When we make a film, we need several component parts. Firstly we need to define the story and the objective of the piece, but let’s assume that’s done and we are now planning the actual shoot. I’ve found that clients are often taken aback by the length of time that we plan to film. This is generally because they tend to judge the time needed solely on the number of interviews we have planned. But as any producer knows, your piece will live and die depending on a number of factors, not just the interview and b-roll is critical.

So what is b-roll? The simplest description I can think of is that b-roll is the picture you see over the sound of someone talking when you’re not actually seeing the person talk.

But B-roll is much more than that. It’s magic. It can tell the story with pictures in a far more powerful way than your clients’ interviewees can with their words. It can help you cut an interview together by giving you pictures to cover edits. In the case of the latter it can really rescue you when an interviewee is under confident and they find it difficult to string their thoughts together coherently.

Telling the story in pictures is the primary aim of any video. In an ideal world you could play the video with the sound off and the viewer would get the message; that is done through b-roll.

Tomorrow we’ll film an interview with the self publishing guru Mark Dawson. It’s a niche subject and on the face of it not many pictures we can use to tell the story, so today we set aside the entire day to b-roll.

Mark taught himself how to market books using social media advertising and ended up quitting his job because his book income suddenly dwarfed his paid job in London. We were jealous of his lifestyle…coffee shops, lazy days with the family and work only when it suited him. So we shot pictures today that told that story. We showed the lifestyle benefit of getting your marketing right as a self publisher, which I promise you will do more to convey the film’s message than anything he says in the interview tomorrow.

That’s B-roll, and that’s why it’s important.