Why You Should Use B-Roll in Your Visual Storytelling

Why You Should Use B-Roll in Your Visual Storytelling

Why You Should Use B-Roll in Your Visual Storytelling

Why You Should Use B-Roll in Your Visual Storytelling 366 222 Shlomi Ron

It was a nice Sunday afternoon, my wife and I were walking down the street on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL.

People were walking around, some relaxing on benches, families strolling with their kids, and others enjoying late lunch in the many outdoor restaurants that lined up the street.

We were on our way for an espresso at Crema our favorite coffee shop, under the BAC Colonnade building.

Getting closer to the coffee shop that was packed with people sitting outside, the inviting fresh coffee aroma was suddenly interrupted by a high-pitch sound. It was a white truck that was backing out from an alley right in front of us.


I opened my eyes. It was pitch dark. I looked at the clock it was 1:11 AM.

Nice! Another one of those pre-corona dreams when life was normal. But wait a minute I can still hear that high-pitch sound…

Not again!

Why do smoke detectors run out of batteries especially in the middle of the night? What are the odds?

I tried to ignore it, go back to sleep, and take care of it in the morning, but that darn persistent beep drove me nuts.

I woke up, located the rebel device, went to our kitchen, bottom drawer, looking for batteries.

I thought it was triple-A. “With my luck, we probably ran out,” but luckily I found a full package half-opened.


Outside the window, creatures of the night were doing their repetitive jam sessions.

Armed with two batteries and our aluminum ladder I made my way to the cry baby detector.

After wrestling to open the smoke detector, while straining my neck looking up, it finally relented only to mock me further:

“Not so fast buddy, I actually take my juice from that boxy 9-Volt battery.”


Back to the kitchen drawer with a sinking feeling that now this piece of technology that is meant to help – like saving lives – got me for real this time, and we’ll have to tolerate its beeping cries for help all night.

Did you know that often the stressful story you keep telling yourself with that dreadful ending may or may not happen?

In that bottom kitchen drawer, under a white plastic bag full of old sticker hangers, a shiny pack of 8 boxy 9-Volt batteries was camping.

I fed that fussy smoke detector that paid me back with sweet silence and went back to bed satisfied with a job well done.

A couple of minutes later, my wife woke up, I heard her opening the kitchen door to the garage.

“Why did you get up? I asked when she was back. “Just wanted to make sure you turned off the light in the garage.”

“And did I?”


Why You Should Use B-Roll in Your Visual StorytellingYour story is like an image, the more details you include the richer resolution and more meaningful your customer experience will be

The reason I shared this story with you is to highlight something many visual storytellers ignore – the B-Roll details!

Say what?

In filmmaking, B-Roll indicates any footage shot in by a second camera (B-camera) with footage that is designed to add context to the A-Roll footage of the primary storyline.

There are a couple of B-Roll details you could use either textually or visually in your videos and images to add more perspectives to your story:

– Establishing shot: This is typically atmospheric shots that describe the location, the time, and people where the story takes place. The first two paragraphs in my story.

– External shots: Think of any content that is completely disconnected from the main story such as stock footage of videos or photos, objects on the set or in remote places, or even archival imagery that enriches the story with supporting information. You see them a lot in documentary films. For example, that part in my story when I switch to the window focusing on the jamming session’s sounds made by the creature of the night.

– Bleeding shots: Content that includes both the protagonist and a nearby object in the foreground or background. For example, that part where we were stopped on our tracks when the white truck was backing out.

There are four main angles you could use for B-Roll footage: Wide angle, Medium, Close-Ups, and Ken Burns Effect.

Using B-Roll footage in your visual stories will allow you to set the tone for your story, establish the characters or setting, and breaking up the monotony. In this sense, think of B-roll details as passive non-verbal communication channels you can use to convey a wide range of messages.

When you shoot a video story, it’s critical to plan carefully what B-Roll details you’ll capture that support your story core messages and emotions. So, when it’s time to edit you have enough content to intersperse across your primary storyline.

With photography, your entire visual story is confined to a single frame. So, staging the right details in the foreground, middle ground, and background become critical. What happens in essence, is that your viewers’ eyes work as camera lenses and do the “editing work” your edited video does. They’ll gaze from one element to the other to make sense of what they see.

How you curate your image becomes important where they’ll focus their attention on. For more information, check out my podcast episode with an award-winning photographer, Jaime Permuth: What Makes A Photo Tell A Story, and my blog post: What is Visual Storytelling Photography?

What is Visual Storytelling Photography?

“It’s the art of staging storytelling details
that carry personal and universal meanings
in a single frame,
with the goal triggering particular emotions
to bring to life a larger narrative.”
-Shlomi Ron
CEO, Visual Storytelling Institute

I talked a lot about the important role of meaningful details in my book: Total Acuity: Tales with Marketing Morals to Help You Create Richer Visual Brand Stories.

What is Total Acuity?

“Acuity means sharpness of vision
or the ability to perceive details.
When your story includes details
your audience truly cares about,
attention spikes,
then emotional empathy builds up
that gradually turns into trust
and behavior change.”
-Shlomi Ron
CEO, Visual Storytelling Institute

So when you plan your next visual story, think of yourself as an aircraft pilot who takes your audience on a journey.

You want to make sure your passengers can look out the windows and not just see the hero saving the day but also all the other surrounding fine details.

Not only that, but these meaningful details also allow you to convey a wide range of emotions, messages, and moods to support a particular scene and your overarching story’s moral.

So remember to use these meaningful details in your stories as they are an integral part of your visual language toolbox. These details allow your audience to vicariously relive your story as if they were right there with you when it all happened. It’s as if you arm them with virtual reality glasses they can look around and experience every detail in your story.

Need help creating a detail-rich visual story that marries what your brand wants with what your customer wants? Feel free to reach out shlomi_at_visual_storytell_dot com

Shlomi Ron

Shlomi Ron is the founder and CEO of the Visual Storytelling Institute, a Miami-based think tank with a mission to bring the gospel of visual storytelling from the world of art to more human-centric and purpose-driven marketing. A digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience working both on the agency and brand sides for Fortune 100/500 brands such as Nokia, IBM, and American Express. He started VSI to combine his marketing expertise with his passion for visual stories stemming from his interests in classic Italian cinema and managing the estate of video art pioneer, Buky Schwartz. At VSI, he helps brands rise above the communication noise through visual storytelling consulting, training, and thought leadership. Select clients include Estée Lauder, Microsoft, and Cable & Wireless – to name a few. He currently teaches Brand Storytelling at the University of Miami’s Business School. Thought leader and speaker at key marketing conferences. He is also the host of the Visual Storytelling Today podcast, which ranks in the top 10 best business storytelling podcasts on the Web. His book: Total Acuity: Tales with Marketing Morals to Help You Create Richer Visual Brand Stories. Outside work, he is a nascent bread baker, The Moth fan, and longtime fedora wearer likely to jive with his classic Italian cinema interest.

All stories by: Shlomi Ron

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