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B-Roll Rebus

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That thing where national news runs a story, and over every noun they show footage of what that noun is, even if it's a metaphor.

It's usually when they're rambling about something with opinions, and they're telling both sides while narrating and not showing an anchor:

Tom Voiceguy: "Some people say things are bad. [footage of people walking] But others, like thing expert Jane McExpert [footage of Jane at a computer], say things are good. [Jane: "Things are good."] At any rate [footage of people again], time [pause over shot of watch] and tide [pause over shot of ocean] wait for no man [shot of man]. Tom Voiceguy, ABZ News, Philadelphia."
Co-anchor: "Thank you, Tom."

News on the radio, especially on NPR, does something similar with sounds. Voiceover Guy will say "The Vermont maple syrup harvest is starting up this cold February day." This cues the sound editor to play crunching snow noises as the Vermont farmer is walking through the field of snow. There may or may not be a farmer remarking, "You can't get the-yah from he-yah."

Also known as the 'Lord Privy Seal' effect, after a sketch in which the Lord Privy Seal (a sinecure post in the British government) was illustrated with pictures of a nobleman, a lavatory and a pinniped. Since then phrases like "it's a bit Lord Privy Seal" have been heard across the halls of British television news production.

Related to compulsive hyperlinking syndrome - the inclination to turn every word in text into a hyperlink, even if there's no need for explanations and the link is not used to make any point or minimal research is necessary anyway. Usually observed on fans of The Other Wiki, probably just because the wiki engine makes cross-linking so easy. We have it Just for Fun on This Very Wiki... if interested, jump over to All-Blue Entry.

Naturally, a Sub-Trope of B-Roll.

Examples Played Straight

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     Real Life  

  • Inverted by Jonathan Coulton himself, though, in his song 'flickr' which does the opposite- describing a series of images in the video clip.
  • Richard Dawkins shredded the faux-documentary Expelled for a number of reasons (starting with the fact that the producers had gotten him to be in it under false pretenses), but took special aim at its excessive use of Lord Privy Seals.
  • The phenomenon of "literal dancing" is related, in that the dancer mimes the words to the song regardless of how metaphorical or otherwise they are. It was the subject of a hilarious routine by Peter Kay, featuring "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, a song especially amenable to this.
    • British Comedian David Armand (performing as Austrian interpretive dancer Johann Lippowitz) got famous for doing this dancing to Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn". He has increasingly angry reactions to the line "You're a little late".
    • The Legs & Co. dancers on Top of the Pops were famous for this to the point that people would joke that you could figure out what song was playing with the TV muted. This was actually used as a round on Never Mindthe Buzzcocks at one point.
  • Employed to great lengths by Warner Bros. in their ads for the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD boxset, as seen here. For instance, "a 24-karat collection..." is illustrated with a clip of a plane dropping a bunch of carrots into a compartment, and the line "so if you're hungry for great cartoons, now you can get your fill" is illustrated with clips of Sylvester luring a monkey with a banana, pieces of cheese raining down over Speedy Gonzales' Mexican mice friends, Sylvester shoving Tweety into his mouth, and Daffy Duck as a cowboy eyeing a milkshake.

     Television News  

  • Fox News did a story about Hillary Clinton challenging Barack Obama to what she styled as a Lincoln/Douglas type of debate, after the famous debate between future President Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a white racist who believed that blacks didn't count as "men" under the Constitution. During the broadcast, Fox showed B-Roll footage of a picture of Lincoln, side-by-side with a picture of Frederick Douglass, black former slave, abolitionist, and one-time vice-presidential candidate.
  • During the infamous, narmtastic "Hackers On Steroids" piece, the LA Fox 11 team liken Anonymous to terrorists and cut to a van exploding for no reason that has anything to do with the story. Unfortunately they cut back to the studio before Michael Caine could appear and tell them they were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.

     Web Original  

  • Moviebob also likes to do this, especially in his videos for his blog "Game Overthinker".
    • In one of his more recent Game Overthinker videos, he even admitted that most of the delay between videos is him tracking down good pictures to use.
  • It has become exceedingly common to find YouTube "music videos" in which it's nothing more than an MP3 of the song played to a slideshow of clips related to individual lyrics. A particular example comes up in a video to Jonathan Coulton's Mandelbrot Set song.
  • This is a major source of humor in the AMV Hell compilations.
  • The visuals in Zero Punctuation, which often feature obscure references and Visual Puns (such as the logo for the University of California accompanying the phrase "You see...") and in one case a confession that he couldn't think of a good image to illustrate/accompany the topic at hand.
    [A word I can't fucking illustrate]
  • A number of voiceover-over-slide-show video series have followed Yahtzee's lead, including former Escapist series Extra Credits, which uses a mix of original cartoon drawings and found images (often macros). In one episode, the line "things we can't even imagine" is accompanied by cartoonist Allison Theus at her drawing board saying "Things we can't even imagine? How the f**k am I supposed to draw that?!"
  • The YouTube series Game Theory is mostly these (mostly terrible puns), clips or shots from the game, and calculations.
  • In Matt McMuscles' Wha Happun? retrospective on the Atari Jaguar, the descriptions of the system's "Tom" and "Jerry" chips was accompanied by apropos clips from Tom and Jerry cartoons:
    Matt (VO): It was composed of dual Flare-designed 32-bit custom chips, nicknamed "Tom" and "Jerry", with [clip of Tom painting Tyke] one intended to primarily handle graphics and [clip of Jerry conducting an orchestra] the other intended to handle audio.


  • Parodied at least once in Brass Eye: Chris Morris declares "let's shatter some myths" and destroys a statue of a centaur to make the point.
  • Also parodied by Russ Abbot, where a newsreader realises this is happening, and becomes increasingly nervous about what the screen will show when he sees phrases such as "Cockfosters" and "leg over" in his script.
  • Taken to parodic extremes in Blur's video for "Country House" (directed by Damien Hirst).
  • Parodied by Nathan Fielder in an episode of This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Whenever he says a certain noun, he pulls it out of his coat.
  • Mocked in this "How To Report The News" segment of Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, a series devoted to describing and deconstructing News Tropes.
  • Parodied in the chorus of the song "Would You Love Me If" from Bill Plympton's animated movie I Married a Strange Person!
  • After YouTube music videos dedicated to expressing the lyrics in plain pictures, parodies began to flood in with the same principle, but of misheard/parodied lyrics instead, to hilarious effect.
  • Dead Ringers parodied Dr. Simon Schama's tendency towards using these by having a Schama impersonator tell the story of Henry VIII using a deck of cards, a set of scales and a cake - it's stated that because of Schama's massive fee, they could only afford three illustrative props. It results in puns such as "ignoring the advice of Card-(shot of a card)-inal Wolsey" and "Or should he wait?" (shot of scale with a weight in it). The sketch ends with Schama declaring that next week he'll be doing the whole Renaissance with nothing but a compass, a pipe and a potato.
  • The Chaser's War On Everything discussed this practice on A Current Affair and Today Tonight, which used pointless visualisations of lines like "a dog of a year" and "It felt like I'd been hit in the face with a wet fish."
    Andrew: Very subtle techniques, though some would say, they're like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. (cue clip of Chas hitting Andrew over the head with a sledgehammer.)
    Chas: I don't know Andrew, I though it was more like, uh, having your teeth pulled out, scraping your fignernails down a chalkboard, tearing your hair out, and being hit by a truck. (Each line is accompanied by an appropriate shot)
    Andrew: Actually, I don't know, I thought, it was a bit more like being patronized by a farcically inane television presenter.
    Naomi Robson: And that's one way of putting it.
  • In an episode of Frontline, Mike explains the concept to his niece Rebecca when she's doing her work experience, and her response presents her as savvier about the show he works on than he is: she asks if that's why every time they do a story involving gay people they splice in footage from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Later in the episode, the show does exactly that, preceding a story about a gay teacher allegedly sacked based on discrimination.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Krab Training Video", the narrator is not amused when, after he says "As you can see by this graph", it cuts to live-action footage of a giraffe.
  • Deliberately avoided by Billy Joel in his music video for "We Didn't Start the Fire." Joel said he specifically did not want shots of Harry Truman, Doris Day, etc. to go along with the lyrics: "Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray..." Instead, the video consists of a typical American family in their kitchen following the decades in the song, beginning with the young newlywed couple and ending with the death of the father.

Alternative Title(s): Lord Privy Seal