I’ve been watching more and more of the Camera Conspiracies channel lately. And while a lot of the things are slightly ludicrous (in a good, amusing way), they do say that there’s “many a true word spoken in jest”. And, oh boy, does this one ring true. B-Roll is not content.
B-Roll seems to have taken over the lives of many YouTubers, to the point where they’re basically an intro, some b-roll, and an ending. For the occasional showcase video, it’s impressive eye candy. But when it becomes the norm for all your videos, and more of your video is b-roll than actual content, it just gets boring. Please stop.
Historically (that is, before 2018), b-roll was the secondary camera content. They were the clips added to provide some extra context to your main camera shot. The host would carry on talking, and clips would come up showing you what they’re talking about, while they’re talking about it. For example, they’re talking about how their cat had to go to the vet, and they’re showing clips of their cat at the vet’s office, while they’re telling you what happened.
Or it’s a couple of brief clips to set up the next piece of actual content. Like, the exterior of the building you’re shooting in next. Not 3 minutes of slow motion b-roll leading up to “Hey, we’re at [somewhere], now we’re going to [somewhere else]!” followed by another 3 minutes of slow motion b-roll.
And while I’m not mentioning any names – he’s not solely responsible – b-roll seems to have now taken over and become the main feature of many videos, regardless of whether they’re vlogs, tutorials, or whatever. There’s just no meat to many of them anymore. It’s just a bunch of pretty visuals to make a video last two or three (or more) times as long.
This is partially YouTube’s own fault. The minute that “watch time is king” became a higher priority than “content is king” in YouTube’s algorithm, YouTubers had to fight to keep eyeballs on their content. And eye candy does impress a lot of new visitors to a channel. Even if only for a couple of videos before they get bored and never come back.
There are a lot of YouTubers I used to follow that I don’t anymore purely because their content has become boring, lacking in any real substance. And I follow relatively few photography related channels anymore. And it’s not just photography channels that are doing it now. I’ve seen many big YouTubers start to make the transition to over 50% of the video being b-roll, and I’ve stopped watching those regularly, too.
So, it’s having the opposite effect to that which they desire. Getting people to watch more.
Of course, YouTubers are free to create whatever “content” they wish. But we, as the potential audience, are also free to not watch it anymore.
Do you agree? Is there too much b-roll and not enough real content in YouTube videos today?
While we’re on the subject… If I see a “This is my last video!” video on your channel in the next week, I’m unsubscribing.