Video Vocabulary: Handout for Video Editing Class

Here are some terms that beginning video editors will encounter, prepared for a class I gave on beginning video editing:

  • Action camera. A video camera designed to capture action or high adventure from the point of view of the particpant. The most popular action cameras today are made by GoPro.
  • Audio. 1) A video camera usually records both audio and video at the same time. The audio can be separated from the video for processing. 2) Separately-recorded audio that will be added to the video in editing. NOTE: It is hard to overemphasize the importance of good audio. Audio quality can make or break a video.
  • Background. What’s behind the object you’re capturing on video. Pay attention to the background!
  • Backup. A copy of your computer files on media that is separate from your computer’s hard drive. There are many ways to do this.
  • Black and White. A representation of an image that uses only value (luma or brightness); devoid of color.
  • B-roll. Extra footage that can be inserted for variety during voiceovers and interviews. For example, for a wedding video, get some footage of the building, the grounds, and the guests arriving; these can be slotted in later during post-production.
  • Burn. The process of copying a computer file to optical media such as a CD or DVD. So-called because a laser actually melts microscopic pits on the surface of the media.
  • Camcorder. A generic term for a camera designed specifically to capture video.
  • Capture. The actual process of recording video.
  • Chroma key. Chroma refers to color. Chroma key is a technical technique in which all objects in a video that match a certain chroma, or color, are “keyed out,” meaning they become transparent. This allows overlaying one scene on top of another.
  • Cinematic. Uses techniques similar to those used in Hollywood films. Tells a story. Uses lighting, audio, music, depth of field, and other techniques similar to the way they are used in feature films. A very subjective term.
  • Clip. The basic unit of editing. It’s a continuous single take from a single camera that has been trimmed for length. The term is derived from using scissors to clip out sections of film for inclusion in a movie.
  • Color. In video, the combination of red, green, and blue light (additive colors) used to represent nearly any color or value that can be seen by the human eye.
  • Consumer. Low-end, mass-marketed. Consumer video cameras range from less than $100 for absolute junk up to several hundred dollars for something fairly decent.
  • Copyright. A complex morass of laws involving the ownership of created intellectual property. Generally you own the copyright to material you create (there are exceptions, notably work-for-hire). You may not use work copyrighted by others without proper permission. There are many ins and outs of copyright law, and these days it can be a real minefield.
  • Credits. A form of titles, usually at the end of a video, which credit people or organizations for their contributions.
  • Cut. 1) to stop recording. 2) a very common form of transition from one clip to another in which the first clip simply ends and the next begins.
  • Dissolve or fade. A common form of transition from one clip to another. The first clip fades away at the same time the second clip comes in.
  • Download. Upload and download are relative to the device you’re working on. For example, if you’re working on a laptop, copying video from the camera to your laptop is downloading. Sending video from your computer to an online service is uploading.
  • Editing. The art of turning a collection of clips into a complete video. This involves sequencing, trimming, transitioning, titling, audio, and many other potential actions. Editing is an art form that consists both of skilled technical procedures and a warm heart.
  • Editor. 1) You! The person who edits video. Editing is an art and editors are artists. 2) Software used as a tool by editors.
  • Effect, special effect, Fx. 1) Modifying the video in a way that is different from how it was recorded. There are a gazillion special effects. 2) Creating a video scene that cannot be recorded naturally. Examples include Superman flying, Spiderman swinging, etc.
  • Enthusiast. Between consumer and professional. Usually refers to a skilled consumer. Enthusiast-level cameras can range from several hundreds of dollars to a few thousand dollars.
  • Establishing shot. An opening clip that gives the viewer a sense of the place or situation in which the action will take place.
  • Film. 1) A photographic technique using a film-like coating on a transparent substrate that is later developed using chemical methods to show an image. 2) A completed work, usually telling a complete story. A standard Hollywood film is about 90 minutes long. 3) A “look” that videographers want to imitate (see cinematic).
  • Format. 1) The ratio of width to height. HD videos are 1920 x 1080, or 16:9, and standard definition (the old stuff) is 640 x 480, or 4:3. Note that there are other formats used for Hollywood films, but for most video work, 16:9 is the standard. 2) The way video is represented digitally, such as a file format.
  • Frame. A single image in a video file. The illusion of motion is created by flashing multiple frames on a screen every second. The human eye must see about 15 to 20 frames per second to see a moving image without flickering.
  • Frame rate. How many still image (frames) there are per second. The standard Hollywood frame rate is 24 frames per second. A common frame rate for television is 30 frames per second.
  • HD or High Definition. A set of standards that describe the way video is captured and presented. A “full HD” frame has a resolution of 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall. Many factors beyond mere resolution affect image quality.
  • Image. Generally taken to mean a still picture – a single image.
  • Interlacing. A term used when a single image in a video is actually captured in two parts—the odd lines and then the even lines. The two images are then interlaced to form the complete image. This is a holdover from NTSC television invented in the early 1940s. If you see something such as 60i, it means 60 odd frames and even frames taken per second. Actually, this is only 30 full frames per second. The opposite of progressive.
  • Lower thirds. A title in the lower third of the image area.
  • Music. This generally refers to background music that is added during editing. Helps set the mood of the video. Note that this is where most people run into copyright issues. It is not okay to use music without proper permission. Note that YouTube offers a nice selection of music that you can use without needing further permission.
  • Owner’s manual. Something you need to read carefully and study thoroughly.
  • Pre-production. All the work done from project conception through the start of shooting. Includes storyboarding, script writing, selection of actors and crew, location scouting, and fund-raising.
  • Pixel. The fundamental unit of a digital image. A single dot, which can be any color or brightness. In a 1920 x 1080 image, there are 2,073,600 pixels (2 megapixels).
  • Post-production. The period of time after production until release. Includes editing, adding music, adding sound effects, and generally pulling everything together to create a finished production. Note that many of these functions can overlap timewise with production.
  • Producer.. The person in charge of the entire effort from beginning to end. Arranges for every little detail. One of the most important details is hiring the director. The “executive” producer is in charge of raising funds for the production. (In the majority of smaller productions, the producer and director are one and the same.)
  • Production. 1) The entire project from beginning to end. 2) The period during which media is acquired. Includes rehearsals, shooting, gathering B-roll, voice-overs, and managing media. Includes the development of computer-generated imagery.The director is in charge here; ultimately the director works for the producer. This is the part of a production that people usually associate with “shooting” a movie.
  • Professional. 1) Someone who creates video for renumeration. 2) A finished and polished look that can be achieved by consumers and enthusiasts with skill and modest equipment. 3) Professional-grade cameras range from a few thousand dollars on up.
  • Progressive. The opposite of interlaced. It simply means that a frame is captured all at once. Terms such as 30p (thirty complete frames per second) and 60p (sixty complete frames per second) are used commonly.
  • Record (verb). To capture video and/or audio. The term comes from creating a record of an event.
  • Render. The technical process of turning a completed edit into a finished digital video file that will play by itself in a standard video viewer such as Windows Media Player.
  • Save your work. Something you should do frequently!
  • Scene. A collection of related clips, arranged in sequence to tell a story.
  • Slow motion. The art of recording an event by collecting frames at a much higher rate than they will be displayed. Makes objects appear to move very slowly. The opposite of timelapse.
  • Storyboard. 1) A series of sketches along with explanatory text that lays out how a completed project will be approached. 2) An editing interface in which clips are placed in the order they will be viewed without reference to clip length. Usually the capabilities of the storyboard interface are fairly limited; for example, it does not allow one clip to overlay another.
  • Take. From the time the camera starts recording until it stops recording. Often contains material that will be trimmed later. After trimming, it becomes a clip.
  • Timelapse. The art of recording an event by taking only occasional frames, then playing them back at a standard frame rate. Objects appear to move very quickly. The opposite of slow motion.
  • Timeline. An editing format in which clips are placed sequentially, and the displayed length of a clip is proportional to how long the clip lasts. The timeline view also allows for multiple tracks, with different things happening on each track. This is the standard view for editing because relationships between clips can be viewed more easily than in the storyboard view.
  • Title. Text that is displayed over the top of a video or by itself. Titles can get pretty fancy.
  • Transition. Describes moving from one clip to the next. Standard transitions are the cut and the dissolve. Most editing software offers many additional transitions.
  • Trim. To remove a segment of a take from the beginning and/or from the end, leaving the middle. A trim removes unwanted parts of a clip.
  • Sequence. Several clips connected together in a particular order.
  • Storyboard. 1) A technique for planning a video. Scenes are sketched with notes for production and are arranged in the order they will be presented. 2) A mode in an editor in which each clip takes up a spot, regardless of length, with all the clips being in the order they will be used.
  • Video. 1) An electronic capture of a moving scene. These days, video is digital, but you may have old VHS tapes lying around (these can be converted to digital, by the way). 2) The finished product ready to be presented to an audience.
  • Voiceover. An audio recording of a voice that overlays one or several clips. This is different from the audio that’s captured when the video is captured.
  • White balance. The relationship between the red, green, and blue channels of a video clip. The white balance is different under different kinds of light, such as sunlight versus incandescent. A scene is white-balanced when a white object appears white in the video.
  • Workflow. The order in which editing steps are acccomplished. In many video editors, you need to follow a workflow for best results.
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2 Responses to Video Vocabulary: Handout for Video Editing Class

  1. Dave says:

    You’re very welcome!

  2. Larry & Charmaine Estes and Chris Wright says:


    We enjoyed all three of your presentations (Amazon CreateSpace, You Tube, and Beginning Video Editing) at the Montrose Public Library. Thanks for sharing your expertise online and in person! Your website is helpful and interesting to the three of us. Thanks for bringing all the cameras to class to show us some of what’s available for making videos. Our minds are boggled, but we’re learning as we go.

    Larry, Charmaine and Chris

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