Glossary of Video Terms


See iris.

artificial light

Man-made illumination (not limited to "indoor" variety). Sources: flourescent bulbs, quartz shop lamps, car headlights. [See natural light.]

audio dub

Result of recording audio over prerecorded videotape soundtrack, or a portion, without affecting prerecorded video images.

automatic exposure

Camcorder circuitry that monitors light levels and adjusts camcorder iris and/or shutter speed accordingly, compensating for changing light conditions.

automatic gain control (AGC)

Camcorder circuitry that monitors sound levels and adjusts audio recording levels accordingly, compensating for changing sound conditions.

back light

Illumination of the subject from behind. Used correctly, creates sense of depth by separating foreground subject from background area. Used incorrectly or accidentally, causes severe silhouetting.


Video image imperfection characterized by blurring of color borders; colors spill over defined boundaries, "run" into neighboring areas.

cable/community access

Channel(s) of a local cable television system dedicated to community-based programming. Access centers often provide free or low-cost training and use of video production equipment and facilities.


Portion of video signal that carries color information (hue and saturation, but not brightness); frequently abbreviated as "C." [See luminance.]


Tightly framed camera shot in which principal subject is viewed at close range, appearing relatively large and dominant on screen. Extent of view may be designated "medium closeup" or "extreme closeup."


Visual makeup of a video picture, including such variables as balance, framing, field of view, texture–all aesthetic considerations. Combined qualities form image that’s pleasing to view, and effectively communicates.


[1:visual] Logical succession of recorded or edited events, necessitating consistent placement of props, positioning of characters, and progression of time. [2:directional] Consistency in camera-subject relationships, to avoid confusing a viewer’s perspective.


Difference between a picture’s brightest and darkest areas. When high, image contains sharp blacks and whites; when low, image contains many variations in gray tones.


Text or graphics–usually special announcements–that move across screen horizontally, typically from bottom left to right. [See roll.]

cue [1] Signal to begin, end, or otherwise influence on-camera activity while recording. [2] Presetting specific starting points of audio or video material so it’s available for immediate and precise playback when required.


[1] Instantaneous change from one shot to another. [2] Director’s command to immediately terminate on-camera action and recording.


Shot of other than principal action (but peripherally related); frequently used as transitional footage or to avoid a jump cut.

cuts-only editing

Editing limited to immediate shifts from one scene to another, without smoother image transition capabilities such as dissolving or wiping. [See cut, edit.]

depth of field

Area in which all objects, located at different distances from the camera, appear in focus. Varies with subject-to-camera distance, focal length of camera lens, and camera’s aperture setting.

desktop video (DTV)

Fusion of personal computers and home video components for elaborate videomaking capabilities rivaling those of well-financed broadcast facilities.


Image transition effect of one picture gradually disappearing as another appears. Analogous to audio and lighting cross-fade. [See cross-fade.]


Camera support mounted on wheels enabling smooth movement in any direction.


Videotape signal voids, viewed as fleeting white specks or streaks. Usually result of minute "bare spots" on a tape’s magnetic particle coating, or tape debris covering particles and blocking signals.


[1] Process or result of duplicating a videotape in its entirety. [2] Editing technique whereby new audio or video replaces portion(s) of existing recording.


Digital videocassette. A consumer tape format that records signals digitally for increased resolution, better color reproduction and loss-free recording to another tape or onto a hard drive for nonlinear editing.


Process or result of selectively recording video and/or audio on finished videotape. Typically involves reviewing raw footage and transferring desired segments from original tape(s) onto new tape in a predetermined sequence. [See in-camera editing.]

edit controller

Electronic device used to control VCRs/camcorder functions to facilitate automated videotape editing with speed, precision, and convenience.

edit decision list (EDL)

Handwritten or electronic compilation of all post-production edits to be executed in a video production.

8mm Compact videocassette format, popularized by camcorders, employing 8-millimeter-wide videotape. [See Hi8.]

establishing shot

Opening picture of a program or scene. Usually a wide and/or distant perspective, orients viewer to overall setting and surroundings. [See long shot.]


Gradual diminishing or heightening of visual and/or audio intensity. "Fade out" or "fade to black," "fade in" or "up from black" are common terms.

field of view

Extent of a shot that’s visible through a particular lens; its vista.


Transparent material, typically glass, mounted at front of camcorder lens to regulate light passing through. Manipulates colors and image patterns, often for special-effect purposes.


Bright flashes and/or extreme contrast reduction evident in picture, caused by excessive light beaming into a camera’s lens and reflecting off its internal glass elements.

flying erase head

Accessory video head mounted on spinning drum, incorporated in all 8mm and Hi8 camcorders and VCRs and in newer VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS, and S-VHS-C camcorders and VCRs to eliminate glitches and rainbow noise between scenes recorded or edited. [See head.]

focal length

Inside a camera, the distance from the lens’s focal point (its optical center) to its focal plane (where the image falls on the CCD imaging chip) 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.


Videotape and video equipment design differences–physical and technical–dictating quality and compatibility. [See VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS, S-VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8, DV.]


Act of composing a shot in the camcorder’s viewfinder for desired content, angle, and field of view–overall composition.


Numbers corresponding to variable size of camera’s iris opening, and thus amount of light passing through lens. The higher the number, the less light enters. [See iris.]


Relationship between an original video recording and its duplications. Original footage from a camcorder or other video source is called first-generation video. A copy (all or part) of the original footage constitutes second-generation video. A copy of a copy is third-generation, and so on.

generation loss

Degradation in picture and sound quality resulting from duplication of original video footage. Each successive generation compounds generation loss.


Momentary picture disturbance.


[1] Small electromagnetic components within camcorders and VCRs that erase, record, and play video and audio signals on magnetic tape. [2] Tripod’s camera mount.


Space between the top of a subject’s head and a monitor’s upper screen edge. Always leave some headroom.

Hi8 (high-band 8mm)

Improved version of 8mm videotape format characterized by higher luminance resolution, yielding a sharper picture. Similar in performance to S-VHS. [See 8mm.]

horizontal resolution

The amount of discernable detail across a screen’s width. Measured in lines, with higher numbers corresponding to increased picture quality. [See resolution.]


editing Assembling finished program "on the fly" as you videotape, performed simply by activating and pausing camcorder’s record function. Reduces or eliminates post-production work, but allows less control over finished program and usually imposes quality concessions. [See edit.]

iris Diaphragm in camcorder’s lens that creates an opening or aperture, regulating amount of light entering camera. Size measured in f-stops. [See f-stop.]

jump cut

An instantaneous video transition between two scenes that have identical subjects in slightly different screen locations. Makes subject appear to jump within the screen. Remedied with cutaway.

leased access

Channel(s) of a local cable television system that must be set aside for lease by independent video programmers. Leased access is federally mandated and regulated by the FCC.

long shot

Camera view of a subject or scene, usually from a distance, showing a broad perspective. [See closeup, establishing shot, medium shot.]


Black-and-white portion of video signal. Carries brightness information representing a scene’s contrast and light and dark qualities. Represented by the symbol "Y." [See chrominance.]


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


An original, completed videotape used for making duplications.

medium shot

Defines any camera perspective between long shot and closeup, whereby subjects are viewed from medium distance. [See closeup, long shot.]

natural light

Illumination from sun, moon, or stars–be it indoors or out. Has higher color temperature than most artificial light, and thus a more bluish hue.

NiCad (nickel cadmium)

Abbreviation for a lightweight camcorder battery type that has a higher power-to-weight ratio than lead-acid batteries.


An undesirable electrical signal that degrades the desired video or audio signal. Noise is typically seen as snow, or heard as hiss.


Footage not included in final production.

pan A camera move that pivots the camera horizontally, right to left or left to right, from a stationary position. Follows a subject, redirects viewer’s attention from one subject to another, shows relationships between subjects, or scans subjects too large to fit into one shot.

phone plug

Sturdy male connector compatible with audio accessories, particularly for insertion of microphone and headphone cables. Not to be confused with phono plug.

phono plug

Also called "RCA" or "RCA phono," popular cable connector for home audio as well as video components. Standard connection for direct audio/video inputs/outputs. Not to be confused with phone plug.


The replaying of recorded images and sounds, usually on a camcorder or VCR.

point of view (POV)

Shot perspective in which the camera assumes the position of an actor, allowing viewers to see what the actor sees as if through his/her/its eyes.

post production (post)

Any video production activity performed after the acquisition is complete. Typically involves editing, addition of background music, narration, sound effects, titles, and/or various electronic visual effects.

RCA plug

See phono plug.

real-time counter

Tallying device that reads control track pulses and reports videotape playing/recording as a measure of hours, minutes and seconds.

reflected light

Light that bounces off a surface or subject before being seen or recorded.


Lighting accessory helpful for spreading light as well as filling in shadows. Often made of white poster board or foamcore, lightweight reflective metal, or poster board covered with metallic foil.


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.]


Text or graphics, usually credits, that move up or down the screen, typically from bottom to top. Produced with a titler. [See crawl.]

rule of thirds

Composition rule stating that a scene is most appealing to the eye if its primary elements appear at certain points on the screen. It divides the screen into thirds vertically and horizontally, like a tic-tac-toe game, and places important elements wherever the imaginary lines intersect.


[1] Everything visible in the camera’s viewfinder. [2] In the language of stage and screen, a sequence of related shots usually constituting action in one particular location. [See shot.]


Text specifying content of a production or performance, used as a guide. May include character and setting profiles, production directives (audio, lighting, scenery, camera moves), as well as dialogue to be recited by talent. [See storyboard.]

shot A single recorded segment of video, defined primarily by the record button on the camcorder. More strictly speaking, shots are intentional, isolated camera views that collectively comprise a scene. [See scene.]

Skylight (1A) or haze (UV) filter

A virtually clear glass filter that absorbs ultraviolet light and reduces haze. Also excellent as lens protector. [See filter.]

sound effects (SFX)

Contrived audio, usually prerecorded, incorporated with a video soundtrack to resemble the real thing.


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


Sound emanating from two isolated sources, intended to accommodate the spatial capability of human hearing.


Series of cartoon-like sketches illustrating key visual parts (shots, scenes) of planned production, accompanied by corresponding audio information. [See script.]

Super-VHS (S-VHS, S-VHS-C)

Improved version of VHS and VHS-C videotape formats, characterized by higher luminance
resolution, yielding a sharper picture. [See Hi8.]

S-video (Y/C)

A method of transmitting the chrominance and luminance portions of a video signal separately to keep quality high by avoiding modulating and demodulating the signal between various components in a system. Available on Hi8 and S-VHS machines.

tally light

Automatic indicator on camera front and within viewfinder that indicates recording in progress; seen by both camera subject(s) and operator.


Camera lens with long focal length and narrow field of view. Captures magnified, closeup images from considerable distance.


View from a single camera that includes three subjects. Generally applicable to interview situations.


A camera move that pivots the camera vertically, up or down, from a stationary position and height. Follows movement, contrasts differences in size between two subjects, or gives viewer point-of-view sense of a subject’s height.

time code

Data embedded in a video signal that assigns an identification number to each frame in a video, in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames. Expedites scene indexing and affords editing precision. Not to be confused with real-time counter.


Process or result of incorporating on-screen text to video; used for credits, captions, or any other alphanumeric communication to video viewers.


[1] Lateral camera movement aligned with moving subject; subject background appears to move. Camera should maintain regulated distance from subject. [2] Positioning of video and/or audio heads over a videotape’s recorded signals. [See head.]


Three-legged camera mount offering stability and camera placement/movement consistency. Most are lightweight, used for remote recording.


View from a single camera that includes two subjects. Generally applicable to interview situations.

VHS (Video Home System)

Predominant half-inch videotape format developed by Matsushita and licensed by JVC. [See Super-VHS.]

VHS-C (VHS compact)

Scaled-down version of VHS using shorter tape inside miniature cassettes; compatible with full-size VHS equipment through use of adapter. [See VHS.]


Narration accompanying picture, heard above background sound or music, without narrator seen on camera. Typically added during post-production.

white balance

Manual or automatic adjustment of camera’s circuitry in response to different light sources to retain truest colors on recorded image.


Camera lens with short focal length and broad field of view.


To change the focal length of a zoom lens, from wide-angle to telephoto, and vice versa. "Zoom in" means to increase the focal length toward the telephoto setting. "Zoom out" means to decrease the focal length toward the wide-angle setting.

zoom ratio

The difference in magnification between a zoom lens’s widest-angle setting to its extreme telephoto setting. For example, a 6:1 zoom ratio indicates that, at the telephoto setting, objects will appear six times closer than they appear when the lens is at the wide-angle setting.
[See focal length, zoom.]
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