Mastering Realism in B-Roll: Elevating Your Visual Storytelling

B-roll is supplementary footage used to enhance the overall narrative of a video and can deepen visual storytelling. These stock shots and archival or atmospheric drone footage can help bridge gaps in a story, add needed context, and elevate the overall production value.

A challenge faced by emerging and veteran videographers alike is achieving realism in B-roll footage. B-roll from stock libraries sometimes lends generic representation of the subjects or subject matter, but including accurate and realistic B-roll helps the audience connect emotionally with the story and creates an immersive and authentic experience.

If shooting B-roll along with principal footage, choose backgrounds, locations, and people that are authentically staged, accurately reflect the storyline, and fulfill their narrative purpose. In addition, be sure to record wild sound or room tone if it will be needed in post-production.

In this blog post, we’ll explore techniques and tips to achieve realism in your B-roll on set and take your visual storytelling to the next level.

1. Pre-production Planning

The foundation of realistic B-roll begins in the pre-production phase. Before shooting, it’s essential to understand the story, message, and desired emotional impact of your video. Careful planning helps in identifying the moments that require B-roll and enables you to capture authentic shots that align with the narrative.

  • Storyboarding: Create a storyboard that outlines the key scenes and the corresponding B-roll shots. Before the shoot, visualize how the B-roll will complement the main footage to ensure a seamless flow.
  • Location Scouting: Choose locations that resonate with the story and lend themselves naturally to capturing authentic B-roll footage. While green screens and sound stages offer more control and predictability, filming on location with real environments can provide necessary context and depth.

2. Diversity in Storytelling

Realism begins with the stories we tell. Embrace diversity in your narrative. Choose B-roll that portrays a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, physical abilities, and identities that helps to create a more inclusive and relatable experience for your audience.

  • Diverse Casting: When planning your B-roll shots, be intentional about casting diverse talent. This means considering people from various ethnicities, genders, ages, and abilities to authentically reflect the real world.
  • Story Sensitivity: Approach sensitive topics with empathy and respect. Research and consult with individuals from the communities you’re representing to ensure authenticity and avoid stereotypes.

3. Production: Lighting and Weather

Realism in B-roll can be accentuated by matching the lighting of the principal photography. If this isn’t possible, try natural (sunlight) or practical (e.g. showing a lamp in the scene) lighting to explain why the lighting has changed. Matching lighting can help maintain the atmosphere and ambiance of the scene and allow B-roll to be edited more seamlessly.

  • Golden Hour Magic: Golden hour (early morning or evening) offers a soft, warm glow that enhances beauty of your B-roll. It’s an ideal time to capture outdoor shots with a captivating and natural aesthetic. Consider asking your drone photographer to capture footage at these hours.
  • Beyond Clear Skies: Embrace weather conditions like rain, snow, or fog, if they suit the story. Weather can add texture and authenticity to your footage, making it more visually engaging.

4. Candid Moments & Organic Movement

The secret to realistic B-roll lies in capturing candid moments and organic movement. Avoid overly rehearsed actions from actors and encourage spontaneity to evoke genuine emotions from your subjects.

  • Documentary Style: Adopt a documentary-style approach, allowing events to unfold naturally. Observe and anticipate the action to capture those spontaneous moments that add realism and sincerity to your footage.
  • Use of Handheld Equipment: Consider using handheld equipment like gimbals or stabilizers to mimic the organic movement of the human eye. This technique can create a sense of immediacy and immersion.

5. Incorporating Ambient Sound

Sound is just as crucial as visuals in creating realism. Ambient sounds, such as background noise, chatter, or natural sounds, immerse the audience in the environment and make the B-roll feel authentic.

  • Capture Wild Sound: Don’t forget to record ambient sound during your B-roll shoots to layer it over the footage during editing. This will enhance the overall realism and provide a more immersive experience. Even if you anticipate using music or other sound effects in post-production, it’s always a good idea to capture a few minutes of wild sound/room tone to blend in B-roll audio more naturally.
  • Foley Effects: When necessary, add foley effects to aid in the realism of certain actions or movements that may have been too subtle on set or need to be heightened to fit a narrative. A foley effect is the reproduction or creation of everyday sound effects in post-production to enhance the realism and immersion of audio-visual content.  These tailored, everyday audio details can make a significant impact.

Mastering realism in B-roll requires a combination of thoughtful planning and careful attention to detail on set for an easier blend of video and audio elements in post-production. By incorporating these techniques into your workflow, you can elevate your visual storytelling and create a more immersive and emotionally resonant experience for your audience. Remember, it’s the little details and authenticity that breathe life into your B-roll and transform it into a powerful storytelling tool.

Contact CATMEDIA today to see how we can help you elevate your visual storytelling.


CATMEDIA is an award-winning agency that specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, and leadership training. As a national leader working with highly regulated clients, breaking down complex issues, and effectively communicating to a wide array of audiences, this Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to commercial and government clients, alike, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).