Video Terms: Camcorder Glossary

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."

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

composite video Single video signal combining luminance and chrominance signals through an encoding process, including RGB (red, green, blue) elements as well as sync information.

edit control protocols Types of signals designed to communicate between editing components, including computers, tape decks and camcorders. Allows components to transmit instructions for various operations such as play, stop, fast forward, rewind, record, pause, etc.

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 is able to enter the camcorder.

flying erase head Accessory video head mounted on spinning head drum, incorporated in many camcorders and VCRs to eliminate glitches and rainbow noise between scenes recorded or edited. By design, all 8mm-family and DV-family equipment has flying erase heads.

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 lens); long focal lengths offer a narrow field of view (telephoto lens). Zoom lenses have a variable range of focal lengths.

head Electromagnetic component within camcorders and VCRs that records, receives and erases video and audio signals on magnetic tape.

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

IEEE 1394 (FireWire, i.LINK) A high-speed serial interface developed by Apple and later adopted as a standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Notable for its ability to transfer data as quickly as 400 Mbps, giving it the ability to handle the large amounts of data required for digitized video.

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

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

phone plug Sturdy male connector compatible with audio accessories, particularly for insertion of microphone and headphone cables. Frequently referred to by their sizes, usually 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch. Not to be confused with phono plug.

phono plug (RCA) Shrouded male connector used for audio and video connections. Frequently referred to as RCA plugs, they only come in one size. Not to be confused with phone plugs.

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).

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. [See horizontal resolution]

S-video Also known as Y/C video, signal type employed with Hi8 and S-VHS video formats. Transmits luminance (Y) and chrominance (C) portions separately via multiple wires (pins), thereby avoiding the NTSC encoding process and its inevitable picture-quality degradation.

signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) Relationship between signal strength and a medium’s inherent noise. Video S/N indicates how grainy or snowy a picture will be, plus its color accuracy; audio S/N specifies amount of background tape hiss present with low- or no-volume recordings. Higher figures represent a cleaner signal. Usually cited in decibels (dB).

tally light Automatic indicators (usually red) on a camera’s front and within its viewfinder that signal recording in progress seen by both camera subject(s) and operator.

zoom Variance of focal length, bringing subject into and out of closeup range. Lens capability permits change between wide-angle and telephoto in one continuous move. "Zoom in" and "zoom out" are common terms.

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