Web video for beginners

Adding B-roll Video Graphic Cutaways

B-roll film is often referred to as cutaways since that is, in effect, what the object of b roll scenes are. A-roll is the primary object of your video and is often the narrator or story teller. Of course, as technology progresses and film rolls give way to flash drives, the term film roll will probably disappear as well.

Never the less, the object of making b-roll scenes will be more vital then ever. You can using moving scenes or still shots for your cutaways. Several minutes of shots from your tripod will appear boring to viewers. A cutaway provides a visual cue to lead your viewers to the reaction you desire.

Some reasons you might want cutaway scenes during a video:

  • to dive deeper into the subject
  • b-roll-cutaway
  • to illustrate something the speaker is talking about
  • to hide zooms
  • to hide "jumps"
  • to cover up for scenes which will cause discontinuity - for example a glass with water that is empty and later full or repeating images that wouldn't normally appear or anything in the background that will be caught by the viewer
  • to emphasis the emotional state of the speaker or increase tension (for example, fidgeting hands, feet on desk)
  • to give a sense of the ambiance (scenes of the environment)
  • to provide some relief when the speaker is doing something not in context or the speakers lips do not sync with the scene or the speaker has lots of audible pauses or visual tics
  • to provide flashbacks
  • to hide your mistakes

In the old days film frames were numbered and editors manually matched up the numbers on the a-roll and b-roll to match the sound track. With today's software editing programs, you can simply drag and drop visual effects in place and line up the audio track at will. It is usually called "cutaway" in the movie editing programs. Many cutaways can be made with a single camera. However, for "live" events (like a wedding, music performance, etc.) you will need more then one camera. Even the most ardent fan will be bored watching a tripod camera shot during music production. Use b-roll to keep scenes to a few seconds each.

Some additional b-roll video you might want to consider are:

  • establishing shots (wide angle pictures of location or venue)
  • capturing people doing every day tasks
  • shooting over the shoulder of one subject that is talking to another person
  • reaction shots (how a second person is reacting to the speakers words)

When shooting cutaways you generally don't have to worry about audio. However, when you do need audio one source might be the sound engineer's sound board. Plug the output into your wireless transmitter (like that used for a lavalier mic). If the sound board doesn't have a an extra output, bring along a splitter.



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