Jargon: Glossary of Audio Terms

ambient sound (ambience)

Natural background audio representative of a given recording environment. On-camera dialog might be primary sound; traffic noise and refrigerator hum would be ambient.



boom

Extension arm used to suspend a microphone or camera over sound or subject(s) being recorded. Objective is to keep production gear out of camera’s view or to provide a unique angle from which to shoot video.



cardioid

The most common type of unidirectional microphone. The pickup pattern resembles a three dimensional heart-shaped figure.



condenser

Microphone type, also called capacitor or electret condenser. Requires battery or external power source known as phantom power (+48v DC). Uses change in capacitance created by sound pressure on diaphragm to convert sound into electrical signal and are much more sensitive than dynamic microphones.



cordless (also wireless)

Transmitting a signal without wires, as in cordless mike, cordless mouse or wireless keyboard.



decibel (dB)

Measure of audio signal strength based on a logarithmic scale measured in volts. Also the unit of measure used for sound pressure level (loudness).



dynamic
Microphone type, also called "moving coil." Works much like a loudspeaker in reverse, employing a simple diaphragm, magnet and wire coil to convert sound waves into an electrical signal.



frequency

Number of vibrations produced by a signal or sound, expressed as cycles per second, or hertz (Hz).



lavaliere

Small, easily concealed, unobtrusive and aesthetically pleasing microphone, typically attached to clothing for interview settings.



MIDI (musical instrument digital interface)

System of communication between digital electronic instruments allowing synchronization and distribution of musical information.



mix

Combining sound sources to achieve a desired program balance. Finished output may be mono, stereo or surround.



modulation

Changing the characteristics of a sound wave. In audio frequency, modulation is known as phasing or flanging, amplitude modulation is referred to a tremolo.



noise

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



phone plug

Sturdy 1/4-inch male connector compatible with audio accessories, particularly for insertion of microphone and headphone cables.



pickup pattern

Defines a microphone’s response to sounds arriving from various directions or angles. The cardioid mike, for example, has a heart-shaped pickup pattern.



PZM (pressure zone microphone)

Small, sensitive condenser mike attached to a plate. Senses air pressure changes in tiny gap between mike element and plate. Guards against comb filter problems created by surfaces like tables or podiums.



RCA

plug (phono plug) A popular cable connector for home audio as well as video components. Standard connection for consumer electronics audio/video inputs/outputs.



shotgun

Highly directional microphone with long "barrel" designed to pick up a narrow field of sound rejecting off-axis sounds.



soundtrack

The audio portion of a video recording, often multifaceted with voiceover, background music, sound effects, etc.



sweetening

Post-production process of adding music and sound effects or otherwise enhancing a final audio track.



synchronous sound

Audio recorded with images. When the mouth moves, the words come out.



unidirectional

Highly selective microphone pickup pattern, rejects sound coming from behind while absorbing that from in front.



voiceover (VO)

Narration accompanying the picture usually heard above background sound or music. Talking is typically applied to an edited visual during post-production.



windscreen

Sponge-like microphone shield, thwarts undesirable noise caused by wind and rapid mike movement.



wireless microphone

Consisting of radio transmitter and receiver; it utilizes a low-power radio signal for cable-free operation.



XLR (Ground-Left-Right)

Three-pin plug for three-conductor balanced audio cable, employed with microphones, mixers and most professional audio equipment.

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