VI Glossary of Terms

Article 15 min
Refresh your knowledge of essential terms within a DoD visual information (VI) context.

This glossary defines terms as relevant to VI operations. Pulling from DoDI 5040.02 and other sources, this guide includes a few official government terms, like "classified information," but mostly focuses on media terms, like "key light." You will need both to capture and process DoD visual information.

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Glossary of VI Terms
Term Definition
  1. The acts and procedures by which records are taken into the physical custody of a record holdings activity, archival agency, or other record repository (DoDI 5040.02).
  2. DoD VI is accessioned to DVIDS. The act and procedures involved in a transfer of legal title and the taking of records into the physical custody of the National Archives (NARA Records Management Key Terms and Acronyms).
acquisition In VI, the process of recording VI in a camera; creating it by hand, mechanically, or on a computer; or obtaining it by purchase, donation, or seizure.
ambient audio The background or surrounding noise present; also commonly referred to as 'nat sound,' or natural sound.
aperture The opening through which light passes through the lens to enter the camera. Its size can be modified to control how much light reaches the sensor or negative film. The diameter of the aperture, also known as the F-stop, affects the exposure and depth of field (Ricart, 2018).
A-roll Primary footage shot for a video; i.e., an interview (PAVILION, 2022).
audience In public affairs, a broadly-defined group that contains stakeholders and/or publics relevant to military operations (JP 3-61).
backlight Not to be confused with a background light, a back light is a light source placed behind a subject (typically facing towards the subject versus the background) that separates the subject from the background; also commonly referred to as a hair light.
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. Not to be confused with a back light/hair light, which separates a subject from the background (PAVILION, 2022).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
bracketing The action of capturing the same shot using different exposure values to make sure the whole scene is exposed properly (Ricart, 2018).
B-roll Footage that is laid over the A-roll to support the primary footage (PAVILION, 2022).
bug A graphical element (i.e., a logo) that is displayed at the corner of a program for, typically, the entirety of the program.
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
campaign A series of related operations aimed at achieving strategic and operational objectives within a given time and space (JP 5-0).
caption Short explanatory or descriptive data accompanying imagery. A caption should answer who, what, when, where, how, how many, and why questions relative to the imagery. Captions are embedded as metadata in digital imagery (DoDI 5040.02).
cardioid microphone Unidirectional microphone named for the pickup pattern that is roughly heart-shaped; super-cardioid, hyper-cardioid and ultra-cardioid have progressively narrower pickup patterns (PAVILION, 2022).
catch light Causes a specular highlight in a subject's eye in an image; also referred to as eye lights or obies (PAVILION, 2022).
classification The determination that official information requires, in the interests of national security, a specific degree of protection against unauthorized disclosure, coupled with a designation signifying that such a determination has been made (JP 2-01.2).
classified information Official information that has been determined to require, in the interests of national security, protection against unauthorized disclosure and which has been so designated (JP 2-01.2).
color theory
  1. The collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces.
  2. By using color theory, an artist creates a logical structure for color to convey meaning and encourage emotion (Interaction Design Foundation).
combat camera (COMCAM) Specially-trained expeditionary forces from Service-designated units capable of providing high-quality directed visual information during military operations (JP 3-61).
combat camera (COMCAM) imagery Still and motion images of military operations, equipment, and people acquired by COMCAM forces, regardless of the medium in which the images are acquired, transmitted, or displayed (DoDI 5040.02)
command information Communication by a military organization directed to the internal audience that creates an awareness of the organization’s goals, informs them of significant developments affecting them and the organization, increases their effectiveness as ambassadors of the organization and keeps them informed about what is going on in the organization; also called internal information (JP 3-61).
composition The manner in which elements are positioned within a frame, or scene, whether it be a photo, video shot or graphic (Ricart, 2018).
Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Replacing FOUO (For Official Use Only) – Information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls consistent with applicable laws, regulations and Government-wide policies, but is not classified under Executive Order 13526 “Classified National Security Information” or the Atomic Energy Act, as amended (EPA, 2021).
copyright An exclusive legal right given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film or record literary, artistic or musical material, perform a work publicly via a digital audio transmission (if a sound recording) and authorize others to do the same (PAVILION, 2021).
course of action (COA)
  1. Any sequence of activities that an individual or unit may follow (JP 5-0).
  2. A scheme developed to accomplish a mission (JP 5-0).
cutaway Categorically opposite to the cut-in, a cutaway does not cut into the main action. Instead, it cuts away to a related subject or to a separate action that is going on at the same time. A cutaway 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 (PAVILION, 2022).
cut-in A close-up of something established in a wider shot.
Defense Visual Information Activity Number (DVIAN) A five-character unique identifier in alpha (A) numeric (N) format, rendered as (ANNNN), assigned to approved VI activities (such as unit Public Affairs offices, PA detachments and support elements, Combat Camera units, ships and other major commands) to validate their authority to operate and to enable unit-level attribution of VI records. Like the VISION ID, the DVIAN resides in Field 3 of the VIRIN (DIMOC).
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) DVIDS is a state-of-the-art, 24/7 operation owned by DMA (Defense Media Activity) that provides a timely, accurate and reliable connection between the media around the world and the military serving at home and abroad. VI from DoD members is accessioned to DVIDS (DVIDS, n.d.).
depth of field (DOF) The distance between the closest and farthest object within the focused zone of an image. It is determined by focal distance, aperture and distance to the subject (Ricart, 2018).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
documentation Imagery depicting actual events, activities, phenomena, places, or people, recorded primarily to create a record of the subject matter (DoDI 5040.02).
dolly With this camera movement, you're moving the camera toward or away from a subject, often by placing it on a track or motorized vehicle. When you “dolly in,” the camera moves toward the subject, whereas when you “dolly out,” the camera moves backward and away from the subject. This is different from a zoom, where the camera remains in the same physical location while the lens' focal length changes (NFI, n.d.).
exposure Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor and it determines how light or dark an image is. The exposure of an image is determined by the aperture, shutter speed and ISO (Ricart, 2018).
end product VI in the form of a finished deliverable immediately ready for its intended end users (DoDI 5040.02).
fill light Supplementary light used in photography or filming that does not change the character of the main light; chiefly lightens shadows (PAVILION, 2022).
final production The completed, requested and approved multimedia project (PAVILION, 2022).
focal length The distance in millimeters between the center of a lens and the camera sensor. It determines the angle of view as well as the magnification of the subject. Focal length is the measure used to categorize the different type of lenses: wide angle (<35mm), standard (35mm – 70mm), medium telephoto (70mm – 135mm) and telephoto (>135mm) (Ricart, 2018).
For Official Use Only (FOUO) Unclassified information that may be exempt from mandatory release to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (DODD 5400.7).
No terms to define.
hair light Lights up the hair and/or shoulders; separate from the background/ground. Generally, it is 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; also called back light (PAVILION, 2022).
imagery A likeness or presentation of any natural or man-made feature or related object or activity, and the positional data acquired at the same time the likeness or representation was acquired, including: products produced by space-based national intelligence reconnaissance systems; and likeness and presentations produced by satellites, airborne platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles or other similar means (except that such term does not include handheld or clandestine photography taken by or on behalf of human intelligence collection organizations) (JP 2-03).
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Represents the sensor’s sensitivity to the light. The higher the number, the most information will be captured. Higher ISO numbers are used in low-light situations such as astrophotography, or to capture images that are moving at a high speed. Digital cameras allow photographers to easily change the ISO, while each film roll has a predefined number (Ricart, 2018).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
J cut Audio is heard before the video of the clip is seen (PAVILION, 2022).
kerning The space between two specific letters (or other characters: numbers, punctuation, etc.) and the process of adjusting that space improves legibility (Read, 2022).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
kicker light Accent light that highlights the edges of a subject (seniorcare2share, 2021).
lavalier microphone A microphone that is specifically designed for voice pickup; used for interview situations (PAVILION, 2022).
L cut Audio is heard from the previous shot after the video cuts to the next shot; this video by Fandor explains the process (PAVILION, 2022).
leading How text is spaced vertically in lines. Leading is used when content that has multiple lines of readable text and ensures the distance from the bottom of the words above to the top of the words below has appropriate spacing to make them legible (Read, 2022).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
message (MSG) An indicator used to measure a current system state, with change indicated by comparing multiple observations over time (JP 5-0).
metadata A set of data that describes and gives information about other data. Software may be necessary to access and input metadata for VI Products.
  1. The task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore (JP 3-0).
  2. In common usage, especially when applied to lower military units, a duty assigned to an individual or unit; a task (JP 3-0).
  3. The dispatching of one or more aircraft to accomplish one particular task (JP 3-30).
multimedia The integration of text, audio, still or video imagery, graphics and animation in a non-linear production according to a plan or script for the purpose of conveying information to a user (DODD 5400.7).
natural sound Sometimes referred to as contextual sound (ambient); natural sound comes from the objects being recorded within the scene (PAVILION, 2022).
non-diegetic sound Commentary or non-literal 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 (PAVILION, 2022).
omnidirectional microphone Microphone pickup pattern that hears sounds equally well from all directions (PAVILION, 2022).
owned media News media that is owned by, produced for or by or is subject to the control of a government or organization; also known as internal media (DODI 5405.03).
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 (PAVILION, 2022).
parabolic microphone 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 (PAVILION, 2022).
pixel Picture element. The smallest addressable element in a raster image (TechPlugged, 2021).
photomechanical reproduction An image printed from a photographic matrix. Examples include lithographs, photogravures, and the half-tone prints found in newspapers (DoDI 5040.02).
preservation The processes involved in protecting and conserving VI. These include storage under environmentally protected conditions, conversion from obsolete to current formats, copying to more durable media, protecting from physical damage, cleaning, and securing against accidental or deliberate erasure, alteration, or loss (DoDI 5040.02).
production In VI, a complete, linear or non-linear presentation, sequenced according to a plan or script that is created from original or stock motion or still images, with or without sound, for the purpose of conveying information to, or communicating with, an individual or audience (DoDI 5040.02).
public In public affairs, a segment of the population with common attributes to which a military force can tailor its communication (JP 3-61).
public domain Consists of all works that never had copyright protection and works that no longer have copyright protection (PAVILION, 2021).
public information Within public affairs, information of a military nature, the dissemination of which is consistent with security and approved for public release (JP 3-61).
No terms to define.
raster image The smallest size an object or detail can be represented in an image. Image resolution is typically described in PPI, which refers to how many pixels are displayed per inch of an image. Higher resolutions mean that there more pixels per inch (PPI), resulting in more pixel information and creating a high-quality, crisp image.
receiver Device that receives the signal from a wireless microphone transmitter for audio collection (PAVILION, 2022).
resolution Resolution is the dimension in megapixels that a camera sensor is able to capture. For example, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV maximum resolution is 6720 × 4480 pixels, which rounds out to 30.1 effective megapixels. Higher resolutions allow photographers to capture a larger amount of detail on their photos (Ricart, 2018).
review for release The process of reviewing information and products prior to public release to ensure the material will not jeopardize ongoing or future operations. Must meet standards of SAPP (security, accuracy, policy, propriety) (JP 3-61).
RGB A model in which red, green and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. RGB tends to be used for on-screen purposes (Read, 2022).
  • Provides a dialog of small details.
  • 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 (PAVILION, 2022).
sequence An edited series of shots that that form a narrative unit. These shots work together to show action unfolding.
shotgun microphone Microphone commonly mounted on the camera with a cardioid pickup pattern; able to pick up sound at a relatively long distance (PAVILION, 2022).
shutter speed The length of time a camera sensor is exposed to light when taking a photo. Slow shutter speeds capture the blur of subjects in motion, making it highly valuable for night and landscape photographers. On the other hand high speeds allow photographers to freeze a single millisecond in time, which is usually an absolute must in fields, such as sport photography (Ricart, 2018).
smash cut Instantaneous change from one image (scene) to another; used to feel unexpected and sharpen the dramatic impact of the event (PAVILION, 2022).

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 for someone to understand the intent and create a project based solely on the storyboard (PAVILION, 2022).
tilt Camera is rotated vertically up (tilt up) or down (tilt down) (PAVILION, 2022).
title screen Shows the title of the production; can be in front of a blank screen or part of an opening multimedia sequence (PAVILION, 2022).
tracking Instead of focusing on the spacing between individual letters (kerning), tracking measures space between groups of letters (Read, 2022).
transmitter Device that transmits the signal for a wireless microphone to the receiver for audio collection (PAVILION, 2022).
truck Trucking is the same as dollying, only you are moving the camera from left to right instead of in and out. It is best to do this using a fluid motion track that will eliminate any jerking or friction (Storyblocks, 2019).
underscore Original or library music added to enhance the informational or emotional content of the scene (PAVILION, 2022).
vector image Vector images are made of lines and curves that create an image based on a mathematical equation. Also called paths, these lines and curves allow designers to scale images as simple as a shape or as complex as a full-blown illustration.
VI plan Identifying VI-producing capabilities and specific VI requirements during the deliberate planning process in the Adaptive Planning and Execution (APEX) system. Planning for the deployment and use of directed VI capabilities in support of PA in joint operations using JOPP should, at a minimum, address the following topics: JFC VI requirements, coordination, management, release, transmission and archiving (JP 3-61).
VISION ID A two-letter, three-digit (LLNNN) identification number assigned to all DoD personnel who create Visual Information (VI) records (DIMOC, n.d.).
visual information (VI) Various visual media with or without sound that generally includes still and motion photography, audio video recording, graphic arts and visual presentations (JP 3-61).
Visual Information Record Identification Number (VIRIN)
  1. An alphanumeric designator assigned to a VI record.
  2. The life cycle number under which VI records are managed (Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, n.d.).
voice over narration Usually describes events from outside the action, not as a participant but as an observer (PAVILION, 2022).
white balance The adjustment done to an image in order to compensate for the temperature of the light illuminating the scene (Ricart, 2018).
No terms to define.
No terms to define.
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Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. (n.d.). Visual information (VI) records schedule.

Defense Imagery Management Operations Center. (n.d.). Defense visual information activity number (DVIAN).

Department of Defense. (2016). DoD Issuance 5405.03 Development, submission, and approval of Proposed Public Affairs Guidance (PPAG).

Department of Defense. (2017). DoD Directive 5400.07 DOD Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program.

Department of Defense. (2018). DoD Instruction 5040.02 Visual Information (VI).

DIMOC. (n.d.). What is a VISION ID?

DVIDS. (n.d.). About DVIDS.

Fandor. (2018). SFX secrets: The J cut & the L cut.

Interaction Design Foundation. (n.d.) Color Theory. Interaction Design Foundation.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2013). JP 1 Doctrine for the armed forces of the United States.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2013). JP 2-0 Joint intelligence.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2016). JP 2-10.2 Counterintelligence and human intelligence in joint operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2017). JP 2-03 Geospatial intelligence in joint operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2017). JP 3-0 Joint operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2014). JP 3-13 Information operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2021). JP 3-30 Joint air operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2019). JP 3-31 Joint land operations.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2016). JP 3-61 Public affairs.

Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2020). JP 5-0 Joint planning.

NARA. (n.d.) NARA records management key terms and acronyms.

NFI. (n.d.). Camera movements: Everything you need to know.

PAVILION. (2022). AV glossary of terms.

PAVILION. (2021). Copyright: Can I use this or not?

Read, A. (2022). Why every marketer needs in 2018 needs to be a (part-time) designer: 52 design terms to level-up.

Ricart, J. R. (2018, October 4). From A to Z: Photography Terms Glossary.

seniorcare2share. (2021). What is accent lighting?

Storyblocks. (2019, May 15). 7 basic camera movements.

TechPlugged. (2021, June 20). Pixel.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, March 17). Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program frequently asked questions (FAQs).

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