Video Production Jargon

Knowing the language used in video production will help you communicate with video production professionals.  Here is a list of commonly used jargon.

B-roll: B-roll is a term indicating the video pictures used to illustrate a story.  If you do a cooking show, interview a chef and edit it together with video of him preparing his specialty, the video of him cooking is known as B-roll.  The interview video is NOT B-roll, it is known as the A-roll but that term is never used anymore.  B-roll is an extremely common term.   Any video you take OTHER than interview footage is known as B-roll.

Here is where the term originates.  Knowing this can help you understand and remember the term.     A very long time ago, when TV stations still shot on film, the film was broadcast using two different projectors.  The interview film was put on the “A” projector and the illustrative film was but on the “B” projector.  The terms A-roll and B-roll emerged. B-roll stuck but A-roll has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Dolly: Dolly refers to both a type of camera movement and the equipment used to get the movement.  If you dolly the camera, this means you put the  tripod on wheels and push it.  Tripod dollys are contraptions that consist of three wheels hooked together on three flat arms.  The three tripod legs are inserted into the ends of the three arms.  A tripod dolly is must-have thing to have on a studio camera.    Studio camera are constantly being moved a few feet over to get a different shot.  Studio cameras are usually so heavy this would be impossible to do without wheels.   You rarely see a dolly on a tripod used out in the field.  They are more trouble than they are worth.  Field cameras and tripods are small enough to just pick up and move.

Pan: A pan is a type of camera movement.  To “pan the camera” means you move it horizontally.   Generally, a pan should be in a left to right direction.  It is thought that a left to right pan seems more natural to a viewer since left to right is how we read, but that certainly is not a hard and fast rule.

Tilt: A tilt is a vertical camera movement.  Up or down.  If you tilt the camera up, you move it skyward.  To tilt down is to move it toward the ground.

Soundbite, aka SOT: Soundbite is a well-known term outside the TV industry.  It is usually used to deride the poor quality of TV news or the superficial nature of our speed-driven culture.   A soundbite is a small portion of an interview.  SOT means the exact same thing and it stands for Sound On Tape.   Because a soundbite is short, it has come to be synonymous with the superficial quality of TV news.   How much can someone say in a ten second soundbite?  Not much.  In the TV world, a 30 second soundbite is considered long.  Let’s try to sum up complex economic problems in ten seconds or less!  No wonder nobody understands anything.  We live in a soundbite world!

Talking Head: A talking head is another term for interview.   A person on-camera speaking directly into the camera is a talking-head.  Talking heads are considered the most boring form of video.   To spice up a talking head, you cover the head with b-roll and turn it into a voice-over.

Voice Over: A voice over is another word for narration, or anyone speaking on camera without being seen.   The voice track is laid over the b-roll.

There you have it, the most common jargon of the TV production world defined for your edification!

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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