100+ video editing terms you need to know

Marketing
July 10, 2023

100+ video editing terms you need to know


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Spend enough time in editing bays or behind the camera and you’ll quickly learn that creating videos involves a language all its own. There’s a rich vocabulary of video editing terms you’ll encounter and learning them all can be overwhelming, regardless of your video editing skill. That’s why we’ve compiled more than 100 of the most common video editing terms in this blog post. Whether you’re new to creating videos or an experienced videographer, we recommend using this video editing glossary as a reference to help make sense of it all. 

Video editing terms #-G:

#

2-pop

2-pop is a 1 kHz tone placed two seconds before the start of a video. They help synchronize the sound and picture.

2-beep

2-beep is another word for 2-pop. This 1 kHz tone occurs two seconds before the video begins and helps video editors sync all the tracks.

3:2 pulldown

A 3:2 pulldown is the process of converting a film from 24 frames per second to 30 frames per second to fit the NTSC television standard.

A

A-roll

The a-roll is the main source of audio and video and typically focuses on the primary characters or subjects.

Action safe area

The action safe area is the outer edge of visibility on a TV. Some news stations use it to display border graphics or tickers.

Alpha channel

An alpha channel adds a transparency map to your video footage. This allows you to adjust the transparency levels for different areas of your video so that you can create a specific look or effect.

Ambient sound

Ambient sound is any noise that exists in an environment. For example, a car driving by or a bird chirping while recording a video.

Aspect ratio

The aspect ratio is the height and width of your video expressed as a ratio. Common aspect ratios include 16:9, 4:3, and 1.85:1.

Assembly

The assembly is a film’s first rough cut. The editor then arranges the footage in order, using the script as a guide.

B

B-roll

B-roll is any secondary footage that helps add detail and smooth out transitions between scenes. This could include establishing shots, stock footage, atmospheric shots, or undirected footage of background people.

Download this B-roll video

Bit rate

The bit rate is the amount of data used in each second of video. Bit rate is typically measured in megabits (Mbps) for video and kilobits per second (kbps) for audio.

BITC (Burnt-in timecode)

A burnt-in timecode (BITC) is an on-screen timecode superimposed over the video image. Editors usually use it to identify individual frames of a video during the rough cut phase.

Bump tease

As a video transitions into a break, a bump tease entices the viewer to keep watching. A bump tease is usually a voiceover with a quick hint of what is going to happen next.

Bumper

A bumper is a short voiceover or musical interlude used during transitions, intros, and outros of broadcast shows. For example, “We’ll be right back after a quick message from our sponsors.”

Burnt-in captions

Burnt-in captions, also called open captions, are a form of text captions that improve the accessibility of your video. These captions are “burnt in” to the video, so they are always there and cannot be turned off.

C

Channels

In video editing, channels refer to separate audio files. These channels are either mixed together or used separately.

Chroma key

Chroma key is a video editing technique that removes one distinct color from a scene to replace it with something else, usually visual effects. This is usually done with blue or green screens.

Clean plate

In video editing terms, a clean plate is a video clip or still image that includes the background of a shot without the subjects.

Clip

A clip is a short section of a video.

Close-up

A close-up is a video shot where a subject fills most or all of the frame. For instance, a close-up could be of person’s face or a still object.

Download this close-up video

Codec

A codec is a piece of software that speeds up the transfer of multimedia files by compressing and decompressing data.

Cold open

In television and film, cold opens jump directly into the narrative before a title screen or opening credits. For example, the comedy show Saturday Night Live always uses a cold open.

Color correction

The video editing term color correction is the process of fixing an image’s contrast, exposure, and balance so it looks more natural to the human eye.

Color grade

Color grading is tweaking an image’s colors to enhance the mood or alter its look stylistically. This could include changing a color image to black and white, or adjusting the color saturation to appear more vibrant.

Color temperature

Color temperature is the coolness or warmth of visible light, measured in Kelvin units. Cooler color temperatures are more blue or green hued, while warmer temperatures tend towards red or orange. The higher a light source’s Kelvin, the cooler its light will appear.

Compositing

You’ve probably encountered the video editing term compositing, which is the process of combining multiple images into one.

Compression

Videos have a lot of data, which can translate to huge files. Compression shrinks the size of those files to reduce time spent uploading and downloading.

Conform

In post-production, the conform process increases the resolution of a low-resolution image or video. 

Container

In video editing, a container is what holds all the audio, video, and other data together in a single file. They usually have extensions like .mp3, .avi, or .mov. It’s also called a wrapper.

Copy

Copy is one of those video editing terms with multiple definitions. It can refer to reproducing an image or video. It can also apply to a specific version of a video, for example, a “master copy”. Copy can also refer to the visible text on the screen.

Countdown leader

A countdown leader is the visible numbers that tick down second by second at the start of a film. This was popularized in the era of physical film and projectors, and is sometimes used digitally for a retro effect.

Crop factor

A crop factor is the ratio of a camera’s sensor size to a traditional 35mm frame of film. Crop factor numbers typically range between 1.3-2.0.

Cut-in

A cut-in is a type of shot that shows what the main subject is interacting with. For example, if a character is playing the guitar, a cut-in might show their hands strumming the strings.

D

Data rate

A data rate is the amount of data contained in each second of a video. It’s also called the bit rate.

Depth of field (DOF)

Depth of field refers to the part of an image that is in focus. You could have just the subjects or foreground in focus, while the background is out of focus.

Diffusion

Diffusion is placing fabric or other materials over light sources so that harsh shadows are reduced and the light is filtered.

Dissolve

Dissolve is a transition effect where one image or video clip gradually fades out as another fades in.

Dolly

A dolly is a piece of film equipment used to stabilize camera movements.

E

Exporting

Exporting is the process of saving a video file in a new format so it can be transferred or used in a different editing program.

F

Focal-stop (F-stop)

Focal-stop or f-stop refers to the opening of a camera’s lens, also called the aperture. It determines how much light is able to pass through a lens at different shutter speeds.

Fade

A fade is a visual effect where an image or video clip gradually fades out to a black screen. This can also be used as a fade in from a black screen.

Finishing

Finishing is the final stage of the video editing process. It takes the final edit and transforms it into the version an audience will see.

Foley

Foley is the post-production process of creating or reproducing sound effects for a video or film to enhance their quality.

Footage

Footage is the shorthand video editing term for original, unedited video files.

FPS (frames per second)

Videos play one frame at a time. When seen in rapid succession, these frames create the illusion of motion (hence, “motion picture”). The number of images displayed per second of film is called frames per second or FPS. The standard frame rate across movies, TV, and streaming content is 24fps.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is another term for frames per second.

Framing

Framing is the placement of subjects in a shot.

G

Garbage matte

A rough version of a matte that is often hand-drawn or quickly made is called a garbage matte. Garbage mattes are used to identify the area around an image to be hidden from view and are commonly used in conjunction with chroma keying.

Video editing terms H-P:

H

Handles

Also known as head material and tail material, handles are extra footage before a clip’s in-point and after the out-point. They’re typically used to give editors extra frames to add transition effects or extend a clip that is too short.

High-Definition Media Interface (HDMI)

High-Definition Media Interface is a connector that carries HD video and audio to a monitor.

Hot shoe

A hot shoe is a cleat for mounting microphones or flashes on top of a camera.

I

Importing

Importing is the process of converting a file into the format needed for the program you are using.

Ingest

Ingest is bringing new software elements into a workshop or production.

Interactive video

Interactive video brings viewers into the action by allowing them to select different options.

Interlacing

Interlacing is a technique to increase the perceived frame rate without using more bandwidth. It divides an image into odd and even pixel rows. One frame will show the odd rows, while the next frame will show the even rows. This is imperceptible to the human eye.

ISO

ISO is a digital camera setting that determines how sensitive the sensor is to light. A low ISO setting is better for shooting during daylight, while a high ISO setting is better for darker conditions.

J

J-cut (jump cut)

A j-cut or jump cut is a sudden transition from one scene to the next that does not show how the subject got from one spot to another. For example, in one scene a character might be eating a meal and then in the next scene, they are driving their car.

K

Ken Burns effect

This technique is named after famed documentarian Ken Burns, who uses it liberally in his work. The Ken Burns effect pans and zooms on a static image to give the impression of motion or to focus attention.

Key (keying)

Keying is the process of digitally removing certain elements from a scene and replacing them with something else.

L

L-Cut

An L-cut is a transition where the audio from the previous scene carries over into the next.

Lapel

A lapel is a small microphone, usually clipped onto someone’s clothing within a foot of their mouth.

Layering

Layering is when you stack multiple pieces of media in a video editing timeline so that they play at the same time.

Letterboxing

Letterboxing is playing a 16:9 aspect ratio video on a 4:3 screen, requiring black bars above and below the video. This helps your footage fit the frame without having to stretch or crop it.

Linear video editing

The process of editing images, video, and sound in sequential order is linear video editing. Before the early 1990s, this process was just called video editing.

Long-form video

Any video footage that specifically runs for longer than 5 minutes is considered long-form video.

Lower third

Lower third refers to the Rule of Thirds, where you visually divide an image into three equal horizontal sections. The bottom section is the lower third. It’s frequently used to display chyron text and other visual elements in YouTube videos and news broadcasts.

Example of video editing terms - lower third

Download Lower Thirds Business After Effects

Luma

Luma is the white value of a visual element.

M

Macro

Macro refers to a type of camera lens with a long barrel. Filmmakers generally use macro lenses for close focusing.

Match cut

A cut that connects visual elements between scenes is called a match cut. For example, focusing on a circular shape in one scene and transitioning to another circular shape in the next.

Matte

A matte is used in video editing to combine two or more elements into one final image. For example, unifying a background image with subjects in the foreground.

Memory bank

A memory bank is a computer component that stores data.

Mid-stream ads

Advertisements that appear within a web video that are not part of the selected media are mid-stream ads.

Mono audio

Mono audio has only one channel, as opposed to stereo audio with two channels.

Monopod

A type of camera stand with a single leg.

Motion graphics

Motion graphics is another term for animation. They’re a great way to add a pop of visual interest to your video, giving still images a sense of motion.

Download this motion graphic

Multichannel audio

Multichannel audio, or surround sound, uses more than 2 independent audio channels. Sending certain sounds to specific speakers can create a more immersive audio environment.

N

Narration

Narration is spoken audio, usually from an unseen host, that sets up or explains parts of a story.

Natural sound

Natural sound is any sound captured from the filming environment instead of reproduced in a studio using foley. Therefore, recording a rainstorm would be a natural sound, while using a rain stick would be a foley reproduction.

Non-linear editing (NLE)

Non-linear editing is when an editor works on a project in their preferred order, without concern for the video’s linear timeline.

O

Offline

Offline is the very first stage of the video editing process. During offline, the editor chooses the footage, sounds, and shots they will edit together.

Online

The second stage of the video editing process is called online. This is when editors perform sound mixing, color grading, and add any final graphics and transitions.

Overwrite

An editing process where a selected clip replaces frames in a video timeline.

P

PAL

Short for Phase Alternate Line, PAL is an automated color encoding system with an aspect ratio of 720×576 and a frame rate of 25 fps. The PAL format is the broadcast standard for Europe, most of Asia, Africa, and parts of South America.

Pans

Pans are horizontal camera movements.

Picture lock

Picture lock is the phase of editing where the length and order of the shots can no longer be changed.

Pixel aspect ratio

The pixel aspect ratio is the comparison of the height and width of a single pixel in a digital image, expressed as a ratio.

Plate

Plate refers to a layer within a video file. In video editing, plates can be layered on top of each other to create the final cut.

Post-production

Post-production is one of the video editing terms you’re bound to hear frequently. It refers to all stages of production after the video footage is recorded, including editing, music, and special effects.

Proxy

A proxy is a low-resolution copy of a video file.

Pull-up

The process of synchronizing all video and audio files is known as a pull-up in video editing terms.

Video editing terms R-Z:

R

Radio edit

A radio edit is a method of video editing that starts with the audio. Everything else, like graphics, b-roll, and images are added later.

Rendering

Rendering combines all clips together to create a single video.

Resolution

Resolution is the number of vertical and horizontal pixels in a video. High-definition video has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, while standard definition video is only 640×480.

Rights

Rights, also known as copyright, is the term for who owns a piece of media and who is allowed to use it.

Roll

Roll is another one of those video editing terms with throwback origins. The term is derived from analog rolls of film. However, in the digital video era, roll refers to memory cards or specific types of footage, such as a-roll or b-roll.

Rotoscoping

Rotoscoping is the painstaking process of manually altering video footage a single frame at a time. It’s used to remove unwanted subjects, or create realistic animation effects by tracing over film footage.

Rough cut

A rough cut is the version of a video or film after the first editing round.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds invisibly divides an image into 9 equal sections with two horizontal and two vertical lines, similar to a tic-tac-toe layout. This rule is used because the human eye is naturally drawn to the point where the lines intersect. In fact, in filmmaking, the Rule of Thirds is used to align subjects in a shot in a more aesthetically pleasing way.

S

Saturation

Saturation is the intensity of a color.

Selects

Selects is the video editing term for any collection of chosen clips combined into a timeline. What editors call selects clips are typically picked from the best footage you’ve got. Selects are typically used to highlight characters, locations, or moods.

SFX (sound effects)

SFX is shorthand for sound effects. Sound effects are audio files added in post-production to enhance the action of a scene.

Download Cinematic Whoosh to Sub Drop

Short-form video

Any finished video shorter than 5 minutes in length is considered a short-form video. Most online video content is made up of short-form videos.

Shot

A shot is a continuous sequence of video footage captured between cuts or edits. One section of footage can contain multiple shots if the camera shoots continuously while reframing.

Shot list

A shot list is a compilation of all the shots a filmmaker wants in a production.

Sizzle reel

A sizzle reel is a collection of edited footage that showcases the highlights of a production.

Slate

Slate is a term for the production clapperboard or anything else that shows important information like take number, scene number, etc.

Slide

A slide is a tool in video editing software that lets you move a clip to the right or left within a timeline while also trimming the clips on either side.

Slip

A slip is a video editing tool that lets you simultaneously adjust the in and out points of a clip. This ensures the time between the two points remains the same.

Slug

Slug refers to a piece of empty black footage or blank audio.

Smash cut

A smash cut is a sudden, dramatic cut from one scene to another. Smash cuts usually happen unexpectedly and present a stark contrast between scenes. They’re often accompanied by dramatic shifts in tone.

Sound mix

A sound mix is any audio that’s been professionally edited and properly balanced.

Split screen

A split screen is when two or more images appear on the screen side by side. Typically the screen is divided in half, but a split screen can also show multiple subjects at once.

Standards conversion

Standards conversion is the process of adjusting a media file from its original frame rate so it can be played at a different frame rate.

Stems

Stems are groups of audio files that an editor blends together to create a single media file.

Stereo

Stereo refers to audio files with both left and right channels.

Sting

A sting, also called a stinger, is a short piece of music or collection of sounds. Usually around 5 or 6 seconds in length, stingers are useful for separating scenes. For instance, sitcoms frequently use stingers. The iconic bass riff used in Seinfeld is an example you may recognize.

Download Glitch Morphing Epic Impact 3

Storyboard

A storyboard is a collection of drawings or illustrations used to represent scenes in a production. A director will organize these based on how they want the final production to look. And, you can find our team’s favorite storyboard template in our Ultimate Video Marketing Toolkit.

Stringout

Laying out all footage chronologically and syncing it with audio is a stringout. If there are multiple camera shots, these are stacked within the timeline.

Sync (synchronization)

To sync something in video editing, you combine video and audio files so they precisely align on screen.

Sync Cut

A sync cut is an early edit that only includes dialogue footage.

T

Take

A take is a continuous performance recorded in a single sequence. And multiple takes may be recorded in the same piece of footage.

Talking head

Talking head is one of the video editing terms you’ve likely encountered in movies or other media. It refers to a type of video where most of the action is a person talking to the camera. For example, a talking head video could be a news broadcast or interview format video.

Teaser

A teaser is a type of video used to generate excitement for an upcoming production or event. This will give viewers a simple overview of what to expect while attempting to pique their interest.

Three-point lighting

Three-point lighting eliminates most shadows to improve a production’s lighting balance. These three lights are usually called key, fill, and backlights.

Tilts

Tilts are vertical camera movements from a fixed, central location like a tripod.

Timecode

A timecode is the exact timing of a specific frame in a video clip that’s measured in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames.

Timelapse

A timelapse is a filming technique where frames are captured at a significantly slower rate than usual. Then, when played back at normal speeds, time seems to go by more quickly. Timelapses are frequently used to visualize things that occur slowly, like a balloon inflating or a flower blooming, in less time.

Download Night View of Times Square With Cars and People Walking by Time Lapse

Title safe

Title safe is the area in a video frame where text won’t get cut off when viewed on a specific type of device, like a TV or smartphone.

Tracking

If you produce online videos, you can use tracking to collect data from your viewers and monitor their viewing habits. Additionally, it’s worth noting that tracking can also refer to a type of camera movement that follows the motion of one or more subjects in frame.

Transcode

Transcoding refers to the process of decoding, reformatting, and re-encoding a video file from one code or format to another.

Transcribing

Transcribing is the process of creating a text translation of your video’s audio track.

Transcript

A transcript is a document where audio dialogue is written down in a text format. Usually these are done by hand or through automated software.

Tripod

A tripod is a camera stand with three legs.

TRT

TRT stands for total run time and is the final length of a video or film.

V

VFR (variable frame rate)

Variable frame rates are those which fluctuate within a single piece of footage. Unfortunately, this can happen with videos when they’re recorded on smartphones if the video editing software doesn’t handle the file well.

Video SEO

Video SEO stands for “video search engine optimization.” It’s the process of optimizing a video to boost its search engine ranking.

Viewfinder

A viewfinder is the small lens you look through on a camera to see what will be in your shot.

Viral video

A viral video is an online video that quickly receives a lot of attention and shares, usually on social media.

Vision mixing

Vision mixing is the video editing term for the process of combining live shots from multiple sources into a single video for a live feed.

Vlog

A vlog is a portmanteau of video and blog. Instead of writing out blog posts, the creator records their thoughts and content in video form.

Voiceover

A voiceover is any kind of spoken dialogue from an unseen narrator.

W

White balance

White balance is the process of adjusting a camera’s color sensitivity based on the type of light you are using so that the whites are truly white. Subsequently, using an improper white balance may make them look yellowish, greenish, or some other color.

Wide angle

A wide angle is any video that’s filmed with a lens between 35mm and 24mm. These types of lenses have a short focal length and record more of the subject area than other lenses. Specifically, you can use wide angles for establishing shots, or to create a deliberately distorted effect. 

Wipe

A wipe is a type of transition where the edge of a new scene slides into place across and overtop of the original image.

Z

Zoom lens

A zoom lens is an adjustable lens filmmakers, videographers, or photographers use to get closer or further away from a subject without moving the camera.

Zoom shot

For a zoom shot, adjust the lens of the camera while the camera stays still. This has the effect of making the subject look larger in the frame.

Take video creation to the next level with Storyblocks

Now that you’ve got all of this new vocabulary under your belt, you’re ready to put some of it to use. Video production requires clear communication, and understanding these common video editing terms is an important part of sharpening your skills. And now, with your new understanding of all these video editing terms, you’ll be better at identifying what works and what doesn’t. 

As a video creator, there’s lots you can learn beyond just technical lingo. But at the end of the day, what matters most is your ideas and the videos you want to create. All you’re missing is the time and resources to film them yourself. In fact, Storyblocks offers an unrivaled library of high-quality stock audio and video footage, leveling the playing field for all creators. Now you no longer need to search multiple sites to find what you need. Instead, find all of the video files, templates, sound effects, and images you need to elevate your next production in one place. We even offer subscription plans priced for any budget. Want the ultimate freedom to experiment? Check out our unlimited plan options.

Editor’s note: We updated this article to include additional information. It was originally published on June 17, 2022.

Valerie Shore

Content Marketing Manager

Valerie is the go-to for all things messaging at Storyblocks, working as a content marketing manager and copywriter for cross-functional initiatives. When they're not furiously typing away on her favorite mechanical keyboard for work they love playing D&D, hiking, and dreaming about having a farm in the country.