Skip to main content

Common Video Terms You Should Know

It’s no secret that video is an increasingly popular way to communicate. It’s not just for entertainment anymore, it can be used for business presentations, marketing material, and even educational videos. But before you start making your own videos, there are some terms you need to know about first! Here are some of the most common video terms that will come up over the course of your videography adventures.

After Effects – a computer program that allows a user to animate and composite media together to create a film.

Aperture – the opening in a lens through which light travels before it reaches an image sensor or the film plane.

Aspect Ratio – The proportional relationship between the width and height of an image, recorded or displayed.

Bit Rate – number of data bits per unit of time.

Bokeh – The visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens: It is caused by the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light. Bokeh describes the character of the blur in an image and how it changes depending on various factors in the shot.”

Boom – A long pole with a microphone on its end; used to record dialogue during filming or broadcasting scenarios.

B-roll – supplementary footage used to support verbal explanation or augment visual appeal.

Bounce – To reflect light off a surface to diffuse it.

Close Up – The framing of a shot so that the subject appears large in the frame, filling most of the features of the picture.

Codec – A device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream or signal.

Color Correction – In video production, color correction is applied to filmed footage with an aim toward creating consistency throughout a sequence and correcting more obvious deficiencies such as hue and saturation levels across shots.

Color Temperature – Characterizes color by its temperature relative to a black body radiator, which is taken as a reference point for absolute zero (0 K). This temperature is expressed in Kelvin units wherein “kelvin” refers to one degree Celsius above absolute zero; the numerical value is the temperature of a black body at that absolute-zero reference point.

Compositing – Combining two or more separate images in order to create an image in which objects, settings, characters, and other elements have been brought together in one shot.

Compression – The process of reducing the size of digital files by eliminating redundant information or limiting fidelity to simplify delivery based on available resource constraints.

Crane – Any type of mechanical device used for lifting camera equipment including cameras themselves, dollies, tracks, etc.  Can be mounted on wheels or casters for portability or fixed in place with a base plate often bolted directly into concrete floors. Depending on the size of the crane it may require heavy-duty electrical connections and high capacity air-conditioning for the operator’s control truck or “rig.”

Cut – A film editing term means to make a transition from one shot to another. This may be as simple as fading from one shot to another or it may involve complex transitions such as wipes or dissolves, which can take many forms.  

Depth of Field (DOF) – The distance between the closest and furthest objects in a shot that appears acceptably sharp in an image; the range of acceptable focus within a single shot.

Diegetic sound – Dialogue or other sounds that originate from on-screen characters or actions; a sound that is part of the fictional world within the context of a dramatic production.

Diffusion – The scattering of incident light or other electromagnetic radiation; the act of making something less concentrated.

Digital Zoom – A digital effect where the magnification of an image is artificially increased by displaying more (and smaller) pixels in the captured frame, thus giving the impression that one is “zooming in” on the subject.    

Dolly – To move a camera along its horizontal axis, typically from front to back or vice versa though any direction can work depending on lens and rig positioning.

DVI – Digital Visual Interface. An industry standard for sending uncompressed video data from a video source such as a set-top box. DVI dongles are available so DVI signals can be carried over traditional VGA cables enabling easy migration to digital.

Exposure – The lens settings that result in the correct amount of light reaching the film or sensor for proper exposure.

Fade – A gradual change from one image to another, often used to indicate a passage of time, especially when using similar images at the beginning and end of an episode or series.  

Fauxtograph – A faked photograph; photography used to create an illusion rather than record reality. Fauxtographs are usually manipulated photos designed to look like real photographs but are in fact created by computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, rather than through traditional means such as double exposure or collage.

Focal Length – The distance between the optical center point of a lens and its point of focus; the angle of view.

Frame Rate – The number of still images displayed per second in a movie or on a TV screen. Standard film rates are 24, 25, and 30 frames per second (fps), while the high-definition video is usually 29.97 or 59.94 fps.

Frame – A single image photographed by the camera; derived from the length of the film which runs through the camera at one time.  Also loosely referred to as “a take.”  

High definition media interface (HDMI) – An industry-standard digital audio/video connector that can be used on televisions or on devices such as computers that output data for display purposes. HDMI connections are also capable of carrying data signals so they can be used for directly transferring files between devices, provided they support it.

ISO – It is the standard method of measuring sensitivity in film and digital cameras, referring to an analog scale originally based on the ASA number with increasing numbers indicating greater sensitivity to light. Sensitivity is expressed in numbers called ‘cameras speeds’. The higher the ISO rating, the less light is required to achieve desired results. A low ISO setting on a digital camera allows more light to be captured & shows less noise in dark areas.

J-cut – A technique for transitioning between two video clips by cutting away the first clip as the second begins to play, with both clips starting at different times, then playing them back simultaneously for a visual overlap effect. The term comes from early analog video editing where superimposing one source over another required an edit decision list (EDL) specifying “jam sync” of two sources, named after the ‘j’ key on the editing console which was used to designate this action.   

Liquid crystal display – A type of flat panel display that uses liquid crystals doped with impurities to polarize transmitted or blocked light in order to create images. A liquid crystal display typically has a light source that passes through a polarizer to produce a polarized, usually white image. The light then passes through a pair of transparent electrodes, with each electrode controlled by an electronic circuit with the ability to change its opacity, thereby allowing different levels of the polarized source image to be selectively filtered or blocked from view.  LCD technology is used in computers, televisions, watches, and other electronic devices because of its low cost compared to other display technologies.

Optical zoom – An optical telephoto lens that allows the camera’s focal length to be varied by moving lenses closer together or further apart. Therefore, the magnification of a subject can be increased or decreased without actually moving closer or farther away from it in order to compensate for different shooting conditions and focusing distances.

Pixel aspect ratio – The ratio of the length and width of a pixel.  For each pixel, either its length or its width can be variously chosen to form an aspect ratio while the other dimension is defined by some fixed value. The common choices for pixel aspect ratio make up three groups: square (1:1), tall (greater than 1:1), and anamorphic (wider than 1:1 but still considered square).  In practice, there are also non-square pixels in cinematography that have been used for both artistic and technical reasons.  

Polarizing filter – A lens filter that blocks light that has become polarized due to reflection from a non-metallic surface, which can cause uneven color saturation in reflected objects and specular highlights, such as the sky. This makes polarizing filters useful for cutting reflections from glass or water and reducing sky glow during daylight filming. 

Resolution – The resolution of an image is the number of pixels in each dimension that make up an image. A higher resolution means more detail per square inch. The definition of a traditional 1080p HDTV screen is 1920×1080 pixels with 1080 lines of vertical resolution, which gives it a total of 2,073,600 pixels. A 4K TV has four times as many pixels as an HDTV or 8,294,400 pixels per frame.

POV – POV is an acronym for Point-of-view.  This is a term that can be used to describe the perspective shown in each scene. POVs are also used in video games, where they control the point-of-view of whoever is playing.

Screenplay – Most people will be familiar with the term screenplay, so you can easily use this as a way to introduce more of the knowledge surrounding video terminology.

Shutter speed – Shutter speed is the amount of time a camera shutter is open to expose the film or sensor. The term typically refers to a speed at which a camera or its shutter remains open to allow light into the area being photographed, this may also refer to how long a projector bulb takes to shut off.

Slow-motion – Slow-motion is the process of time-lapse photography, or displaying video action at a slower speed than it occurred.

Split-screen – The split screen is when there are two separate images shown on the same screen at the same time, which can either be below each other or stacked vertically.

Timelapse – Timelapse is when certain images are captured at set intervals, which can create a moving visual representation of time passing.

Stop motion – Stop motion is a special effect technique used for making objects appear to move on their own. It’s where the subject being filmed is physically made to move, and then usually photographed frame-by-frame so that it looks like they’re moving when played back at a normal speed.

Tungsten – Tungsten film lighting uses actual tungsten light bulbs as its source of illumination, as opposed to daylight-balanced LED lights which are much more common these days.

VGA – VGA stands for Video Graphics Array, which is a type of video connection used by older computers. It could be mentioned that this was an extremely common connection type, but now it’s being replaced with HDMI or DisplayPort connections on newer devices like laptops and TVs.

Zoom shot – A zoom shot is when the camera physically moves closer to something while simultaneously zooming in (and usually keeping its angle parallel to not look distorted).