What is A-roll?
A-roll includes all types of footage that feature key plot actions, talking characters, or interview subjects. A-roll footage is more often known in the industry these days as main footage, primary footage, hero footage, or principal shots.
A-roll is anything that isn’t B-roll, also known as supplemental footage, extra footage, stock footage, or supporting footage. “In a scripted world, your A-roll footage is the main meat of what you’re shooting. It’s your primary actors, dialogue, and storyline,” says film director Jay Holben. “B-roll footage is what is ancillary and added into that.”
You’ll know it’s A-roll footage because it would impact the storyline if it were taken out of the video.
A-roll shot types.
There are many types of shots in the video production process used for A-roll footage. There are also certain aspects of visual storytelling that go into the choices of each shot. “A very wide distant shot could make the character you’re shooting feel lonely and distanced, or just disconnected from other individuals, while a very close shot can be very intimate and in their world,” notes Holben.
Here’s a quick look at some different shots for film:
- Extreme wide shot (EWS):
This type of shot makes your subject feel distant or unfamiliar and can be used to emphasize location or isolation.
- Long shot (LS) or wide shot (WS):
This shot keeps your subject in plain view amid amore expansive surroundings and makes any big moment more cinematic.
- Full shot (FS):
This is a great option for when you want to feature multiple characters in one single shot.
- Medium shot (MS):
The most common shot, medium shots emphasize your subject while keeping their surrounding visible.
- Close-up shot (CU):
These shots get in close to reveal a subject’s emotions and reactions, making it perfect for climactic moments.
These different types of shots can help support the overall narrative. Some other shot types include dolly shots, cutaway shots, and even drone shots. It all depends on what the scenes call for. Filmmakers tend to first get all the general shots they need and then, later in editing, choose from those shots or figure out if they need to shoot additional shots.
Tips for how to shoot A-roll.
Pick a decision-maker.
Think about your audience.
With short films or any sort of filmmaking, it may feel like there always needs to be a narrative. But if you want to do something like a micro-short film, you can think outside of the box. Think about what is going to captivate someone to make them want to go see a short, interview, or video. “It’s about figuring out if this is going to make people interested in what I’m doing,” says Yonov. “Find what speaks to you as a filmmaker — that’s also a huge thing.”
Image by Helen Alexis Yonov
Bring your shots to life.
Now that you’ve got all the raw footage, it’s time to turn it into engaging content. You can start by learning basic editing philosophies and practical tips on video editing. From there, grab your A-roll and B-roll shots and bring them into Adobe Premiere Pro to cut them into one seamless and compelling video. You can even edit audio, add a voiceover, or include music over your video too.
Once your editing is done, easily add motion graphics and popular video effects to your A-roll footage with Adobe After Effects. Experiment with multitudes of techniques to take your video to the next level.