The great big A to Z of video production terminology

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Film and video producers use terminology designed to confuse and confound, and we’re no different at Page One!

BTS image from E.on EV corporate video shoot coventry.
BTS with boom, blimp, dead cat, and zoom, whilst B-roll and PTC A-roll being shot with ND.

So to help the non-native speakers talk the talk and see through any bullshit, we’ve compiled this handy A-Z cheat sheet!

(BTW, this list isn’t comprehensive because we make up new ones as we go along.)

AE; Stands for “After Effects” which is the Adobe app which we use for motion effects and graphics. Allows us to integrate complex fixes into footage.

Ambient; This is the light or audio that naturally occurs on a set, which we might want to capture, or get rid of, or correct in post.

Alaising; This is when nasty patterns are produced in digital footage by fine patterns in stuff on the set, such as patterns in cloth, often these come and go depending on the resolution and lighting. Very hard to fix.

A-Roll; This is the primary footage which we will build a video from, more often than not it’s an interview, but could also be something like a time-lapse.

B-Roll; Footage that we use to cut away from our A-Roll. This may be material shot to illustrate a point in an interview, or close-ups to break up an ongoing process shot etc. B-Roll footage is crucial to the success of a shoot, and whilst called B-Roll, it’s probably more important than A-Roll, and often requires more planning and time to shoot.

BCAP Clearance; The process of getting an advert script cleared by the British Committee of Advertising Practice for broadcast in the UK.

Blimp; A big, usually grey, blimp shaped container which the shotgun mic is suspended in to cut out wind noise. Usually covered by a “Dead Cat” and held on the end of a “Boom”.

Boom; A long pole handled by a “Boom operator” which normally has a microphone on it, but sometimes a light or reflector, or even occasionally a camera.

Bounce; When a viewer of a video gets bored and stops watching. The “Bounce Rate” is a crucial measure of viewer engagement that must be addressed in a production to ensure that messages are communicated, both in terms of how many viewers bounce, as well as where they bounce. Reducing bounce rates to get best value should be constantly at the front of a producer’s thinking.

BTS; Behind the scenes. Shots of stuff (usually stills, sometimes video) happening on set, the crew, etc. Used for production publicity often for social media. Sometimes used within a video or film to break the 4th wall (The implied wall between the viewer and the characters/action), as part of a narrative or in the outro as “Outakes”.

Cut Away; A B-roll shot that takes us away from the main A-roll shot, it can be a close-up, a reaction shot, etc.

C-Stand; Fairly common stand used on set for lighting or sometimes to support a boom or mic or reflector. Generally you would not put a camera on a C-stand.

Call Sheet; All the details of a day’s shoot on one document, including cast, timings, script details, crew and roles, contact details, props, etc. The single document that brings everything together for the shoot.

Dead Cat; A furry cover for a mic. Sometimes small and directly applied to a mic, sometimes large and placed over a “Blimp”. Acts as a windscreen, dissipating the wind and the noise of it on the mic. Can be very good, but not a miracle worker.

Captions; The narration or character’s speech displayed on screen as text, often also referred to as “Subtitles”, captions can also include direction or descriptions, (Wind noise!) for audibly impaired viewers.

Codec; The specific compression technology used to encode and decode a video file, commonly we use h.264, or h.265. This shouldn’t be confused with the “Container” or wrapper, which is the “box” which all the data associated with the video sits within, MP4 and MOV are common containers, which will then contain .mp4 or h.264 or 265 or ProRes etc files together with audio files. It’s all very confusing, don’t sweat it.

CTA; Call to action. The bit of a video, usually in the “Outro” that encourages viewers to do something. E.g. “For more information visit our website”. If you don’t have a CTA in your corporate video, you’re missing the point.

DOP; Director of Photography. The principal photographer on the shoot responsible for the creative lead on the photography, directing the camera and capturing the images. Often operates the main camera, sometimes directs 2nd unit or assistants.

DOF; Depth of field. The amount of stuff that is in focus. Can be thought of as two points of distance in a direct line away from the camera, with everything between those two points being “In Focus”. A very narrow DOF will throw stuff in the background totally out of focus and create a lot of “separation”. Long lenses have narrow DOF, wide angle lenses have large DOF. Often measured in inches.

Dolly; A wheeled platform for a camera, sometimes just a set of wheels on a tripod, sometimes a bigger more complex platform on rails with seats etc. Can be used to produce a “Dolly Shot” where the camera smoothly tracks the action. We often now replace this with a gimbal, or even a drone, but we still sometimes will say things like “Dolly Out” or “Dolly In” where we want to move away, or towards, something in the scene.

Dutch Angle; When the horizon isn’t straight. A common feature of our Creative Director’s stills photography, but he hates it in video. Originated from common pejorative terms such as “Dutch Courage” and “Double Dutch” which themselves originated in the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century. We often just say, “Wonky”.

Encoding; This is when we export a video from a timeline into a specific Codec.

Establishing Shot; This is the big shot at the beginning of a video or film which sets the scene for everything else that follows. It’s a cliche and for a lot of short form video it may be harmful if you’re trying to capture a viewer as quickly as possible and want to reduce bounce rates.

Equalization; Tuning or adjusting all the audio on a timeline to the correct levels, as well as removing problem audio noise etc.

Foley; Audio brought into a timeline to help illustrate or add depth to the imagery. So when you see someone walking you might hear the sound of footsteps, or bird song in an outdoor shot. Or a creaking sound as the kids go into the haunted house. Often produced by a “Foley Artist” who creates audio effects specifically for footage, like knocking two coconuts together to make the sound of a horse trotting. You get the point.

Flop Over; When you flip the footage left to right on a timeline. You need to watch this as it can lead to logos and stuff being backwards. Good to do if you want to fix an issue where you “Crossed the Line”.

FPS; The number of still images (or frames) we shoot per second in camera to make a moving image. Also know as “Frame Rate”. Normal frame rate is 25 fps. We record interviews at that rate, but all B-roll at 50fps. If we were in the US, it would be 30 and 60. Just because. Sometimes we also shoot at 100fps. When we shoot at 50 or 100 fps, we can then slow the footage down and create Slow-Motion or “Slo-Mo”.

Format; The aspect ratio of the video. Commonly this is “16:9” for us, or “Square”. We also do a lot of “Letterbox” styles in specific ratios to fit website headers. We usually also note the resolution when defining this. So, 16:9 4K.

Feedback; When customers tell us what they think of our work, point out our bad grammar, and change their mind about stuff. Zero feedback is our goal.

Gaffer Tape; Cloth tape like duct tape or duck tape, we use it to stick anything to anything else. We always have a couple of rolls of this stuff.

Gain; The amount of amplification we need to put in, or take out, of audio to match the input to the required output. Measured in DB, we usually output our audio at something like -12 db. It’s technical, it’s a ratio. Nuff said.

Grading; Or “Colour Grading”. A core step in the post production process of producing the final colour that will be seen in a video’s footage. An art in itself which when done properly will convey mood and help the narrative, but also ensure that the video is viewed in the correct colour space for a specified use. Getting this right is combination of complex technical capabilities and artistic sense, and for a lot of work needs to be done to very specific standards. (So if you’re producing something for Netflix, there is a big manual that needs to be followed, including the design of the room you’re editing in.)

GV; “General View”. What it says on the tin, a general, usually wide, view of a location. Comes from the news industry, when we would always get some GVs to accompany any story.

Hero Shot; A usually wide and close shot, often half length, of a central “Hero” character, usually with some sort of camera movement, and often with the character looking directly into the camera to engage with the viewer. Sometimes used as an outro shot, or when we introduce a character. We like these, and will generally shoot one on every gig. Possibly becoming a cliche.

Head Room; The space above an object, usually a character or interviewee, in the frame on the video. We need some headroom to ensure that we don’t cut off stuff depending on the output aspect ratio, or if we want to put in text or graphics or stuff, or just to feel a bit more natural in the composition.

Insert Edit; When you make a cut on a previously edited timeline and insert new content.

Idiot; Someone who wanders into the shot, or asks you if you’re working for the BBC when on location, whilst shaking their fist and banging on about the media.

Jump Cut; A cut in a video which moves us in time in the narrative in a particularly unsubtle way. Traditionally to be avoided, but now that the kids are down with it, a lazy way to do an edit.

Key Light; The main light on a subject.

K; Short for Kelvin, which isn’t a guy on set, but the colour temperature of the light.

Kicker; Another K to do with lighting! This time a reflector which “Kicks” light back into a spot on the set or a character.

Lav Mic; That little furry mic that we put on a person’s lapel, or hide on their shirt. Wide pick up pattern which can also pick up rustling of clothes, bad ambient, and if the person turns their head they can go “Off Mic”. We usually use these in conjunction with radio transmitters, the combo forming a “Radio Mic.”

Latitude: The range between the darks and the highlights expressed usually in “Stops”. Cameras only have so much latitude that they can capture, so if we have very high contrast on location, i.e. a bright day with white cars, it can make life difficult. Often we talk about the “Dynamic Range” of a camera or scene, (DR), so we will say something like, “The GoPro hasn’t got enough DR for that lighting”, which is kinda the same as talking about the latitude.

LOG; A technical way of recording footage in a very flat style to capture as much “Dynamic Range” or DR , or latitude, as possible. We then pull all of the details we want out of the shot and make it look normal as part of the “Grading” process in post production, and bring the footage into the correct colour space for the output.

Lower Thirds; Text with a bit of graphics usually placed on the bottom left of a screen usually used to tell a person’s name. Used a lot in news pieces, but often in a corporate interview as well. Not to be confused with subtitles or captions.

Master; The original version of a final video which is used for archival purposes and as the base for further compressed or lower resolution versions. We also refer to this as the “Original”, and it can be downloaded from our online facility by our customers.

MOS; In the old days when we worked for the papers, short hand for “Mail on Sunday.” In video it’s shorthand for recording material without any audio, first used by a German born director who directed stuff as “Mit Out Sound”.

Montage; A rapid selection of shots, often on a split screen, used to tell part of a story. Usually used when the director can’t think of anything better, but sometimes cool in a 1970s Thomas Crown style.

NTSC; The American standard for broadcast video, as opposed to PAL. NTSC technical standards were first determined in the 50s and is jokingly referred to as “Never The Same Colour” as it’s a crap low res composite standard, which is why TV in the US is worse than in Europe.

ND; Or Neutral Density; Filters we attach to the lens to bring the ambient light levels down to something we can work with or record in LOG. If you don’t use VERY EXPENSIVE filters they can cause a colour shift and make your shots rubbish. Some newer cameras can do this internally, or via fancy electronics on the chip. Listen out for Dave (our DOP) complaining that he is gonna have to use a lot of ND.

Overcrank; Shooting a Frame Rate that is faster than the playback speed, to make “Slo-Mo” on playback. From when you had to crank a handle at a set speed to run film through a camera, to “Overcrank” was to crank the handle faster than you would normally. To create slo-mo we will over crank by a certain percentage, so to go from 25 to 50fps, (and allow us to slow down movement by 50%) we “Overcrank” by 100%.

Outro; The end bit of the video which has some fancy graphic on it and a CTA. Usually branding, company info, etc, or possibly a bit of audio narration. As opposed to the “Intro” which is branding at the beginning of the video, which we hate as it’s bad for bounce rates. Almost no one sees an outro as they bounce when the main message ends, so don’t sweat it too much.

PAL; The European broadcast standard. It’s better than NTSC. Nowadays however largely irrelevant as we stream on digital platforms.

Premiere; The app from Adobe which we use for the main editing of a video. Listen for our positive engagement with it when we say things like…” ****** Premiere’s crashed again!!!” and “IT’S NOT LINKING!!” and “Why don’t they just make it work instead of adding a bunch of new crap!!???”

PTC; Piece to Camera. Narrator or interviewee or character talking into camera. Most of the time done not moving, but sometimes as a “PWS”.

PWS; Pointless Walking Shot. A narrator or presenter talking whilst walking towards the camera, for no apparent reason other than to add another shot to the mix. Avoid.

POV; Point of View. Shot from the viewer’s perspective, used to help immerse the viewer in the video, or convey the first person perspective. Popular in porn, and videos shot by sticking a GoPro on your head. (Which is a very bad idea btw, health and safety wise. Ask Michael Schumaker.)

Quote; The first thing a customer wants when he asks about a video, (As in, “How much for a 3 minute video?”) but the hardest thing for us to do at that point. Especially if we don’t have a script. Which is usually the case.

Quelle Suprise; Our reaction when a customer wants a full blown SS (Steven Spielberg) production, and then baulks at the price being more than it would cost if he “did it himself.”

Ramp; Or “Speed Ramp”, when we change the FPS playback rate of a shot during the shot, to compress or extend the length of the shot, or move in time in the narrative. So we may start at a normal playback rate, then either speed that up, or go slo-mo, during the shot. We sometimes do this as part of a transition between two shots.

Room Tone; Or Room Ambient. The ambient noise in a location, often contains HVAC or background noise. We record this separately to help us filter it out in post as part of the “Equalisation ” process.

Resolve; Another editing app, from a company called Blackmagic, especially good for colour grading. Works differently from Adobe, so moving projects back and forth between the two is a PITA. Can’t do some stuff that Adobe does, so you kinda need to have both. Normally used with expensive editing hardware to impress clients and provide visual VFM.

Revisions; Changes to the script. Which are fine when done in pre-production, but bad when done in post.

Rough Cut; A very early draft of a video sometimes produced for shot clearance or general feedback. We don’t like these as they interrupt an agile production process, can cause delay and add non-expert stakeholder input to the edit which introduces bad things and extra costs.

Script; The document which contains the full direction, including any narration, dialogue, and shot direction, presented in order of how it will appear in the video.

Slider; A device for moving a camera over a short distance sideways by sliding it on a rail of some sort. Can be done manually or using complex automation to allow for repeatable shots. In our case often combined with a gimbal for total motion control.

Scout; When we physically visit locations or potential locations in advance of a shoot for planning purposes. Very important btw especially if you want to fly a drone etc.

Stock; Pre made footage or audio produced for non-specific use which can then be inserted into any video. Usually now purchased from third parties for a fixed fee. Use of which can often lead to generic video which risks being cliched and boring. Smart businesses save the footage from their shoots and then use this as the basis for their own stock library for future use.

Shotgun Mic; A long tube like mic, usually expensive, often housed in a “Blimp” on the end of a “Boom”. Designed to pick up audio in a narrow pattern from the front which rejects noise from the side. We use these a lot. They’re our favourite.

Subtitles; Audio narration or character’s speech displayed word for word as text on screen. Almost mandatory now for social, but needs careful consideration to ensure that the video doesn’t just turn into reading, thus losing most of the actual messaging communicated visually. Also the source of most typos in a video.

Treatment; An overall, or scene by scene, description of a video which embraces wider themes around the base nature of the video which may include rough animation descriptions, or colour treatments, or pace, or direction. Generally does not include specific dialogue or shot direction or narration.

Transition; The effect used between shots to take a viewer from one to the next, can be crucial to the narrative, or style, and can be simple (A Straight Cut) or complex (Zoom Through), and may involve planning and shooting specifically on location to allow for. Often produced in AE as a separate step in the editing process.

Underscore; Or background music. The underlying music which sets mood and tone and is overlaid by foley noise and dialogue. Usually now purchased royalty free from stock. Easy to make boring, hard to make good.

VO; Voice over. Dialogue laid over B-roll. Can be done as a live A-roll shot or as a separate recording. VO artists can add real value to a production with nuanced deliveries and specific tones and accents, however good artists are often expensive on corporate productions, so need to be budgeted for.

Widescreen; A general term describing aspect ratios that generally exceed 16:9 now, but previously 4:3. Often we produce “Letterbox” style windscreen for inclusion in a website. Now popular to shoot “Anamorphically”, which is when you use a special lens to squeeze the image into the regular aspect ratio, then unsqueeze it in post and display it much wider.

Wrap; A popular food on set, easier to eat than a sandwich because it only needs one hand.

White Balance; Setting the correct colour temperature in a camera, usually done by pointing the lens at a white sheet of paper and pushing a button. Set to a K, or degree in kelvin if done manually.

Winging-it; What we do when nothing goes according to plan or script. Which is not unusual.

We can fix it in post; Bullshit to overcome a problem. Usually uttered by someone who wont actually have to fix it in post.

XLR; A type of mono audio connection, industry standard.

X-Rated; Very profitable videos we don’t produce.

YouTube; The place everyone puts their expensive videos so that folks can bounce easily to a cat video.

Zoom; A company which produces really good small audio recorders. “Zoom Recorder” is almost a generic term now, even though there are other good ones as well.

Zoom Lens; A lens with a variable focal length versus a fixed focal length. Expensive versions can change the focal length (Or “Zoom”) with a motor, and can thus produce smooth “Zoom Shots”; Which are to be avoided at all cost to avoid going back to the 80s in a very bad way.

Zoom Dolly Shot; A dolly shot combined with a zoom shot, to give the effect of reducing (or increasing) the depth of field of a shot but keeping the subject in the same position and size in the shot. Unlike a zoom shot with a fixed camera, this requires the DOP to also do a focus pull, (i.e. change the focus as the camera moves..) which makes it a lot more difficult to get right. Also unlike a fixed camera zoom shot, it’s cool.

And that’s it! For the time being…

If you have any terms you need explaining and want adding to the above, drop us a line!

If you’re thinking of producing a corporate or business video, and want to be bombarded with all of the above contact us!