Jargon: Camcorder Terms

AGC – (automatic gain control) A circuit on most camcorders that automatically adjusts a microphone’s gain (volume) to match environmental sound levels.

aperture/exposure – A setting that manipulates the amount of light falling onto the camera’s CCD(s). This control adjusts the size of the camcorder’s iris.

CCD – (charge coupled device) Light-sensitive integrated circuit in video cameras that converts images into electrical signals. Sometimes referred to as a "chip."

DV – (Digital Video) With a capital "D" and a capital "V," DV is a specific video format. It is both a tape format (like VHS or Hi8) and a data format specification.

EIS – (electronic image stabilization) – A process that limits shaky camera shots with digital processing found within a camcorder. [See OIS]

filter – Transparent or semi-transparent material, typically glass, mounted at the front of a camcorder’s lens to change light passing through. Manipulates colors and image patterns, often for special effect purposes.

FireWire – (IEEE 1394 or i.LINK) A high-speed bus that was developed by Apple Computer. It is used, among other things, to connect digital camcorders to computers.

focal length – Distance from a camcorder’s lens to a focused image with the lens focused on infinity. 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.

fps – (frames per second) Measures the rate or speed of video or film. Film is typically shot and played back at 24fps. NTSC video is recorded and played back at 30fps.

f-stop – Numbers corresponding to variable size of a camera’s iris opening and thus the amount of light passing through the lens. The higher the number, the smaller the iris diameter, which means less light enters the camcorder.

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

horizontal resolution – Specification denoting amount of discernable detail across a screen’s width. Measured in lines, the higher the number, the better the picture quality.

interlaced video – Process of scanning frames in two passes, each painting every other line on the screen, with scan lines alternately displayed in even and odd fields. NTSC video is interlaced; most computers produce a noninterlaced video signal. [See noninterlaced video]

iris – Camcorder’s lens opening or aperture, regulates amount of light entering camera. Diameter is measured in f-stops. [See f-stop]

jack – Any female socket or receptacle, usually on the backside of video and audio equipment; accepts plug for circuit connection.

LCD – (Liquid Crystal Display) Commonly used in digital watches, camcorder viewscreens and laptop computer screens, LCD panels are light-weight and low-power display devices.

lux – A metric unit of illumination equal to the light of a candle falling on a surface of one square meter. One lux equals 0.0929 foot-candles.

macro – Lens capable of extreme closeup focusing, useful for intimate views of very small subjects.

noninterlaced video – Process of scanning complete frames in one pass, painting every line on the screen, yielding higher picture quality than that of interlaced video. Most computers produce a noninterlaced video signal; NTSC is interlaced. AKA progressive scan.

OIS – (optical image stabilization) A process of limiting shaky camera shots with mechanical movement of the optical system within a camcorder. [See EIS]

progressive scan – A method of displaying the horizontal video lines in computer displays and digital TV broadcasts. Each horizontal line is displayed in sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.), until the screen is filled; as opposed to interlaced (e.g. first fields of odd-numbered lines, then fields of even-numbered lines).

tally light – Illuminated indicator (usually red) on a camera’s front and within its viewfinder that signals recording in progress – seen by both camera subject(s) and operator.

time code – Synchronization system, like a clock recorded on your videotape, assigning a corresponding hours, minutes, seconds and frame-number designation to each frame. The presence of time code both expedites indexing convenience and greatly improves editing precision.

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