#430 A New Shortage
It's called "B-Roll," and it's television's equivalent of junk mail or Internet spam. It's the filler pictures you see when there aren't real pictures for a story. It fills your screen (or a good part of it,) adds little to nothing to the story, and generally clogs things the same way as the 60 mailings you get from Macy's every month or the junk in your e-mail urging you to "invest now," "enlarge your whatsis," "claim your free Wal-Mart rewards card" or "meet NASCAR singles in your area tonite!!!"
Story about the President taking a trip? No new footage? No problem. There's plenty of stuff on the shelf. Just pull down a picture of the prez walking toward Marine One. And if you have too much story and not enough video, run it twice. Just make sure you label it "file."
Campaign event? No way to get a live shot signal out of the truck? No problem. Run an earlier campaign shot. Just make sure it's the right candidate. He's going to stand and wave from the lectern at today's event, just like he did at yesterday's.
Something happen in Iraq, but headquarters closed the bureau or maybe the military didn't allow cameras? No problem. You have plenty of that stuff lying around. Just show some soldiers in camo, but make sure they're walking on sand, not in a jungle.
Business stories are particularly easy to screen. You've got video of the headquarters of every major and most minor corporations in America. And they're all the same, except for the sign on the building. And the audience will know -- if you haven't put it to sleep -- that it's video and not just a still shot because your very smart camera operator will have panned back and forth across the building's main entrance -- where you can pan back and forth if there's no actual motion.
How many times have you seen boxes coming off a production line at Microsoft or Intel? How many times have you seen those little California oil pumps going up and down and up and down as background for a story on either state energy problems or prices? How many times have you seen the same post tornado or post hurricane or post brush fire footage, endlessly looped while an anchor or field reporter gives details peculiar to the incident?
In an earlier time, the question was "what's the story?" Then came "what's the video?" Now it's "what continuous loop can we fill with?"
--McCain's people have compared Obama to Britney Spears. Who, then, shall we compare with McCain? My vote's for Wilfred Brimley or maybe Ed McMahon.
--At this point, about 1300 vegetable and fruit eaters have been sickened with salmonella. It looks like the problem traces back to irrigation problems in Mexico. We TOLD you not to drink the water.
--The morality police in Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of cats and dogs as pets. Nothing against dogs or cats, undertsand. It's that they're used for flirtation escapades among men and women.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®