What Does “b-roll” Mean?
*In case you were wondering, “B-Roll” is an editing term. Here’s the story of it’s origination, according to John Premack:
“The term actually was born well before the ENG era, when us creative dinosaurs who were shooting film wanted to cover a jump cut in a sound-on-film interview. Since audio was an integral part of the film (recorded optically 26 frames ahead of the corresponding picture) there was no way to splice in a cutaway without interrupting the audio.
The solution was to prepare a second reel of film, mostly black leader, containing several seconds of the desired cutaway. Both reels were threaded into projectors in master control and started at the same time (simul-rolled). The TD would watch for the cutaway shot to appear on the monitor, “take” the second projector, and then wait until the splice in the interview has passed through the other projector gate before switching back. This second reel was referred to as the “B” roll. Once editors and directors got the hang of this radical innovation (remember – this was all done live) we began to do more than cover jumpcuts. B-roll was soon routinely used to break the monotony of lengthy talking heads. Eventually reporters’ voice-over tracks were even recorded on short ends of film so that they could be spliced into the A-roll between the sound-on-film bites.
So, like Paul Harvey says – . . . and now you know the rest of the story.”