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I stumbled upon a B-Roll of Lucy while looking around on IMDB.com. It was quite interesting in giving a "behind the scenes look" at the production of the movie. I've heard the term, but until now I've never really knowingly watched one.

My questions are fairly simple:

  1. What exactly is a B-roll?
  2. What purpose does it serve in the production of a movie?
  3. Do all (or most even) movies have B-rolls?

(Note: The link above is just an example. I could have stumbled upon just about any B-roll and put it in here.)

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What exactly is a B-roll?

In news media B-roll is typically background footage - things like showing the President walking to the Oval Office, or all the world leaders milling about at G20 for the photo shoot - shown while the reporter talks about the actual story. Some businesses might even produce some B-roll to distribute to news media as part of their public relations.

In terms of entertainment media (movies and TV shows), the B-roll is a collection of shots from the film that has been released to TV stations so they can included sequences while reviewing the show or playing audio from an interview with the actor(s) and/or production crew. Radio stations can also use the audio from the B-roll to slice into their reviews/interviews.

B-roll can also mean any kind of background shot or sequence that can be edited into a movie (things like a sunset, or crowd scene).

Wikipedia - B-roll

In film and television production, B-roll, B roll, B-reel or B reel is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. The term A-roll referring to the main footage has fallen out of usage.

The clip you linked to also has a title card:

This material is specifically intended to be used in edited stories promoting the film and is not to be presented, at any time, as stand alone material. It must be edited into a larger piece.

What purpose does it serve in the production of a movie?

It is for marketing and media purposes. B-roll can also be used by movie or show editors to fill in around shots (like a crowd scene, or other background activity) to enhance the story depicted in the main scenes.

Do all (or most even) movies have B-rolls?

Probably most (if not all) of the major movies would have a B-roll that the studio distributes to TV and radio networks.

  • It seems like there are 2 meanings. I have a friend who was responsible for shooting b-roll for a television series. They shot such footage for every episode, and it was basically filler shots to make the editing more interesting. Things like cutaways showing the environment the actors were in, but which didn't include any of the actors. It had nothing to do with marketing. But this seems like a different use of the term (and in line with what the OP found). – user1118321 Aug 7 '17 at 3:25
  • @user1118321 - it doesn't seem to be all that different a meaning - it's still filler - will update my answer, though – HorusKol Aug 7 '17 at 3:27
  • Great explanation. Filled in a couple of gaps, like the name, which now makes sense. Thanks :o) – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 7 '17 at 15:09
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B-Roll is alternative footage used to edit with main action in scenes to achieve one or more purposes. Sometimes it can be used as an establishing shot to set the scene location and context or it can be used for artistic purposes to accentuate things in the main shot or help set mood.

Yes, virtually all movies will use a fair amount of B-Roll in assembling the final product. Often times this alternate footage is shot by second unit teams instead of the principles to save time and money and often helps give assistant directors and camera people valuable experience.

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