All the terms you'll come across as a professional video editor, explained in plain English

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The world of post production uses loads of video editing terms and jargon that can be pretty confusing, and the list seems to keep growing!

If someone has sent you an email asking for something and you’re looking at it thinking, “What the hell does that mean?!” then this guide is for you.

Listed below are the meaning of video editing terms I regularly come across as a professional editor. People use different video editing jargon in news, documentaries, broadcast, features and marketing. I work across most of these so hopefully you can find the term you need.

The list is updated frequently so if there’s a word you can’t find let me know and I’ll add it to this Video Editing Terms Glossary.



TIP: Use your browsers ‘Find’ function to search for the video editing term you’re after.









A video editing term often used in documentary editing. It is used to describe candid moments caught on camera when the subject is going about their business without any prompting or scripting.



This is information within a video file that determines which bits are transparent. The alpha channel on its own is depicted in black and white. When combined as part of a video file, the white parts of the alpha channel will reveal the image, and the black parts of the alpha channel will appear as transparent.


Ambient sound

Sound of general surroundings that is not particularly noticeable but gives an ambience to a scene (e.g. the surrounding trees blowing in the wind).


Aspect Ratio

The ratio of the dimensions of an image, stated as Horizontal:Vertical. E.g. 16:9



A very rough draft of an edit that simply lays your selected clips out in the order of the narrative without any fancy editing techniques. An assembly is usually for internal viewing before the initial ‘first draft’ or ‘rough draft’ that goes to the client. It helps you quickly get a better understanding of the structure of the story and if it’s working.



See Lower Third.



Brand guidelines

When working on branded content it is important that there is visual cohesion across all of the content. From logo size to placement to colour co-ordination etc. Brand guidelines ensure that all content looks the same, no matter who is working on it.


A short (~6 sec) visual and audio chapter break. Useful for creating a mental separation between what has been and what is yet to come. Also useful to punctuate comedy. Often used in sitcoms.

Burnt in

When subtitles, timecode or other information are rendered onto the final video (as opposed to being a seperate file like a sidecar file).




Call and respond

A video editing term used to describe a type of editing where the dialogue or action sets up a question and then gives the answer. This can be literal or metaphorical.



A video file is made up of 4 channels; Red, Green, Blue (RGB) & Alpha. RGB make up the image, and Alpha makes up the transparency.


Clean plate

A shot that captures the same environment as another shot, but without certain elements in it (characters/props etc). This enables the VFX artist to select which parts of each shot remain visible in the final output. (See Plate)



The part of a piece of footage that sits on your timeline.



The type of compression that your video file has.


Cold open

A narrative technique where you open the film in the middle of some action without any context. The context of the situation is then explained in the film. The situation shown in the cold open may be replayed later in the film.


Color grade

A colour grade is the adjustment of the colours in the image. The process of adjusting the colours is known as color grading or color correction. The colour grade is often referred to as ‘the grade’.



Short for commentary/scripted commentary. This is basically another word for VO/Voiceover. Often used in news/documentary editing.



(See Online)



The type of file extension your video file has e.g. .MP4 or .MOV.



The text that is seen on screen.


Cut to clock / CTC

The process or result of placing the ad breaks into an edit destined for TV Broadcast.




Data rate

How much data is contained (per second). For example when creating a H.264 mp4 you can select a data rate of 5000kbps. This means there is 5000 kilobits of data contained in one second of video



This is when a shot has something out of focus in the foreground that obscures a bit of the image that is in focus.




External edit

When the finished video is going to live in the public view (for the opposite see Internal edit).


End of play / EOP

This video editing acronym just means end of the working day. Sometimes the time deadline can be strict when working in TV/News, but usually there’s no strict time deadline. It’s a term dating back to when everything was on tape and these tapes had to be played out by a certain time to make it on air.




Field order

When footage is interlaced and not progressive, the field order determines whether the line that is first read is upper field first (odd numbers) or lower field first (even numbers). The default is upper field first.


Fishbowling / Fish mouth

When the audio and video do not match or appear out of sync they can sometimes be referred to as ‘fishbowling’.



The collective and singular term for the original video files in their full unedited form. Generally used to reference video files shot using a camera.


FPS / Frames per second

Video looks like it’s moving because it plays back a number of still images, one after the other, to give the illusion of movement. The amount of images played back per second is known as the frames per second or fps. As a massive generality, the standard in most of Europe is 25fps, in USA it’s 30fps and in gaming it’s 60fps.

Frame rate

See Frames per second.


The composition of a shot.




Garbage matte

A very rough version of a matte (see Matte below).



See Bumper.



When footage is interlaced, an image is split into rows of pixels; odd numbers (rows 1, 3, 5 etc) and even numbers (rows 2, 4, 6 etc). One frame of footage will show all the odd numbered rows and then the next frame shows the even numbered rows. So a 25fps interlaced video would be shown as 50i because there are 50 interlaced frames every second (25 frames showing the odd numbered lines and 25 frames showing the even numbered lines).  When viewed on a non-interlaced display (like a computer monitor) this appears as a kind of horizontal striping. Interlacing is used to reduce the bandwidth needed to transmit a broadcast television signal. (See also Field order.)

Internal edit

When the finished video is only going to be viewed by people within an organisation and not by the public. This means you do not have to worry about any rights issues. (For the opposite see External edit)



Jar – When something jars it looks out of place, sometimes without an obvious reason.



Key / Keying

This is the process of taking out a particular colour from the footage, often the green or blue from a greenscreen or bluescreen.


Ken Burns effect

This is when you pan and zoom in to the image. You can do this using the in-software post camera. It’s an effect made famous by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns.




Lower third

The name of the contributor that comes up on screen when you see them. Often in the lower third of the screen. I hear so many different terms for this, this is my favourite of those terms. You’ll hear different terms depending whether you work in news/branded content/documentaries etc.



The white value of an image.





A plate that determines what should be visible from the footage. Often used in VFX, it can describe the custom Alpha channel created.


Mono audio

Audio that contains only one channel. Audio that contains two channels (left and right) is Stereo audio.


Multichannel audio

Channels in audio can be assigned to output through certain speakers. The standard is Stereo which has 2 channels – Left and Right. Multichannel audio has more than 2 channels.





See VO.



Non-Linear Editing software. Literally the software you use to edit e.g. Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer etc.





The editing process is done in two stages, first the Offline and then the Online. The Offline is where most of the work is done. This is where you choose shots/sound/assets and edit them together to make the film. Once the Offline is finished you have Picture lock and then the Online can begin.



The editing process is done in two stages, first the Offline and then the Online. The Online is the icing on the cake. This is when you add a Colour grade, do a Sound mix and add any final graphics/animations/credits/blurs etc. so it’s ready to deliver.




Paper edit

Usually a rough script of dialogue pieced together from a transcript of the raw footage. This is usually created by the producer or director (generally by someone who was present at filming). Most often used on documentaries or where there is a huge amount of footage with unscripted dialogue.


Picture lock

When a film is in picture lock, no more changes can be made to the visuals of the film. The in/out points of each clip should remain the same. This is so that the sound mix and the colour grade can be started. Motion graphics may also be amended at this stage as long as it has no knock-on affect with the grade/sound mix.


Pixel Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of each individual pixel in an image.



Imagine that a video file is made up of many layers like in Photoshop. A plate is a layer. In VFX you can layer many plates on top of each other to get the final shot.



The time at which a film is due to be broadcast.



A low resolution duplicate of another video file. These are created when the full resolution media is causing playback to be slow in the editing software.





The pixel width and height of a video, stated in that order e.g. 1920×1080. All resolutions have shortnames e.g. HD (High Definition).



The raw video files straight from the camera.



Short for copyright. Who owns the right to use a particular piece of media.



In the analogue world this would mean a roll of film. In the modern digital world this can be used when talking about the memory card from a camera. E.g. “Day two, roll three” would mean the third memory card logged from the second day of shooting.



The process in VFX of painstakingly cutting out objects from video, frame by frame.





Quickly drawn references or mockups.



A timeline of clips selected from the rushes. Because it’s often the ‘best’ bits from the footage, a selects timeline is very subjective as to what should actually go on it. You can have separate selects timelines for mood, location, characters, highlights etc.



See Sound effects.


Sizzle reel

A sizzle reel is a reel showing highlights of work carried out for a client.



The clapperboard or similar that displays useful information for the post production pipeline, including take number, scene number etc.



A moment of camera composition that has an in point and an out point. Can be used to describe the framing of a moment. A piece of footage can comprise of several shots, for example if the camera operator decides to shoot continuously but keeps reframing the camera.



A piece of black footage or blank audio.



(See Upsound)


Sound effects

Sound effects are audio files created in post production that are added to an edit to enhance the visuals. Some examples might be whooshes, bangs and environmental sound.


Sound mix

Sound that has been professionally balanced by an audio specialist.



The separate elements of a mixed piece of audio. For example you may find the stems of a music track split into different instruments. When layered on top of each other these would create the final track. Or you may find stems of a film’s final mixed audio split into elements like VO/Music/Dialogue/Atmospheric sound. On their own, stems allow you flexibility in what you include in your edit. You may be required to split your audio into stems for final delivery.



The audio has two channels, Left and Right.



A very short (~6 sec) piece of music used to separate chapters or ‘moments’ in a film. Useful for creating a mental separation between what has been and what is yet to come. Also useful to punctuate comedy. Often used in sitcoms.



See Bumper.


Strapline / Straps

See Lower Third.



A sequence with all of the footage that has been shot laid on the timeline in the chronological order it was shot. Externally recorded audio should be synced and multicamera scenes should appear on the timeline stacked or as a multicamera clip. For large projects it is common to have a stringout for each day of shooting. Common to documentary editing.



The legal text that is seen on screen (often in advertising). Often mistakenly used to reference Copy.



This means dialogue. Often used to reference footage that contains dialogue.


Sync cut

An early version of an edit where the only footage on the timeline is the dialogue (without b-roll or upsound).


Sync map

See Stringout.





A term used in scripted filmmaking to describe a period of time caught on camera that contains the beginning and end of the action in it. N.B. The camera operator may film continuously meaning one piece of footage can contain several takes.



The process of converting a video file from one format to another.



The process of creating a Transcript.


A written document that contains all of the dialogue from the footage. This is done through a process called Transcribing where the dialogue from the footage is converted to text. Sometimes this is done by automated software, sometimes by hand. Often it is started through automation and finished by hand.



Short for Total Run Time or Total Running Time. This is the total duration of a video.



See Online. This term is often used in the scripted narrative world.





When an edit heavily uses VO or dialogue, an upsound is a moment of Actuality that sits in-between the VO or dialogue.



See Upsound



Short for ‘Up Sound On Tape’. (See Upsound)





(See Actuality)


VFR / Variable Frame Rate

Frame rates are usually fixed (24/25/30 fps), however variable frame rates are not. Some small cameras (like smartphones etc) can only process a certain amount of data per second, so to prevent the processor from being overloaded and crashing, it will skip recording a few frames here and there, which is undetectable to the human eye. The skipped frames are irregular and create a Variable Frame Rate. NOTE: Editing software expects frame rates to be constant so doesn’t like the unpredictability of VFR.



Short for voiceover. Scripted commentary narrated by a host that helps explain the story.




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