Film and video glossaryOver the years, I’ve found that many of my clients and young co-workers want to know what a film or video term means. The catch — they’re too embarrassed to ask.

Please contact me if you have comments or suggestions. Enjoy!

A & B rolls Two sources of recorded material (film or video) that can be assembled using two machines running concurrently in sync. Generally A-roll has come to refer to footage containing sound content, such as interviews; B-roll usually refers to footage that can “cover” the A-roll and thus permit multiple—and unnoticed—audio edits that would not be possible if the A-roll subject remained on camera.

animation An illusion of movement created by intercutting stills, graphics, or three-dimensional objects with step-by-step changes in those otherwise static subjects.

above-the-line costs Usually, the creative and performing personnel (producer, associate producers, writers, artists, and actors) and administrative elements (office space, rehearsal halls, studio space, etc.).

ad lib Dialogue or action that may be pre-planned as a segment but is spontaneous and unrehearsed.

assemble editing In videotape editing, the creation of a production by adding its respective segments in sequence, exactly as they will appear in the final product, on tape that has not been prerecorded with control track (on such tape you cannot edit picture and sound separately).

audio The sound accompanying a film or video production.

bars and tone Vertical color bars and an audio tone that an engineer records onto each new tape to ensure consistent quality.

back light A directional light above and behind a subject that adds highlight, shape, and separation from the background.

backing track Pre-recorded musical accompaniment for a performer who, listening on earphones (or a playback speaker), is individually recorded.

below-the-line costs Technical and production personnel, including engineers, camera and audio people, as well as production equipment, facilities, and services.

Beta, Betamax A consumer video format using 1/2″ tape.

Betacam A professional 1/2″ video format with such excellent tape resolution that it currently exceeds the quality of 3/4″ production.

bite A selection of sound on tape (either event or voice) to be run at full volume.

blocking, blocking the script Planning of all talent and production movements, especially used in live television where cameras should not cross each other or obscure shooting of the talent.

boom A microphone with a long arm, either for suspension above or in front of action to be recorded.

bridge Words or music used as a transition between two items dissimilar in content. In news, it often refers to a standup bridging two scenes or news pieces.

bulk To erase a videotape using a bulk eraser, a large electromagnet (either hand-held or in a console) that demagnetizes tape spools, removing all previously recorded material.

butt edit Joining together two segments so that the end of the first is followed by the beginning of the second.

character generator A keyboard and screen that can produce special electronic effects, such as letters and numbers, directly on the television screen.

chromakey A special effects matte that usually uses blue as a key; for example, you can shoot someone in front of a blue background and with the use of chroma key insert a new background that will fill in every place in the original shot that is blue.

cinema verité A film technique that portrays candid realism.

closed circuit Television distribution between points connected by a cable—this can refer to a room-to-room transmission or an elaborate multichannel system.

close-up (CU) and extreme close-up (ECU) A shot framing a person’s head and shoulders. An extreme close-up frames a person’s head or a detail of the head.

color bars Vertical stripes of color that must be laid down on videotape as a video test signal for engineers. These fully saturated color bars (white, yellow, cyan, green, magenta, red, blue, and black) contain important information that allow engineers to maintain consistency from tape to tape. See Bars and Tone.

control track A synchronizing signal of picture information, usually generated by camera.

consumer video formats These include the popular half-inch format VHS and Beta (not to be confused with the professional Betacam system, also in half-inch format) recorders/players. These are of comparable quality, although it’s generally acknowledged that Beta’s overall picture clarity is better; they differ from each other in tape path (U-form in Beta; M-form in VHS) and tape handling characteristics. Neither are broadcast quality.

cross-cutting Alternating shots from two or more sequences to imply they are occurring simultaneously.

cross-fade An editing transition in which one picture or sound is faded out while another is simultaneously faded in.

crossing the line Discontinuity that occurs either in shooting or editing. Basically, all subjects should be shot on the same side of an imaginary 180-degree line, also known as the “action line”; if a shooter crosses the line and shoots a subject from the other side, which changes the actors’ direction of look or movement, the result is disorienting. This most often poses a problem in discontinuous or multicamera shooting, although gradual and continuous crossing of the line—such as dollying—is not disconcerting.

cut; hard cut A change from one shot to another; an edit; or a direction to halt action.      

cut-away A shot (part of a sequence) that offers a detail or a new perspective on the main action. It’s an editing technique often used to maintain continuity by covering audio edits in the main action.

cut-back During editing, returning to the primary scene after inserting various close-up or other covering shots.

day for night   A special filter that allows daylight shooting to appear as if shot at night.

dissolve In editing, fading out one picture while simultaneously fading in another, with a momentary juxtaposition of the two (which can vary in length maintained).

dolly A device, most often a professional camera mount, that allows the entire camera to move closer to, farther away from, or around its subject.

double system sound Recording audio and image on two different recorders, synchronizing them on location by use of a slate (the identification board, sometimes called a clapperboard, used during filming). By aligning the picture of the slate clapping with the sound of the clapping of its hinged top section against its base, an editor can synchronize action and sound.

drop-out Defects in videotape’s magnetic surface (either from poor tape, old tape, or mishandled tape) that result in break-up of the picture, usually as small black flashes or color loss. A DOC (drop-out compensator) can disguise this brief loss of FM signal pick-up by inserting stored picture information from a corresponding part of the previous line or frame.

dubbing Duplicating whole or part of a videotape onto another, or copying film onto videotape.

edit In film, to physically splice film into a desired order; in videotape, to copy the elements from original recorded cassette into desired order by electronic transfer.

electronic cinematography (EC) Video cameras and techniques designed to deliver a film-like quality. Such equipment handles like film equipment and is often used to shoot scenes that will eventually be transferred to film for screening. Such cameras offer the best of both worlds, handling like 35mm cameras with the convenience (continuous monitoring and interchangeable lenses) of videotape cameras.

electronic still store (ESS) Magnetic video disc stores that manage a library of still video pictures, from sources that include video cameras, scanners, character generators, and computer. Individual stills are coded and selected at random or arranged to play out in a programmable sequence.

establishing shot; reestablishing shot A long or wide shot that establishes location or relationships of performers to each other or to other elements.

exterior 1. An outdoor location or 2. an outside perspective of a building the interiors of which will also be shown.

fill light A light used to remove, or soften, shadows caused by the main (key) light.

film (formats) These include 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, 35mm, and 72mm, the quality of picture increasing proportionate to the number. Most often, corporate and organizational films are shot on 16mm.

fine cut In film and video, the final (polishing) stage of editing, also called mastering, in which electronic and sound effects are added according to the script.

flashback   A dramatic device that introduces action that occurred previous to the existing scene.

flash cutting A sequence comprised of a group of very brief camera shots, each lasting only a few frames.

freeze To stop videotape or film on a single frame.

f-stop A camera notation that indicates size of lens aperture. The higher the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture.

full-figure shot (full shot) A head-to-toe shot of a person.

gaffer The person responsible for lighting, often chosen by the director of photography or videographer.

gaffer’s tape Duct tape.

glitch Jargon for a small or brief electronic disturbance in a picture.

hook   An action or other item used at the top of a show to guarantee audience attention.

gopher As in many other lines of work, the assistant who is asked to “go for” coffee and other items.

graphics Two-dimensional visuals that will be shot, usually for television presentation; includes prepared artwork, graphs, maps, slides, and photographs.

grip A floor assistant or stagehand.

IFB Stands for Interruptable Feedback. A monitor that feeds sound (from a control room, for instance) to someone on camera via a small device placed in the talent’s ear.

image enhancement Electronic correction and improvement of video signals by a video processor. This can remove “snow,” improve small details, sharpen the picture, and improve color.

insert editing Inserting a new program segment electronically into existing videotape so that it is locked into the previously recorded control track.

interior Location term for an inside shot of a building or structure.

ITV Instructional television; any material used for formal education.

jump cut In editing, the joining of two nearly identical shots of the same subject, with the effect that the subject “jumps” slightly. Currently used often in news production where there is either no footage to cover the poor edit or no time to bother. Sometimes used in art films such as Goddard’s “Breathless.”

key light The primary lighting source for shooting.

limbo In a studio, to shoot a subject against a black backdrop.

lip sync To record a voice track independent of existing film and videotape for synchronization to the picture.

live 1. A program that airs at the same time it is being shot and directed. 2. A recorded shot that appears “live” in relation to still material such as artwork or photographs.

location Any space used for production recording purposes.

long shot (LS) & extreme long shot (ELS) A shot of a subject from a great distance and an even greater one.

master The one-and-only original edited film or videotape that will be dubbed for distribution purposes.

master shot An uninterrupted, static shot of an entire scene, interview, or event, usually taken from a long or medium range. During editing, closer shots will be edited over the master shot.

matte An electronic effect that joins two cameras together electronically, one providing the foreground and the other the background image.

medium shot (MS) The view of a subject from a comfortable medium distance.

moire The distracting vibrating effect of a bright, narrow pattern, usually stripes, as shot by television scan lines.

montage In French, this simply refers to editing; it’s also come to refer to a unique form of editing made popular by Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein in the 1920s, which involves cutting or dissolving between sometimes disparate images.

MOS   Film or video recorded with no sound (once called Mit Out Sound by German directors). Also called wild shooting.

narration Non-synchronous speech accompanying a picture; also known as voice-over.

off-camera Any action or sound that occurs outside the view of the camera.

off-line Editing for a rough cut, one that contains all of the visual material yet is not polished with special effects, editing transitions between shots, and music.

on-camera (O/C) Any action occurring inside the view of the camera.

on-line Editing for a fine cut, that is, mastering the rough cut by adding special effects (such as dissolves, sound effects, and credits).

on location Shooting that is not done in a studio.

out-take An audio or video segment not included in the final piece.

over-the-shoulder shot (O/S) A shot of a person or object framed by the back of the head and shoulder of someone in the foreground.

pan The horizontal movement of the camera.

PBS Public Broadcasting Service, a network for public broadcasting supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

pick-up Shots recorded after the main shoot to be inserted in videotape editing. They are either necessary to correct errors in the original footage or to obtain details that could not be recorded during the main shoot.

pixillation An editing effect accomplished by removing frames from film shot at normal speed, creating a jerkiness; in animation, pixillation also refers to joining a series of still frames.

point of view (pov) shot Shooting that is from the vantage point of a particular person.

post syncing In editing, recording sound to synchronize with an existing picture. Often used in replacing original dialogue with a different language.

post-production Editing process that occurs after segments have been produced and filmed or recorded.

pre-production All of the planning, including the scriptwriting, that precedes actual production.

presence The recording of existing and ambient sound; used especially in shooting B-roll, so that when dialogue or narration is covered by footage there will still be the subdued natural sound to add to the picture’s realism.

producer In broadcast television, the creator of a television program, and usually in charge of writing, art, music, booking guests and talent, and budget; in nonbroadcast television, the person in charge of translating the script into a visually exciting finished piece, which includes artistic input at the top, as well as managing all production and editing.

professional video formats These include 1/2″ Betacam (not consumer Beta), 3/4″, 1″, and 2″. Most often, Betacam, 3/4″ and 1″ are used on location.

rack focus a focusing technique that blurs selective focal places to compelthe viewer to follow areas of the image that remain in focus.

roll-ins Short features that are inserted into an existing program, such as on-location news reports in a studio news show.

rough cut The first edited version, on film or videotape, of a program or piece. It is called “rough” because it includes no electronic effects such as dissolves, wipes, character generation, or special audio effects. It does represent the order in which events will appear in the final edited piece.

rough script A preliminary version of the script, following the treatment, that will later be fine-tuned to produce a final script.

rushes (dailies) The sum total of a day’s shooting, usually assembled and reviewed a day after being shot.

scrim A filter used to soften a spot- or floodlight.

segue An audio transition that involves fading out one sound and bringing in another, either simultaneously or one after the other.

sequence A series of shots that are related by some element of continuity: action, character, time, concept, and so forth.

shooting ratio The quantity of film or tape stock used to produce a piece, compared to the length of the finished piece. A film shooting ratio of 5:1 means that 5 feet of film were shot for every one used.

shooting script A breakdown of a script into individual shots with technical instructions for each.

shot An image recorded continuously from the time the camera begins recording to the time it stops.

shot-gun microphone A directional microphone that can pick up sounds from great distances.

single A shot of one person.

single-camera production Broadcast or nonbroadcast production involving a single camera to record all of the action. The camera is repositioned carefully for each shot to give the illusion that all material was shot concurrently.

single system sound Audio recorded directly onto a film sound track (or integrated videotape recorder) by using a microphone attached to the camera.

slate Also called a clapperboard, this traditional film device is used in double-system film recording when audio is recorded independently of the picture. At the beginning of each segment, or take, an assistant records the title, producer, and number of each take on the chalkboard section of the slate. The assistant then lifts the hinged top and brings it down with a loud clap as the camera films it. An editor can later synchronize the sound of the clap with the picture of the slate clapping.

slides The standard 35mm format is most often used; to incorporate these in a film or video production, slides must be mounted in a slide chain in a control room or advanced editing system to be joined with the primary footage.

SOF (Sound on Film) Designates a film sound track.

SOT (Sound on Tape) Designates editing use of existing recorded sound on videotape.

special effects Includes the “bells and whistles” of fancy electronic production, including dissolves, wipes, fades, keys, mattes, etc.

split screen An electronic effect whereby the screen is divided into two and allows for independent action on both sides.

standup (standupper) A shot of a reporter speaking to the camera on location; usually appears at the top and bottom of a show and may appear as bridges during a news piece or documentary.

still frame Pausing the videotape on a single frame, often for storage as a single unit.

stock footage Film or videotape shot earlier in time and used in either a historic or a generic manner.

storyboard A preproduction planning technique in which shots are sketched in series on large boards, comic-strip style.

take 1. A change from one video source to another. 2. Continuous footage of an event on location that may be shot several times or more.

talent Anyone who appears in front of a camera; most often a reference to someone paid to appear.

talking head, talking heads In corporate broadcasting, a talking head production is one in which the primary action involves a speaker addressing the camera. A talking heads production often refers to a panel discussion or to two people whose conversation constitutes the bulk of action.

technical advisor A client’s liaison with a scriptwriter and producer.

teleprompter A mechanical device that projects a continuous script via mirrors to a spot directly in front of the television lens, so that the talent reading the script appears to be looking directly at the audience.

tilt A vertical camera movement (beginning at the top of a subject and moving down or at the bottom and moving up).

time code A digital code based on a 24-hour clock recorded on a video or audio program to provide continuous shot identification and easy retrieval. Recorded on a tape’s cue track, the code is visible during screening and editing and not during final playback.

time-based corrector (TBC) An electronic device that improves recorded video signals by rebuilding the control track sync information.

traveling shot Shots made from a moving camera; also known as tracking shots.

treatment A detailed description of a program, usually brief, that serves as the basis for the rough and final scripts.

updub To dub a videotape to a larger tape format; for instance, to dub 3/4″ videotape onto 1″, usually for editing or broadcast purposes.

video disc 1. A magnetic video recording format in which short segments can be recorded for instant playback, freeze frame, and slow motion. 2. A medium involving pressing programs onto a disk for consumer retail.

videotape A plastic tape coated with iron oxide that magnetically records video, audio, and control track information. It’s available in 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″ and 2″ sizes.

videotape recorder (video recorder, VTR) A machine that records magnetic-electronic signals—audio, video, and control—onto videotape.

voice-over (V/O) Narration that is independent (nonsynchronous) of the existing picture and recorded separately.

walk-through An abbreviated rehearsal to acquaint talent, production crew, or director with major transitions of a studio production.

wild shooting Shooting film or videotape without audio, which will be added later. Also called MOS (from the German term “Mit Out Sound”).

wild track Audio recorded independently of picture, in a non-synchronized fashion, to be synchronized at a later point.

wipe A camera transition in which one image is pushed off the screen (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) and replaced by a new picture.

work print The initial check prints of film footage edited together from which early editing decisions are made. This precedes a rough cut, which precedes a fine cut.

wrap (wrap up) To finish.

This film and video glossary is ©Copyright 1988-2016 Susan Branch Smith and Basecamp Productions.


Film and video glossary

by susan time to read: 14 min

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