Video Production Glossary
If you’ve been thinking about hiring a Vancouver video producer for your website or corporate videos, you may find it helpful to learn their language. The following glossary is a good overview of terms used in online video creation and publishing.
There is a lot involved in creating videos for websites and television broadcast, and of course, many different terms to describe common techniques and processes. This video glossary is not complete, but a very good sampling of jargon, mostly technical, used by video producers, editors, and marketers.
Video compression artifacting is the distortion (blocking, jittering) of video as a result of compression. Video files from your camera are uncompressed, very large file sizes that are unsuitable for online viewing so file size is reduced with a compression codec – compression-decompression algorithm. Artifacting is generally seen in videos compressed at lower bitrates.
A-roll is a video’s main footage. A-roll is intercut with supportive B-roll footage.
Aspect ratio describes the relationship of width to height in video as a ratio. Common aspect ratios include: 4:3 (TV format also common in video), 16:9 (common for widescreen, DVD and HD), 21:9 (common for film). When video shot in one format is viewed in another cropping or zooming is is sometimes necessary. When viewing video shot at 16:9 on a 4:3 screen or viewing area, parts of the 16:9 video are cropped out. When viewing video shot at 4:3 on a 16:9 screen, footage is viewed in the middle of the 16:9 screen with black bars left and right, or, the 4:3 footage can be zoomed or stretched to fit the 16:9 screen. When video is resized, for embedding in a web page for example, it is usually desirable to maintain the aspect ratio. An aspect ratio calculator can help maintain exact width:height ratios .
Audio Video Interleave container format for multimedia including video. AVI was created by Microsoft in 1992. AVI is a popular format for viewing standard definition video on a PC. AVI files are often encoded using DivX or XviD. The system viewing the AVI must have the codec used to compress the AVI video.
When light is directly behind the subject being shot. Strong backlight can create a silhouette effect. Angled backlight is the favoured way to light a subject, with the proper fill light as well. This is usually better than “front light” which can often wash out a person or a building.
In computing, bandwidth is synonymous with data transfer rate – the amount of information (in bytes) that can be transmitted per second. In video publishing on the Web, video is compressed so that it can be viewed at the common bandwidth the viewing audience.
The amount of data that can be processed per second of playback time. Videos with higher bitrates are generally of higher quality. Video can be compressed using Constant Bitrate (CBR) or Variable Bitrate (VBR). Variable bitrate is often preferred for progressive download via HTTP (as opposed to a streaming server).
Bridging (Bridge shot)
Videographers use a “bridging shot” to indicate a shift in time or location. In old movies the classic and overused bridging shots that indicate passages of time are: spinning clocks, turning calendar pages, seasons changing. Obvious examples of bridging shots to indicate location change are: a jet taking off and landing, a montage of an automobile en-route to its destination.
B-roll video footage is supplementary material to support the video’s main footage, or A-roll. A typical example of B-roll can be seen on TV news, where an anchor is speaking of a subject and there is a cutaway to supplemental material while the anchor describes the scene, such as a fire or auto accident. A-roll cut with B-roll is used in film and is common in documentaries.
In web video, buffering refers to the download of video ahead of what is being played. A buffer of a few seconds can improve the viewer’s experience. Buffering compensates for delays in data transfer from the source of the video and prevents disrupting playback.
Camera angle describes the angle of the video camera in relation to the subject being shot. Camera angles can be eye-level (the common angle of shooting), above or below the subject, each creating a different effect. Camera angle is not limited to the vertical axis. The camera can also be tilted horizontally for an off-balance, dramatic effect.
Captions may refer to titles but also refer to words on screen that show what is being said by a subject. Frequently captions are used to translate dialogue in foreign film.
The transfer of raw video camera footage for storage on a computer.
Subtitles of the words being spoken on screen. Developed for hearing-impaired people and used so that so television can be watched when sound is low or off. Closed captions can be turned on and off. In video, closed captions can be created with a simple text files. WebVTT (video text track) is part of the HTML5 standard used to create captions in web video using the <track> element. The text file includes start and times for what is being said in the video.
Close up (CU)
A subject taking up most of the screen.
Quickly cutting back and forth between two or more scenes. Often used to show simultaneous action in different locations.
The end of a scene. A term taken from film when film was cut and spliced together. The cut point marks an obvious transition from one scene to the next.
Compression-Decompression algorithm used to encode/compress video for faster transmission.
Container (Container format)
A file container format, such as MP4 that contains encoded video and/or audio stream. The term container is a source of confusion to many. We commonly associate containers by their file extension: .mp4, .avi, .mpg, .mov etc. Because of this, we think of the container as the video file itself. The container can be thought of as a means of delivering video and audio to a player – a container is a package of data. The container doesn’t determine the quality of the video – that’s the job of the codec. Containers “contain” video and audio streams that are compressed using different codecs.
For more information see A Guide to Understanding Video Containers and Codecs (PDF).
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A vast network of interconnected computers often used to deliver web content to large audiences. CDNs duplicate content across the network allowing reliable delivery when traffic is high. For video, CDNs can ensure the best possible viewing experience that a user’s bandwidth will allow.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
DRM controls what users can do with digital media they purchase or download. Examples of video DRM technology are Google Widevine and Adobe Access, offered by some video hosting companies to protect videos uploaded by their clients.
Digital video is recorded in binary format. The advantage of digital video is that it is easier to share, store and transfer from one digital device to another. Analog video can be captured then converted to digital video.
A transition where one scene dissolves or fades and is gradually replaced by the next scene which fades in.
DivX is a codec used to compress large video files. DivX can deliver the same high quality as DVD at a 1/10 the size.
A dolly is a platform upon wheels. Usually the dolly wheels are on tracks. The terms “dolly shot”, “tracking shot” and “follow shot” are often used interchangeably.
Refers to video code “embedded” in a web page to play videos. Frequently, when embedding, the source of the video is on a different domain than where it is embedded. A good example is a YouTube embed. YouTube offers embed code that can be pasted into HTML source to play video from a YouTube channel.
Encoding refers to the process of converting digital video to one of many output formats for playback. When encoding the video for playback on the Web, the video source, the playback device, and the browser being used are considered. Sometimes, a video will be encoded in three different formats (MP4, WebM, and Ogv) and served to the viewer depending on what device and browser they are using. These three video formats are used for HTML5 video with Flash fallback.
In this scenario, both the HTML video element <video> and a flash object are combined. “Flash fallback” means that if the users device cannot play HTML video, it falls back to a Flash player that plays the MP4 file. Using the three types to serve one video means that your video will be viewable across platforms and devices.
An establishing shot indicates the context and setting of scene. Long shots are often used as establishing shots. Establishing shots can identify place, time and relationship.
Extreme Close Up (ECU)
A shot where the camera is zoomed to very close to a subject. Often a small area fills the entire screen.
In a fade in, the screen is usually black and the footage fades in. Fade ins can fade from white.
Fade out is the reverse of fade in. The shot slowly fades to a black screen. Fade outs can fade to white.
A multimedia framework for encoding, decoding and playback of most any video and audio format, even the most obscure.
A shot where the video camera follows the subject. In follow shots, the camera is usually kept at a consistent distance from the subject. A dolly is used to support the camera in a follow, or tracking is used.
The Adobe Flash file formats played by the Adobe Flash Player: FLV and F4V.
An FLV player usually refers to a Flash video player for use on websites that will play .flv, f4v and MP4. The player itself is a SWF file, the Adobe Flash file format used for creating multimedia. Some players can be “skinned” or customized. An example is the JW FLV Player.
One still image that is the basic visual unit in film footage. Moving pictures are nothing but a series of still images that give the illusion of motion.
Frames Per Second (FPS)
The number of frames per second recorded by a digital camera. Common FPS are 24, 25, 30. Higher frame rates produce a smoother clearer picture, particular with moving objects. Lower frame rates produce jerkiness and motion blur. You can view the difference in this frame rate comparison demo, which allows you to compare moving objects shot at different frame rates.
Framing refers to the way a shot is framed by the video camera. Videographers “compose” shots, creating different feelings and effects depending on how the subject is framed.
Full screen is a function that allows video to take up the entire screen area of a device or monitor.
Green screen is a chroma-keying technique for video compositing wherein the video subject is filmed on a green background. In editing, the green background is removed and replaced with footage. Green screen is often used in TV (e.g. weather broadcasting), film and video game production.
Hand held (Hand held camera)
The technique of filming with hand-held camera. The hand held camera is not stabilized. It is slightly shaky when the camera operator is stationary and moves up and down in step when the camera operator is moving, very immediate and “live” effect that seems more true to life.
A video compression that can produce high quality web video at relatively low bitrates. It was developed for high definition playback. Both Blu-ray and HDTV video are encoded with H.264. H.264 compression has fast become the standard for high quality web video.
A format for recording high definition video on DV tapes.
High Definition (High Def, HD)
HD refers the the number of vertical lines in a display (like a TV). Resolution of HD is often between 720 and 1080 lines. Regular television broadcast resolution is 480 lines. Common HD modes are 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. “i” and “p” refer to interlaced or progressive line scanning. With interlaced videos odd numbered lines are drawn one line at a time, top to bottom and left right, then the even numbered lines are drawn. Never is the entire image on screen at one time. The progressive (“p”) scanned video every line is drawn from top to bottom and left to right, each frame of video contains the full image. The results is more detail. For a simple but excellent explanation, visit this page.
A service that provides hosting and delivery of videos. Some video hosting is free, like YouTube, while others like Brightcove and Wistia charge a monthly fee. With hosted video, you upload your video, the file is encoded and plays from the hosting company’s servers. Video hosts provide tools needed to create players, playlists and embed code so you can use the videos on your website. Hosted video companies use fast networks and video delivery is reliable.
Video hosting services provide “embed code” that you can use to play your remotely hosted video in your web page. Iframe is one type of embed. The iframe is an element in HTML element that allows you to embed one HTML document inside another. In this case, remotely hosted video in your web page.
Sequential cuts of the same subject where the camera position varies. The effect of the missing frames between is a jump which can be used to indicate passage of time.
Images that are the start and end point frames of an animated sequence. The animated motion between key frames, referred to as a “tween”, is created by the video or animation software.
The main and strongest light upon a video or film subject. The key light is placed at an angle to the subject lighting one side and putting the other side in shadow. The strength and colour of the light can be altered for effect. To balance or soften the shadows of key light, a fill light is used on the opposite side of the key light. In three-point lighting used by most video and film production, the subject is also lit from behind, with backlight. Backlight helps to separate the subject from the background and makes body contours more clearly delineated.
The arrangement and editing of images and audio in sequence. Video editing software makes the process faster and more efficient than the early days of film when film was physically cut and spliced to create an edited sequence.
Long shot is synonymous with “full shot” or “establishing shot”. The long shot usually shows the entire subject. Long shots help set the context of a scene.
An uninterrupted shot of a scene that usually shows the main action and all characters. Once the master shot is established, closer shots like reactions and close-ups are taken of the same scene. In the final edit, the master shot will be combined with these closer shots.
A type of transition in which two scenes are linked metaphorically or graphically. An iconic example of a match-cut can be seen in Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which an man-ape disovers it can use a bone as a weapon. The ape hurls the bone skyward triumphantly in triumph after using it to kill an enemy. The bone spins in slow motion and is match cut with a space age tool/weapon – a satellite – spinning in space.
The subject is shot at a medium distance. A medium-shot of a person usually includes the body from the knees up or waist up.
Usually human readable data that describes other data. Video meta deta is used to help search engines discover, classify and index video content. Video meta data can include the title, a description, author, rating, keyword tags, run time and other information helpful to search engines. Video meta data is optional.
Native file format of QuickTime media player.
The conversion of traffic to a website or video to a source of advertising revenue – sometimes in the form of Pay Per Click.
Graphics that are animated (using software) to create the illusion of motion. Adobe Flash animation is an example of motion graphics.
MPEG-4, part 14 of the MPEG-4 standard, commonly referred to as “MP4″. MP4 is a digital file container format used to store multimedia including video and audio. MP4 has become a popular format for web video. MP4 often contains higher resolution video encoded with the H.264 compression.
Short for “Moving Pictures Experts Group”, a working group that develops coded video and audio standards. The term is commonly used to describe the video/audio compression standardized by the group. Several file compression formats contain the group’s name: MPEG1, MPEG2, and MPEG4.
Video that is created with the mobile audience in mind. Generally, the aim of a video creator when they export video for web viewing is to provide the same experience to mobile users as to users on other devices. This is achieved by delivering formats that play across devices and scale down to fit smaller screens. Sometimes a video is exported in several formats to achieve this cross-platform interoperability.
The ability to cut, modify, arrange digital video frames in any order with the aid of video editing software. Non-linear editing is fast and efficient compared with linear editing which occurs in pre-defined sequence.
National Television System Committee television display standard used in North America. NTSC video is broadcast at 30 frames per second with 480 scan lines. PAL (Phase Alternating Line) is the television video broadcast standard in Europe and part so Asia. PAL has a refresh rate of 25 frames per second with 576 scan lines. NTSC broadcast is phasing out in North America because of the availability of higher definition digital broadcasting. NTSC video cannot be viewed on PAL systems and vice versa without conversion.
OGV (.ogv) is a free lossy video compression format. Developed by Xiph.org. .ogv can play in HTML5 video in some browsers.
Phase Alternating Line, is a broadcast television standard in Europe and parts of Asia, broadcasting at 25 frames per second and 576 lines. See NTSC.
In film and video a pan refers to the horizontal movement of the camera, sometimes upon a fixed axis (the camera tripod) or upon a dolly.
A player plays digital audio and video providing controls to the viewer such as pause, stop, rewind, fast forward and timeline scrubbing. In web video, player may refer to the player provided by the HTML5 video element or an embedded player. Before HTML5 video, browsers had to use additional plugins to play video.
A list of video or song titles that form a playlist menu in some video and audio players. YouTube videos can be added to playlists. The playlist can then be embedded on your website. Self-hosted video players such as JW Player or video.js both provide a means to display video/audio playlists in a self contained player.
In computing, a plug-in or extension is a component that adds special features to existing software. Most people are familiar with plugins as add-ons to browser software. Adobe Flash is a common plugin.
In a point of view shot, we see through the eyes of a character. The camera shows us what the character sees.
The process of preparing all elements required of a video shoot before cameras roll. Pre-production ends when the shoot begins.
A promotional ad in video that plays before the main content. Often the pre-roll cannot be skipped until a certain time period has lapsed, often a few seconds but can also be longer.
Post-production starts when filming ends. In video, post-production is usually performed within a main video editing application with support from audio editing and graphics programs. Video post-production includes cutting, creating transitions, adding effects, titles, captions, music and finally export.
A post-roll is an ad or feature that plays after the main video has ended.
The transfer of digital media from servers to clients (your computer’s browser for example) using the HTTP protocol. With progressively downloaded video, the video can be played before the entire video is downloaded. Sometimes, a few seconds of video is added to memory before playback. This is referred to as a buffer. The buffer helps maintain uninterrupted video playback.
Public domain video
Works that are freely available to the public and no longer privately held.
In video, rendering refers to making permanent (usually when the video is exported) the transitions and effects added during editing. When editing video, transitions and other effects are held in a temporary memory so you can see their effect in real time.
Rights managed video (RM)
A type of copyright license allowing one-time use of media as specified by the license.
Royalty free video
Royalty free media is copyrighted but without the need to pay royalties or licensing fees for each use. Royalty free is not free as some people mistakenly think.
In audio, sample rate refers to the number of data points used to recreate sound in digital form. The more data points the greater the detail of the audio (and the larger the file). The most common sample rate is 44.1 kHz cycles per second (CD quality audio). 44.1 kHz covers all frequencies detectable by human hearing.
In video sampling, per-existing video footage is used to create a new video.
Video or film action in a single location and time.
Broadcast or external publishing of web content in the form of feeds that can make portions of content available on other website or to subscribers to the feed.
Skin (Video skin)
The designed elements of a video player that can be changed. Some video players skins are predefined or can be customized with CSS.
Standard definition (SD)
Standard Definition television in North America is 720px x 480px (4:3). HD, in contrast has higher resolutions, 1280×720 for example, that display images in much more detail.
A camera mount that isolates the operator’s movements. Steadicam is a brand.
A scene-by-scene sketch of a film or video used as a guide for videographers. A story board can be very simple, showing the position of objects in frame, or it can be a detailed drawing. Whether simple or detailed, a storyboard helps the videographer visualize shots before production begins. The story board gives the videographer a rough guide of how to shoot scenes and how the film will look on screen.
Streaming (Streaming media, Streaming video)
The transmission of data, video for example, over a computer network (usually server to client) that allows playback while data is still being received.
Quick, horizontal camera movement (on a fixed axis) from one position to the next creating a blurred effect.
Used to refer to an on-screen presenter or host.
Free, open source audio and video codec from Xiph.org. Theora audio has the file extension .ogg while Theora video has the file extension .ogv. According to the Theora website, the codec was developed to compete with MPEG-4 for web content delivery, particularly low bitrate streaming.
An off-camera monitor containing the script to be read by a presenter. A teleprompter is usually mounted in front of and below the camera lens.
A shot that follows the subject. The camera is held on a stationary platform on wheels upon rails. Synonymous with “dolly shot”.
A transition marks the end of one scene and the beginning of the next. A transition can be abrupt, like a cut, or smooth like a fade in. Transitions can be used to create different moods or simply denote scene changes.
User-generated video (UGV)
Video content created by non-professionals for social sharing. An example of user-generated content is an Amazon video review. Amazon posts members’ video reviews of products.
Often used to refer to the video file extension, though the codec, resolution (size) and frame rate are also a part of a video’s format.
See “Hosted video“.
The use of video to drive traffic and engage consumers online. The marketing of non-commercial video, such as educational video, may involve the same video content marketing techniques and publishing platforms as commercial videos. Videos may be included in a company’s website or published on video hosting websites such as YouTube, Vimeo, or others.
Voice over (VO)
Dialogue or narration where the presenter is off-screen. Frequently used in animation, commercials and documentary but also used in film to hear the thoughts of a film’s character.
Free, open source audio and video codec that plays in HTML5 video. Firefox, Opera and Chrome provide native support for WebM.
A transition in video where a scene seemingly wipes away the preceding scene. A wipe can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
Just checking if you lost interest. A unique and compelling instrument that provided background music on certain fantasy sequences from the original Star Trek series.
A shot where the camera lens brings the subject closer (without moving the camera), sometimes ending in a close-up. Zooms can be fast or slow.