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VIDEO EDITING GLOSSARY

Learn the meaning of all the jargon you'll come across in video editing

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So someone sent you an email asking for something and you’re thinking, “What the hell does that mean?!”

We’ve all been there.

The world of Video Editing uses loads of jargon and the list seems to keep growing! Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of dictionary that told you what all the different terms used in video editing meant?

Well here it is, my friend!

Listed below are the meaning of terms I regularly come across as a professional editor. You can use your browsers Find function to search for a term you’re after. The list is updated frequently so if there’s a word you can’t find let me know and I’ll add it to the Video Editing Glossary.

 

 

A

Actuality – A term often used in documentary editing. It is used to describe candid moments caught on camera when the subject is going about their business without any prompting or scripting.

Alpha – This is information within a video file that determines which bits are transparent. The alpha channel on its own is depicted in black and white. When combined as part of a video file, the white parts if the alpha channel will show the image and the black parts of the alpha channel will show as transparent.

Assembly – A very rough draft of an edit that simply lays your selected clips out in the order of the narrative without any fancy editing techniques. An assembly is usually for internal viewing before the initial ‘first draft’ or ‘rough draft’ that goes to the client. It helps you quickly get a better understanding of the structure of the story and if it’s working.

 

B

Brand guidelines – When working on branded content it is important that there is visual cohesion across all of the content. From logo size to placement to colour co-ordination etc. Brand guidelines ensure that all content that is output looks the same, no matter who is working on it.

 

C

Call and respond – A term used to describe a type of editing where the order of dialogue or action sets up a question and then gives the answer. This can be literal or metaphorical.

Channels – A video file is made up of 4 channels; Red, Green & Blue (RGB) make up the image, and Alpha makes up the transparency.

Clean plate – A shot that captures the same environment as another shot, but without certain elements in it (characters/props etc). This enables the VFX artist to select which parts of each shot shot remain in cue for the final output. (See Plate)

Clip – The part of a piece of footage that sits on your timeline.

Codec – The type of compression that your video file has.

Comm – Short for commentary/scripted commentary. This is basically another word for VO/Voiceover. Often used in news/documentary editing.

Conform – (See Online)

Container – The type of file extension your video file has e.g. .mp4 or .mov.

Copy – The text that is seen on screen.

Cut to clock / CTC – The process or result of placing the ad breaks into an edit destined for TV Broadcast.

 

D

Dirty – This is when a shot has something out of focus in the foreground that obscures a bit of the image that is in focus.

 

E

External edit – When the finished video is going to live in the public view (for the opposite see Internal edit).

End of play / EOP – This just means end of the working day. Sometimes the time deadline can be strict when working in TV/News, but usually there’s no strict time deadline. It’s a term dating back to when everything was on tape and these tapes had to be played out by a certain time to make it on air.

 

F

Footage – The collective and singular term for the video files in their full unedited form. Generally used to reference video files shot using a camera only.

FPS / Frames per second – Video looks like it’s moving because it plays back a number of still images one after the other to give the illusion of movement. The amount of images played back per second is known as the frames per second or fps. As a massive generality, the standard in most of Europe is 25fps, in USA it’s 30fps and in gaming it’s 60fps.

 

G

Garbage matte – A very rough version of a matte (see Matte below).

I

Internal edit – When the finished video is only going to be viewed by people within an organisation and not by the public. This means you do not have to worry about any rights issues. (For the opposite see External edit)

 

J

Jar – When something jars it looks out of place, sometimes without an obvious reason.

 

K

Key / Keying – This is the process of taking out a particular colour from the footage, often the green or blue from a greenscreen or bluescreen.

Ken Burns effect – This is when you pan and zoom in to the image. You can do this using the in-software post camera. It’s an effect made famous by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns.

 

L

Lower thirds / Astin / Strapline / Straps – The name of the contributor that comes up on screen when you see them. Often in the lower third of the screen. I hear so many different words for these. It depends whether you work in news/branded content/documentaries etc.

Luma – The white value of an image.

 

M

Matte – A plate that determines what should be visible from the footage. Often used in VFX, it can describe the custom alpha channel created to determine what is visible.

Multichannel audio – Channels in audio can be assigned to output through certain speakers. The standard is Stereo which has 2 channels – Left and Right. Multichannel audio has more than 2 channels.

 

O

Offline – The editing process is done in two stages, first the Offline and then the Online. The Offline is where most of the work is done. This is where you choose shots/sound/assets and edit them together to make the film. Once the Offline is finished you have Picture lock.

Online – The editing process is done in two stages, first the Offline and then the Online. The Online is the icing on the cake. This is when you add a  Colour grade, do a Sound mix and add any final graphics/animations/credits etc. so it’s ready to deliver

 

P

Picture lock – When a film is in picture lock, no more changes can be made to the images. Sometimes (if the client is pushing their luck) you are able to slip footage, but the in/out points of each clip should remain the same. This is so that the sound mix and the colour grade can be started.

Plate – Imagine a video file is made up of many layers like in Photoshop. A plate is a layer. In VFX you can layer many plates on top of each other to get the final shot.

 

R

Resolution – The pixel width and height of a video, stated in that order e.g. 1920×1080. All resolutions have shortnames e.g. HD (High Definition).

Rushes – The raw video files straight from the camera.

Rights – Short for copyright. Who owns the right to use a particular piece of media.

Roll – In the analogue world this would mean a roll of film. In the modern digital world this can be used when talking about the memory card from a camera. E.g. “Day two, roll three” would mean the third memory card logged from the second day of shooting.

Rotoscoping – The process in VFX of painstakingly cutting out objects from video, frame by frame.

 

S

Selects – A timeline of clips selected from the rushes. Often comprising the ‘best’ bits from the footage, a selects timeline is very subjective as to what should actually go on it. You can select footage and have separate timelines for mood, location, characters, highlights etc.

Shot – A moment of composition that has an in point and an out point. Can be used to describe the framing of a moment. A piece of footage can comprise of several shots, for example if the camera operator decides to shoot continuously for many minutes but keeps reframing the camera.

Slug – A piece of black footage or blank audio.

Soundup – (See Upsound)

Stems – The separate elements of a mixed piece of audio. For example you may find the stems of a music track split into different instruments. When layered on top of each other these would create the final track. Or you may find stems of a film’s final mixed audio split into elements like VO/Music/Dialogue/Atmospheric sound. On their own, stems allow you flexibility in what you include in your edit. You may be required to split your audio for final delivery.

Sting – A very short (~6 sec) piece of music used to separate chapters or ‘moments’ in a film. Useful for creating a mental separation between what has been and what is yet to come. Also useful to punctuate comedy. Often used in sitcoms.

Stinger / Intercessions / Bumper – A short (~6 sec) visual and audio chapter break. Useful for creating a mental separation between what has been and what is yet to come. Also useful to punctuate comedy. Often used in sitcoms.

Stringout – (see Sync cut)

Supers – The legal text that is seen on screen (often in advertising). Often mistakenly used to reference Copy.

Sync – Dialogue. Often used to reference footage that contains dialogue.

Sync cut – An early version of an edit where the only footage on the timeline is the dialogue (without b-roll or upsound).

Sync map – A timeline where every piece of footage is laid out without any editing at all. Externally recorded audio is synced with the corresponding footage. Multiple camera angles are synced and stacked on top of each other. For large projects it is common to have a sync map for each day of shooting. Common to documentary editing.

 

T

Take – A term used in scripted filming to describe a period of time caught on camera that contains the beginning and end of the action or dialogue in it. N.B. the camera operator can continue filming meaning one shot can contain several takes.

Transcript – A written document that contains all of the dialogue from the footage. This is done through a process called Transcribing where the dialogue from the footage is converted to text. Sometimes this is done by automated software, sometimes by hand, but often started through automation and finished by hand.

 

U

Upsound / Upsync  – When an edit heavily uses VO or dialogue, an upsound is a moment of actuality that sits in-between the VO or dialogue (see ‘Actuality’ above).

UpSOT – Short for Up Sound On Tape. (See Upsound)

 

V

Verité – (See Actuality)

VFR / Variable Frame Rate – Frame rates are usually fixed (25/30/60/120fps), however variable frame rates are not. Some cameras (like smartphones etc) can only process a certain amount of data per second, so to prevent overload it will skip recording a few frames here and there to successfully cope with the process of filming. These skipped frames are irregular and create variable frame rates. Variable frame rates are undetectable to the human eye, but editing software expects frame rates to be constant so doesn’t like the unpredictability of vfr.

VO – Short for voiceover. Scripted commentary narrated by a host that helps explain the story.

 

 

 

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