Are you trying to figure out what “codec” means? How about “compositing,” “4K,” or “B-roll,” for that matter? Your answers lie here, in our Shutterstock video glossary. Scroll on for a list of common terminology and explanations of concepts relevant to the stock-footage industry.

2D Animation: Animation in which each object in a frame is hand-drawn from a single perspective. Motion is simulated by each image leading to the next in a gradual progression of steps.

2d animaged image

3D Animation: Animation in which a character or object is drawn or digitally created in all three dimensions (width, length, and depth).

3d animated image

4K: Displays and videos that offer a horizontal resolution close to 4000 pixels and a vertical resolution close to 2000 pixels (HD, by comparison, is 1920 x 1080). For TV broadcast, 4K is commonly referred to as 4K Ultra HD. The resolution of this format is twice that of HD, which equates to the pixels being exactly doubled horizontally (3840) and vertically (2160). For 4K digital cinema projection, a standard horizontal width of 4096 pixels (2160 vertically) was established by the Digital Cinema Initiatives group, a joint venture of the major motion-picture studios.

Aerials: Shots filmed from a helicopter, airplane, or drone that provide a sweeping overview of a setting (flying over a park, building, or field).

Alpha Channel: The alpha channel defines the areas of transparency in a clip or still image. It is a grayscale channel that contains white and black levels, which determine the different levels of transparency applied to color channels during compositing.

Arri: Manufacturers of the Arri Alexa and Arriflex cameras.

B Roll: A catch-all term for supplemental footage that provides supporting details and greater flexibility when editing video. Common examples include the footage used to cut away from an interview or news report to help tell the story.

Backgrounds: Either what is literally behind a subject or object, or that which is placed into a green-screen background.

green screen

Blackmagic: An Australian camera company known for offering cameras with impressive dynamic range for a comparatively low price.

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery): Anything rendered via computer that is part of a scene. The movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron in 2009, is an example of a film that contains mostly computer generated imagery.

Chroma Key: See Green Screen

Close-Up: A shot in which the frame is filled almost entirely with the subject’s face.

Codec: A device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream or signal.

Composite Shot: Combining video clips from several sources into one video.

Before Compositing

After Compositing

Crane: (AKA Jib) A large piece of equipment for capturing footage from a high vantage point

camera crane

Daytime (DX): Generally used to refer to a shot needed to match another shot; for example, a daytime interior shot that was actually shot at night. In order to match exterior lights, such as from a window, a customer might be looking for a daytime exterior shot to composite into a frame. See also NIghttime (NX).

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex): A camera that shoots both photos and video with a viewfinder that shows the actual light going through the lens.

Driving Plate / Processing Plate: A shot with no actors, generally used for the background of a scene that will be composited with the actors to create a final scene. A driving plate is usually the POV out of a car or vehicle. Think of the front window of your car as being a screen; your POV would be the street ahead of you, with buildings getting closer, while the back window would show the same street, but with the car moving away from those same buildings.

Establishing Shot: A shot that sets the scene — is it in the city, the countryside, in space, or underwater? Often, these are landscape and/or aerial shots.

FPS: Frames per second. Cinema and Motion Pictures are 24fps. TV shows, especially news and soap operas, are shot at 30fps. Higher frame rates are used in sports video (60fps) and for slow motion effects (shot at 120 fps or higher and played back at 24fps).

GoPro: A camera and media company famous for making rugged little cameras that can be attached to almost anything and give great POV shots.

Nenov Brothers Images /

Green Screen: (AKA chroma-key compositing) A technique for which actors or objects are placed in front of a bright green (sometimes blue) background and the background is then replaced with different footage.

Handheld: Shooting footage with no stabilizing equipment. (This can often lead to shaky footage.)

Insert Shots: (AKA cut-in shots) Shots showing objects or props that a character is manipulating, such as a phone being dialed or a cup being picked up.

Jib: See Crane.

Landscape: A shot that helps set up or ground a setting by showing where the action is taking place (such as an NYC skyline, the Grand Canyon, or a ship at sea).

Locked Down: When the camera has been secured to a tripod or other support device in a fixed, stable position to completely eliminate any camera shake.

Luma: The brightness of an image, independent of color.

Medium Shots: Shots that show the subject from about the hips or waist up. These are useful for when a subject is conveying information, allowing you to still see them interacting with their environment.

Nightime (NX): Generally used to refer to a shot needed to match a shot, like a nighttime interior that was actually shot during the day. See also Daytime (DX)

NTSC: (National Television System Committee) A method for encoding broadcast television that’s used primarily in North America and some areas of South America. Alternative methods used in other countries include PAL and SECAM.

Panning: Moving the camera left or right on a fixed vertical axis.

PAL: (Phase Altering Line) A method for encoding broadcast television that’s used in many parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Alternative methods used in other countries include NTSC and SECAM.

Pixel: A single square or bit of an image. Most images comprise many millions of pixels.

POV: A shooting technique that shows the perspective of a scene literally from a character or object’s position in the setting, such as a GoPro helmet camera’s view of a bike ride or the perspective from the tip of a surfboard

Sensor: The electronic light-sensing mechanism in a camera.

SECAM: (Sequentiel Couleur à Mémoire) A method for encoding broadcast television that was developed in France and used in parts of Asia and Africa. Alternative methods used in other countries include NTSC and PAL.

Slider: A device used to smoothly move a camera along a track.

Alexander Tihonov | Man with camcorder outdoors

Stabilization: Practical methods used on location to stabilize a camera, like employing a tripod, monopod, shoulder rig, or more involved equipment, such as a steadicam, glidecam, or Movi. This can also refer to stabilizing footage after it’s shot using software in post-production.

RED: A camera brand renowned for providing high-tech cameras at relatively low prices ($8k-$50k). RED is highly regarding for its EPIC and Scarlet cameras, which have great color detail and high resolution (5K and higher).

red camera brand

Resolution: A measure of the number of pixels an image contains. More pixels = more detail = higher image quality. For most of TV history, 640 (horizontal) x 480 (vertical) was the most common resolution. In the past 15 years, high-definition resolutions have become more widespread, starting with 1280 x 720, and then 1920 x 1080. Recently, 4K has emerged as a new resolution standard, with 3840 x 2160 pixels for 4K television. For digital cinema projection (at movie theaters), the resolution is a bit wider at 4096 x 2160.

1080 hd image

Tilting: Moving the camera up and down on a fixed horizontal axis, like tilting your head up/down.

Timelapse: Taking multiple photographs over an extended period and then playing them back at 24 frames per second to show the passage of time.

Wide Shot: (AKA long or full shot) A Shot that shows an entire subject and how it relates to the environment at large.

VFX: Visual Effects

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