What is B-roll? Types, Importance, Get Free B-roll Videos

Disclosure: My recommendation is backed by a strong editorial methodology and I'll earn a commission at no cost to you if you buy software using my affiliate link.

B-roll video, essentially, an invaluable part of a video is the secondary footage that helps you to create a visually compelling narrative video. The ‘B’ stands for background or behind.

The term dates back to the early days of filmmaking. It was used by filmmakers to hide cuts between the two pieces of film. Currently, it is used to describe supplementary footage to provide context and visual interest in all kind of videos that enables viewers to remain engaged throughout the video.

The a-roll is the main footage of a video or film, whereas the b-roll is used as supplemental footage. Let us explore the difference between these two terms.

what is b-roll its types importance

A-roll vs B-roll

In movie or video production, A-roll refers to all the action shots and usually involves dialogue. A-roll shots are narrative footage that tells the story. It is the primary footage of the main subject.

On the other hand, B-roll shots are supplementary or secondary footage. They may contain landscape & scenery, backgrounds, establishing shots, and any shots that do not include the principal subjects interacting with each other in the camera.

You will agree that humans are visual animals. We prefer visuals over narratives. While A-roll tells the story (narrative), B-roll footage enhances the way you tell the story using relevant shots and angles (visuals) that complement your video.

Examples of B-roll video

The B-roll serves the major purpose of supporting a story. If your B-roll shots are not relevant to the narrative, it defeats the whole purpose, making your videos harder to follow.

example of b-roll footage in editing
Example of b-roll footage in editing

Let me walk you through some practical examples to help you understand what B-roll shots are all about.

Think about the shots in ‘Field of Dreams’, which involve some shots that were static at first. Then there started some cinematic movement, providing a sense of scope and endlessness of the area.

In ‘Chasing Amy’, you hear a sordid story about Alyssa Jones. There is a B-roll shot that involves a character who delivers an exposition.

The B-roll footage of the intro scenes of ‘Full House’ depicts the location of the Tanner family and friends in San Francisco without vocally discussing their location.

Types of B-roll footage

Now that you have a fair idea of what b-roll entails, let us explore the types of b-roll or b-reel videos:

Cutaway shots: A cutaway shot tells about anything else instead of emphasizing the major action in a scene. It shows the audience a particular detail that the characters miss in the scene. It affords you a great opportunity to divert audiences’ attention and set their expectations right.

Establishing shots: This is a type of B-roll that primarily involves scenery, a background story, a location, or parts of a secondary storyline.

Atmospheric shots: Similar to cutaway or establishing shots, atmospheric shots deal with locations or people and objects in a location.

Undirected shots: In a documentary, undirected shots show the subject or an environment i.e., related to the subject.

Stock Footage: This type of footage is a useful tool to showcase machinery, animation, or a generic concept.

Main footage: B roll can be sometimes, the primary footage. When a certain part of a take is removed for some reason, a part of it can serve as editing material. Then it is used as the main footage.

Archival footage: This kind of footage includes historic recordings, events, and images that come from an archive or a library.

Reenactments: In a documentary, or an interview, a dramatic reenactment is used to make the narration more lively and engaging.

Why is a B-roll important?

B-roll plays a vital role in making a video or movie more engaging for viewers. It is an excellent way to communicate more than what the subject says.

B-roll enriches your message by giving context to it

Effective use of B reel shots ensures the audience finds your video engaging from start to finish. It demonstrates aesthetic values that provide an illustrative context of who or what is communicating the message.

If used properly, b-roll footage can communicate more than the message itself.

The connection between B-roll and visual interest

Without visual interest, viewers are not going to engage with your video. B-roll footage affords you the opportunity to add that much-needed visual interest to your video. There could be a variety of shots or angles (to add visual interest) you can use as a b-roll that can keep viewers engaged for longer.

Simply put, with b-roll shots, you let your imagination run wild. So, why not flow that creative juices while telling the story you want to tell?

B-roll eliminates the hassles of editing

You know the pain of editing and the amount of patience & hard work it needs. While editing, sometimes, you may need to cut two parts of the video to remove background noise, mistakes, or any other similar things.

With B-roll shots, video editing becomes a cakewalk. You can use B-roll footage to hide those cuts and make the video seamless and smooth.

B-roll footage used in?

Virtually any film or video production can use B-roll footage, which is otherwise called a ‘behind the subject’ scene. When there is no dialogue or action involved but you want to show movement in your video, the use of B-roll footage adds more depth to it.

You may use B-roll footage in interviews and news coverage, documentary films, video marketing, YouTube videos, feature films, TV series, video ads, explainer videos on YouTube, music videos, and wedding videos, among others.

When to use B-roll stock footage?

If used mindfully, B-roll footage can take your video production endeavor to the next level. In fact, once you learn to use it in your video, or film effectively, giving it the same attention as you do to A-roll footage, it can create wonders.

Video production is a creative practice. This means it is up to you when and how you want to use b-roll stock footage. With endless stock footage sites available, these days, you can have access to a great variety of shots that are a good fit for your project.

While it may seem that its use is restricted to industry professionals, with B-roll, the scopes are even greater. Whether you are a YouTuber, video creator, or wedding videographer, B-roll footage sets you up for endless opportunities that you can seize and use in your favor.

If you are fretting over finding out the right ways to use b-roll stock footage in your video, here is how you want to go about it:

  • In filmmaking, one best and most effective ways to use B-roll footage is to incorporate it as a transition scene. This helps you to set the tone for a show or an event.
  • Also, you can include a B roll video in the first opening scenes to establish a moment or the context of an interview or a video. This is what we call establishing B-roll shots.
  • Cutaways are used to show a variety of people responding to each other during the shooting of an interview.
  • When in a video, you are trying to transition from one subject talking about his or her experience with something to another subject, you use transition B-roll shots.

These are some different types of footage options, filmmakers and videographers use to tell their stories without focusing on dialogue or narration.

Where can I get free B-roll videos?

As a video creator, you may not always have the time to shoot B-rolls or maybe you are on a strict budget. It is common that you want to use B roll film stock footage to make your video a visual treat. Below is a list of the three most common websites that you can use for free:


What once used to be a simple stock footage site is today known for its vast collection of premium sound effects and music tracks. There are free, high-quality stock footages for B-rolls in Videvo that you can use without shooting them yourself. They have an in-built library of 8 million B-roll footage and images available.

free stock video footage hd 4k download royalty free clips by videvo

With over 50,000+ free animated backgrounds, stock video clips and motion graphics, and hundreds of sound effects, you have more room to use your creativity.

So, why not enjoy access to the best quality 4K and HD stock footage clips with hassle-free licensing?


With approximately 1.8 million images and B-roll footage, Pixabay is another go-to site for video creators and filmmakers alike. No matter whether you want to use free B-roll footage for commercial or personal purposes, you do not need to get permission from the artist.

Moreover, if you are a video contributor, and want to create a portfolio, with Pixabay, you can get lots of downloads for quality b roll.


Whether you want to use videos on your website, newsletter, e-book, or eCommerce shop, you are in luck with Pexels. You will find an array of high-quality free stock photos, and B-roll shots that you can use in your video.

Also, they let you be creative and edit their photos or videos as you like. Also, at the bottom of their search results, they show premium Shutterstock videos (which are not free), instead of showing them at the top. 

Websites to find affordable and royalty-free B-roll footage

Anyone with a camera can capture B-roll shots. However, that does not necessarily mean that the shot has the right subject matter, color correction, or the right frame rate.

For those who want to purchase great B-roll footage online, there is good news! Luckily, you can have access to great websites that enable you to browse through and purchase affordable royalty-free B-roll shots.

Below we put together a list of the best sites that you can refer to for premium B-roll shots:

Adobe Stock

Ready to start with your next creative project? From stock photos, stock video footage, royalty-free premium stock images, vector art, and illustrations to stock music & audio, Adobe Stock has the right assets to help tell your story. Moreover, you get access to a huge collection of 4K, HD, royalty-free online B-roll footage options.

adobe stock royalty free audio images graphics videos

So, whether you want to fill that gap in your video, create an establishing shot, or seamlessly match existing footage across themes including lifestyle, sports, animation, action, and more, this stock media website comes to your rescue. Start the Adobe Stock Free trial today to test it.

Motion elements

Similarly, motion elements offer you a platform where you can choose from a wide variety of 4K, HD stock video footage. They have about 40,00000+ downloadable, royalty-free stock video backgrounds with up to 30 free downloads weekly.

The site has this unique feature, AI VisualSearch that enables you to upload a video to find relevant stock videos for your personal, commercial, and editing purposes.


With approximately 2,71,83,883 royalty-free stock videos, you can now discover the most relevant stock footage that suits your story best. If you are searching for B-roll stock videos online, by all means, make use of Shutterstock.

You will be amazed to see their vast collection of images, video clips, and music tracks sourced by a diverse group of contributors that help you produce your best work.


Not only does Videvo contain free options, but you will also have access to a number of B-roll video footage options to choose from. From stock footage and motion graphics to video templates, this site offers everything that you may need for your video editing work.

If you choose to opt for their premium plan, be prepared to enjoy over 1 million premium, royalty-free stock assets.


If you have been searching for amazing international locations, and cities from around the world, this is your go-to place. They provide royalty-free, high-quality stock footage, audio & sound effects, images & illustrations that you can use for any number of applications.


It is one of the world’s largest B-roll stock footage communities. With Videezy, you will not run out of ideas that you can use in your video or film. 

Life of Vids

It is a great website containing a great stock of high-end B-roll shots without any copyright restrictions.

Where can I find the B-roll for YouTube videos?

When it comes to YouTube video production, precision is key. While you may spend hours shooting the main footage, without b-roll stock footage, your video is incomplete.

Incorporating B roll over your main YouTube footage makes your content more appealing and engaging. There is no better way to communicate your story and keep viewers engaged for longer than using a B-roll in your YouTube video.

In the world of cinematic accuracy, you may need to cut some scenes smoothly and seamlessly. This is where B-roll footage sets its feet. It lets you set the tone of the main video footage by complementing and adding depth to it.

If you are someone looking for ways to create great YouTube video content without spending a fortune, you are in luck!

While it can be expensive for you to create new content from scratch, the best websites will let you use free stock music, stock images, and B-roll shots for any application. Some of them include Pixabay, Pexels, Videvo, Clipstill, MixKit, and Videezy, among others.

In conclusion

Now that you know one or two things about B-roll footage, it is time for you to put it to good use. B-roll is an unsung savior to editors, filmmakers, and video makers alike.

So, let your imagination run wild and let B-roll shots infuse some life and depth into your video.

About Sudesh Roul

Sudesh RoulHi there, I'm Sudesh Roul, a video creator, and certified marketer from Kolkata, India. Here I share photo animation, video creation and marketing tips, YouTube tutorials, online service and software reviews to guide you in making an informed purchase and growing online. You can consider reading my blog regularly to scale your photo and video creation journey and their marketing. Connect with me on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Leave a Comment