Illustrative footage inserted into a broadcast news piece or interview. It is chosen to illustrate what is being said, and as a way to cover editing and continuity errors in production.
|Commonly repeated B-Roll clips, by program subject matter|
|Piece Title||Clip Content|
|"Obesity On The Rise in X"||Anonymous chubby mid-sections (in slow-mo)|
|"Lead Paint Found in Schools"||Children at play in the schoolyard|
|"Drug Use On the Rise"||Any old rave. And by old, we mean The '90s...|
|"Internet Company On the Rise"||Very dated Stock Footage of the company's site on a CRT monitor; some older tech companies have videos of their site in Netscape Navigator from 1997.|
|"Oil Prices Hit All Time High"||Barrels of oil and shots of refineries, or shots of service stations, gas pumps, and people fueling their cars/trucks|
|"Airline Fares Expected to Increase"||Landing Gear Shots, people milling around in an airport|
|"US Automaker Sells Subsidiary"||Cars being assembled, new cars in showroom. Again, dated Stock Footage tends to leap out at the viewer.|
|"Flu Vaccine in Short Supply"||Vials being produced in a factory, people getting injections|
|"Mammograms Now Recommended for Younger Women"||Women getting mammograms, doctors pointing to x-ray images|
|"FDA Approves Phlebotinil for Public Consumption"||Pills whizzing by on a conveyor belt, pharmacists counting pills|
|"Tension Between Countries Grows"||Flags on poles, stock footage of bombastic military events and agitated and/or grim-faced faces at political assemblies|
The name is the actual term used by news people. It refers to the fact that this footage is usually spooled out from the second ("B") deck on a Linear Edit system. The "A roll" footage is the interview itself, the presenter's questions, and any directly documentary footage. B-Roll is usually generic, and can in fact often be Stock Footage. News about financial stories tend to use the B-roll because the new labor figures aren't something you can really film, unlike people standing in a unemployment line or working in a factory. Faces are almost never shown in b-roll when the story deals with sensitive issues like child welfare, adultery, obese/fat people or any kind of sexual topic- like condoms or teen sex.
Sometimes the B-Roll footage is used as a backdrop for graphs, a screenshot of a document with the salient quote highlighted or some other visual aid, either full-screen with just a voiceover or on the big screen in the studio that's used for weather reports with a reporter standing off to one side.
See also B-Roll Rebus, where several of these shots are used in rapid succession.