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A-Roll vs B-Roll in Filmmaking- How to Know the Difference?

A-Roll vs B-Roll in Filmmaking- How to Know the Difference?

There are so many articles out there about how to make cool B-roll and maybe someone's even told you that you should use more B-roll in your videos but you don't actually know what that means. Let's look at what A-roll and B-roll is so that you can understand how to use it to improve your videos.


How to use your camera to make good videos?

When it comes to making videos there are two main types of footage. You have your A-roll footage which is the footage that tells your main story. This would be something like the talking head portion of an interview a newscast. B-roll footage on the other hand is footage is used to supplement that story. This footage can then be played over the top of that A-roll footage to show the audience what's being talked about.

And this happens every time I cut to something other than me just standing here talking which makes a video more interesting and engaging because people get to see more than just a person standing here talking for a long time. And you'll see a lot of people on YouTube posting what they call cinematic B-roll by making these short sequences with lots of flashy transitions and calling it B-roll.

But it actually isn't B-roll at all because it's just a standalone film on a single topic which actually makes it a roll that has creative camera moves and transitions. You'd have to have an A-roll story going on to then be able to cut to those shots to actually make them B-roll.

The main point here is to understand that Ball does not have to be the Super creative flashy shots in order to be good.

It simply needs to be footage that supports the story being told by the A-roll footage. So if that makes sense to you so far. Because when it comes to movies distinguishing between a roll and B-roll can be a bit more tricky. A-roll footage and movie shows us what the main characters are doing in the film to help push the story along.

The most common types of B-roll I usually see in films or things like establishing shots or maybe a flash when a character is telling about something that happened or maybe something is going on in a different place that the main character doesn't see. But it's helped pushing the urgency of some kind of situation.

For example, in The Post Meryl Streep's character is the newspaper publisher and she's asking Tom Hanks character's advice on what she should do about printing a news story about government coverups that could possibly cause them to lose funding for their newspaper and go out of business as they're talking we cut to B-roll of the newspaper factory showing the process of pre-preparing the next day's newspaper story to emphasize the fact that a decision needs to be made very soon whether to publish the story.

We cut back to some other characters who work at the newspaper company who arrived to try to make sure that she doesn't publish. We then cut back to more Bureau shots of the newspaper story being prepped for printing to show that we're getting even closer to the finished product.

Then we were back to the men entering the house and beginning their argument to try to convince her not to publish the controversial story that could cause them to all lose their jobs. We then show Tom Hanks look at the clock with a nice match. Cut back to the factory to show that the story is now ready for printing and the decision to print needs to be made or else they'll miss the deadline. We then cut back to her becoming more bold by rising up clearly stating her argument and making the decision to run the story.

And this whole scene could have played out with just the conversation about whether to print and then looking at the clock and seeing that they're running out of time.

But cutting back and forth between their decision-making process and the factory B-roll helped to emphasize that sense of the time running out and the pressure that she was facing in the story.

It would make sense that any B-roll footage in a movie would be considered cinematic right?
But I rarely see any B-roll in movies that looks anything like what everyone's calling B-roll and YouTube nowadays. Now I'm not trying to Slam anyone for making these types of sequences. Rather I just want you to be aware that you don't have to plan all these elaborate shots to have a good B-roll. Just think of what type of shots would help to best tell your story and use it.

But hopefully, that helps you to understand what a roll and B-roll is so that you'll know how to use B-roll footage to improve your videos. And if you do have any questions about A-roll versus B-roll then post them down below in the comments and I'll try to help you out the best I can.

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