Post-Production Glossary R-Z: The Terms You Need To Know

Apologies for taking so long to get this one to you guys.  However, if you need to catch up, be sure to check out A-G and H-P for the complete Post-Production glossary.  Once again, just about all of the definitions came from text books, but I’ll provide more insight and examples as we go along.  I know things like these can seem daunting, but understanding these terms will help give you a better understanding for the craft on the whole.

Video Editing


The ability to interact with data as it is being created.

Oh this is an amazing thing that most non-linear editing systems can now do.  Even a decade ago, anything you did on the computer (even simple cross-fade transitions) meant you would then have to render your project before you could watch/see the effect that your edit had.  This added a ridiculous amount of time to the project, but technology has advanced and most current systems allows for real time editing.  If yours doesn’t you may want to consider and upgrade.

Reference Tone
An audio tone of fixed frequency and amplitude that occurs at the beginning of a tape, allowing the operator to set the correct audio level when duplicating the tape.

If you ever hear the term “bars and tone” this is the tone they’re referring to.  Even in the digital age, this is considered a must have, and may festivals still require some sort of Bars and Tone along with your submission.  It just makes life easier as not every project is outputted a the same tone, so having a reference point for that makes duplications and even viewings much easier.

The act of processing data for output, such as applying an effect, drawing a 3D model or outputting a video file to disk.

I think we’ve mentioned this one a few times throughout all of these articles.  It’s an important step and many young editors somehow forget it completely, making their films look very odd.  However, most editing platforms now will automatically render before exporting.

Render farm
An array of computers that each process small segments of a large task in order to speed it up.

If you ever get to work on a production that has a render farm, consider yourself very lucky.  It makes life a lot easier and by the end of the day, gets finished footage out much quicker.  Mostly, if you’re working on your own indie projects, you won’t have this luxury, but a person can dream…

The amount of data used to make up a digital video or audio file, specified as the number of pixels (for video) or the number of bits (for audio).

When you’re first editing your project, it’s all right to keep the resolution fairly low.  This saves up disc space and let’s you work faster since the computer won’t have to render a high-res image on every frame during playback.  Just make sure you re-up your resolution for final viewings before outputing it; just to make sure you didn’t miss any mistakes or gaffes in the lower res.

The primary colors used to make images in monitors, cameras and digital projectors.

A file containing an RGB image plus an alpha channel for transparency information.

Roll Edit
A method of shortening one clip and lengthening an adjacent one at the same time in order to maintain the original length of the sequence.

This is a great and nifty tool that comes with pretty much all non-linear editing systems.  When working on a project and run-time becomes a factor, this is a great way to change up a scene, without messing with your overall time.

The process of tracing the outlines of live action elements frame by frame, normally used for matte effects.

This is a big part of compositing, and requires a lot of patience and a lot of time.  I think the best example of rotoscope are Lightsabers.  Adding Lightsabers into footage requires rotoscoping, because it has to be frame by frame.  Although it can apply to anything, even something simple like replacing a background.  


The ability of the editing software to play back audio as the playhead is dragged across the timeline.

Shoot and Protect
A technique where widescreen footage is shot with the main action centered so as to provide easier pan and scan conversion to 4:3.

This is another one of those things you need to think of during the shoot and not after the fact.  If you know that your project has is going to be put in 4:3 at some point for broadcast, you should do what you can to make sure it looks as good as it can.  Otherwise the broadcast will be cutting off parts of your frame and actors that you didn’t want it too.  

Shutter speed

The amount of time it takes for the camera shutter to open and close. Faster speeds produce crisp motion and slower speeds produce motion-blur.

While this deals with filming and production, it’s necessary to know in Post as well.  I mean, you can’t try and composite in new footage that doesn’t match the same shutter speed.  Otherwise the footage looks off and just plain wrong.  It’s a subtle thing but the eye will immediately know something isn’t right about it.

The process of viewing footage at speeds greater than realtime.

You’ll do this for review things, when you want to skim over a scene (still looking for errors) but don’t need to devote a bunch of time to doing it.  Mostly you’ll do this when you’ve already fine-cut the scene.

Slow motion
A shot in which action takes place at a slower than normal speed. It is achieved by speeding up the camera and then playing back the frames at a normal frame rate.

While there are ways to do slow-mo in the computer, it’s always better to plan for those things, and film it in slow-mo.  Doing it in the computer can cause artifacts and motion blur (where you don’t want it) and isn’t as crisp as you want it.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. A film and television standards group that, among other things, standardized the use of SMPTE timecode.

Sound Designer
The person responsible for the overall sound of the film.

That’s pretty self-explanatory, but chances are on some Indy or student films, this could all be rolled onto the Editor.  So it’s important to have a good understanding of sound design.  If you don’t have much experience it might be a good idea to at least contact a designer for advice.

The process of physically attaching two pieces of film together using tape or cement.

Unless you get a time machine and head backwards a 2-3 decades, you’re not likely to be encountering this anymore.  This is the old way editors would make their cuts, before computers made this simpler and safer (meaning, you can easily undo something you did).  

A curve in 3D space defined by control points.

This is something you 3D modelers and animators will encounter, and us regular editor’s won’t really deal with.  Unless you’re specialty it 3D modeling and animation, I would steer clear of this and enlist the help of someone else.  

Split edit (L-cut or J-cut)
An edit in which the audio starts before or after the picture cut.

Most people when they hear of this, automatically start thinking of voice overs and stuff like that.  While that’s partially true, that’s not all that this type of cut is used for.   It can also be used to ease out a visual transition and get people in the mindset of the next scene, as you cut between them.  Say you’ve got a quiet home scene with two people and you’re switching to a crowded restaurant.  You start up the crowd and restaurant noise slightly before you cut (so still on the at home scene) to get people prepared for that transition and make the jump easier.

Similar to matchmoving but the entire frame is moved so that the elements of the scene stay in the same place in order to eliminate unwanted frame movement caused by gate weave or camera shake.

Sometimes this is necessary in order to get rid of pesky things.  The thing you need to be aware of is that more than likely this is going to cause black edges of the frame to appear.  Since your frame is moved, black will show up where the image used to be.  You can zoom in or re-create those missing edges in order to get rid of the black, but either way you’ll want to make sure you do something with it.  

The act of moving forward or backward through video one frame at a time.

Get used to doing this a lot.  Stepping through the timeline is the best way to sync up cuts and to fine-tune your edits.  It also helps you spot trouble areas that you can’t figure out during normal playback.  If you aren’t stepping through the timeline on your project, you’re missing things you probably need to fix.

Two-channel audio split onto two separate tracks – one for the right speaker and one for the left.

In this new age of 5.1 or even 7.1 surround sound, many filmmakers now avoid stereo just because they want to ensure their film is the most ‘state-of-the-art’.  While that’s okay, don’t forget there can be uses for everything else too.

Stop motion
A form of animation in which static objects are physically animated and photographed frame by frame.

This is one of the earliest forms of animation and more than likely you’ve seen it somewhere.  From the animation of the original King Kong to the holiday classics like Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming To Town, stop motion has been in use for a while.  


Technical grade
A telecine transfer which is adjusted so as not to lose any color information. A tape grade will be performed later on to achieve the desired look of the film.

This is one of those things you aren’t likely to deal with a lot (especially in the digital age now).  However, it’s always good to be aware of just in case you work with a more old fashioned director.

The process of scanning film in real-time and outputting it to a tape-based format.

This is how transfers used to be done (and still are) so that editors could edit on a tape instead of directly on the film (this was basically the first steps towards non-linear editing).  

An audio certification system for theaters, screening rooms, speakers, and car stereos. Mixing a film in THX will ensure that it will sound as close as possible to the mixer’s intentions in THX theaters and on THX-certified speakers.

Standards in sound (and picture) are always good to keep in mind and adhere to.  It makes it so that no matter where your project is displayed it should sound the same.  

Time lapse
A cinematography technique where the camera is set to capture one frame at a time with a relatively large interval between captures. When played back at normal speed, the event appears to be occurring much faster than it would in real life.

You’ll see this a lot when it comes to nature documentaries, such as when a flower is growing and stuff like that.  It just makes a long process a lot shorter (without skipping anything) in order to show the audience everything, without making them sit through hours of nothing.  

An indexing system that provides a unique index for each frame of video, in the form hh:mm:ss:ff. This makes it easy to locate and reference a particular frame.

Keeping track of timecode can help when you’re looking for a specfic moment in a scene.  When editing, it’s a great idea to mark down the timecode during dailies on the good cuts you want to use, that way you can jump right to it without having to scan everything again.  

A visual representation of a movie over time, consisting of video clips laid horizontally across the screen.

This is pretty standard now on all editing programs (big and small).  This is mainly where you’ll be moving scenes (picture and audio) around to create your film.  For modern editors, the timeline is where most of your work is done.  

Title Safe Area
A region of the screen where text is guaranteed to be visible. This is for compatibility with older CRT TVs that did not display the full area of the image.

Even these days, where it seems like most people have HDTVs and things are broadcast that way…it’s always best to keep your text within the Title Safe area.  The truth is you don’t know what your audience could be watching your film on.  Better to play on the safe side, rather than risk having text or information cut off.  

A separate audio or video layer on a timeline.

It’s always best to keep different things on different tracks.  Like with audio, you’ll want separate tracks for dialogue, sound effects, and music.  The same can be said for video.  You can add as many tracks as you want if you want to keep certain scenes separate, but try not to get too carried away as too many can leave you confused and disorganized.

The process of tracing the movement of a particular pixel or pattern on screen in order to determine how the camera or object is moving.

This is used a lot when you’re mixing in effects and compositing elements together.  Understanding the movement of the camera will help you place your other objects in the frame without making them appear ‘foreign’ to the eye.

A movement from one shot or scene to another. Transitions can take many forms such as cuts, dissolves, star wipes, etc.

This is as basic as it gets.  You’ll end up using transitions quite a bit, but there is such a thing as too much.  Try not to go crazy with the styles either, as that can be a sure sign of an amateur at work.  Keep things simple and well within the style of the project you’re working on.

Traveling Matte
An evolution of the matte process that allowed the matte to change shape and position from frame to frame.

This can be a lot like roto-scoping (which we talked about earlier) in where you can change the shape of the matte frame-by-frame in order to have it follow a particular path.  These traveling mattes are used to block out green/blue screens around actors and other things on the set.


The process of converting a standard definition video to a high definition format.

You hear about this quite a bit on smaller projects that maybe didn’t have the budget to shoot in HD originally, but still want that option available.  Personally…I don’t think it works nearly as well as you want it to.  These days it’s best to shoot in HD (or whatever format you want) initially.  


Effect where the speed of the camera is changed mid-shot, normally to emphasise a certain action on-screen.

This is a somewhat new trend, and anyone who’s watched a Zack Snyder film is familiar with the technique.  Films like 300 and Watchmen used it extensively, and there are plenty of actions films that are now doing the same thing.  Like any other effect it can be over-used or seem out of place.  It just depends on your style and the pace of the film in general.  Don’t do it just because you can.

Visual effects supervisor
The head of the visual effects department, who oversees all aspects of the visual effects process. Answers to the Post Production Supervisor and director.

If you’re working on smaller Indie films (or your own stuff) this position most likely won’t even exist.  Still it’s good to know about for when you expand and work elsewhere.

Video tape recorder, also referred to as a ‘deck’. These are used for duplicating video tapes and inputting and outputting from a computer.

Despite the digital age, these are still in use.  There are plenty of camcorders (good ones too) that utilize a tape of some sort to capture footage.  Not everything is down digitally, so it’s necessary to transfer your material in some way.  Most of the time this is how you would capture footage onto a computer in order for you to edit.


White Balance
The process of adjusting the camera so that it interprets the brightest area of the image as pure white. This ensures that the colors are recorded properly, and is only an issue with digital cameras.

This is another thing that doesn’t apply directly to post-production.  This is something that has to be handled during filming.  If footage isn’t white balanced then you’re in for a long and arduous color correction process.  Either that, or all of your footage is going to run the gamut of colors in a way you most likely don’t want it to.  If you’re filming, make sure you do this to save time in Post later.  

A format in which the width-to-height ratio of the frame is greater than 4:3, so that it is significantly wider than it is tall.

A transition in which one image is moved off screen to reveal another.

Along with cross-fade, this is the other most commonly used transition that people use.  It’s not a bad one by any means, but as with all effects don’t go over-board with them, and only use when appropriate.

All right, so there aren’t really any other terms after this (but it would have sounded real weird to call this article “terms R-W”.  It would have made it look like I was only half-assing it), but what we’ve provide you over our 3 articles is a solid base of post-production terms to start with.  If you’re just starting out as an editor and learning the craft, it might be beneficial to print these out or book mark all the glossary in order to have them close at hand.