TECH TERMS

In case you’re wondering what some of those fancy post production terms are, here’s a little help from The Post Lab.

180 Degree Rule
Refers to screen direction that camera operators must follow where an imaginary line on one side of the axis of action is made where the camera must not cross over.

24 Frames Per Second
The international frame rate standard used when shooting film. The number of frames that are run through the gate of a camera, or projected, per second.

3D
A film that has a stereoscopic form or appearance, giving the illusion of depth. The kind of film one needs to wear special glasses to watch.

A/B Roll
The term historically referred to interview footage that was being put together using a linear-based editing system. “A roll” was usually the main footage of all the material shot with “B roll” being additional footage that supported comments or descriptions made by the interview subject.

Action cut
Cutting on action refers to an editing technique where the editor cuts from one shot to another view that matches the first action’s shot. Cutting on action gives the impression of continuous time and by having a subject begin an action in one shot and carry it through to completion in the next, the editor creates a visual bridge distracting the viewer from noticing the cut or any slight continuity error between the two shots.

Action safe area
This term is used in television production to describe the areas of the picture that can be seen on a television screen. The term pertained more to older television screens as newer, flat panel HD screens generally can show most of the picture outside the safe area.

ADR
Dialog that can’t be salvaged from original production tracks must be re-recorded in a process called “ADR,” which stands for “Automated Dialog Replacement.” This process involves bringing the actors to a sound facility during post-production and syncing a live re-recording, with their moving lips on screen. It’s very common to have several hours of ADR scheduled before you move into your sound mix.

Aspect Ratio
The aspect ration of an image describes the proportional relationship between its width and its height. The most common aspect ratios used today in film are 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 and the two most common video aspect ratios are 4:3 and 16:9 which is now the universal aspect ratio for high-definition television.

Assistant Editor
An Assistant Editor handles most of the organization of picture and sound material for the Editor. This includes, but is not limited to, ingesting of files, syncing sound for dailies, cutting together a string-out, putting in temp sound effects and music, and overseeing many details that go into an editor’s work.

Avid
Avid is one of two main editing platforms commonly used today in film and television.  It was created in 1987 when digital, non-linear editing systems replaced older non-digital methods of cutting a film on a Moviola or Steenbeck. Today, Avid is regarded as the most professional editing software, and remains the industry standard among professionals, despite the popularity of Final Cut Pro in the indie world.

Burnt-in Timecode (BITC)
Burnt-in timecode is the readable, on-screen version of the timecode information of the footage, superimposed on the video image. It’s basically metadata locator information of the captured files that helps the filmmaker catalog and locate, or refer back to, elements of original footage.

CGI
CGI stands for ‘Computer-Generated Imagery’ and is a term that refers to animating digital elements or creating 3D computer graphics that will eventually be composited into a scene to give the illusion as if the elements were a part of the original scene in the first place.

Chiaroscuro
The Italian word (actually two Italian words combined for “clear/bright” and “dark”) to describe a lighting technique that refers to contrasting use of light and shade in scenes, often achieved by using a spotlight.

Chroma key
A special effects technique for compositing two images or video streams together based on color hues, like working in front of a green-screen. Technique is usually used to remove a background from the subject, for example in newscasting or in high-end movies and video games.

CinemaScope
The term, trademarked by 20th Century Fox widescreen process, refers to widescreen cinematography or anamorphic techniques. Aspect ratio is 2.35:1.

Clipping
When looking at digital video, clipping is the area of an image that has a color value that is outside the range of values capable in any one video channel. It is the result of overexposure and usually happens in bright areas that have “blown-out highlights.”

Color Grading / Color Correction
The  process of altering or enhancing the color of an image, usually done in what’s called a Digital Intermediate suite. This is one of the final creative processes of post-production, where the filmmaker is able to create the specific look of the finished film.

Color Space
Refers to an abstract mathematical model that describes the way colors are represented to both the human eye, based on various defined color models.

Common Top
A framing technique used by the cinematographer that maintains the headroom of the image and adds ‘surplus’ to the bottom of the frame only.

Composer
The person who creates the musical score for the film.

Compositing
The process of combining visual elements from separate sources into single images, usually done through the method of green-screen, and most recently using “virtual sets” that are replaced by computer graphics programs.

Compression
Compression is the process of reducing the size of a data file. Depending on the type of compression and the way the file is processed, the results vary greatly. The goal of compression is to save space or transmission time when dealing with lots of data transfer.

Continuity
In film, continuity is the  process of maintaining consistency of plot, characters, time, objects, places and events of the story in order to maintain the  audience’s suspension of disbelief over time. The script supervisor’s job on set is to pay attention to this and maintain continuity during production in order for editorial to maintain continuity through post-production.

Continuity Report
Generated by the script supervisor, the continuity report is a detailed list of issues that occurred during the shooting of a scene in production that track and may effect continuity. This report is crucial for the editor to receive in order to understand and maintain continuity in post.

Cross Fade
An audio mixing technique that fades sound out from one source while fading another source of sound in at the same time.

Cross-cut
A film editing technique to establish action occurring at the same time in two different locations.

Cutaway
While editing a film, a cutaway is the interruption of a scene with the insertion of another scene that is generally unrelated to the main focus.

Dailies
Immediately processed or shot footage for the director to review to see how the previous day’s shooting went.

Data
Digital Information that is processed and stored on hard drives. By definition, it’s a bunch of ‘ones and zeros’ known as binary data that can be created, processed, saved and stored in digital format.

Day-for-Night Shot
A technique used by the cinematographer to film a scene during the day, using different lenses, filters and lighting, to appear as moonlit on the final screen.

Dialogue Editor
A  sound editor whose job is to assemble, synchronize and edit all of the dialogue in the film, using production tracks and any sound recorded on set.

Digital Cinema
Generally speaking, digital cinema refers to both capturing and distributing motion pictures digitally. A movie today can be distributed via hard drives and projected using a digital projector. A movie can also be captured using digital cameras. The term is all encompassing, but it mostly referred to how the movie will be distributed.

Digital Intermediate
Creating a digital intermediate (DI) refers to the digitizing of motion picture data and manipulating the color and other image characteristics in one of the final stages of finishing the film in post-production. The process uses digital tools to color grade, and ultimately the DI will be used to create the digital master.

Diegetic Sound
Sound that realistically or logically exists in the context of the scene. It’s the opposite of non-diegetic sound elements, which refers to sounds like background music, the score, a voice over, etc.

Dissolve
A transitional editing technique between two scenes, where the visible image of one shot is gradually blended and merged into another.

Distribution
Distribution is the process through with a movie is made available to watch for an audience by a film distributor or via other methods.

Down-Conversion
The process of converting from a higher quality format to a lower one. Generally refers to going from high definition to standard definition.

Effects Animation
The animation of non-character elements such as explosions, smoke, rain, etc.

Flex file
An important file during the online editing process, a flex file is a computer-generated file that establishes the relationship between timecode, keykode and often audio timecode.

Foley
The  reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added in post production to enhance the quality of audio for a film.

Found Footage
A term used to describe the use of footage as a found object, appropriated for use in documentary-type films.

fps
The frame rate of a film is expressed in fps, which stands for ‘frames per second.  Standard film rate is 24 fps, with video being 29.97 fps and PAL video at 25 fps and is the number of frames played every second. The standard film frame rate is 24 fps, with NTSC  video at 29.97 fps and PAL video at 25 fps.

Freeze frame
The  repetition of a single frame of footage over a period of time to give the effect that the  action has stopped.

Gamma
A  measurement of the level of midtones in an image.

Grain
A term which comes from shooting on film — it’s the light-sensitive material in the film’s emulsion that creates a look of texture on screen.

Green Screen Compositing
Also called chroma keying, this is a special effects technique for compositing (layering) two images together based on color hues, which are usually green.

Headroom
When looking at the composition of an image, the headroom is the space between the top of the character’s head and the top of the frame.

Insert Edit
In the editing room, this refers to the process of inserting a clip onto a timeline and pushing content aside  to make room for it so that no content is overwritten.

Interlaced Video
A technique of doubling the perceived frame rate introduced with the signal, without consuming extra bandwidth.

Jump Cut
In the editing room, a cut in in time where the action does not completely match that of the preceding shot.

Letterbox
The practice of transferring film shot in a widescreen aspect ratio to standard-width video formats, while preserving the film’s original aspect ratio. The resulting image has a black matte above and below the image.

Moire Pattern
When shooting with digital cameras, a moire pattern is an interference pattern that’s created when two grids are overlaid at an angle. This can be caused when someone is wearing a shirt or jacket that has a particular weave or pattern and is moving in the frame. There are some digital cameras that have more difficulty processing these patterns than others.

MOS
In production, this means shooting a scene without recording sound.

Motion Capture 
The process of filming an actor in an artificial environment that will be used later during CGI and VFX.

Muzzle Shot
In VFX, the term used to describe a shot that simulates the look of a gun firing.

Noise
Extra information in a video signal that is caused by either under or over exposure.

Non-Drop Frame Timecode
Timecode  that counts every frame and does not compensate for the inaccuracies that occur when 29.97 fps is converted to 30.

Offline Edit
During post production, an offline edit is the process of cutting a project at a lower resolution in order to save money and time.

Online Edit
Once an offline edit is completed, using an EDL, the sequence is then reassembled using high resolution media for the final output.

Pan and Scan
During the delivery stage of finishing a film, “pan and scan” is a method of converting widescreen images to a 4:3 aspect ratio by re-composing the image and moving it around.

Pixel Aspect Ratio
The  ratio of the width of a pixel to its height.

Plate Shot
An empty shot of the background with no foreground elements that is used to composite elements in VFX.

Post-Production
The final stage of the filmmaking process that involves editing, sound design, visual effects, music, color correction, and anything and everything needed to output and deliver a film for release.

Post Production Supervisor
The Post Production Supervisor manages and coordinates all elements of post production to insure the film is delivered properly and on time.

PRE-VIZ
Short for previsualization, it’s the digital process that allows the filmmaker to visualize complex scenes prior to the making of the movie.

Progressive
Frame  scanning technology that processes each frame as one complete image, as opposed to two separate fields as with interlacing.

Render
The act of processing and transcoding data.

Render Time
The amount of time it will take to process all of your digital files.

Resolution
The amount of data used to make up a digital video or audio file, specified as the number of pixels (for video) or the number of bits (for audio). When you’re first editing your project, it’s all right to keep the resolution fairly low.  This saves up disc space and let’s you work faster since the computer won’t have to render a high-res image on every frame during playback.  Just make sure you re-up your resolution for final viewings before outputing it; just to make sure you didn’t miss any mistakes or gaffes in the lower res.

RGB
The primary colors used to make images in monitors, cameras and digital projectors.

RGBA
A file containing an RGB image plus an alpha channel for transparency information.

Room Tone
In production, the sound mixer often will record “room tone” which is the sound of the room when all is quiet. This can be important in editing to equalize sound over many cuts in picture.

Rotoscoping
Te process of tracing the outlines of live action elements frame by frame, normally used for matte effects.

Score
The musical component of a film’s soundtrack, usually written specifically for the story of the film, by the Composer.

Shutter speed
The amount of time the camera’s shutter is open which is in direct proportion to exposure time, or the duration of light reaching the film or image sensor.

Sound Designer
The person responsible for the overall sound design of the film.

Sound Mix
One of the last stages of post production, the sound mix usually occurs on a mixing stage where the film is projected onto a large screen and a sound mixer and creative team are making decisions on sound levels and the overall quality of audio.

Source Music
Usually refers to songs that are pre-recorded and placed into the overall sound design of the film.

Telecine
The process of scanning film in real-time and outputting to a tape-based or digital format.

Timecode
An indexing system that provides a unique index for each frame of video, in the form hh:mm:ss:ff.  Timecode makes it easy to locate and reference a particular frame.

Transition
A movement from one shot or scene to another, such as a cut or dissolve.

Traveling Matte
An evolution of the matte process that allowed the matte to change shape and position from frame to frame.

Up-Conversion
The process of converting a standard definition video to a high definition format.

Visual Effects Supervisor
The head of the visual effects department who oversees and manages all aspects of the visual effects process.

White Balance
The process of adjusting the camera so that it interprets the brightest area of the image as pure white.

Widescreen
Now considered to be 16:9 aspect ratio common on HD sets, widescreen is a format in which the width-to-height ratio of the frame is greater than the standard 1.37:1 or 4:3 in television.

 

Have a tech term to add?  Drop us an email and we’ll update our list!  Term definitions are pulled from reliable internet sources, including Wikipedia, and represent a general concept of the term. Added details are sometimes thrown in from the perspective of personal experience.