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Video Production Terms Explained

Video Production Terms Explained

In this episode, Evan Watters dives into the video vernacular and explains it in common terms. This is CloseUp: Decoding video production for your business. And we’re decoding production lingo today.



LAURA: Stepping onto the set of a video production can feel like you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language. There’s an endless amount of lingo in video production, and it can be intimidating for new clients. Even people with years of experience are baffled by the babble.

[montage of words: shot list, C-47, compression, room tone, MoS]

LAURA: In this episode, Evan Watters dives into the video vernacular and explains it in common terms. This is CloseUp: Decoding video production for your business. And we’re decoding production lingo today.

EVAN: Imagine this. You finally scheduled your company’s president to record an on-camera interview. As you nervously wait for her to come down the hall, you overhear a weird conversation from the production crew. Something about “sticks” and a “stinger.” And then you hear this:

[Bob’s voice] “We’re going to need the shotgun for this one.”

EVAN: You heard that right, shotgun. It’s ok. You can catch your breath. It’s not a lethal weapon here. It’s just some industry jargon. We’ll start at the beginning with terms you might hear during pre-production, then discuss jargon used during production – when the cameras are rolling. And finally, we’ll translate lingo used during post-production in the edit suite. I’ve assembled a crack team of video professionals to help out. We’ll start in pre-production – when you’re working with producers to plan out your video. This is an easy one: a “story board.” Here’s Gary Cline and Lance Miller.

GARY: A storyboard is really just a page full of different panels that have your shots that you want to try to achieve in your video.

LANCE When you look at it, it kind of looks like a comic book version of your video. It lets us visualize what the whole video is going to look like and that helps us plan it out.

EVAN: Having a plan helps make the upcoming production day more efficient. Decades ago, advertising agencies laid out their story on actual poster boards – so that’s how it got its name. Another document your producer will share with you during pre-production is a “shot list.” What’s that, Amy?

AMY: The shot list is essentially a list of all the different video sequences you want to gather during your day of video production.

EVAN: Next, you might get a production book, also known as a “call sheet.” Gary, what’s on this pre-production document?
GARY: Here's addresses, here's location, here's contact information, here's cell phones of everybody in the crew.

EVAN: At this point, you’ve got schedules, lists, locations – all the background information you need to walk onto the production set. Now it’s production day with lights and cameras. And we’re “shooting” someone. But let’s be careful.

GARY: We learned a long time ago when you cover the president or a certain high level of sporting figures not to use the word shoot.

AMY: Oftentimes I'll say did we get a shot of the little kids on the playground or did we get a shot of teachers in the classroom. And the client will kind of look at me and think it’s very bizarre.

LANCE: But in this day and age we are really moving towards using the word filming because it really does sound bad if like I'm gonna be shooting my client today.

EVAN: Again, “shoot” refers to video production and capturing footage. And trust me, we don’t “shoot” the client. Let’s move onto “B-roll.” You’ll hear a producer say, “we need more B-roll.” Here’s Gary.

GARY: B-roll. OK well that comes from like the old film days where you'd have A-roll which would be your interviews and B-roll which is just general coverage of an event or activity or whatever it may be.

EVAN: So, when we say B-roll, we’re talking about additional footage to help paint a picture for the viewer and to cover the edits of the person speaking. Here’s another term: MoS. In news, it means “man on the street.” But not for people with film backgrounds:

LANCE: MoS is when you shoot footage but don't record sound. It basically means you're shooting without sound.

EVAN: Turns out it’s a mixture of German and English and stands for “Mit out Sound.” Now, let’s bring in the video crew. Cinematographers Bob and Jason often speak in code.

BOB: The first thing that you would notice is that we're going to just say a lot of numbers to each other. And those numbers are focal lengths on lenses, f stops, color temperatures.

JASON: I need the 50 at a 2, which means you want a 50 millimeter lens and you are at a aperture of two on the lens.

EVAN: All of these numbers affect the look of the images we record. You don’t need to know specific numbers. Just keep in mind that production crews can manipulate these settings to create the visual “look” or “style” of your video. Now, let’s move on to grip gear. First of all, what does “grip” mean?” It actually refers to both the crew person and the equipment they use. And you’ll hear some interesting terms.

JASON: Every piece of grip gear has a weird name, there's different types of clamps: there's a mafer, a Cartolini, clothespins are C-47’s.

Evan: A C-47 is used to clip gels onto hot lights. There are a lot of stories but legend has it someone didn’t feel comfortable putting “clothespins” on their inventory list for accountants to approve, so they renamed it. Here are a few more unusual terms.

BOB: A stinger is an extension cord.

JASON: A tripod will be called multiple things it will be tripod, sticks, legs.

EVAN: When the camera is on the tripod and your crew is ready to roll, you’ll probably hear someone say “speed” to start recording. Here’s Bob to explain.

BOB: It basically just means the sound recording devices and the camera and all the things that need to be rolling or recording are doing so. The director will say roll sound. The sound person says speed, the director will say roll camera. The camera operator will say speed.

EVAN: Here’s a history lesson: The term “speed” comes from the old film days when cameras were cranked by hand and later with motors. “Have you reached the right speed?” was simply shortened to “speed.” As long as we’re talking about cameras - let’s discuss the names for the way they move to stylize a shot.

BOB: The one that everybody knows of course is a pan, which is the camera is stationary but it's just moving from left to right. There's also a camera shot called a dolly which is where you push into your subject or pull away from your subject. Then there's trucking which is you're still on a dolly but you move from left to right or right to left.

EVAN: Remember earlier when I talked about how we should avoid calling a video shoot a “shoot?” Well... certain pieces of equipment have nicknames that make them sound more dangerous than they are.

BOB: A microphone, for example, a certain type of microphone is called a shotgun and I was shooting in the Vermont state house and somebody said “Oh hey did you bring the shotgun?”

EVAN: And after you use your shotgun, the sound engineer may ask for a moment of silence. They call it “room tone.”

BOB: Room tone really is something we do for the post-production process where we record the sound of the room with the microphones that we used and then the editors can just grab pieces of that and cover edits or breaths or problems in background noise.

EVAN: Let’s move on to the edit suite and the world of post-production. Our editor Nicole often uses words like “rendering” and “compression.”

NICOLE: So rendering is if you add a bunch of effects to the video to change the color and maybe you're adding graphics on top of it, it just has to like process and think about how to combine all those elements and play back in a smooth way.

EVAN: Think of rendering like baking. You’ve mixed all the video ingredients and now it just need to “bake” to combine all the elements. Now what’s compression?

NICOLE: Compression is basically just reducing the quality of the video to make the file smaller and more easily sharable online. So say if you had a stack of clothes that you're trying to fit in your suitcase and they just won't fit. So you shove them in one of those plastic bags and then vacuum seal it. Now it's smaller it takes up less space but it's probably wrinkly and it doesn't look as good as if it came like right off the hanger.

EVAN: There you have it. A whole new vocabulary of video production terms. [montage of words: room tone, compression, mafer, MoS, rendering, shotgun, Cartelini, shot list, C-47.] You’re ready to jump onto a production set and speak the lingo. Tell the grip to hand you a stinger and watch where they point the shotgun. Good luck out there.

LAURA: Thanks, Evan. Getting the hang of jargon, short-hand and abbreviations can feel like learning a new language. What’s the strangest term you’ve ever heard during a video production? Leave us a comment and let us know! If you have any questions, or topics you’d like us to cover, send us an email to Also, be sure to subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review. This is Close Up: Decoding Video Production for your business, produced by Plum Media. I’m Laura McElree, thanks for listening.