The ABC’s of Video Jargon

  in Uncategorized - June 10, 2016


I (Chris) was on a video shoot a few years back and was helping the Director of Photography (D.P.)set up some things around the set. (Before I get too far into the story, let me just say that my background is not video production. I am a word guy. My background is in mass communications and theology—I don’t know the difference between a jib and a jab.)

Anyway, there I was on the set and the DP asked me to grab him a full apple. Not wanting to let anyone down, I set off looking to meet the needs of my hungry coworker. Those of you familiar with video production know that a full apple actually has nothing to do with fruit.

So in an effort to demystify video jargon, here is an incomplete list of a few of the most jargony terms you might hear if you wander near a video set:

  • Apple – Not the fruit, an apple is actually a box made of a strong wood which is capable of supporting weight. These can come in all sizes—full, half, or flat (which is a pancake, of course.)
  • Baby legs – Can be really cute especially if they baby is chubby, but on set “baby legs” refer to a short tripod
    •  Actually, let’s do another B. Butt Splice – not as gross as it sounds, a butt splice is a film splice where the film ends join without overlapping.
  • Cookie – You’ll likely find some cookies on a set, unless the crew has gone paleo, but you are more likely to find the grip using a perforated material to break up light or create a shadow pattern—which is known as a cookie.
  • Dingle – there were a lot of good “D” words, but because we are immature, dingle refers to branches placed in front of a light like a cookie …
  • Ear – like the dingle, this does not refer to a part of the anatomy, an “ear” on set means to put a flag up on the side of a lighting unit to block the light
  • Flop-over – not Hugh Grant’s hairstyle, this refers to an optical effect where the picture is reversed from left to right
  • Gaffer – Sam Gamwise’ hobbit dad … or the chief lighting technician
  • Horse – Majestic beasts, as well as support for one or more rolls of film on a cutting table
  • Inkie – Not an octopus’ nickname, but a small fresnel-type light
  • Juicer – Can help you do a juice cleanse, and on a video set is an electrician—who might also help you on your juice cleanse by providing encouragement and electrical safety
  • Kiss – Oo la la … a kiss is a light that gently brushes a subject. Or if you are shooting a romantic comedy, a kiss is when two pairs of lips touch.
  • Layoff – Could be the loss of employment, or it could be the transfer of audio onto multitask tape or hard disk
  • Meat Axe – Don’t pick up a ribeye and start swinging it around, this is a grip arm-like accessory designed to clamp onto the handrail of a studio overhead catwalk.
  • Noise – Say that again?!! Noise on an audio system is the electrical interference or other unwanted sound
  • Obie – Andy Griffith’s other son. Also an eyelight mounted onto a camera
  • Pink Noise – White noise’s unnoticed little sister. This is a sound signal that has an equal amount of energy per octave or fraction of an octave
  • Quartz – mystical crystals that can heal you … also, they are some fancy Tungsten-Halogen lights
  • Redhead – Apparently a genetic anomaly that is dying off … and an open-faced 1K lighting unit
  • Suicide – Not as bad as it sounds, because on a video set this is a term for a distribution wiring connector with male plugs on both ends
  • Turtle – An extremely slow reptile who can inexplicably beat a hare in a foot race. It is also a flat, on the floor mount, for large lights with a junior receiver.
  • Unsqueezed Print – A print in which the distorted image of an anamorphic negative has been corrected for normal projection, it could also not have been squeezed yet
  • Virgin Stock – Magnetic tape that hasn’t been … you know … recorded on yet
  • Western Dolly – When Dolly Parton is on the other side of the Mississippi. Or a plywood dolly, with four large soft tires.
  • XLR – I’ve got nothing … it’s just one of several varieties of sound connectors with three or more conductors plus an outer shell which shields the connectors and locks the connectors into place.
  • YMC Numbers – Okay, I can’t come up with something clever for every one of these! This is a pair of cardioid microphones or elements aimed in crossed directions which feed two channels for stereo pickup
  • Zero cut – How much you could be paid for this. Or a method of preparing A and B rolls for printing in which the original shots overlap several frames or more.

For a complete dictionary on this, check out