No one wants to sound stupid. And with me around, there’s no need for it.

This month’s Edit Points will dazzle you with terms guaranteed to transform you from a groveling neanderthal to a serene and confident techno-master. With this jargon in your mouth, you need never sound ignorant again.


Let’s go:


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A-B Roll

When dissolving or effecting from one moving picture to another, the images must come from different sources-live cameras, computers, character generators, or VCRs. The two tapes are called the A-Roll and the B-Roll. They’re edited with the same audio, but when there’s a picture on the A-Roll, the B-Roll’s in black, and when there’s a picture on the B-Roll, the A-Roll’s in black. The tapes are rolled simultaneously; the dissolve or effect kicks in where they overlap.

Ambient Sound

The audio you pick up in the field. On-camera dialogue would be primary sound; traffic noise, surf, falling rain, and the like would be ambient. Picking up ambient sound can be good or bad, depending on whether it strengthens or distracts from your images.

Assemble Edit

A handy edit for those in a hurry, but potentially dangerous. The assemble edit erases everything on the tape while putting down new control track. When an assemble edit is completed, the playback head needs several seconds to find more information. The result is garbage video following the edit. Use an insert edit instead.


The sound on the tape. There are usually two channels-1 and 2. Use one channel for announcers or actors and the other for music or sound effects.


Recording “black” onto a tape with a signal generator or switcher. This insures continuous control track throughout the tape and allows the editor to use insert edits.


Drink consumed by editors during all-night workathons.

Control Track

The lower portion of a videotape where sync control information is placed. Machines use this information to control the tape. When you black a tape or assemble edit you’re laying down new control track. When you insert edit you’re putting video down over existing control track.

Crash Edit

Scenario one: You’re the editor in a TV newsroom. A reporter rushes in the door, throws a tape your way, and says, “Crash something together for the six o’clock.” You look at your watch. It’s 5:45.

You crash through the door to the edit bay, crash some video together, crash on a voiceover, crash into the producer, and crash into edit control just in time to hit the air.

These kinds of edits are seldom previewed and you run the risk of erasing video you wanted to save.

Scenario two: You’re running tape in a live remote truck. You’ve put together a presentation that lacks just one shot and you have to put that shot in live. If you miss it you crash and burn. If you get it you’re a hero.


Another word for edit. In olden times film editors actually cut and spliced film with glorified razor blades. Video editing is electronic and one need never touch the tape at all. As a matter of fact, keep your hands off it. The oil and dirt from your fingers can damage the heads.


Transition effect of one picture slowly disappearing as another appears, executed with a switcher.


Pastry consumed with coffee. Also, a master tape with the same beginning and end that has a “hole” in the middle where different pieces of information can be dropped in. (Like a national commercial for an automobile manufacturer with inserts featuring local dealer prices.)


Digital Video Effect, and the machine that produces DVEs. When the picture squeezes into infinity or flies around the screen it’s being manipulated by a DVE.


On a switcher, the effect of dissolving to black. “Fade to black” and “up from black” are the common terms. “Crash to black” is a very fast fade. usually featured at the beginning and end of programs.


The smallest increment of time in video editing. A frame equals one-thirtieth of a second.


The status of a videotape copy relative to the original footage. For example, raw tape shot in the field is first generation. A copy of that tape would be second generation: a copy of the copy, third generation. As you go another generation you lose picture quality- called generational loss.


The part of the videocassette recorder that touches the tape. Playback heads read information; record heads place information. Particles can detach from the tape and gum up the heads, distorting the image. When this happens, clean ’em. The heads I mean.

Insert Edit

A method to replace video, channel 1 audio, and channel 2 audio independently of one another. You must first black the tape, since the insert edit uses existing control track. Insert edits end cleanly, making it possible to add a shot without losing information.


Some newer edit decks feature a round rubber knob called a jog shuttle. In jog mode, the knob can be turned all the way around, moving the tape across the heads slowly enough to show a frame at a time. In shuttle, the tape moves rapidly over the heads for fast-motion view and search. Also, a golf cart-like device used to transport exhausted runners.

Jump Cut

When you edit from one shot to a similar shot the picture “jumps.” If you have a head shot of Grumpy the Clown looking down, and then edit to a shot looking up, his bulbous red nose will seem to jump from the bottom of the picture to the top. This technique is often used in television commercials to make an interview seem “real.”


Replacing dialogue recorded in the field with dialogue recorded in the studio. An actor will usually watch the scene and attempt to lip-sync words to the video. Many films are recorded this way to maintain consistent audio quality.


No audio. Here’s the explanation I’ve heard. I hope it’s true, because it’s a fun story. In the early days of the talkies, many directors were German. On a scene where audio was unnecessary, the director, in his thick German accent, would shout “mitout sound.” Hence, MOS-Mit Out Sound.

Nat Sound

Not a buzzing bug, short for “natural sound”-whatever audio was on the tape when it was recorded.


The editing process. When something goes wrong in the field you sometimes hear the producer say, “That’s alright, we’ll fix it in post.” This is where the fancy flying pictures, computer graphics, and all other pieces come together. A powerful process, but remember: It’s really not that easy to “fix it in post.” It’s always better to do it right out in the field.


Stock Unedited tape. Shorn livestock.

Say a Cat-Show a Cat

If someone in your video mentions a cat, cut away to a shot of a cat. Don’t feel limited by this. If someone mentions a dog, for instance, don’t show a cat. Show a dog.


Sound On Tape. Initials often used in live-style shows such as newscasts. In the script, next to a tape roll-in, it might say “S.O.T.” The audio operator then knows to open the pot for that machine when the tape rolls.

Sound Sweetening

Adding music and sound effects to the final audio track. Running audio through a mixer can clean it up by rolling out highs (hiss) and lows (rumble). The more sophisticated the board, the more you can do. With some echo on your audio people will sound like they’re gathered at the bottom of a well.

Split Edit

Starting the audio first with video to follow, or vice versa.


A device that permits switching between video signals from different sources-cameras, time base correctors, character generators, and so on-for dissolves, wipes, and the like.

Time Base Corrector

If you want to use two or more VCRs for playback and dissolve between them they must be “timed” to the system. That’s what TBCs do. If your signals aren’t timed to one another your picture will roll and lose correct color at the point of transition.

Time Code

Synchronization system, like a clock recorded on your videotape. Each frame has a corresponding time code number reading hours, minutes, seconds, and frames:



AA=hours; BB =minutes;

CC=seconds; DD=frames

On a computer-controlled editor, time code is displayed onscreen at all times. When the time code number for a particular scene is entered, the machine automatically takes the tape to that frame.


A transition from one picture to another. There’s an astonishing variety of wipes, from a straight line that sweeps out one picture in favor of another, to wipes with borders, colorized wipes, quivering wipes, little box wipes, triangle wipes, and venetian blind wipes.

Okay, that’s enough; my brain hurts. There will be a pop quiz on Friday, and anyone not receiving a passing grade will be flogged mercilessly.

Any questions? Most of these concepts and phrases will be covered in depth in future Edit Points. In the meantime, if you pepper your conversation with these bits and bytes, you’ll sound like a real editing whiz. No one will talk to you for long, but while they do they’ll be mightily impressed.

Crash to black.

Bill Ronat’s directorial experience has taken him from shots of F-14 launches off aircraft carriers on the high seas to the pilot of a network television soap opera, Gold Coast.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.