As a filmmaker or video creator, you probably know that filmmaking is an art that has constantly evolved over the years.
From the earliest days of the medium to the present, filmmakers and now video creators have always sought to push the boundaries and find new ways to tell their stories.
One concept that has been around for decades and is worth understanding is the difference between A-roll and B-roll.
In the early days of television journalism and old school film making, camera crews were often working under tight deadlines.
To streamline the editing process they came up with a way to quickly capture shots on the fly.
This often involved capturing shots of whatever was happening around the main action to be used later.
While this approach could be creative and productive, it didn’t always guarantee technical brilliance!
Some filmmakers even went so far as to say that it encouraged mediocrity in filming.
The term “B-roll” was applied to this over-the-shoulder philosophy.
Filmmakers who criticized B-roll argued that its lack of forethought on the part of the filmmaker was what made it so lackluster and unworthy of good filmmaking.
They believed that these shots were often executed without much consideration for the story being told and were simply used to fill time or space.
On the other hand an A-roll shot was considered to be intentional and essential to the story being told.
While it may look like a throwaway shot at first glance, it is actually framed with absolute precision.
These shots may have featured an unexpected or odd viewpoint but they were executed with care and attention to detail.
As an example, let’s take a look at the David Fincher-directed film The Social Network.
In this film, Fincher masterfully used a combination of A-roll and B-roll shots to tell the story of the creation of Facebook.
By paying close attention to the way the shots were framed and executed you can see the difference between the two types of shots and why A-roll is so important to good filmmaking.
In conclusion, understanding the difference between A-roll and B-roll is crucial for filmmakers.
While B-roll shots may be quick and easy to execute, they often lack the intentionality and precision that are so essential to good filmmaking.
On the other hand A-roll shots are carefully planned and executed and are the key to telling a compelling story.
As a video creator you should take the time to learn the difference between these two types of shots and strive to create more A-roll shots in your own work.
When you do shoot and use B-roll it should be done with the same attention to detail and defined purpose as your A-roll.