Basic Video Terms Every Videographer Needs to Know


If you’re picking up a video camera for the first time, chances are there’s some terminology you’ll hear thrown around that might not be familiar. Below, you’ll find some of the most common basic video terms you’ll need to know to make sure you’re getting the shot you want in the format desired. Read on for an explanation of what they all mean, some visual examples, and notes on why they’re important.

Bit Rate

Bit rate is the amount of digital information dedicated to each second of a video file. The higher the bit rate, the better the video quality is, and the more bandwidth is needed to play the video. For example, your cellphone records an average of 15mbit/second (that’s “megabits per second,” NOT megabytes), and you can easily play back the same clip on most of the digital devices capable of playing video files. However, some of the advanced digital cinema cameras are typically recording at 800mbit/second, which makes the video file quite large and impossible to play without a strong editing computer. It’s also good to remember that the higher the bit rate is, the more data storage is required. If you’re planning to film RAW video on a RED Cinema camera for example, you’ll need speedy external hard drives to be able to store the captured content.


Depending on where in the world you live, you most likely will face the choice of recording and exporting video in one of these two industry broadcasting formats. NTSC, short for National Television Standards Committee, is a broadcasting standard used in North America, some parts of South America, and a few countries in eastern Asia. PAL, short for Phase Alternating Line, is the broadcasting format used in Europe, Australia, Africa, and other parts of Asia.

Differences between the two broadcasting systems relate to file size, colors, and frame-per-second displayed. NTSC video is captured and displayed at a higher frame rate than PAL, so naturally this provides a bit smoother visual experience than the PAL system. To compare, NTSC uses 30p or 60i FPS, compared to 25p and 50i FPS for PAL. Fortunately most modern video cameras have both settings, as do TVs and projectors that are distributed worldwide.

An example of a video in PAL format:

Shaking Hands (PAL) by new_vision_studio

And a similar clip in NTSC format:

Shaking Hands (NTSC) by new_vision_studio formats.

Progressive vs Interlaced

If you’re watching a video playback, one of these is happening. When a screen is displaying whole frames as single images, one after the other continuously, that’s progressive video sampling, which provides far better sharpness. When the screen is showing blended elements from two frames one after the other and basically splicing lines together to form each frame, that’s interlaced scaling.

Progressive video is something the world is trying to adopt more and more because of its superior quality. However, TV broadcasters use mostly interlaced scaling for now because it’s faster to tape and play. Most of the new video cameras offer the ability to record both progressive and interlaced video, and Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, and Avid are also able to accept either of them for cutting. One thing to note, though, is that progressive video is always heavier than interlaced due to its quality. If you’re filming for a client, you can always ask them what they prefer, because interlaced video will most likely save you more storage space.

An example of interlaced video:

Eyeball Retinal Scanner by MovingImages

And a progressive video clip:

Osaka Skyline by seanpavonephoto

4K and UHD


4k is a professional cinema format/resolution and measures 4096 x 2160. UHD (Ultra High Definition) is a more consumer-friendly version, mostly used with TVs, and has resolution of 3840 x 2160. As the image above shows, 4k is four times bigger than your typical HD file, while it also delivers a tremendous amount of pixel information and more depth in color.

Since 4k was introduced back in 2006, we’ve seen more and more 4k footage everywhere. In fact, it has now become the new standard; throughout the past few years, almost all major camera manufacturers have responded to the immediate need for low price 4k camcorders. We now have a wide selection of products in the market, including cell phones with 4k capabilities.

Here’s a cool 4k video from our collection:

Teen Longboarders on Road by wundervisuals

And here’s an example of a UHD shot:

Hot-Air Balloons by markoconnell

Picture Profiles

Picture Profile is an in-camera menu for adjusting and changing parameters that determine a Video file’s characteristics. There are bunch of variables, but the key factors affecting how the image looks are:

  • Contrast
  • Gradation (how dark or bright the video is)
  • Coloring and Saturation
  • Sharpness
  • These key factors can be adjusted to create your ideal look for a project. If you’re filming a horror scene, for example, you can typically push the contrast and gradation to create a more striking look. Or, if you’re working on a romantic scene, lowering the sharpness and pushing the color saturation might make more sense. The point is that you can customize picture profiles as much as you need, and these experiments can help you to develop your own look.

    If you have no time for experiments and need a speedy solution, then look for LUTs (Lookup Tables) online. These are basically pre-made picture profiles that you can put in your camera and take it from there. Camera manufacturers these days also include a few industry-standard picture profiles, so you might not even need to search for more.

    Here are few examples of shots filmed with diferent picture profiles:

    Log C:

    Man Jumps Over Log by Poorbear

    Cinelike D:

    Crabs on the Beach by VolsKinvols

    Rec 709:

    Tel Aviv City – Seaview by SassonStockFo
    Of course, these are just some of the most common terms you’ll encounter in the world of video production. As you get into the weeds, your vocabulary (and knowledge) will continue to expand. What other terms would you include on this list? Let us know in the comments!