B-Roll for your post or page?

Last Update: December 13, 2017

'B-roll' is a video term, but it carries lessons that are important in your writing and image selection, even if you NEVER use video in your posts.

'B-roll' it is subject matter video shot without sound for use in news, movie or video production. It works like this; during an interview or long conversation, the viewer gets bored just looking at a face, or 'talking head', so while the conversation goes on, the video goes to B-roll to keep the viewers engaged. Typically the B-roll is a short clip that relates to what the person is talking about; if they are talking about clouds it is moving video of a cloudy sky. If they talk about childhood memories it could pan across photo album pages showing the house and family members...

Images serve readers like B-roll serves viewers

Still images can engage parts of the reader mind that are out of reach when text is the only tool. Generally, B-roll is used according to the following rules:

  1. If a person interviewed or a narrator mentions an object or place, B-roll should show that object or place:
    1. Show the one spoken of, if possible, a generic one, otherwise,
    2. Show it in use or in production or in motion, if possible,
    3. If you can't show it in use or in motion, use pan or zoom to make it more dynamic

  2. If the person mentions an action or event, ideally, video of that action or event should be shown while they talk.
  3. If the conversation mentions a person, or group, video of that person or group should be shown:
    1. Show them doing something relevant to the mention, if possible,
    2. Show them walking or talking if more relevant shots aren't available
    3. If you only have stills, keep the shot short, or use pan or zoom
  4. In rare cases, if the producer is bold, they will show B-roll that illustrates a concept, rather than the actual item- like an atomic mushroom cloud to illustrate a management shake-up, or an angry mob for adverse customer reaction...

  5. When all else fails moving video of the person being interviewed walking or working at a desk is used rather than show minutes of 'talking head' without a break

We can use images to engage the reader's eye and mind, just as B-roll engages viewers. The details of the rules must change if we aren't using video clips or gifs, but the idea is nearly the same: relevant is better than generic; action shots are better than still lifes, and nearly any image with some relation to the discussion is better than raw text.

Why should we care?

Yes, some of our readers can consume entire novels with the only images generated in and by their own minds. But many of them have much shorter attention spans, and what we are writing is Not a novel. We must earn the attention of our readers with every sentence, or they click off into the wilds of the web, lost to us forever, or at least for a long while.

Kyle's advice in the training is to use at least a couple images per post, but not go overboard with dozens. I think that is much more attainable than the editing of interviews or news stories that can require hours for capturing and editing B-roll to support a 6 to 10 minute piece. In that context, our challenge is the same as the video producer, but the standard is far more forgiving.

By using the B-roll rules in a scaled down way, we can decide about images to enhance our communication, and engage more visitors. If we care about making money with our sites, we should care about this.

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rjkennedy Premium
Thanks for sharing this info
DebbieRose Premium
Informative post...leaned a new term. Thanks
MKearns Premium
I use B rolls in my posts without realizing what they are. Good to know Stephen!
Dmorrow Premium
Interesting food for thought. Thanks for sharing.
Sftat Premium
Glad you enjoyed it, Debby. Several likes, but not many comments... Thanks for yours!