TV News Vocabulary and Jargon
If you visit any television news room, you will immediately notice that TV news people speak their own language. More confusing still, the jargon varies from company to company and from country to country. American, British, Australian or other English speaking TV journalists sometimes use different words and expressions to refer to the same things.
Here is some of the terminology and jargon you should know:
SLUG – the title of a story, which should be used consistently by all team members to refer to that specific story.
Anchor, Presenter, Talent, News reader – the person speaking to camera (usually) in the studio. There are slight differences implied by some of these terms. An anchor is seen as a qualified journalist who literally “anchors” the broadcast – conducting live interviews, ad-libbing breaking news as it comes in and other duties that require quick thinking and good news judgment. A presenter can be an anchor, but can also simply be the host of a program, reading scripts. A news reader is simply that – a person with a good voice and appearance who reads news scripts on air without necessarily having any journalism background. “Talent” can refer to anyone on camera.
VJ = Video Journalist. A journalist who usually works alone, researching, investigating, writing, reporting, shooting and editing their own video news reports. The trend in the video news industry is to hire this type of multi-skilled individual, rather than send reporting teams of two, three or more people to cover events.
VISION = an expression used to refer to video. Eg.: “That script does not match the vision.” Eg.: “What does the vision show?” Eg.: “I’m waiting for vision from the news conference.”
TAPE = While many broadcasters still do use analog or digital tape to record their video, use of the term “tape” sometimes extends to material captured on hard discs and cards, too. Many people are simply in the habit of referring to “tape” when they mean video, because tape formats were in use for so long. In this way, “tape” can just mean “the audio/video recording”.
B ROLL = video pictures. Refers to all the video or vision in a story other than the SOTs and PTCs. B-roll is an old filmmaking term that is still in use by many videographers and journalists.
GV, General Vision, General Video, General Views – same as B-roll.
FILE, LIBRARY, ARCHIVE, STOCK – video that is not current.
COVER = video used during an interview, sound bite, or some other talking.
VO = voice over. This can be used to refer to just the voice heard (live or recorded) or, confusingly, to a piece of video intended for use with a voice accompanying it.
A READER = a script that is read by the anchor. Can mean a script with or without video.
RVO = reader voice over. A script that is read with video.
OOV = over vision. A script that is read with video.
U-LAY = underlay. A script that is read with video.
Track, Voice Track, Narration = the audio recording of a reporter’s voice. “Track” is taken from “multi-track recording”, whether it’s one of two tracks available in a video camera or one of 48 tracks in a recording studio.
To Track = as a verb, to track means to narrate or to read aloud and be recorded.
Package, PKG = A recorded and edited report. Lengths can vary from about :45 on the short side to as long as 8-10 minutes for a long feature or special focus package. This is the most controlled and sophisticated vehicle for video news reporting and storytelling. Some places, TVNZ for example, use the phrase TRACK to refer to packaged report with a voice over. Some other outlets simple call their packages a REPORT, or a SPECIAL REPORT.
LIVE SHOT = a reporter’s live broadcast from a location other than the TV studio.
LIVE HIT = another expression for a reporter’s live shot.
LIVE CROSS = when an anchor/presenter introduces another reporter from a different location.
AS LIVE, LOOKLIVE = A reporter’s piece that looks and feel like a live shot, but is actually pre-recorded. These are not used to deceive the viewers, but to create the sense of urgency and immediacy of a live shot when the reporter is not available to do a live shot. Broadcasters usually don’t claim these reporters are live… but they don’t point out that they are not live.
STAND UP, PIECE TO CAMERA = the part of a package in which a reporter appears on camera.
WALK AND TALK = a piece to camera in which the reporter moves.
DOWN THE LINE
INTRO, TOSS, THROW, SET-UP = The (usually) short script read by the anchor to set the context for and create interest in a reporter’s package or live shot.
SOUND BITE, GRAB, BITE, CLIP, ACTUALITY = a part of an interview with a newsmaker, expert, analyst, witness, victim, official, etc. Usually short in length, used for a variety of reasons to make our reports more interesting and credible.
SOT = Sound on Tape. A sound bite or interview clip (see above). Usually spoken as “sot”, rather than as the initials “S-O-T”.
OC:, Q:, OUT: = outcue. The last few words of a sound bite, package or other spoken content. Also known as LW = last words; OW = out words
SOC = standard outcast, standard outcue. A set phrase that always ends a package or other report and does not vary from report to report. Eg.: “…for 11-Alive News at Five.”
TRT = total run time, total running time. The length of a piece of recorded media (SOT, PKG, etc). Also referred to as DUR = duration.
Tag – refers to a short piece of information usually given by the anchor coming out of a reporter’s package or after a SOT.
VO/SOT (pronounced voh-sot) = A combination of B-roll and SOT. An anchor/reporter speaks over the recorded video images, stopping when someone on the recording starts talking or the volume of the natural sound is turned up. SOT/VO is the same but in the opposite order. Video images continue playing after a sound bite.
Talking head – an expression used to refer to a sound bite or an interview program without the added production value of video pictures.
Head bite = also a sound bite – the television version of a quotation.
PRE REC = pre recorded interview
Cutaway – a shot of the interviewer or other object cutting away from an interview. This is an editing tool to build a smooth transition from one part of a sound bite to another part. The voice on the audio track is edited while the viewer is seeing something other than the person speaking. It avoids showing the viewers a “jump cut”.
REACTION SHOT, NODDY, REVERSE – A shot of a reporter/interviewer listening to someone answering their question. This is often used as a cutaway (see above). However, “nodding” during an interview is often not recommended, as it can suggest the reporter agrees with what is being said.
OTS – over the shoulder. See Reaction Shot, Reverse.
Natural sound, NATSOT, ambient sound, wild sound, NAT FX– the sound that was recorded when the B-roll was shot. Any sound recorded that is not an interview or reporter speaking.
UP SOT, UP SOUND = to raise volume of sound on a recording so that the sound is highlighted. Voice over pauses for UP SOUND.
SFX, FX = sound effects. In audio/video news reporting, it is not appropriate to add sound effects that are not part of the natural sound of the video.
SIGN OFF, SIGN OUT, SIG OUT = A reporter’s last words in a package or live shot, in which they identify themselves, their station/network and where they are reporting from.
ENG - electronic news gathering.
OB Location or OB Van = the outside broadcast location of a live broadcast usually the position of a live satellite truck or van.
Donut, Live Around, Wrap-around = in live TV situations in which a reporter is live on camera at beginning and end of a live shot but voices over video or picture in the middle. Donut = live on the outside, VO tape/or live video in the middle. Similar to a package.
Bird = slang for a satellite transmission or the satellite itself.
TWO WAY = A two-person exchange on camera from different locations.
THREE WAY = A three-person exchange on camera from different locations.
IV, INTV = Interview
STUDIO I/V = an interview conducted in the controlled environment of a TV studio.
REMOTE = a broadcast from a location other than studio headquarters or a bureau.
WRITE = when used as a noun, this refers to any sort of short script. Eg.: “I need a write on the new GDP numbers, right away!”
PAR, PARA = paragraph
KICKER, CLOSER = a story that plays at the end of a bulletin or broadcast. Often this is a lighter feature or human interest story.
SEQUENCE = a series of video images edited together in a way that communicates some information, or tells a story.
GFX = graphic, graphics.
ANI, ANIM = animation. A moving graphic such as those used at the start of a bulletin or the start of a special section of the bulletin.
OPEN, OPENER = the first item in a news bulletin. It usually mentions three or four of the day’s top stories, and gives viewers a reason to stay tuned for more information. See TEASE for more.
HEADLINE = a very short version of one of the most important stories of the moment. Usually 10-20 seconds in length. Not an actual “headline” in the newspaper sense of the word. Some TV writing coaches recommend against using this word for the very reason that it comes from newspapers, and therefore does not apply to television.
TEASE (TZ) = Before a commercial break, or other interruption in a news bulletin, viewers are often told about what stories are coming up. Teases are written in such a way as to make the viewers curious enough to stay tuned through the commercials, to find out more about the story.
GFX = graphic or graphics. A still visual image such as a map, chart, graph or full-screen block of text.
LOWER THIRD(S) = refers to any and all text that appears in the bottom third of the screen, displayed on top of whatever other visual images are on screen.
SUPER(S) = short for “super-imposed”. Same as Lower Third. One or two lines of text that appear over whatever other visual image is on screen, usually near the bottom of the screen and/or in the upper corners.
CHYRON(S) = Same as SUPER and Lower Third. It is the name of a company that was an early leader in developing the equipment that generates the text that TV stations show on screen. At many stations in the U.S., the company’s name has become synonymous with the application, whether actual Chyron-made equipment is used or not.
FONTS, CG = Same as Supers and Chyrons. CNN’s in-house terminology is “fonts”. CG mean “character generator”.
BANNER, STRAP, ASTON, CAPTIONS, TITLE(S), SUBTITLES = A few other words that refer to textual material that appears on screen, usually in the lower third.
TICKER, CRAWL, FLIPPER = a line of text usually at the bottom of the screen. It can move (crawl) from one side to the other, or it can simply change (flip) from one item to the next. This information can be short headlines of news stories, stock quotes, sports scores, weather info, etc.
LOGO, BUG, DOG = a station or network’s logo constantly displayed in a corner of the screen. Branding.
Other technical terms related to the camera or video
A shot – a picture
WS – wide shot
MS – Medium shot
CU – Close up
Frame – a single, complete video image that lasts 1/30th of a second
Two shot, three shot – refers to number of people seen in the frame
Sequence – refers to a series of related shots
Rule of Thirds – classic rule that says that the centre of the camera’s attention should be one-third the way down from the top and side of the shot or frame.
Headroom - space between the top of the head of someone on camera and the top of the frame.
Talking room, looking space, nose room – generally an interview subject is framed looking left or right and the space in which he/she is looking is the talking room or looking space.
Pan – a move of the camera left to right or right to left
Tilt – an up and down movement of the camera
Reverse Zoom -