Videomaker Glossary of Terms

This handy glossary of video-related terms is guaranteed to help the video hobbyist understand the lingo tossed about by fellow shooters. You may even choose to cut it out, staple it together and keep it in your camcorder bag for ready-reference.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z


A-B roll

Two video sources played simultaneously, and mixed together.

action axis

Imaginary line drawn between two subjects or along a line of motion as an aid in maintaining continuity of screen direction. Sometimes referred to as the "180-degree rule."


From the Latin, ad libitium meaning unrehearsed, spontaneous act of speaking, performing, or otherwise improvising on-camera activity without preparation.


See audio frequency modulation.


See automatic gain control.

ambient sound

(ambience) Natural background sounds, representative of a given recording environment. If an
on-camera dialog is considered primary sound; traffic noise or a refrigerator hum would be ambient sound.


Visual special effect whereby still progressive images displayed in rapid succession create the illusion of movement.


The opening in a lens that allows light to enter. Usually an iris, but could also be a fixed size opening (as in a pin hole camera). Also see iris.

artificial light

Man-made illumination not limited to "indoor" variety: fluorescent bulbs, jack-o’-lanterns, or a car’s headlights. Usually has lower color temperature than natural light, and thus more reddish qualities. [See color temperature, natural light.]

aspect ratio

Proportional height and width of a picture on screen. Current standard for conventional receiver or monitor is three by four (3:4); 3:5 or 16:9 for HDTV.

assemble edit

Recording video/audio in sequence immediately following previous material. Consecutive edits form complete program. [See edit, insert edit.]


(amateur television) Specialized domain of ham radio, transmits standard TV signals on UHF radio bands. Also stands for Advanced Television, the standard for American digital broadcasting.

audio dub

Result of recording over a prerecorded videotape soundtrack (all or a portion) without affecting prerecorded images.

audio/video dub

Insert editing capability.

audio frequency modulation

(AFM) Method of recording hi-fi audio on videotape along with video signals.

audio mixer

Device with user-adjustable controls to blend multiple sound inputs into desired composite output. [See mix.]

automatic exposure

Circuitry that monitors light levels and adjusts a camcorder’s aperture and shutter accordingly, compensating for changing light conditions.

automatic fade

The ability to fade to black and/or white.

automatic gain control

(AGC) Camcorder circuitry that adjusts incoming audio levels automatically, alleviating excessive image brightness and distortion of loud sound.

available light

Amount of illumination normally present in a particular environment: natural light, artificial light or a combination of both.


back light

Illumination from behind, above and usually to one side of the subject. Creates a sense of depth by lighting the hair and shoulders, separating the subject from the background area. Applied erroneously (such as directly behind the subject), causes severe silhouetting. [See fill light, key light, three-point lighting.]

barn doors

Accessory for video lights, two or four-leaf folding flaps that control light distribution.


More commonly known as "Beta," half-inch videotape format developed by Sony, eclipsed by VHS in home video market popularity. [See ED Beta.]


Microphone pickup pattern whereby sound is absorbed equally from two sides only. [See omnidirectional, unidirectional.]

black box

Generic term for variety of video image manipulation devices with perceived mysterious or "magical" capabilities, including proc amps, enhancers, SEGs, and TBCs.


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


(British Naval Connector) Durable "professional" cable connector that attaches to VCRs for transfer of high-frequency composite video in/out signals. Connects with a push and a twist.


Extension arm used to suspend a microphone or camera over subject(s) being recorded. Objective is to keep production gear out of a camera’s view.


Camera move above or below subject with the aid of a balanced "boom arm," creating sense of floating into or out of a scene. Can combine the effects of a pan, tilt, and pedestal camera move in one fluid movement.


community access

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


lighting foreground subjects illuminated by highly directional light, appearing before a completely black background.


See XLR.


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


(Charge Coupled Device) Light-sensitive computer chip in video cameras that converts images into electrical flows. Less prone to image irregularities such as burn-in, lag and streaking when compared with older image sensors. [See pickup.]

character generator

Device which electronically produces letters, numbers, symbols, and other graphic displays for on-screen video titling.


Characteristics of color saturation in the video signal

chroma key

Method of electronically replacing a specific color (usually blue or green) within a video image with the image from a different video source. Frequently used on news programs to display graphics behind talent.


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

clap board

(also called clap stick) Identification slate with hinged, striped top that smacks together for on-camera scene initiation. Originally used to synchronize movie sound with picture. [See lip-sync.]


Tightly framed camera shot in which the principal subject is viewed at close range, appearing relatively large and dominant on screen. Variations of the closeup may be designated as "medium closeup" or "extreme closeup." [See long shot, medium shot.]

color bars

Standard test signal containing samples of primary and secondary colors, used as a reference in aligning color video equipment. Generated electronically by a "color bar generator," color bars are often viewed on broadcast television in off-air hours. [See test pattern.]

color corrector

Electronic device that dissects the colors of a video signal, allowing them to be adjusted individually.

color temperature

Relative amount of "white" light’s reddish or bluish qualities, measured in "degrees Kelvin." Desirable readings for quality videomaking are 3400K indoors, 5600K outdoors. [See artificial, natural light.]

comet tailing

Smear of light resulting from inability of a camera’s pickup device to process bright objects — especially in darker settings. Object or camera in motion creates appearance of a flying fireball. [See lag.]

component video

A video signal in which the luminance (brightness) and chrominance (color) components are kept as separate signals to improve image quality.

composite video

A video signal that combines the luminance and chrominance into one signal.


Superimposing multiple layers of video. Each layer may move independently.


Reducing the digital data in a video frame, typically from nearly one megabyte to 50 kilobytes or less, by throwing away information the eye can’t see. Compression makes it possible to store reasonably large amounts of video on a hard disk. JPEG, Motion-JPEG, MPEG, DVI, Indeo, Fractals and Wavelets are all compression schemes.


Visual makeup of a video picture, including such variables as balance, framing, field of view and texture. These combined qualities form an image that’s pleasing to view, and effectively communicates.


A microphone that uses a metal diaphragm and a metal backplate with DC voltage applied between them through a load resistor. The type usually installed on camcorders. Also called capacitor or electret condenser, requires a battery or external power source. [See electret condenser.]


[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. With high constast, the image contains sharp blacks and whites; with low contrast, the image is limited to variations in gray tones.


A two-way communication system used to coordinate tape transport commands for automated editing. Primarily found in 8mm camcorders and VCRs. (See Control-S, RC, synchro edit).


A one-way communication system that treats a VCR or camcorder as a slave unit, with edit commands emanating from an external edit controller or compatible deck. Primarily found on 8mm VCRs and camcorders. (See Control-L, synchro edit).

control track

An area on a videotape containing information to synchronize playback and videotape editing operations.


See cucalorus.


Text or graphics that move across screen horizontally, typically from bottom right to left. Produced with character generator. [See roll.]


Simultaneous fade-in of one audio source or lighting effect as another fades out; may overlap temporarily. Transition similar to a video dissolve. [See dissolve, fade.]

cucalorus (cookie)

Lighting accessory consisting of random pattern of cutouts that forms shadows when light passes through it. Used to imitate shadows of natural lighting.


[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 other than the principal action (but peripherally related), frequently used as transitional footage or to avoid a jump cut.

cuts-only editing

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


D1, D2

Entirely digital "professional" videotape recording formats (component and composite, respectively) capable of multigeneration duplication without picture degradation.


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

depth of field

Area in which all objects, located at different distances from the camera, appear in focus. The area between the nearest object in focus and the furthest object in focus when viewed through a lens. 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.

diffused light

Illuminates relatively large area indistinctly, which produces soft shadows. Often created with floodlights. [See directional light.]


Gauzy or translucent material that alters the quality of light passing through it to produce less intense, flatter lighting with weaker, less noticeable shadows.

diffusion filter

Mounted at front of camcorder lens, gives videotaped images a foggy, fuzzy, dreamy look. [See filter.]

digital audio

Sounds that have been converted to digital information.

digital effects

Special visual effects, such as mirror, strobe, freeze frame, mosaic, etc.

digital video (DV or Mini DV)

Compact videocassette format that stores numbers on tape instead of an analog representation of the image, providing the highest resolution and color richness of any consumer format. DV tapes can be copied from one unit to another through a special connector with no generation loss.

digital video effects (DVE)

Electronic digital picture modification yielding specialty image patterns and maneuvers: tumble, strobe, page turn, mosaic, posterization, solarization, etc.


The process of converting a continuous analog video or audio signal to digital data (ones and zeros) for computer storage.


Device that captures and imports video scenes into a computer by converting it into digital information. for capturing moving video.

directional light

Illuminates relatively small area with distinct light beam; usually created with spotlight, yields harsh, defined shadows. [See diffused light.]


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

distribution amp

Divides single video or audio signals, while boosting their strength, for delivery to multiple audio/video acceptors. Allows simultaneous recording from same source, especially useful for tape duplication.


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


Camera movement toward or away from a subject. Effect may appear same as zooming, which reduces and magnifies the image, but dollying in or out maintains perspective while changing picture size.


Videotape signal voids, viewed as fleeting white specks or streaks. Usually result of tiny "bare spots" on a tape’s magnetic particle coating caused by dirt or tape debris blocking video information signals.


See desktop video.


[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.


See digital video effects.


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



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

edit controller

Electronic control device used in conjunction with VCRs/camcorders to facilitate automated videotape editing with speed, precision, and convenience.

edit control protocols

Types of signals designed to communicate between computers and tape decks–record, pause, rewind and so on. L=Control-L or LANC, S=Control-S, pause or Synchro Edit, M=Control-M.

edit decision list (EDL)

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

edited master

See master.


See edit decision list.

EFP (electronic field production)

Film-style production approach using a single camera to record on location. Typically shot for post-production application, non-live feed.


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

electret condenser

Microphone type incorporating a precharged element, eliminating the need for bulky power sources. [See condenser.]


device that combines or translates a video signal into a different format , RGB to composite. Horizontal and vertical sync information joins individual red/green/blue components.

ENG (electronic news gathering)

Use of portable video cameras, lighting and sound equipment to record news events in the field quickly, conveniently, and efficiently.


See image enhancer.

EP (extended play)

Slowest tape speed of most VHS VCR, accommodating six-hour recordings. [See LP, SP.]


Emphasizing specific audio or video frequencies and eliminating others as signal control measure, usually to produce particular sonic qualities. Achieved with an equalizer.

essential area

Boundaries within which contents of a television picture are sure to be seen, regardless of size differences in receiver displays. Also called "critical area" and "safe title area," encompasses 80 percent of total screen.

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.]


Accessory talent not essential to a production, assuming some peripheral on-camera role, usually has no lines or dialog.



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.


Act or result of transmitting a video and/or audio signal from one point to another.


[1:video] Infinite loop of visual patterns from signal output being fed back as input; achieved by aiming live camera at receiving monitor. [2:audio] Echo effect at low levels, howl or piercing squeal at extremes, from audio signal being fed back to itself; achieved by aiming a live microphone at the speaker the mikes signal is going to.


Half a scanning cycle. Two fields comprise a complete video frame.

field of view

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

fill light

Supplementary illumination, usually from a floodlight positioned midway between camera and subject, which lightens or eliminates shadows created by key light. [See back light, key light, three-point lighting.]


Out-of-sequence shooting approach, to be edited in appropriate order during the post-production stage. Advantageous for concentrating on and completing recording at one location at a time, continuity and convenience assured.


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


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.

flat lighting

Illumination characterized by even, diffused light without shadows, highlights or contrast. May impede viewer’s sense of depth, dimension and drama.


Radiates a diffused, scattered blanket of light with soft, indistinct shadows. Best used to spread illumination on broad areas, whereas spotlights focus on individual subjects.

fluid head

Tripod mount type containing viscous fluid which lubricates moving parts, dampens friction. Design facilitates smooth camera moves, alleviates jerkiness. [See friction head.]

flying erase head

Accessory video head mounted on spinning head drum, incorporated in newer camcorders and VCRs to eliminate glitches and rainbow noise between scenes recorded or edited. [See head.]

focal length

Distance from a camera’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.

follow focus

Controlling lens focus so that an image maintains sharpness and clarity despite camera and/or subject movement.


Videotape and video equipment design differences — physical and technical — dictating compatibility and quality. In most basic sense, refers to standardized tape widths, videocassette sizes. [See Betamax, D1/D2, 8mm, three-quarter-inch, VHS.]


The smallest increment of a complete television picture, equal to one- thirtieth of a second.


Digitizer capable of capturing video images one frame at a time. Used for capturing still frames. [See digitizer]


Act of composing a shot in the camcorder’s viewfinder for desired visual content.

freeze frame

Single frame paused and displayed for an extended period during video playback; suspended motion perceived as still snapshot.


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

frequency response

Measure of the range of frequencies a medium can respond to and reproduce. Good video response maintains picture detail; good audio response accommodates the broadest range of most exacting sound.

friction head

Tripod mount type with strong spring that counterbalances camera weight, relying on friction to hold its position. More appropriate for still photography than movement-oriented videomaking. [See fluid head.]


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

full-motion video

A standard for video playback on a computer; refers to smooth-flowing, full-color video, similar to a VCR or television. Also known as full-screen, full or true-color video or full-motion video.


See special effects.



Production crew technician responsible for placement and rigging of all lighting instruments.


Video or audio amplification, signal strength. "Riding gain" means varying controls to achieve desired video or audio levels.


Colored material placed in front of a light source to alter its hue. Useful for correcting mismatches in lighting, as in scenes lit by both daylight and artificial light.


Relationship between the quality of the information on a master video recording and a given copy of that master. A copy of a copy of the original master constitutes a second- generation duplication.

generation loss

Degradation in picture and sound quality resulting from duplication of the original master video recording. Copying a copy and all successive duplication compounds generational loss.


(generator locking device) Synchronizes two video sources, allowing part or all of their signals to be displayed together. Necessary for overlaying computer graphics with video.


Undesirable faint double screen image caused by signal reflection or improperly balanced video circuitry.


Momentary picture disturbance.


Blanketed signal noise viewed as fuzziness, poor quality images, attributable to luminance inadequacies.


Production crew stagehand responsible for handling equipment, props, and scenery before, during, and after production.


hard disks

Common digital storage component in a computer.


(high-definition television) Television system standard, currently in development, affording greater resolution for sharper pictures and wide-screen viewing via specially-designed TV equipment.


[1] Electromagnetic component within camcorders and VCRs that records, plays back and erases video and audio signals on magnetic tape. [2] Tripod’s camera mount. [See fluid head, friction head.]


Space remaining between the top of a subject’s head and a monitor’s upper screen edge. Composition consideration.

Hi8 (high-band 8mm)

Improved version of 8mm videotape format characterized by higher luminance resolution for a sharper picture. Compact "conceptual equivalent" of Super-VHS. [See 8mm.]

hi-fi (high fidelity)

Generalized term defining audio quality approaching the limits of human hearing, pertinent to high-quality sound reproduction systems.


Primary background signal interference in audio recording, result of circuit noise from a playback recorder’s amplifiers or from a tape’s residual magnetism.

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. [See resolution.]


image enhancer

Video signal processor that compensates for picture detail losses and distortion occurring in recording and playback. Exaggerates transitions between light and dark areas by enhancing high the frequency region of video spectrum.

image sensor

See pickup.

image stabilization

Electronic or optical stabilization of video image to cure minor camera shaking.

in-camera editing

Assembling finished program "on the fly" as you videotape. Achieved 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.]

incident light

That which emanates directly from a light source, measured from the object it strikes to the source. [See reflected light.]


Ability of some VCRs to electronically mark specific points on videotape for future access, either during the recording process (VISS: VHS index search system) or as scenes are played back (VASS: VHS address search system).

insert edit

Recording video and/or audio segment(s) within/between existing footage without disturbing what precedes and follows. Must replace recording of same length. [See edit, assemble edit.]

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 is interlaced; most computers produce a noninterlaced video signal. [See noninterlaced.]


The mechanism for an adjustable lens opening. It operates similar to and is named after the iris of the human eye. Size measured in f-stops. [See f-stop.]



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


Video image aberration seen as slight, fast vertical or horizontal shifting of a picture or portion of a picture.


Manual control on sophisticated VCRs, facilitates viewing and editing precision and convenience. Jog ring moves tape short distances to show a frame at a time; shuttle dial transports tape forward or reverse more rapidly for faster scanning.

jump cut

Unnatural, abrupt switch from and to shots identical in subject but slightly different in screen location. Awkward progression makes subject appear to jump from one screen location to another. Remedied with cutaway.



Temperature scale used to define the color of a light source; abbreviated as "K." [See color temperature.]

key light

Principal illumination source on a subject or scene, normally positioned slightly off center and angled to provide shadow detail. [See back light, fill light, three-point lighting.]


Perspective distortion from a flat object being shot by a camera at other than a perpendicular angle.



Camera pickup’s retention of an image after the camera has been moved, most common under low light levels.

lavalier (also lavaliere)

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

linear editing

Analog, tape-based editing. Called linear because once the program is edited scene lengths can not be changed without re-editing all scenes which follow it. Compare with nonlinear editing.

lip sync

Proper synchronization of video with audio — lip movement with audible speech. Better known as the technique widely practiced with music video recordings, whereby "vocalists" mime to playback of prerecorded music. [See synchronous sound.]

long shot

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

LP (long play)

Middle tape speed of most VHS VCR, accommodating four-hour recordings. [See EP, SP.]

LTC (longitudinal time code)

Frame identification numbers encoded as an audio signal and recorded lengthwise on the edge of a tape. (See time code, VITC).


Black-and-white portion of video signal, carries brightness information representing picture contrast, light and dark qualities; frequently abbreviated as "Y." [See chrominance.]


Amount of lumens in a square meter. Means of measuring a camcorder’s low-light sensitivity — minimum amount of illumination required to record an "acceptable" image. The lower the lux reading the greater the sensitivity.



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


Original recorded videotape footage; "edited master" implies original copy of tape in its edited form. Duplications constitute generational differences.

medium shot

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

memory effect

Power-loss phenomenon in nickel-cadmium (NiCd) camcorder batteries, mistakenly attributed to precisely repetitive partial discharge followed by complete recharge. It is actually the result of long-term overcharge. Considered misnomer for "voltage depression" and "cell imbalance."

mike or mic

short for "microphone."

MIDI (musical instrument digital interface)

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


[1:audio] Combining two or more sound sources, with various channels controlled to achieve desired balance of single audio signal output. Executed with audio mixer. [2:video] Combining video signals from two or more sources.

model release

Agreement to be signed by anyone appearing in a video work, protecting videomaker from right of privacy lawsuit. Specifies event, date, compensation provisions, and rights being waived.


[1:video] Television set without receiving circuitry, connected electronically to camcorder or VCR for display of live or recorded video signals. Most standard TVs have a dual function capability as monitor and receiver. [See receiver.] [2:audio] Professional high-quality studio speaker with a flat frequency response.


One-legged camera support. [See tripod.]


Rapid sequence of video shots assembled to communicate a particular image or mood. Juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated material can conjure new idea or message.


Electronic special effect whereby individual pixels comprising an image are blown up into larger blocks — a kind of checkerboard effect. [See DVE.]


natural light

Planetary illumination — from sun, moon, stars — be it indoors or out. Generally has higher color temperature than artificial light, and thus more bluish qualities. [See artificial light, color temperature.]

neutral-density filter

(ND) Mounted at the front of camcorder lens. Reduces the light intensity without affecting its color qualities. [See filter.]


(nickel cadmium) Abbreviation for lightweight camcorder battery type, designed to maintain power longer than traditional lead-acid batteries.


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

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. [See interlaced.]

nonlinear editing

Digital "cut and paste" editing that uses computer hard drives instead of tape to store images. Random access allows easy arrangement of scenes in any order. Also eliminates the need for rewinding and allows for multiple dubs without generational loss.

nonsynchronous sound

Audio without precisely-matched visuals. Usually recorded separately, includes wild sound, sound effects, or music incorporated in post-production. [See synchronous sound.]


(National Television Standards Committee) Group formed by Federal Communications Commission to regulate U.S. television broadcasting specifications. NTSC refers to all video systems conforming to this 525-line 30-frame-per-second signal standard. [See PAL, SECAM.]



Microphone pickup pattern whereby sound is absorbed equally from all directions. [See bidirectional, unidirectional.]


Footage not to be included in a final production.

over-the-shoulder shot

View of primary camera’s subject framed by another subject’s shoulder and back of head in foreground. Common in interview situations.



(Phase Alternate Line) 625-line 25-frame-per-second television signal standard used in Europe, incompatible with NTSC,. [See NTSC, SECAM.]


Horizontal camera pivot, 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, and scans subjects too large to fit into one shot.


Vertical camera movement, rising or lowering, with camera remaining level.

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.


[1] A video camera’s image sensing element, either CCD (charge coupled device) or MOS (metal oxide semiconductor); converts light to electrical energy. [See CCD.] [2] A microphone’s sound reception.

pickup pattern

Defines a microphone’s response to sounds arriving from various directions or angles. [See bidirectional, omnidirectional, unidirectional.]

PIP (picture in picture, p-in-p, pix in pix)

Image from a second video source inset on a screen’s main picture, the big and small pictures usually being interchangeable.


Shorthand for "picture element." A camcorder’s CCD consists of several hundred thousand pixels, each one building up a tiny charge of electricity in response to the light that falls on it. More pixels on a CCD will improve resolution.


Videotaped material viewed and heard as recorded, facilitated by camcorder or VCR.

playback VCR

Playback source of video footage in basic player/recorder editing setup. [See recording VCR.]

point of view


Shot perspective whereby the camera assumes the subject’s view, and thus viewers see what the subject sees as if through his/her/its eyes.

polarizing filter

Mounted at the front of a camcorder lens, blocks undesirable glare and reflections. [See filter.]

post production (post)

Any video production activity following the initial recording. Typically involves editing, addition of background music, voiceover, sound effects, titles, and/or various electronic visual effects. Results in completed production.


Electronic special effect transforming a normal video image into a collage of flattened single-colored areas, without graduations of color and brightness. [See DVE.]


See point of view.


[1] Slight backing-up function of camcorders and VCRs when preparing for tape recording; ensures smooth, uninterrupted transitions between scenes at edit points. [2] Usually for on-air applications. To start tape playback earlier than necessary to ensure full operating speed and stabilization.

proc amp

(processing amplifier) Video image processor that changes the video signal’s luminance, chroma, and sync components to correct such problems as low light, poor color saturation, or wrong tint.


Short for "properties," objects used either in decorating a set (set props) or by talent (hand props).

PZM (pressure zone microphone)

Small, sensitive condenser mike, usually attached to a 5-inch-square metal backing plate. Senses air pressure changes in tiny gap between mike element and plate. [See condenser.]



rack focus

Shifting focus during a shot in progress, typically between background and foreground subjects. Respective clarity and blurriness — or vice versa — switches.

raw footage

Pre-edited recordings, usually direct from camera. [See edit, master.]



See phono plug.

reaction shot

Cutaway view showing someone’s or something’s response to primary action/subject. [See cutaway.]

real time

The actual time during which video recording occurs, distinguished from the tampering of time via editing.

real-time counter

Device that counts control-track pulses to account for videotape playing/recording time. Measured in hours, minutes, seconds and sometimes, frames.


Television set that includes a tuner as well as an audio amplifier and speaker. Accommodates broadcast RF signals, whereas a monitor accepts composite video signals only. [See monitor.]


VCR Recipient of raw video feed (master or workprint) and recorder of edited videotape in basic player/recorder editing setup. [See playback VCR.]

reflected light

That light which bounces off an illuminated subject. [See incident light.]


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


[1] Videomaking performed "on location," outside controlled studio environment. [2] Equipment allowing from-a-distance control, usually without physical connections.

rendering time

The time it takes a DTV computer to compute and create a wipe, DVE or computer created image.


Amount of picture detail reproduced by a video system, influenced by a camera’s pickup device, lens, internal optics, recording medium, and playback deck. The more detail, the sharper and better defined the picture. [See horizontal resolution.]

rewritable consumer (RC)

Time code sent through Control-L interface permitting extremely accurate edits. Each frame is assigned a unique address expressed in hours:minutes:seconds:frames.


(radio frequency)

Combination of audio and video signals coded as a channel number, necessary for television broadcasts as well as closed-circuit distribution.

RF converter

Device that converts audio and video signals into a combined RF signal suitable for reception by a standard TV.

RGB (red, green, blue)

Video signal transmission system that differentiates and processes all color information in separate red, green, and blue components (the primary colors of light) for optimum image quality. Also defines type of color monitor.


See ghosting.


Text or graphics, usually credits, that move up or down the screen. Typically moving from the bottom to top. Produced with character generator. [See crawl.]

rough cut

Raw, tentative edit of footage in the approximate sequence, length and content of finished program. Gives preliminary indication of eventual actual work. [See edit.]

rule of thirds

Composition consideration suggesting that a picture appeals most with its primary point of interest appearing off-center. With screen divided into thirds, vertically and horizontally. Important elements should be targeted wherever imaginary lines cross.


scan converter

Device that changes scan rate of a video signal, possibly converting it from noninterlaced to interlaced mode. Allows computer graphics to be displayed on a standard video screen, for example.

scan line

Result of television’s swift scanning process which sweeps out a series of horizontal lines from left to right, then down a bit and left to right again. Complete NTSC picture consists of 525 scan lines per frame.

scan rate

Number of times a screen is "redrawn" per second. Computer displays operate at different scan rates than standard video.


In the language of moving images, a sequence of related shots usually constituting action in one particular location. [See shot.]


Lighting accessory made of translucent material (wire mesh, gauze, silk) used to lessens or defuse the intensity of light.


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.]


(sequential color and memory) 625-line 25-frame-per-second television signal standard used in France and the Soviet Republic. Incompatible with NTSC; PAL and SECAM are partially compatible. [See NTSC, PAL.]


See special effects generator.

selective focus

Adjusting camera focus to emphasize desired subject(s) in a shot. Selected area maintains clarity and image sharpness while the remainder of the image blurs. Useful for directing viewer’s attention.


Brassy "antique" look characteristic of old photographs. For video images, the tone achieved with a special lens filter or electronically with an SEG.

shooting ratio

Amount of raw footage recorded relative to the amount used in an edited, finished program.


All pictorial material recorded by a camera. Specifically, shots that are intentional, isolated camera views which collectively comprise a scene. [See scene.]


Highly directional microphone with long "barrel," designed to pick up sound from extreme subject-to-mike distances.


An electronic control that governs the amount of time during which incoming light forms a single video field. The normal camcorder shutter speed is 1/60 second.

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 color accuracy; audio S/N specifies amount of background tape hiss present with low or no-volume recordings. Higher the S/N the cleaner the playback.

skylight (1A) or haze (UV) filter

Mounted at front of camcorder lens, virtually clear glass absorbs ultraviolet light. Also excellent as constant lens protector. [See filter.]

SMPTE Time code

Standard time code for film, video, and audio named for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, which sanctions standards for recording systems in North America. [See time code.]


See signal-to-noise ratio.


Open-ended cylindrical funnel mounted on a light source to project a narrow, concentrated circle of illumination.


Electronic picture interference; resembles scattered snow on the television screen.


Electronic special effect distorting a video image’s original colors, emphasizing some and de-emphasizing others for a "paint brush" effect. [See DVE.]

sound bite

Any short, recorded video-with-audio or audio-only segment for use in an edited program. Usually only a few seconds long and consisting of one phrase or comment. Common component of broadcast news.

sound effects

Contrived audio, usually prerecorded, incorporated with a video soundtrack to resemble the real thing. Blowing on a microphone, for example, might simulate wind to accompany hurricane images.


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

SP (standard play)

Fastest tape speed of most VHS VCR, accommodating two-hour recordings. [See EP, LP.]

special effects

(FX) Tricks and illusions, electronic or on camera. Employed in film and video to define, distort, or defy reality.

special effects generator

(SEG) Video signal processor with vast, but varying, image manipulation capabilities involving patterns and placement as well as color and texture: mixing, multiplying, shrinking, strobing, wiping, dissolving, flipping, colorizing, etc. [See DVE, switcher.]


Radiates a well defined directional beam of light, casting hard, distinct shadows. Best used to focus illumination on individual subjects, whereas floodlights blanket broader areas.


Video signal processor used primarily for tape dubbing to eliminate picture jump and jitter, maintains stability.

star filter

Mounted at the front of a camcorder lens, gives light sources a starburst effect. Generally available in four, six and eight-point patterns. [See filter.]


Sound emanating from two isolated sources, intended to simulate pattern of natural human hearing.

stock shot

Previously shot footage stored in a file so it is conveniently accessed as needed.


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


Digital variation of fixed-speed slow motion, with image action broken down into a series of still frames updated and replaced by new ones at rapid speed. [See DVE.]

superimposition (super)

Non-inherent titles or graphics appearing over an existing video picture, partially or completely hiding areas they cover. A picture superimposed on another can appear transparent.

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

Improved version of VHS and VHS- C videotape formats, characterized by separate carriers of chrominance and luminance information, yielding a sharper picture. [See VHS, VHS-C.]


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


Post-production process of adding music and sound effects to, or otherwise enhancing, purifying, "massaging" a final audio track.

swish pan

See whip pan.


The common name for the special effects generator (SEG). Permits video signal mixing from two or more sources such as cameras, time base correctors, character generators. Most common visual transistions are dissolves, wipes, and other clean transition effects.

sync (synchronization)

Horizontal and vertical timing signals or electronic pulses. A component of a composite signal, supplied separately in RGB systems. Aligns video origination (live camera, videotape) and reproduction (monitor or receiver) sources.

synchronous sound

Audio recorded with images. When the mouth moves, the words come out. [See lip sync, nonsynchronous sound.]



Generic term for the people or creatures assuming primary on-screen roles in a videotaping.

tally light

Automatic indicators on camera front and within viewfinder that signal a recording is in progress and seen by both camera subject(s) and operator.


See time base corrector.

telecine converter

Imaging device used in conjunction with a movie projector and camcorder or camera, to transfer film images to videotape.


Camera lens with long focal length and a narrow horizontal field of view. Opposite of wide-angle, captures magnified, closeup images from considerable distance.

teleprompter (prompter)

Mechanical device that projects and advances text on a mirror directly in front of camera’s lens, allowing talent to read their lines while appearing to maintain eye contact with viewers.

test pattern

Any of various combinations of converging lines, alignment marks, colored bars and gray scales appearing on screen to aid in the adjustment of video equipment optimal for picture alignment, registration, and contrast. Often viewed on broadcast television in off-air hours. [See color bars.]

three-point lighting

Basic lighting approach employing key, back, and fill lights to illuminate subject with a sense of depth and texture. Strategic placement imitates natural outdoor lighting environment and avoids flat lighting. [See back light, fill light, key light.]

three-quarter-inch (U-matic)

A popular professional/industrial video-tape format employing larger cassettes and three-quarter-inch wide tape, as opposed to the half-inch width of VHS and Beta "consumer" formats. Related equipment is generally larger and sturdier, the format’s recording is considered superior. It is an older format which is being phased out of use.


Camera view including three subjects, generally applicable to interview situations.


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

time base corrector (TBC)

Electronic device that corrects timing inconsistencies in a videotape recorder’s playback, stabilizing the image for optimum quality. Also synchronizes video sources, allowing image mixing. [See sync.]

time code

Synchronization system, like a clock recorded on your videotape, assigning corresponding hours, minutes, seconds and frame-number designations to each frame. Expedites indexing convenience and editing precision. [See SMPTE.]

time-lapse recording

Periodically records a minimal number of frames over long durations of actual time. Upon playback, slow processes such as a flower blooming may be viewed in rapid motion.

time line editing

A computer-based method of editing in which video and audio clips are represented on a computer screen by bars proportional to the length of the clip. These bars can be moved and resized along a grid whose horizontal axis relates to the time of the program.


The process or result of incorporating on-screen text as credits, captions or any other alphanumeric communication to video viewers. [See character generator.]


[1] Lateral camera movement aligned with a moving 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 signal. [See head.]


Three-legged camera mount offering stability and camera placement as well as consistency in movement. Most are lightweight, used for remote recording. [See monopod.]


Television and VCR component that receives RF signals from an antenna or other RF sources and decodes into separate audio and video signals.


Camera view including two subjects, generally applicable to interview situations.



See three-quarter-inch.


A lighting accessory shaped like an umbrella, available in various sizes. Usually made of textured gold or silver fabric. Facilitates soft, shadowless illumination by reflecting light onto a scene.


A highly selective microphone pickup pattern. Rejects sound That comes from behind the microphone while absorbing sound that comes from in front. [See bidirectional, omnidirectional.]



See videocassette recorder.


Electronic testing device that measures a video signal’s chrominance performance, plotting qualities in a compass-like graphic display.

vertical interval time code (VITC)

Synchronization signals recorded as an invisible component of the video signal, accessed for editing precision. [See time code.]

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 miniature cassettes compatible with full-size VHS equipment through use of adapter. [See Super-VHS.]

videocassette recorder (VCR)

Multifunction machine intended primarily for recording and playback of videotape cassettes.


The display, actually a tiny video monitor, on which a camcorder operator watches the image being taped.


Visual special effect whereby viewers see images through a perceived keyhole or other desired shape. In low-budget form, this can be achieved by aiming camera through a cutout of desired vignette.


Undesirable darkening at the corners of a picture, as if a viewer’s peering through a telescope. Due to improper matching of lens to camera.


See vertical interval time code.


Narration accompanying picture, heard above background sound or music, without the narrator being seen on camera. Typically applied to an edited visual during post-production.


waveform monitor

Specialized testing devise that generates a graphic display of a video signal. Also can be used as a light meter by displaying the precise setting of picture’s maximum brightness level for optimum contrast.

whip pan (swish pan

) Extremely rapid camera movement from left to right or right to left, appearing as an image blur. Two such pans in the same direction, one moving from, the other moving to a stationary shot. When edited together can effectively convey passage of time.

white balance

Electronic adjustment of a video camera to retain truest colors of recorded image. Activated in camcorder prior to recording, proper setting established by aiming at white object.


Camera lens with short focal length and broad horizontal field of view. Opposite of telephoto. Supports the perspective of the viewer and tends to reinforce the perception of depth.

wild sound

Nonsynchronous audio recorded independent of picture, rain on a roof, a 5 o’clock whistle. Often captured with a separate audio recorder. [See nonsynchronous sound.]


Acoustically transparent foam microphone shield, thwarts undesirable noise from wind and rapid mike movement.


Picture transition from one scene to another wherein a new scene is revealed by a moving line or pattern. In the simplest form, simulates a window shade being drawn. More sophisticated variations include colorized wipes, quivering wipes, triangle wipes and venetian blind wipes.

wireless microphone

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


Copy of a master videotape used for edit planning and a rough cut of the final product. Also called "working master."

wow and flutter

Sound distortions consisting of a slow rise and fall of pitch, caused by speed variations in audio/video playback system.



Three-pin plug for a three-conductor "balanced" audio cable. Employed with high-quality microphones, mixers, and other audio equipment. Also called a "cannon."



Symbol for luminance, or brightness, portion of a video signal.


video See S-video.



Variance of focal length, bringing subjects into and out of closeup range. Lens capability permits change from wide-angle to telephoto, or vice versa, in one continuous move. "Zoom in" and "zoom out" are common terms.

zoom ratio

Range of a lens’ focal length, from the most "zoomed in" field of view, to the most "zoomed out." Expressed as ratio: 6:1, for example, implies the same lens from the same distance can make same image appear six-times closer. [See foc
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