AV Glossary of Terms

Article 5 min
Familiarize yourself with some of the more commonly used audiovisual terms and their definitions.

Whether you are new to the AV community or a seasoned pro, it helps to have a glossary of terms and their meanings as a go-to guide.

AV Glossary of Terms
Term Definition
Boom Extendable and adjustable arm on which a microphone can be mounted; primarily used in films, where the microphone should be positioned close to the audio source without appearing in the frame of the shot
Cardioid Unidirectional microphone named for the pickup pattern that is roughly heart-shaped; super-cardioid, hyper-cardioid, and ultra-cardioid have progressively narrower pickup patterns
Lavalier A microphone that is specifically designed for voice pickup; used for interview situations
Omnidirectional Microphone pickup pattern that hears sounds equally well from all directions
A parabolic reflector microphone
  • Consists of a small parabolic dish (similar to a satellite dish) with an omnidirectional microphone facing inward at its focal point
  • All incoming sounds are reflected toward and concentrated at the microphone
  • Used primarily for sound pickup over long distances, such as crowd noises in a stadium
Receiver Device that receives the signal from a wireless microphone transmitter for audio collection
Shotgun Microphone commonly mounted on the camera with a cardioid pickup pattern and is able to pick up sound at a relatively long distance
Transmitter Device that transmits the signal for a wireless microphone to the receiver for audio collection
Pan When the camera is rotated along the horizontal plane right to left or left to right; camera remains in a fixed position; only rotates on a tripod or the body
Tilt Camera is rotated vertically up (tilt up) or down (tilt down)
Change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa
Caution: If not done correctly in uncontrolled action, you could miss or ruin the shot.
A-Roll Main footage shot for a video, i.e. an interview
B-Roll Footage that is laid over the A-roll to support the primary footage, usually an interview
Interview Package Raw footage of the interviews including all of the interviewee’s releasable responses, with the audio of the interviewer asking the questions cut out
Final Production The completed, requested and approved multimedia project
Background Light Light used specifically to illuminate the background or set; separate from the light provided for the performers or performing area; usually placed on the same side as the key light
Catch Light Causes a specular highlight in a subject's eye in an image; also referred to as eye lights or Obies
Fill Light Supplementary light used in photography or filming that does not change the character of the main light and is used chiefly to lighten shadows
Hair Light Light used to light up the hair and/or shoulders and separate from the background/ground; generally placed behind the subject and about 3 feet above the head, with the light angled down and slightly forward to strike the top of the head and shoulders
Key Light Principal source of directional illumination falling upon a subject; major function is to reveal the basic shape of the subject; can also be the spotlight
Provides a dialog of small details. A script changes depending on the production. Sometimes a script is created during editing if it is using sound bites from an interview.
Can range from a basic framework or down to the letter. For uncontrolled action with an interview, it might simply be what B-Roll you might need based on anticipated soundbites. For PSAs and narrated multimedia pieces, it could be word for word and even line out what shots and transitions will be used.
Drawings of key visualizations and important audio information
  • Often used for complex shot sequences
  • Offers immediate clues to certain production requirements:
    • General location
    • Camera position
    • Approximate focal length of the lens
    • Method of audio pickup
    • Amount and type of post-production
      • Titles and graphics
      • Motion effects
    • Talent actions
    • Set design
    • Hand props
  • Contains enough detail so that someone can understand the intent and create a project based solely on the storyboard
Bumper Short (usually 10 seconds or less) video clips that typically show the brand or company that a video represents; for most military productions, it is the Unit or Fleet Crest
Lower Thirds A graphic shown on the “lower third” of the screen. Shows the subject's name, rank (if applicable) and job title or position; usually used for an interviewee, but can also be used for updates, natural disasters or ever-changing news stories
Title Screen Shows the title of the production; can be in front of a blank screen or part of an opening multimedia sequence
Categorically opposite to the cut-in
  • Does not cut into the main action but cuts away to a related subject or to a separate action that is going on at the same time
  • Does not need to be connected to the main action in the same time or space frame
  • Relatively static and neutral as to screen direction
J Cut Audio is heard before the video of the clip is seen
L Cut Audio is heard from the previous shot after the video cuts to the next shot; this video by Fandor explains the process
Smash Cut Instantaneous change from one image (shot) to another; used for clarification, to show the audience the event as clearly as possible or for intensification, to sharpen the impact of the event
Diegetic Sound Can include everything from the voices of characters to the sounds of objects or music coming from a radio or an instrument; anything that exists in the story world
Natural Sound Sometimes referred to as contextual sound (ambient); natural sounds come from the objects being recorded within the scene
Non-Diegetic Sound Commentary or nonliteral sound that does not originate from within the film's world. Characters are not able to hear the non-diegetic sound; sound added by sound editors in post-production
Underscore Original or library music added to enhance the informational or emotional content of the scene
Voice Over/Narration Usually describes events from outside the action, not as a participant but as an observer

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