satire but some also consider there to be an element of truth to it. Poking fun at some popular YouTubers isn't really that big of a deal especially when the comments are against the work and not them personally. Commenting on anyone's work/art is always fair game especially if it's satire.

Don't take it so personally, I doubt any of these popular YouTubers even care, considering how well they're doing.

If you like a certain type of video that's perfectly fine, enjoy it. Don't try and imply that people are wrong for disliking something.

Jordan McChesney's picture

The argument people are making isn’t “b roll bad!! Me angry gurrr!!” It’s that pointless b-roll is pointless. No one reasonable will say their content itself is pointless, but it’s nice to have a balance. As I’ve already mentioned above, I love well done b-roll such as in Thomas Heaton’s videos (well done in purpose over quality).

You brought up the argument of putting photos in a written editorial, but that would only work if it’s in the context of our complaints. For example, I’m writing an article about how to grow on YouTube and then fill about 20% of the article with pictures of me getting/making coffee and running around Toronto.

Also in case you haven’t noticed people also get annoyed about long winded articles that could have been written more concisely.

(And before you slap the “hater” label on me you should know I really admire what PK is doing and I used to be a subscriber before he went full time or had a million subscribers. However, I felt his content lost a little something after going full time. I honestly think he has a lot of knowledge to share and is very motivational. That being said I can only watch a guy make coffee in b-roll so many times before I start to think that there are more efficient ways to spend my time)

In response to the PM comment. No one stops and thinks that his maybe his “non-essential” b-roll is used to tell a bigger story than just the video you are watching. It’s telling you about them as a collective whole. In some cases it could be looked at as alternative a-roll.

Jordan McChesney's picture

I mean, if that's what you get from it, that's great. I however, don't know what 10 seconds of him opening his car door, putting his keys in the ignition, and adjusting his mirror really "tells" me about him. I don't know what is gained from watching him purchase coffee for like 20 seconds in a video that is in no way about purchasing coffee. How about him running towards his camera in the snow to pick it up and just continue talking about whatever he was discussing in the previous shot. None of these tell me anything new or interesting about him or the message he's trying to convey. Yeah they may "look cool" but they tend to break the flow without advancing the video, so it just comes off like a way to kill time.

You can call it what you want, but good film makers only show you what needs to be shown. That's why bad film makers like James Nguyen or Neil Breen will show someone walking to a car, starting it, and driving off in excruciating detail, and a good film maker typically won't. This is also why bad movies will use a ton of stock b-roll of cities or helicopter shots to pad the time, and good films will use them to quickly and easily establish a scene or for enhancing/advancing the story. And, yes, I know they aren't exactly the same, he's a blogger and these are films, but the principles are transferable: show the audience what needs to be seen, not what you think looks cool.

However, I do have to give credit where credit is due, PM generally does use b-roll really well to advance his videos when he travels, especially with his drone. Also, as I've already mentioned, the guy clearly knows his stuff and has more passion for it than he can contain (which is a good thing). However it seems like he has no idea what to do when he's in Toronto, so he kind of faffs about. At the end of the day, not everyone will agree. He's got his fans who love his b-roll, and he's got people who dislike his use of it. Love it or hate it, it's art, it's subjective, no one is right and no one is wrong and nobody is being forced to watch it, so there's no point in getting too heated about it. I'm glad to see he's still doing well, I'm never upset to see a fellow Canadian doing well. The only reason I'm using PM in my examples is because I don't typically watch people who use b-roll, so he's the only one that comes to mind when I think of it.

Footnote: I'm aware the video is satire, but I'm also aware that satire is a way of using humor as a form of criticism. It's obvious from the opening 6 seconds he's exaggerating, but it's to bring up a somewhat valid criticism in an overblown way.

I like this response. I’m just wanting to debate an opposing view and you make a fair case.

John Dawson's picture

I really dig Kasey's (not Neistat) videos. He calls it like it is in a funny way. Dude cracks me up. #wherestheflippyscreen

Mark Richardson's picture

I swear if I see one more slow motion shot of Peter McKinnon's feet....................................................I'll probably just moan and move on with my day. But still, it does get old.

I would wager that this problem can be just about completely attributed to Peter McKinnon. I don’t subscribe for this reason.

greg tennyson's picture

The over-use of b-roll, on youtube especially, is a dirty trick to make videos longer. Youtube's algorithm doesnt like minute long videos so when they only have 90 seconds of actual content they use a long intro and way too much b-roll.

If you use enough b-roll you can run two commercials and double you adsense earnings.

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