Videography Glossary

Here’s a list of terms used in the Atomic Learning Video Storytelling Guide. You might also want to consult the very complete and detailed glossary from the publishers of Computer Videomaker Magazine. Also, get the magazine. It’s a great resource for beginning to advanced videomakers, like you!

180° rule see “action line”

Action line or Action axis

An imaginary line drawn between two subjects, or along a line of motion to maintain continuity of screen direction. Crossing it from one shot to the next will create an error in continuity. It is often referred to as the "180-degree rule."

AGC (Automatic Gain Control) Circuitry used to ensure that video and audio output signals are maintained at constant levels in the face of widely varying input signal levels. AGC is typically used to maintain a constant video luminance level by boosting weak (low light) picture signals electronically. Some equipment includes manual gain control.

Analog The term analogue simply means like or similar. Traditional recording media have been analog, such as tape cassettes and the now-ancient vinyl records. Analog video that is copied or edited several generations suffers from generation loss and is subject to degradation due to noise and distortion. Your television and VCR can be analog video devices. To be stored and manipulated on a computer, analog video must be converted to digital video.

Aperture This refers to the variable opening inside a lens that regulates the amount of light available to the camera. Also known as an iris.

Artifact Distortion to a picture or a sound signal. With digital video, artifacts can result from overloading the input device with too much signal, or from excessive or improper compression.

Aspect Ratio The proportional height and width of the picture on the screen. The current standard for conventional receiver or monitor is three by four (3:4); 16:9 for HDTV.

Auto exposure

Circuitry that monitors light levels and adjusts camcorder iris accordingly, compensating for changing light condition. (see also AGC)

B-roll This refers to certain video you collect. B-roll is any video that isn't the main action; that illustrates or shows examples. You might think of it as Background-roll. For example, if you are interviewing someone about BMX racing you might show footage of an actual race while the person continues to talk. That would be the B-roll footage.

Bleeding Video image imperfection characterized by blurring of color borders; colors spill over defined boundaries, "run" into neighboring areas. This is more of a problem with red color hues, and is especially evident in copies made from VHS tapes.

Capturing Refers to capturing source video for use on a computer. If analog, the captured video is converted to digital.

CCD (Charge Coupled Device) Light-sensitive computer chip in video cameras that converts images into electrical flows. Less prone to image irregularities -- burn-in, lag, streaking -- than older image sensors.

Chrominance The color portion of a video signal.

Component Video Signal transmission system, resembling S-video concept, employed with professional videotape formats. Separates luminance and two chrominance channels to avoid quality loss from NTSC or PAL encoding.

Composite Video A video signal in which the luminance and chrominance elements have been combined into formats, such as VHS.

Contrast The degree to which your video contains very dark and very light luminance value. A high-contrast picture has more black and white values with fewer values in between. A low contrast picture has more middle tones without very dark or very light areas.

Crawl Text or graphics -- usually special announcements -- that move across the screen horizontally, typically from bottom right to left. Produced with a character generator or computer editing software.

Cross cutting Alternating views of one action with views of another. Within a scene, you might cut from one part of the action to another. For example, to present an interrogation you might cut frequently between views of the questioner and those of the prisoner. You might also cross-cut between actions taking place in two different locations. The classic example is the damsel tied to the railroad tracks. Shots of the victim alternate with shots of the approaching train and shots or our hero, galloping to the rescue. Disclaimer: don’t try this at home!

Cut The instantaneous, direct switch from one picture to another.

Cutaway A single shot inserted into a sequence of shots that momentarily interrupts the flow of action, usually introducing a pertinent detail. It is frequently used as transitional footage or to avoid a jump cut.

Depth of field

The amount of space within the view of the lens which will maintain an acceptable focus.

Diffused light Diffused light is experienced on overcast days, when the sun is hidden behind clouds. This type of light gives the illusion that it originates from many directions. Artificial light sources need to employ light diffusers that spread out the light. Images have a soft and gentle appearance, and are void of harsh shadows.

Digital A reference to a system whereby a continuously variable analog signal is reduced and encoded into discrete binary bits.

Digital camcorders Camcorders that record and playback digital video and audio signals.

Digitize To convert analog video, audio, or both to digital form. The process of converting a continuous analog video or audio signal to digital data (ones and zeros) for computer storage. The signal can then be copied repeatedly with no degradation.

Digitizing A method of recording in which samples of the original analog signal are encoded on tape or disk as binary information for storage or processing.

Distortion A modification of the original signal appearing in the output of audio equipment, degrading the sound quality.

DV Abbreviation for digital video. DV can also denote the type of compression used by DV systems or a format that incorporates DV compression. The DV designation is also used to for a special type of tape cartridge used in DV camcorders and DV tape decks.

Edited master Video industry term for the tape containing the finished (edited) program.

Establishing Shot

Usually a long-shot (LS) at the beginning of a scene which is intended to inform the audience about a changed locale for the scene which follows.

Exposure The amount of light available in a shot at particular lens settings. Proper exposure yields a picture with good brightness and contrast.

Fade An optical effect in which the image of a scene is gradually replaced by a uniform dark area, or vice versa.

FireWire The Apple Computer trade name for the IEEE 1394 digital video standard.

Foley Personal sound effects, like footsteps, breathing or punches used to heighten realism that are added in post production. Also the name of a small town in central Minnesota :-)

Focal length Movie

Technically, it’s the distance from a camera's lens to a focused image with the lens focused on infinity. Practically speaking, it is a measurement of the field of view a lens can display. Short focal lengths offer a broad field of view (wide-angle); long focal lengths offer a narrow field of view (telephoto). Zoom lenses have a variable focal length.

Frame One complete screen on videotape, lasting 1/30th of a second. There are 30 frames in a second.

Framing Act of composing a shot in the camcorder's viewfinder for desired content, angle, and field of view -- overall composition.

Gaffer The chief lighting technician for a production who is in charge of the electrical department

Gain Video amplification of signal strength. "Riding gain" means varying controls to achieve desired contrast levels.

Generation Relationship between a master video recording and a given copy of that master. A "second-generation" tape is a copy of the original. "Third-generation" is a copy of a second-generation tape.

Generation Loss Created when editing or copying one analog videotape to another videotape. Each time you copy a tape, some quality is lost. This is most apparent in less expensive video formats, like VHS. Theoretically absent from digital video editing.

Gigabyte (GB) A unit for measuring computer memory capacity, equivalent to 1,000 megabytes (MB)

Grip A production crew stagehand responsible for handling equipment, props, and scenery before, during, and after production.

HDTV High Definition TV refers to TV sets that display the highest resolution picture formats, which is vertical lines 1,080 and horizontal pixels 1,920, or 720 vertical lines and 1,280 of horizontal pixels. The aspect ratio for HDTV is 16:9 (wide screen)

ieee1394 The interface standard that enables the direct transfer of DV between devices, such as a DV camcorder and a computer. IEEE 1394 also describes the cables and connectors utilizing this standard.

ILINK SONY’s copyrighted name for IEEE 1394


An editing method whereby related shots are inserted into a series of other shots for the purpose of contrast or for some other effect.

Iris Camcorder's diaphragm lens opening or aperture, it regulates the amount of light entering the camera.

Jump cut Movie (:40 – 648K)

A jarring edit caused by the choice of shots rather than any technical imperfection. Unnatural, abrupt switch between shots identical in subject but slightly different in screen location. Awkward progression makes subject appear to jump from one screen location to another. They are usually accidental, but they can also be used for purposeful effect.

Key Grip On professional film and video sets this is the chief grip who works directly with the gaffer in creating shadow effects for set lighting and who supervises camera cranes, dollies and other platforms or supporting structures according to the requirements of the director of photography. [see Grip]

LANC The protocol defined by Sony for enabling external control of video devices and accessing status information from the device. Also referred to as Control-L.

Lavaliere A small, easily concealed, microphone, typically attached to clothing or worn around the neck for interview settings.

LCD screen Abbreviation for Liquid Crystal Display, the kind of display used on many camcorders.

Linear editing Analog, tape-based editing. Called linear because scenes are laid in line on the tape. It has many disadvantages, when compared to non-linear editing, such as the need to rewind and fast forward tapes. It also requires special editing VCRs and multiple source decks for transitions, other than cuts, between tape segments.

Luminance The black-and-white portion of a video signal that carries brightness information representing picture contrast, light and dark qualities; frequently abbreviated as "Y." [See also chrominance.]

Macro Lens capable of extreme closeup focusing, useful for intimate views of small subjects.

Master shot The shot that contains all of the action in a sequence when shooting for editing with a single camera.

Match Cut (match-action cut)

A cut made during action or movement between two shots in which the action has been overlapped, either by repetition of the action or by the use of more than one camera.

Medium-closeup A way of expressing a difference between degrees of closeness, or portion of the subject that is visible in the shot. A medium-closeup would be framed somewhat less closely than a closeup in the same sequence. All shot descriptions are relative terms.


The assembly of shots and the portrayal of action or ideas through the use of many short shots.

Noise Undesirable video or audio signal interference; typically seen as snow, heard as hiss.

Non-linear editing Random-access editing of video and audio on a computer, enabling edits to be processed and reprocessed at any point in the timeline, at any time. Traditional videotape editors are linear because they require editing video sequentially, from beginning to end. Also eliminates the need for rewinding and allows for multiple dubs without generational loss.

NTSC National Television Standards Committee. The organization that sets the American broadcast and videotape format standards for the FCC. Color television is currently set at 525 lines per frame, 29.97 frames per second.

Overscan The portion of a television picture that extends beyond the normal screen size.

PAL (Phase Alternating Line) The European color television standard that specifies a 25Hz frame rate and 625 lines per frame. Technically a higher quality signal that the American standard, NTSC. The two are not compatible, meaning a PAL tape cannot be played on an NTSC VCR or displayed on a NTSC monitor, and vice versa.

Phantom Power Microphones that normally require a battery can be used without a battery if supplied from a phantom power device, like certain microphone mixers, that supply power through the audio cable.

Point of view (POV) Movie Shot perspective whereby the camera assumes the subject's view, and thus viewers see what the subject sees as if through his/her/its eyes.

Post-production The stage of a film or video project during which previously shot footage is edited and assembled. Effects, graphics, titles, and sound are added in post-production.

Pre-production The planning phase of a film or video project, usually completed prior to shooting (production).

Production The phase of a film or video project that involves shooting or recording raw footage.

Psychological closure

The process in which your mind makes sense of incomplete visual information by mentally projecting the image beyond the borders of the frame. See the text section and movie on natural cutoff lines.

QuickTime Short version: a standard for compressing and playing digital video and audio. Long version: Apple Computer's multi-platform, industry-standard, multimedia software architecture. QuickTime is used by software developers, hardware manufacturers, and content creators to author and publish synchronized graphics, sound, video, text, music, virtual reality, and 3-D media.

Raw footage Original, unedited film or video footage that has not been modified

Reaction shot

Cutaway view showing someone's or something's response to primary action/subject.

RF Abbreviation for radio frequency. Combination of audio and video signals coded as a channel number, necessary for television broadcasts as well as some closed-circuit distribution. Typically VCRs will include an RF converter that transforms the video and audio signals it receives into channel 3 or 4.

Resolution Amount of picture detail reproduced by a video system, influenced by a camera's pickup, lens, internal optics, recording medium, and playback monitor. The more detail, the sharper and better defined the picture.

Reverse angle A shot that is turned approximately 180 degrees in relation to the preceding shot.

Rough cut A preliminary trial stage in the process of editing a video or film. Shots are laid out in approximate relationship to an end product, without detailed attention to the individual cutting points.

Safe title area

The area that comprises 80 percent of the TV screen, measured from the center of the screen outward in all directions. The safe title area is the area within which title credits—no matter how poorly adjusted a monitor or receiver may be—are legible.

Scene A sequence or multiple sequences of related shots, usually constituting action in one particular location.

Screen time The amount of time an event in a film or video takes after the raw footage is edited to remove unnecessary action. It can be vastly different from the time we know the same event actually would take in real life.

Scrubbing The backward or forward movement through audio or video material via a mouse, keyboard, or other device.


A term used in gathering video and editing. It refers to a series of related shots. For example, a sequence could be a wide shot of a classroom, followed by a medium shot of a few students, followed by a single student asking a question.

Shot All pictorial material recorded by a camera. More strictly speaking, shots are intentional, isolated camera views that collectively comprise a sequence or scene.

Shutter speed The camera shutter controls the amount of time that incoming light takes to form a single video field (a video image or "frame" consists of two fields.) NTSC video is recorded at 60 fields per second and normal camcorder shutter speed is 1/60 of a second. Faster shutter speeds, 1/250 sec. to 1/10,000 sec., are usually used to record action that would normally be blurred, such as a golf swing. The swing will be sharper when played back, but very high shutter speeds will also result in jerky motion. High shutter speeds require lots of light for proper exposure. Slower shutter speeds, 1/30 sec. or 1/15 sec., will yield an image with a softer focus. Motion will be blurred at slow speeds, which may be a way to achieve a special effect. Slower shutter speeds require less light.

Split edit Sometimes called an L-cut, a split edit is a transition from one shot to another, where the picture transition does not coincide with the audio transition. This is often done to enhance the aesthetics or flow of the video. For example, a conversation between two people can feel like a tennis match if you always cut the audio and video at the same time. A split edit allows the audience to see the reaction of the person doing the listening, or the aftermath of speaking, rather than simply the act of speaking.

Still frame A single frame of video repeated so it appears to have no motion.

Stratocaster A legendary electric guitar design from Fender.

Streaming The process of sending video over the Web or other networks to allow playback on the desktop as the video is received, rather than requiring the entire file to be downloaded prior to playback.

Sweetening Audio post-production where audio is corrected and enhanced. Music, narration and sound effects are mixed with original sound elements to “sweeten” the sound track.

Take An individual shot. When time and budgets permit, many takes may be filmed of the same shot.

Talent A generic term for the people or creatures assuming primary on-screen roles when videotaping.

Telephoto Camera lens with a long focal length, narrow horizontal field of view. Opposite of wide-angle, it captures magnified, closeup images from a considerable distance.

Time Line Editing A computer-based method of editing in which video and audio clips are represented on a computer screen by bars proportional to the length of the clip. These bars can be moved and resized along a grid whose horizontal axis relates to the time of the program. IMovie features both a “Clips” view and “Timeline” view.

Transition The change from one video clip to another.

Trimming Editing a clip on a frame-by-frame basis, or editing clips in relationship to one another.

Umbrella What the name implies, a lighting accessory available in various sizes usually, made of textured gold or silver fabric. Facilitates soft, shadowless illumination by reflecting light onto a scene.

USB Universal Serial Bus. Describes a particular type of computer interface port and its associated cables.

Whip Pan Another name for swish pan. Extremely rapid camera movement from left to right or right to left, appearing as image blur. Two such pans in the same direction -- one moving from, the other moving to a stationary shot -- edited together can effectively convey passage of time.

Vectors A dominant direction established by screen movement in a specific direction, by a person looking in a specific direction, or by some other screen element that directs viewer attention in a specific direction.

Viewfinder Small television monitor built in to a camcorder for viewing during shooting and playback.

Voice over Narration added over video. The narrator, who is not recorded with the original video, explains or somehow supplements the visual images.

Wireless lavaliere mic A wireless version of a lapel or lavaliere mic. It operates on a radio frequency, either in the VHF or UHF band range. This should be one of the first accessories you purchase, in my opinion. [see lavaliere mic ]

White Balance A color camera function which determines how much red, green and blue is required to produce a normal-looking white. Shots made with improper white balance will have an abnormal color tint.

A camera lens with a short focal length and broad horizontal field of view. Opposite of telephoto, it tends to reinforce perception of depth and produces shots with great depth of field.

Wipe Picture transition from one scene to another wherein the new scene is revealed by a moving line or pattern. In simplest form, a wipe simulates a window shade being drawn. More sophisticated variations include colorized wipes, quivering wipes, triangle wipes, and venetian blind wipes.

XLR One of several varieties of sound connectors having three or more conductors plus an outer shell that shields the connectors and locks them into place. Also called a Canon connector.

Zoom ratio Range of a lens' focal length, from most "zoomed in" field of view to most "zoomed out." Expressed as ratio: 6:1, for example, implies the same lens from the same distance can make the same image appear six-times closer.

Source: AtomicLearning -