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Video Terminology Basics 101, Part 5 - Footage

In this series, I've been covering several video terms that tend to hang people up. In this last article, I'm going to talk about footage. My hope is to clarify the differences between source footage and the "footage" that makes up a final edited video. Making this discernment will help laypeople better understand the contents of a final edited video and what goes into editing.

The reason this topic gets tricky is that footage is a blanket term for any piece that might be pulled together into a final video. Even edited videos can be used as footage in another video. A good way to think of footage is any video clip, photo, illustration, audio clip, animation or music track that is used in constructing an edited video. Footage is the bag of stuff (editors also call these files assets) that a final video is constructed from.

It's important to understand that footage used to make a video is different from the final video itself. Footage, especially raw video source footage (video shot for an intended project), can take up massive amounts of storage space. Editors often use servers or several external hard drives when editing projects. Even a small project like a TV commercial can require 20 gigabytes of footage. For most folks, that's a huge hunk of their hard drive, and if the final edited video was anywhere near that big they'd be in trouble just storing it, let alone uploading it online.

A couple articles back I talked about compression, something that is key for understanding this next part. The editor of any given video is the person with the bag of stuff (the footage or assets), and what pieces of this stuff he or she chooses to go into the final edit are the only pieces that are actually in the final video. Once the editor has made these choices, a final file is made of the video. This is almost always a super compressed but nice-looking video file that is put on a playable disk, uploaded online or broadcast on TV. In order for changes to be made, let's say someone wants a shot of the video to be a few frames longer, the change cannot be made directly to this final video file. Rather, the original editor, the person with access to the pieces, needs to go into an editing program, make the necessary changes, and then create a brand new video file of the final edit.

A good way to think of this is the film analogy I've used before. In 35mm film editing, editors used to have reels and reels of raw film footage that they would cut and tape together using specialized machines. Once the final film was spliced together using this process, the editors would make a copy of that called a print. The print didn't have any of the extra footage, just what was chosen by the editors to go into it. All the original footage was stored in countless bins back in the editing bay. If a change needed to be make, it was done to the spliced copy using the raw footage, and then a new print was made for review.

The moral here is that when you view a finished edited video, what you see is what you get, just like an old film print. Even though it's a computer file, if something needs to be added, that data is not hidden somewhere in the video. Rather, it's back on the editor's computer filled with tons of unwieldy files for that same project. While a finished file does contain footage, it's only the footage that you see when watching it and not a frame more.

Filed Under: general

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