A Guide to B-roll for PIOs

Why submit B-roll to the Science Press Package? 

The Science Press Package (or “SciPak”) team has talked with reporters at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, STAT, The Economist and other outlets, and we have learned that these reporters greatly value video; having it can make the difference in whether they cover a piece of new research. Thus, the SciPak strives to provide its 12,000+ registered science journalists with as much quality, compelling video as possible, related to forthcoming research in the Science family of journals.

Authors of forthcoming research papers and affiliated public information officers (PIOs) can help by submitting related video, particularly B-roll.


What is B-roll?

Think of an interview with a researcher as A-roll. B-roll is supplementary video footage that supports the interview footage. It shows the science in action, as best as it can be showed – whether that is by capturing a device in action or a procedure as it happens, or whether that is by representing a process in a more abstract way, through demonstrations that represent planets with Styrofoam spheres, for examples.

Here’s what a video about a new surgical technique looks like without B-roll:

Here’s what related B-roll for this research, essential for creating a video package that truly captivates the audience, looks like:


Why is B-roll important?

It makes any video far more engaging – something an audience will want to watch. More importantly, the more “action” footage you can provide in B-roll submissions, the more “meat” reporters will have to work with to make a variety of multimedia products, including gifs, or even their own edited video packages.

Video editors primarily use B-roll to cover up cuts in an interview, which is particularly important for videos that will be any longer than a minute in length. And video editors focusing on social media use B-roll to create short, visually engaging videos that are commonly paired with explainer text and music.


Here are a few tips for capturing good B-roll:

  • Capture a variety of shots. Shoot a few wide shots. Go in for some close ups. Think about filming at different angles.
  • Pan shots help set the scene. Start at one end of the room. Hit record and hold that still shot for a beat before slowly and smoothly panning over to the other side. Hold that end shot for a beat as well. Here is an example:
  • Keep the B-roll relevant to the research, institution and the material covered in the paper. The B-roll should help the reporter explain the research. “This is Dr. Nick Pyenson. He studies whale fossils. Here is some B-roll representative of his research at X University:”

(insert link of Nick B-roll: holding whale fossils, scanning whale fossil shots, Nick walking down the Smithsonian archive halls)

  • Makes sure each shot lasts at least 10 seconds. It’s never a bad idea to film a shot for longer but be sure each shots lasts at least 10 seconds. Count to 10 in your head as you film a shot. Video editors need large chunks of time for added flexibilty when editing.


What are the ideal specs for footage?

  • 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 is preferred
  • 30 fps is preferred. We’ll also take 24, 25, 50 or 60.
  • 16:9 Aspect ratio


Filming on an iPhone or Android?

We will happily take footage filmed on a smart phone! Some things to keep in mind before filming: