Villing & Company

Video Terminology Basics 101, Part 1 - The Language of Video

Every discipline has proprietary jargon that can sound like a foreign language to outsiders. Whether you sell life insurance or operate on patients, you likely have a vernacular that is special to your field. Even if your line of work is pretty simple, it might sound complicated to someone not familiar with the terms you and your colleagues use regularly.

The atmosphere of a marketing agency is definitely that way. Around the office, we throw around terms like comp, mock-up, AE, creative (as in a noun, not an adjective), dev, vector, PSD, traffic (having nothing to do with automobiles). It might be a little intimidating to our interns at first, but none of it is complicated stuff. I would venture to guess that just about every occupation from package delivery to web development has its own unfamiliar terminology, much of which is simpler than it sounds.

The video world is no different. Video guys like me sound like we're making stuff up half the time when we throw out seemingly random numbers and letters like H.264, ProRes 422, RGB, 16:9, 1080P, 4K and then act like it's supposed to make sense to everybody else. It turns out that these terms and the ideas behind them are not rocket science. It's pretty simple once you get the basic idea.

Over the years as a video professional, I've noticed that often even very intelligent people can have significant confusion and ignorance about some basic video terms. Two realizations have dawned on me: 1) most video jargon is not nearly as complicated as it sounds, 2) others can greatly benefit from a stronger grasp on basic video terminology.

In our world today, video is becoming a central part of the way we communicate. It's like a universal visual language. Demand for it is increasing, and the quality attainable on a small budget is beginning to become indistinguishable from high-end production. Companies that haven't embraced video already need to right away. The ones that have will need to be prepared for the changes in store in the years to come. The last decade in video has taught us that change is rapid. We've gone from lousy low-res cameras to phones that shoot stellar HD video. So understanding a few basic video concepts is essential in preparing yourself and your company to be conversant in this language.

In follow-up articles in this multi-part series, I'll cover several video concepts and the lingo that goes with each topic:

  • Resolution
  • Compression
  • Aspect Ratio
  • Footage

The goal here is to keep this as nontechnical as possible, avoiding any unnecessary mumbo jumbo. Some of it may be stuff that you already know or stuff that might seem obvious to you. Other things might be new. Really, none of this is as complicated as it sounds. Stay tuned.

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