Fun fact: The terms A-roll and B-roll originated in the days of film reels, as a way for film editors to differentiate rolls of footage to thread into their cuts. Nowadays, A-roll and B-roll are more clearly defined into two different types of footage that serve different purposes in post-production. Today, we’re taking a closer look at B-roll, including tips for doing it right.
While A-roll is used to describe any footage of your subject or your main shot — think a person being interviewed or the central action taking place — B-roll is all the supplemental stuff that makes your videos more interesting to watch. B-roll often includes your subject or your surroundings, just portrayed in a more passive way. Take the above short with Gigi Hadid. See if you can decide which shots in this edit are A-roll and B-roll.
B-roll may look effortlessly spliced into video edits, but lots of thought and foresight go into collecting these. Pre-production is where you can define when and what you’ll need for B-roll. Sigrid‘s “Mine Right Now” music video from Max Siedentopf is a meta exploration on B-roll where the A-roll (AKA Sigrid) literally never showed up. In your shot list or storyboard, list the B-roll visuals that will enhance your narrative. And, if you run out of time or simply forget to shoot your B-roll, Vimeo Stock offers endless options to spice up your edit.