Welcome to The Mad Logophile. Here, we explore words; their origins, evolution, usage. Words are alive; they are born, they change and, sometimes, they die. They are our principal tool for communicating with one another. There are one million words in the English language yet only an estimated 171,476 words are in common current use. As a logophile, I enjoy discovering new words, using them and learning about their origins.
As we know from the clip to which this week's title refers, even people in the business don't know all the jargon. Follow me below the fold and we'll learn about that and many other terms...
Let's begin with the oldest division of show business, the theater (including musical theater). Many of these terms made the jump to television and film virtually unchanged.
The part of the stage in front of the curtain, between the proscenium arch and the edge of the stage, is the apron.
A stage which is surrounded by the audience on all four sides is known as an arena or theater-in-the-round.
An aside is a short remark made to the audience by one of the characters in the play. The play Strange Interlude, by Eugene O'Neill, uses this technique.
A backdrop is a large drapery or painted canvas which provides the rear or upstage wall of a set.
The batten is a length of pipe or a pole suspended above the stage on which scenery or lights are hung. The rope holding the batten is always the object of great attention by the crew.
The style of singing best exemplified by Ethel Merman, belting uses (nay, demands) a full, loud tone..
Quickly cutting the lights to make the stage area completely dark is, appropriately enough, called a blackout.
The dialogue of a play or libretto of a musical is the book.
The box office is where one can purchase tickets to the show. The nightly receipts are called the box in reference to it.
Surely you have heard the expression, break a leg. It is an old superstition in the theater that to actually wish someone "good luck" will bring the opposite. So instead, the wish is for something bad to happen, thus bring its opposite.
The company is the performers, crew, stage hands, etc. associated with a particular show. It's also a musical by George Furth and Stephen Sondheim.
Commedia dell'arte is a form of comic theater which originated in Italy in the sixteenth century. In it, dialogue is improvised around a loose scenario involving a set of stock characters, each of which has a distinctive costume and a traditional name. Some of the characters include Harlequin, Pantalone; Il Dottore; Brighella; Il Capitano; Colombina; the Innamorati; Pedrolino; Pulcinella; Sandrone; Scaramuccia (Scaramouche); La Signora; and Tartaglia.
A terrible faux pas, to cover someone is to stand in front of them on stage, blocking them from the audience.
The Curtain call is the final bows at the end of a performance.
A Flat is a single piece of scenery, usually of standard size, combined with similar units to create a set. These used to be made of canvas stretched over a wooden frame (oh, how I remember building, painting and assembling these in High School), but now are frequently made of a hard substance such as luan; a hard flat is sometimes called a Hollywood or movie flat.
Footlights are a row of lights in the floor along the edge of the stage or apron. They used to be the principal source of stage light (limelights) but now rarely used. Many theaters now have Vari-Lights (yes, my boys in Genesis were instrumental.. pardon the pun... in their development). My, how far we've come!
The Front of House is a place where audience members can mingle before the performance starts. This can also include the lobby and box office. The actual place where the audience sits is called the House. The Houselights are the lights that illuminate the audience area and are turned off before the show commences. At the front of the house is the Orchestra pit, a sunken area where the musicians and conductor sit. The conductor is elevated so that both musicians and performers can see him.
The orchestral beginning to the show is the Overture. It usually incorporates many of the familiar themes of the musical into it and gets the audience into the spirit of the musical before the show begins.
Pantomime is originally a Roman entertainment in which a narrative was sung by a chorus while the story was acted out by dancers. Now the term is used loosely to cover any form of presentation which relies on dance, gesture, and physical movement without speech.
The arch that separates the stage from the audience is the Proscenium
To position scenery on a slant or angle other than parallel or perpendicular to the curtain line is to Rake. Also, an upward slope of the stage floor away from the audience. A raked stage is a stage which slopes upward away from the audience toward the back of the stage.
A repetition of an earlier musical number (in part or in whole) is called a Reprise.
The number of performances of a particular production is its Run. The longest running Broadway show as of today is The Phantom of the Opera.
A Scrim is gauze or net curtain that becomes transparent when lit from behind. The best use of a scrim that I have seen is at the end of 1776, when a scrim with the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence descends in front of the actors in that tableau.
Shutters are two large flat wings that close off a perspective setting in back. Together, the three flats will form a U.
A Swing is a singer/dancer who knows the chorus parts and who substitutes for missing chorus members.
The Thrust stage is a type of a stage and stage area where the audience sits on 3 sides.
An opening in the stage floor where performers and/or props etc. can disappear is known as the Trap.
The space at the sides of the stage, just behind the curtains, is the Wings. Performers enter and exit from the wings.
With the start of the 20th century, we had a new art form. The cinema as a form of public entertainment was born when Louis Lumiere and his brother were the first to present projected, moving, photographic pictures to a paying audience of more that one person in 1895. With a new way of creating the art (not to mention a new invention with which to record it), new terminology had to be coined. And so it was, and the vocabulary of film has grown and evolved ever since.
Let's follow a film from inception to exhibition, learning some new words as we go....
It all starts with a story. Sometimes, a writer will be approached to option (acquire the rights to) his book. Sometimes, a screenwriter will be invited to give a pitch (an oral or written proposal) to the moneymen (investors). Or perhaps a Director or Producer or even an Actor will find a story they want to make into a film. Once the rights are obtained, the project is green-lighted and things get rolling.
The story now goes to the screenwriter, who is charged with turning the story idea into a movie script. The script will go through various drafts in its journey. Sometimes, the script may need to have a doctor (a professional script fixer) called in. This does, of course, add to the up-front or pre-production costs.
Once the script has been approved, the hiring begins. Major crew members are:
The Producer, who the chief of a movie production in all logistical matters (except for artistic decisions). S/he manages the production from start to finish.
The Director is the creative artist responsible for complete artistic control of all phases of a film's production. The director is usually the single person most responsible for the finished product, although he/she couldn't make a film without support from many other artists and technicians. Sometimes the director is called a helmer (at-the-helm). The assistant director is known as the AD while the director of photography (aka Cinematographer, who is responsible for the mechanics of camera placement, movements, and lighting) is known as the DP. At left is an example of distinctive cinematography from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford.
As you might guess from the title, the Casting Director is in charge of casting the film.
The Editor puts it all together, literally. S/he takes the pieces of the film -- which are not usually shot in sequence -- and puts it together to suit the artistic vision of the Director.
The person in charge of the soundtrack is the Musical Director. S/he is also responsible for getting rights to any songs being used. This may or may not be the composer of the film's music.
The Actors include everyone from the A-list star to the extras. Many actors negotiate pay or play contracts, which means they will be paid a salary whether or not the film is actually made.
The Location Scout is, naturally enough, the person who finds the place where the film can be shot. I'd love to have their frequent flier miles!
The Production Designer is responsible for a film's overall design, continuity, visual look and composition. This includes the colors, sets, costumes, scenery, props, locations, etc. S/he works closely with the all department directors.
The Best Boy is not the winner of a popularity contest. This is the term for any technical assistant, apprentice or aide (regardless of sex) for the gaffer or the key grip on a set. S/he is responsible for the routing and coiling of power cables necessary to run the lights for a shot. Best boy is a gender-neutral term that came from whaling.
The Gaffer is the head electrician. So now the term gaffer's tape begins to make sense, eh?
The Grip is responsible for setting up dolly tracks and camera cranes. All of the production equipment on the set falls under his (they are usually men) purview. The Key Grip is the primary one working on the film.
The Mixer is the chief sound recording technician. All the sound of a film from dialogue to explosions are their realm.
The Set Designer does just that: s/he designs the look of the sets. The Set Decorator is then in charge of fulfilling that vision.
The Wardrobe department is responsible for the creation and care of the costumes. The Make-up department is often part of the costume department.
Stunts are the scope of the Stunt Co-ordinator and the Stunt men and women answer to him (or her).
That's only a partial list of the people responsible for getting a script turned into a movie. Most, if not all, of them will be present during the physical act of shooting the film. But once the shooting ends, the film still has a way to go. The Editor and Director will now work to turn miles of film into a watchable movie. They have many ways to do this. Below are some editing terms:
A cut is either a version of the completed film or the change in scene or camera shot that comes from editing two different shots together.
The montage is a series of short scenes cut together without much or any dialogue in them. Often the montage is used to show progression quickly. The training sequences in several 80s films are perfect examples. This is also known as a vorkapich, after Serbian-American film director/editor Slavko Vorkapich, who popularized them in the 30s and 40s.
The jump cut is a jarring edit where the middle part of a continuous action is cut out. This technique has been used to great effect in films such as Don't Look Now and Deconstructing Harry.
A smash cut is a cut whose purpose is to be startling to the viewer. The transition between shots is abrupt, drawing attention to the cut and shaking things up. Famously used by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining.
A match cut is a cut that joins two unrelated shots together in a way that makes them seem related. A fantastic use of this is in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the spinning bone cuts to the spinning space station.
A fade comes in two varieties: a fade-in and a fade-out. A fade-in starts from a solid color screen (usually black) and slowly transitions to a shot in the movie as the shot is superimposed over the solid screen. A fade-out starts with a shot and transitions to a solid color. The term fade to black denotes the traditional way of ending a movie.
A dissolve is similar to a fade, but instead of moving between a shot and a solid color, it moves between two images.
The wipe has one image replace another through some sort of movement. For instance, in a horizontal wipe the new image may just slide over from the left and appear to cover up the old shot entirely. George Lucas used lots of wipes in Star Wars. Home video makers tend to abuse this technique.
The cold open is a simple but effective way to start a story: just start telling it without any other fanfare. A movie is said to have a cold open if we begin seeing the story before the opening credits. Disney's The Lion King is a great example.
The edits are built upon camera moves which were chosen by the Director during filming. These can include the tracking shot (aka dolly shot, where the camera runs on tracks laid on the ground), the crane shot (the camera is mounted on a crane), handheld shot (the camera is held by the cameraman), pan (camera moving along a horizontal axis), tilt (same idea, but vertically) and zoom. Close-up, long shot, point-of-view and extreme close-up are also options. The handheld shot benefited greatly from the invention of the Steadicam in 1976. Stephen Spielberg perfected the (appropriately enough) Spielberg Focus Pull, wherein the lens zooms in while the camera pulls back (that shot in Jaws when Sheriff Brody realizes there is an attack happening on the beach).
Some other technical and production terms to know...
The aspect ratio is the ratio of an image’s width to its height. The larger this ratio is, the wider the image is. The modern film standard is 1.85:1 (for 35mm film). This can be changed by either matting (like letter-box) or the anamorphic system (which uses special lenses).
Diegesis refers to the narrative that we see on screen. This is the world that the characters inhabit as much as the plot of the film. The adjective diegetic means something the characters in the film could perceive, whereas nondiegetic is to something they could not.
The mise-en-scène is everything in the frame of the film, which would include lighting, set, props, and the staging and movement of actors.
Lighting is an important factor in a well-filmed movie. The key light is the main light used for a scene; back light refers to a secondary source, usually placed behind the actors; and fill refers to a light placed to the side of the actors. This is called three-point lighting and was very common in classical Hollywood films. Low-key lighting means that the film was shot often using only the key light at a very low setting. This creates an effect known as chiaroscuro, the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade. At right is a great example of chiaroscuro from The Magnificent Ambersons, cinematography by Stanley Cortez.
A take is the time a shot is begun to the time it stops. A short take, for instance, might be one or two seconds long. A long-take can be as long as the entire film. The most extreme recent example of a long take would be Aleksandr Sokurov's 2002 film Russian Ark.
A frame of film refers to the smallest unit of film possible. Film frames appear in a strip, which, when projected, creates the illusion of motion. Film is shown at 24 frames per second (or FPS).
In shallow focus (or soft focus) we generally only see the actor’s face in focus while the background appears blurry. Deep focus refers to a shot in which everything, including the background, is in focus. Rack focus means shifting the focus from one object to another within a single shot.
We will probably want some special effects (SFX, FX, SPFX, EFX). Some of the effects we might use include:
Miniature effects are special effects generated by the use of scale models.
Animatronics is the use of electronics and robotics in mechanized puppets to make them appear to be alive.
Matte paintings are painted representations of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment that would otherwise be too expensive to build or visit.
Compositing is the combining visual elements from separate sources into single images. This is done by blending a background with actors shot against a blue (or green) screen.
Digital animation includes modeling, lighting, texturing, rigging, animating, and rendering computer-generated 3D characters, particle effects, digital sets and backgrounds.
Now our film is complete. Well, almost. This Director's cut, is the first completely-edited version of a film (without studio interference, as the director would like it to be viewed), before the final cut (the last version of the film that is released) is made by the studio. Once the final cut is ready, the movie must be promoted. This often calls for the stars, and sometimes the director, to make appearances on numerous television talk shows and at arranged press conferences. Promotional materials such as posters and preview clips must also be produced and press kits put together. Hopefully, we will have a blockbuster on our hands and not a flop.
Some other interesting terms used in the film industry:
Have you ever seen a film credited to Alan Smithee as director? This is the pseudonym used by directors who refuse to put their name on a film with which they want to disassociate themselves (usually when they believe their control or vision has been co-opted by the studio).
The auteur theory ascribes overall responsibility for the creation of a film and its personal vision, identifiable style, thematic aspects and techniques to its film-maker or director, rather than to the collaborative efforts of all involved. An example of an auteur would be Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick.
A barney is a blanket placed over the film camera to reduce the noise of the moving mechanisms inside.
Bookends is a term denoting scenes at the beginning and end of a film that complement each other and help tie a film together. Also known as a framing device.
A boom is a moveable counter-balanced pole (also called fishpole or fishing rod), arm, or telescoped extension device upon which a microphone, light or camera can be suspended overhead. It is, naturally enough, wielded by the boom man.
The pre-made film that contains studio trademark and logo or title identification is the bumper. This is the studio identification, such as the roaring lion for MGM or the little boy fishing from the moon for Dreamworks.
The buzz track is a soundtrack of natural, atmospheric, on-location background noise that is added to the re-recorded track of dialogue and other sound effects to create a more realistic sound.
That small dot, oval or mark on the top-right corner of a film frame is the change-over cue. It signaled the projectionist to change over from one projector (or film reel) to another (about every 15-20 minutes). Nowadays, most film theaters have only one projector; the reels are spliced together into one giant roll and fed into a single projector from a horizontal revolving turntable called a platter.
A piece of landmark legislation in the late 30s which was designed to protect a child actor's earnings is known as Coogan's Law after child actor Jackie Coogan.
More commonly in the form of videotape nowadays, dailies (aka rushes) are used to determine if continuity is correct, if props are missing or out of place, or if sound is poor, etc., to help decide whether to re-shoot.
Development hell is the limbo where some pictures find themselves: stuck somewhere between idea and final product. This often occurs due to financial difficulties. Also referred to as redlighted.
Dunning is the technique of combining shots filmed in a studio with background footage shot elsewhere. These are then composited to create one smooth mise-en-scène.
Ellipsis is the shortening of the film achieved by deliberately omitting intervals of the narrative. An ellipsis is marked by an editing transition (a fade, dissolve, wipe, jump cut, or change of scene) to omit a period or gap of time from the film's narrative.
An eyeline match is not a make-up term but describes a cut between two shots that creates the illusion of the character (in the first shot) looking at an object (in the second shot). This is widely used in films with lots of CGI.
A film artifact is film damage (dust, hair, specks, emulsion scratches, splices, reel-change marks, a hiss, crackle or pop on the soundtrack, mottling of the image, scratches on the negative being printed positive, etc.).
Film gauge refers to the measurement of a width of a film strip (in millimeters); 35mm, 70mm, Cinerama, Cinemascope, etc.
Film grain refers to the amount of light-sensitive material in the film's coating (emulsion). It can either be fine-grained (requires more light for filming), or excessively grainy (best for low-light situations).
In-camera editing refers to filming in the exact order required for the final product, thereby eliminating the post-production editing stage.
Another term for A-list is "It" List, after Clara Bow, the It girl.
Those annual awards shows are sometimes referred to in show biz slang as a kudo-cast.
A film that has legs has strong and profitable box-office, stamina and audience drawing power far beyond the opening weekend.
Letterboxing is the technique of shrinking the film image just enough so that its entire width appears on TV screen. Black areas appear above and below the image so that videos emulate the widescreen format on television screens (as with Star Wars, left). If a widescreen film is not in the letterbox format it is often in pan-and-scan format. Personally, I can't stand pan-and-scan -- drives me nuts!
A library shot is a stock shot, often unimaginative or commonplace. If not for these, Ed Wood could never would have been able to make his films. Whether that's a good thing or not, only the viewer can say.....
Looping refers to the process in which dialogue is re-recorded by actors in the studio during post-production, matching the actor's voice to lip movements on screen. Also called ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement).
A McGuffin is Alfred Hitchcock's term for the device or plot element (an item, object, goal, event, or piece of knowledge) that catches the viewer's attention or drives the logic or action of the plot. It appears extremely important to the film characters, but often turns out to be insignificant or is to be ignored after it has served its purpose. The derivation is Scottish, meaning a lion trap for trapping lions in the lion-less Scottish Highlands (i.e., it means nothing).
Oscar bait refers to either (1) a self-proclaimed, "important", often over-produced film or (2) a showy acting performance designed to draw attention to itself. Academy voters during the film industry's adolescent years of the 1950's and early 1960's would eagerly give Oscars to such films/performances but nowadays they are considered pretentious. Some of these films, such as Around the World in 80 Days, Gandhi and The English Patient, still managed to succeed. Also known in show biz slang as Oscarbation
Ozoner and passion pit are slang terms for a drive-in movie theater.
A post-credits sequence is the technical name for a cookie, either a throwaway scene or an epilogue that happens during or after the end credits. One of the best (IMHO) is at the end of Airplane!
Pre-Code refers to the 4-5 years (1930-1934) before the enforcement of the Hays Production Code in Hollywood.
A process shot is a technique that shoots live action in front of a screen on which the background view is projected. Also known as rear-screen projection. Think of someone driving in a car with the street projected behind them.
An actor's Q rating is an ad research rating that gauges how easily a celebrity is recognized and how well the celebrity is liked.
A screener is the term for a promotional DVD (or video) of a film that is sent to voters and/or film critics by the movie studios.
In larger film productions, less important scenes (large crowd scenes, scenery, foreign location backgrounds, various inserts, etc.) are filmed by a smaller, secondary crew. This is the second-unit.
A silver bullet (or magic bullet) is a solution that completely solves the complicated dramatic problem within a film. The term was derived from European folklore in which only a silver bullet could kill a werewolf.
The slate is the board held in front of the camera that identifies shot number, director, camera-person, studio and title. The slate has clap sticks on top and the scene number, take and production name written on it. The person operating the slate will say "mark" and clap the sticks for picture and sound sync purposes.
The studio system refers to the all-powerful control that the monopolistic film studios had over all aspects of assembly-line filmmaking and film production from the 1920s until the late 1950s. This is when moguls like Louis B. Mayer, David O. Selznick and Adolph Zukor ruled Hollywood.
Tentpole is industry slang meaning a film that is expected to serve as a primary support for a studio. A top-grossing blockbuster (usually during the summer season), to compensate for a studio's other films that may not be successful.
To topline means to star. Refers to the name billed above the title of a film; the topliner is the star of a particular film.
The trades are the professional magazines and publications (Variety, Hollywood Reporter) that report the daily or weekly entertainment news of the entertainment industry.
A triple threat is an actor or actress who can sing, dance and act skillfully and equally well on a consistent basis. Catherine Zeta-Jones, for example. It also could refer to a person who can act, direct, and write for the screen, such as Mel Gibson.
Walla walla (besides being a town in Washington) refers to the background sound effect for the indistinct murmurings and buzz of voices in a crowd. In older films (or in radio), extras in crowd scenes would be asked to murmur a phrase (walla walla, rhubarb, peas and carrots, or watermelon) to mimic the sound of a crowd.
Whoop-whoops, in sound effects, refers to the extra noises added to a sound, (bells, horns, or whistles to an explosion) to make it more interesting or exciting.
Wrap is the completion of film shooting. In the early days of cinema, after filming was done, the cameraman would say, "Wind, Reel, And Print." (WRAP).
And that's a wrap for film terminology.....
On January 23, 1926, Scotsman John Logie Baird gave the world's first public demonstration of a mechanical television apparatus to approximately 40 members of the Royal Institution at his laboratory. The first fully electronic television picture was transmitted in 1927 by American Philo T. Farnsworth (right). Pictures and sound were sent by wire from Washington D.C., to New York City not long after by AT&T and Bell Labs. The following year, GE began to sell the first home television sets. And we never looked back.
Many of the terms from cinema were adopted by the television industry. But a new technology demands a new vocabulary, so more new words came into the English language. Most of the people who are involved in the production of a TV show carry the same titles as those in film. But the nature of television, especially live television, required some new job descriptions and titles, new terminology and new equipment. (I am relying on my husband, who has worked in TV for 28 years, for much of the following jargon).
The Announcer came to TV from radio. In the early days, he would announce station program information (such as program schedules and station breaks for commercials) or public service information and introduce and close programs. This role has waned in importance but is still essential personnel.
One person whose job has changed with the technology is the one who is most important to anyone speaking on live TV. In the old days, this person wrote and held the cue cards. Nowadays, this person enters the script into and runs the teleprompter. Not surprisingly, the technical title for this person is Teleprompter Operator. I suppose that s/he was known (or still is, in some instances like The Tonight Show) as the Cue Card Person.
The Technical Director assists a Director in the control room and is typically the person who operates the video switcher. The TD is also responsible for coordinating the technical aspects of the production.
The signal that comes from the camera usually needs some sweetening (adjustments). This is the job of the Video Shader. S/he adjusts the iris and light levels and will have set the color levels before the broadcast began. A television camera is a very fussy piece of equipment and needs adjustment almost constantly.
The person who actually puts the show on the air is the Master Control Operator. S/he is responsible for what is seen on air, whether the show or commercials. The Master Control Switcher allows the MCO to see what IS on and what is going to BE on, so an attention to detail is an important part of the job. Often, the monitors at the console can be set to other stations or the satellite feed, any of which can be put on the air with the touch of a button. This is why only the MCO should touch the buttons, otherwise an accidental switch (by, oh... let's say a passing engineer) can put something quite inappropriate on air. This happened in Las Vegas once, with X-rated results.
The Audio Director arranges for the audio recording equipment, sets up and checks mics (microphones), monitors audio quality during the production, and then disassembles the audio recording equipment and accessories after the production is over.
In the studio the talent and camera operators fall under the purview of the Floor Director. This person keeps the talent on time, relays instructions from the Director and generally keeps it all together in there. This is the person who gives the talent instructions as to when the cameras will be on and how the show is doing time-wise.
Behind the scenes, the engineering department keeps the station on the air. The Chief Engineer is responsible for the technology necessary to put the station's broadcast "on-the-air" within the station's licensed range. The engineer works to maintain existing broadcasting capabilities and provide quick solutions to problems that may arise with the transmitter, tower satellite receiver and other related equipment. The Maintenance Engineer (this is my husband's job description but he does some of the other engineering jobs, too) is responsible for the repair, maintenance, installation and modification of all of the electronic equipment in a station. The Video Engineer is responsible for operating the videotape recording and playback equipment for live programs and during commercial breaks in network and taped shows. The Studio Engineer is responsible for operating all of the equipment necessary for the production of a program. This includes the studio cameras, the audio console, studio lighting, the video switcher, and in some stations, the character generator and the electronic still-storage graphics display equipment. The Satellite Engineer is responsible for the satellite equipment. S/he usually drives the satellite truck to live locations and operates its systems. The Transmitter Engineer takes care of the transmitter and related equipment (this was my husband's first TV job).
By far the most "visible" of departments in broadcast television, the news department is responsible for the presentation of information about recent events or happenings.
The News Director is in charge of the entire news staff. The ND makes the final decisions on personnel, story coverage, budgetary items and expenses, the overall look and style of the newscast, and newsroom morale. The ND will review resume tapes to find Reporters, Photographers and Producers, and review written material for positions like Writers and Associate Producers. The ND interviews candidates and may have the sole discretion to hire.
The Assignment Editor has to manage assignments, deal with logistics, monitor the wires and scanner, and keep up with local contacts. This is the person who decides which reporter will cover which story if they don't have a set specialty. The AE maintains a daily file which contains press releases, story ideas, reminders of follow-ups and scheduled events, (such as court cases, public meetings) and contact information about events.
A Bureau Chief must have a diverse set of qualities. Part reporter, part Assignment Editor and part News Director, the Bureau Chief is responsible for what amounts to a satellite newsroom in another town.
A Copy Editor is someone who both writes and edits stories for a newscast. In many cases, Copy Editors are assigned to rewrite wire copy into conversational stories. In some stations Copy Editors will proofread every piece of copy in a newscast.
When you see a live report, the Field Producer is in charge. The FP is a coordinator for a story while the crew is in the field and oversees the production of a story, working with a Reporter and Photographer to set up interviews, gather video and collect information, all the while acting as liaison between the crew and the newsroom.
The weather man or woman is technically the Meteorologist and is a person who studies the science of weather and most often has a degree in the field. They may or may not have and AMS (American Meteorological Society) seal, if they do, it means they have met the requirements of the AMS which generally include testing and evaluation of a taped weathercast.
A News Tape Editor is someone who not only edits tapes for newscasts (a huge job in itself), but may also be required to monitor and record network feeds, maintain an archives, and coordinate feeds from bureaus and live trucks. They may also be required to be responsible for the archives.
The Tape Librarian is just that; the person in charge of the library of tapes each station keeps. Nowadays, this includes digital files, as well.
That's a sample of the people who make TV and get it on the air. Now let's learn about the equipment they use (thanks to my Hubby, who made this list):
The Character Generator (CG), sometimes called the Chyron, is a machine that makes the titles or supers, the words at the bottom of the screen (at left). Chyron was the manufacturer of the industry standard CG for many years.
The Still Store is the device that makes the still images, slides and other static graphics.
The Digital Video Effects unit, or DVE, was a product name for the first commercially available unit from a company called Quantel. There are many products with different names that do this now, and most switchers have them built in, but we still call them DVEs. The first of these only did a simple squeeze (making the image smaller) and allowed you to position it within the screen. Now they do flips, rotation, spherical flexure,texture mapping over complex shapes, folding of the video into almost any configuration you want.
We don’t use tape machines anymore. Most content is placed on a Server and played back on demand.
A Switcher is the device that mixes the video signals from the cameras, CGs, DVE, Severs, and all the other sources into a finished visual stream. When they blow up Alderaan in Star Wars they use a Grass Valley 300 switcher control panel to do it. Now you can laugh knowingly the next time you watch it.
The Automation System is the system that controls the whole program chain of a television station. This system tells the servers what program is next, when to roll it, when the Master control switcher should take it (switch to it), when the bug goes in, all of the things you see in the final presentation on your screen at home.
That little earpiece that the talent has in their ear is the IFB or Interrupted Feedback. The director and producer can speak directly to the talent via a microphone in the control room.
The microphone that the talent has clipped to their shirt, tie, dress or whatever is the Lavalier Mic or Lav. It is connected to a small transmitter which is hidden under the talent's clothes.
In Television we use so many formats for video it would drive most people crazy.
2" video tape was the first real tape format. It was obsolete years ago but occasionally some bit of archival material comes up on it. To get this format transferred to something usable is an expensive process usually done in Hollywood.
1" video tape passed into history about ten years ago. It still shows up from time to time and many stations can still play it.
Up until the late seventies, we still shot and developed film for the nightly news. ¾" video, the first portable cassette format, freed the television news industry from film.
Beta was the industry standard for fifteen years. It came in the standard oxide original version, the SP (superior performance) version, and Digi Beta (digital) version.
The 1" reel to reel version that HD was initially recorded on was called HIvision. UniHi was the first cassette based HD format. The current HD format is HDCAM, and is based around the Beta cassette format.
DvCam, HDVcam, DVC, DVCpro, HDV, etc. are the home video formats we sometimes get from the public and cheaper producers. It has poor to marginal quality video, and abysmal audio.
Media Exchange Format (MXF) is a very fluid specification for file formats for HD digital video.
Following is some TV terminology..
Advertising Weight is a measure of advertising delivery, normally stated in terms of number of commercials, homes reached, target audience impressions, and gross rating points.
In TV, the audience is the most important factor, especially for advertising rates a station can charge. Average Audience (AA) is a widely used rating term which reflects viewing to the average minute of a program or time period. Expressed as a percentage, it is an average of the audience at minute 1, 2, 3, etc. As such, it serves as an estimate of the average commercial audience (households or persons). Audience Composition is the distribution of a station's audiences by demographic group. Audience Duplication is the extent to which the audience of one station is exposed to that of another. Audience Flow is a measure of the change in audience during and between programs. Audience flow shows the percentages of people or households who turn on or off a program, switch to or from another channel, or remain on the same channel as the previous program. The Cumulative Audience (CUME) is the total non-duplicated audience for one or a series of telecasts, programs, messages, or time-periods. A household or person is counted once no matter how many times the telecast has been viewed. This also is known as reach, net unduplicated audience, or net reach.
A billboard is a brief announcement (3--10 seconds in length) for which advertisers pay extra. Billboards are at the top and bottom of the show. The product and/or sponsor's name is mentioned in a statement such as "... the following portion of (program) is being brought to you by (sponsor)" The end (or last part) of the show is the bottom while the beginning (and first part) is the top or open.
The broadcast calendar is designed to conform to the uniform billing period adopted by Broadcasters, Agencies and Advertisers for billing and planning functions. Under this system, the standard week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. The standard Broadcast billing month always ends on the last Sunday of the calendar month.
That little or sometimes not so little logo of the station or network you’re watching that obscures some vitally important portion of the picture, is known as a Bug.
The Bumper is pre-recorded production element containing voice over music that acts as a transition to or from other content. Also known as Bumper Music or just Bump.
Calling the show is what the director of a live show does. S/he is in constant contact with both the crew and the talent.
The Cost-Per-Rating Point (CPP) is used in developing and allocating market budgets and setting rating point goals. It is defined as the cost of reaching one percent of the target audience within a specified geographic area.
Cost Per Thousand (CPM) is the cost of reaching 1,000 homes or individuals with a specific advertising message. CPM is a standard advertising measure to compare the relative cost efficiency of different programs, stations, or media.
Dayparts are the time segments that divide the TV day for ad scheduling purposes. These segments generally reflect a television station's programming patterns. For example, 9:00am-3:00pm is daytime, 3:00pm-5:00pm is early fringe and 2:00am-5:00am is overnight.
Demographics is the audience composition based on various socio-economic characteristics such as age, sex, income, education, household size, occupation, etc. They are another factor in what a show or station can charge for ads.
The time on-air where there is no audible transmission is called Dead Air. When there is nothing on, that means no revenue is coming in (no ads). One of the biggest uh-oh's in broadcasting.
Double pumping (okay, enough with the giggling) is the practice of running two episodes of a show back-to-back. This can be either to boost ratings in a given slot or to burn off episodes of a canceled show.
A local commercial inserted into a national program is called a Drop-In Ad. Sometimes it is an advertising message inserted into a larger advertisement, as for a local dealer dropped into a national car ad. It can also be a public service slogan, or logo. Also called a hitch-hike ad.
The FCC’s Equal Opportunities Rule (part of Section 315 of the Communications Act) states that if a broadcast station or cable system gives or sells time to one candidate for public office, it must offer equivalent time to other candidates. This is known as Equal Time. Note that this only counts for time SOLD to a candidate. The way Fox Noise manages to get around this is because news shows are exempt.
Frequency is the average number of times an accumulated audience has the opportunity to be exposed to advertisements or a particular program within a measured period of time. Part of the formula for measuring ratings: Reach x Frequency = Gross Rating Points (GRP). GRP is the sum of individual telecast ratings on a total program basis or advertiser commercial schedule, without regard to duplication. Reach is defined as the number of unduplicated households or people exposed to a program, group of programs, or an advertiser's schedule over a specific time period.
When Tweety says, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann is next", he is performing a Hand-off.
Key is the signal that "cuts the hole" in the video for other video and Fill is the video that fills the hole cut by the key.
A Lead-in is a program that immediately precedes another program on the same station or network. The Lead-out is the program that immediately follows another program.
Live Ratings is the Nielsen Media Research term for ratings reported as strictly live with no DVR playback activity. If you Include DVR activity, you get the Live Plus Ratings. Then there are the Live Plus Same Day Ratings, which counts live ratings plus DVR playback activity until 3:00 am of the same Nielsen day.
You have seen that some movies are run on TV in the letterboxed format. Two other things you may see with black bars (if you have a widescreen TV) are Pillarbox (black on either side) and Postage stamp (black on all sides). The first appears when 4:3 material is shown and the latter when 4:3 material is converted to 16:9 and then back to 4:3 before broadcast.
When, for some reason, a spot that was scheduled does not run or was improperly aired, the station will offer a Make-good. If you ever wondered what happens in regards to the ads when a Pre-emption occurs... On the cost of any ad from a previously confirmed broadcast schedule, the advertiser is either offered a make-good or takes a credit.
Even TV has its lobbyists. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is the TV and radio broadcaster's lobby group. Their purpose is to demonstrate to legislative bodies and other interested parties (parent's groups, religious groups, etc.) that broadcasters can maintain adequate standards without government interference.
NTSC stands for National Television System Committee, the organization that developed the analog television. Now it's generally used to refer to the analog standard: combining blue, red, and green signals modulated as an AM signal with an FM signal for audio.
An O&O Station is a television station owned and operated by a national network. The other kind of station, the Affiliate is one that the network grants the use of specific network programs and advertising for a compensation. The remainder of their broadcast day is programmed locally. Then there is the Satellite Station, a station that has agreed to rebroadcast the transmission of another station (generally operating in a larger nearby market) to an area that cannot otherwise be served by that station. Many are on the UHF.
A combination of commercial units offered as a group to an advertiser is known as a Package (hey! no dirty jokes, now!). A package is generally priced more attractively than the total for single commercials. A package may also be called a rotation or scatter plan.
A Pod is a group of commercials, promos or announcements contained in a television program break.
The Rating is a percentage of total households or population owning TVs who are tuned to a particular program or station at a specific time. So a six rating for women 18-49 means 6 percent of all women 18-49 were viewing that station or program. This is how Bill-o fudges his "I have higher ratings that Countdown" claim. He does... in the old folks demographic. A Rating Point is the value equal to one percent of a population. The Share is the percentage of the cumulative number of all people watching. So, while Bill-o may have a higher rating, his share may not be anything near that.
The Safety Meeting is that point (usually after the show) where the people in the know gather to lift (or burn) one in celebration of a job well done.
Have you noticed that at certain times of the year, your local news has those "special reports" or your favorite show tuns that "very special episode"? That's probably because it's Sweeps time. Sweeps, which usually occur in February, May, July, and November, are ratings surveys in which local markets are measured by a rating service (usually Nielsen Media Research or Arbitron). The result of this is the ViP (Viewers in Profile) number, the local television ratings book. These are issued after sweeps periods for each of the 210 television markets in the U.S.
The Target Audience, is the audience most desired by advertisers in terms of potential product/service usage and revenue potential. When it comes to Prime Time, the target market is male and female viewers between 25 and 40 (more or less).
That part of a program played before the title sequence is known as a Teaser. It usually features a cliffhanger or set-up of the plot of the episode to follow. Or, it can be; Which of these stories....
The first selling wave for the broadcast or cable networks and syndication is the Upfront. It usually occurs in the spring after the new fall schedules have been announced and presented to major advertisers. So, the upshot is, those commercials you will see during the Winter Olympics next February, have mostly already been scheduled! The commercial time not sold in the upfront is sold later in the season in the scatter market.
A Wraparound Commercial is a commercial with noncommercial material wrapped around it, such as a question at the beginning and the answer at the end. Sometimes called an insert, as when it is inserted within a movie surrounded by questions about the movie.
Oh, we forgot one... to Play-out is to use music or a music video to end a show, usually while the credits run. For example, in the famous video of Bill-O, a music video of Sting was set to end the show. All Bill-O had to do was a Ramp (intro to a piece of music), upon which the control booth would then switch from the camera to a video. Simple, right? Well, for some, maybe. But not for him:
That's just a sample of the jargon used in show business. Hopefully, you've learned some interesting things. I know that I have covered only the visual end of things; there is also a whole 'nother lexicon for the music business. Perhaps that will be one we'll do down the road.