#SciFund Challenge Class

Video storytelling made easy for scientists

Part 8: the Language of Film

A tool we can use to describe the shots we want to use in our videos is with a system called A/B editing. A/B editing is a method of switching between multiple visual elements, in service of the story. We can consider the “A” to be the dominant video shot driving a particular section of your story. In the case of our videos, the “A” could be a video shot of someone (probably you, the scientist) talking to the camera.

The Concept of A/B editing best applies to videos that have a dominant shot in each section. It could be someone talking, it could also be a location, or it could be a central visual motif that the story returns to every so often.

“B” are all of the other visual elements (photographs, video, figures, animations, etc.) that are also part of your video. “B” shots serve multiple purposes:

  1. To illustrate points that are being made in the “A” roll.
  2. To transition between points of the “A” roll.
  3. To cover editing cuts made in the “A” roll.

The “A” roll is driving your story. Even when we cut away from the “A” to show “B” visual elements, the voice we hear will still be the person talking from the “A” shot. This is a great video that explains why and how to shoot good B-roll.

Wait what happens when you have no script? How can there be an “A-roll” then? The principle of A/B editing only really applies to certain types of videos described above. For others, the concept begins to break down. For example, in the DeLorean Video, there is no dominant shot that we return to, there isn’t even any narration.

If you’re video doesn’t fit the A-roll B-roll model, that’s fine. It’s just one way to describe the visual elements in your video.