Like all industries, video has its own set of technical terms. If you’re going to work successfully with a video production company, you’ll need to understand what they’re talking about - so you can avoid misunderstandings and bring your video project to completion, on time and on budget.
Here are the top 13 video production terms you need to know:
Pre-production literally means “before production.” Pre-production is everything that has to happen before your video shoot.
This is the most important part of your production – and it’s where you can be oh-so-tempted to cut corners. Resist that urge! Scrimping on pre-production is like setting off on a long journey without adequate planning. Lots can go wrong as a result.
- Concept development
- Developing a shot list
- Identifying (and hiring) talent
- Location scouting / Site visit
- Crew scheduling
- Any other planning element specific to your video
When it comes to video, production has two meanings, depending on the context. First, when it’s used with video, as in video production, it’s a general term that means the whole process.
But when it stands alone, and when it’s describing the process, it has a very specific meaning: production is the process of filming your raw video shots. For example, your vendor might say, “During production, we’ll be using our shotgun mic on a boom pole.”
Everything that happens on set – from carrying in the gear, setting up the lights, applying make-up to the talent, rolling the cameras – all of it falls into the production bucket.
Post-production includes everything that happens after production, but mostly, post-production refers to editing.
In post, the video is assembled per the storyboard you created as part of pre-production. Music is added, as are graphics and effects. Then the client watches the draft and makes change requests. More edits are made, and a new draft is delivered for inspection. This process continues until the client is satisfied. Then the video is finished (with color grading and audio sweetening), and the file is encoded and delivered.
Although script sounds like it refers exclusively to dialogue, when it comes to video the meaning is broader. Script refers to one of the documents that guide video production.
If people who appear in the video have exact lines, those will appear in the script, along with other information about what is happening on set, such as location changes, camera angles, etc.
If interviews will be filmed, the script will include the questions that will be asked, along with what you need to have the interviewee specifically say. B-roll shots can be included in the script.
Because there are so many different ways to create a video, there are many ways to construct a video script. What drives each different script is the fact that the script must lay out what will be said, how (scripted or interview) and by whom.
NOTE: The film and video industries are closely related, and much about video production mirrors film production. But – video projects can be very different from each other, and very different from films. While scripts and storyboards are fairly standard in the film industry, for video production they can have many forms.
Sometimes people use script and storyboard interchangeably, but they’re two different documents. The script is a text document that contains what will be said and who will say it, and a storyboard is a collection of images that show the scenes in your video, and how they will be filmed.
Those images can be sketches, or they can be photos, or anything in between. They just have to show how the scenes will be laid out and filmed.
Storyboards can also have text accompanying the images. This text provides information about how the scenes will transition, how the camera will move, how the scene will be lit – everything you need to know to understand what each scene will look like.
The text can also include the dialogue (or narration) line that will accompany that particular image.
There are free online tools for storyboarding,like Storyboard That, or you can use PowerPoint or even Word. You just need the ability to create blocks of images that tell the story of what your video will look like.
6. Shot list
Where the storyboard lays out the video as it will look when finished, the shot list tells the video crew what to film, and how. It’s an on-set checklist to make sure all necessary shots are filmed.
While the client needs to approve both script and storyboard, the shot list is not usually shared with the client, because its purpose is to guide filming, not to build the story.
7. Cinematic Cameras
Not so long ago, shooting video meant recording with a video camera with a build-in lens. Image sensors were smaller too, and result looked like video, where everything was in focus, and the image quality wasn’t great.
Wow, have things changed. Today, your video production company will film your video with higher quality cameras that have lens mounts to allow the use of different lenses.
Today’s cameras also have much larger and better image sensors that provide superior image quality.
These cameras create images that look much closer to Hollywood movies than video, which is why they are sometimes called ‘cinema cameras,’ and the video is called ‘cinematic.’
8. Film vs Video
You may hear some video production companies call their videos films. This reflects a decision by that particular vendor to try to differentiate their product from ‘video,’ which sounds lower-end. And, they want to indicate to their clients that cinematic cameras and a highly professional production process were used to create it.
But the market has not embraced ‘film’ as a term, which can lead to confusion. Is the product better because it’s called a film? Is a video necessarily lower-end?
No to both questions. If you’re comfortable calling your video a film, go ahead. But the vast majority of video production vendors call their products videos, no matter how high-end and amazing they are, because that’s what people understand.
And, when marketers are looking for a vendor, they Google video production, not film production.
The camera industry keeps making better cameras, and one development over the last few years is to build cameras that record at higher and higher resolutions. 4k cameras film at a horizontal resolution of about 4,000 pixels, which is huge. But is bigger better?
There are some situations where 4k video is a good choice, and others where 4k is overkill. You can find more information about 4k video here, but the bottom line is this: if your video vendor wants to film in 4k, ask them to explain to you why that makes sense – and whether it’s adding to the cost.
Many videos are composed of two types of shots: the main shot (the interview), and supplemental shots that illustrate what the interview is about. This supplemental material is called b-roll.
The purpose of b-roll is two-fold. First, to add extra visuals that make the video more visually interesting than just watching someone talk.
Second, b-roll plays a crucial role beyond just looking pretty. It covers up the jump cuts that happen when the editor takes a long interview and chops it up so what is said is only what’s important. Sometimes there are a lot of chops, which create a lot of jump cuts that need to be covered with b-roll, to create a seamless viewing experience.
11. Color grading and color correcting
The lush, beautiful color you see in Hollywood movies doesn’t happen naturally. It takes a great deal of careful set work to control the light. Then, after filming, the color and look of each scene are enhanced digitally, during the edit.
With video, it’s not always possible to completely control the light during a shoot. Because different light sources have different colors, your video can have a color cast, either throughout the frame, or in one section of the frame. Color correcting is the process of fixing this color distortion.
Color grading is the process of creating a specific look for a video scene, just like they do in Hollywood. It can be a simple matter of adding saturation and vibrancy, or giving the scene a slight color tint to warm it up (yellow) or cool it off (blue). Or it can be more complicated. Either way, no video is complete without color grading, and if necessary, color correcting.
NOTE: Very often with video,color grading and color correcting are used interchangeably.
12. Audio and audio sweetening
You know audio means sound, right? What you might not know is that just like changes can be made to video, changes can also be made to audio.
Sweetening the audio means making your audio sound better. This is a process that happens in post-production, and it can include getting rid of background hums and hisses, and adding bass or treble to voices to make them sound clearer and crisper.
The initial drafts of your video probably won’t have the audio sweetened, but if you notice something about the audio – a hum, a hiss, funny-sounding voices, and you want to know if it can be fixed, don’t hesitate to mention it to your video production company.
Additional audio sounds can also be added, like birds chirping, keys turning, doors closing, bells ringing, people laughing, etc. Any sounds you find in real life can be added to your video. Why would you add them? Because additional sounds that match what people are seeing create a richer experience.
13. Lower thirds
Lower thirds is an industry term (video as well as television) that simply means the graphic that appears at the bottom of the screen to identify someone who’s speaking, as in, Mr XYZ, President of ABC University.
Sometimes marketers call them titles. They’re important, and they don’t have to be just text. They can be animated, they can contain graphical elements, and they can (and should) be designed to coordinate with the video’s other graphics.
And there you are – the video production industry’s top 13 terms you need to know to work efficiently and successfully with your video vendor.
If you’d like information about finding the right video production company, this is a great resource: