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Media Literacy Glossary

Here is a short glossary of production terms that will be helpful as you implement your Media Literacy workshop and video and audio essays:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

ADVERTISING Persuasive messages used to sell products or ideas. Also used to inform consumers about new products. Advertising is the commercial basis of most media. See also, Public Service Announcements.

ANIMATION Technique by which inanimate objects seem to come alive by flashing a series of minutely changed images, called “cells,” at a rate which the brain interprets as movement. See also, Cell and Persistence of Vision.

BROADCASTING Refers to content carried over air waves. Usually designed to appeal to a broad audience segment.

BULLET THEORY A common-sense theory, much debunked, that people are passive recipients of media information. The notion that media can touch people and change them directly.

CABLECASTING The delivery of media content through underground or overhead cables.

CAMERA OPERATOR The person who records and frames the images in the video or film production process, usually with the guidance of a director.

CELL One frame of animation, usually a single cartoon or picture.

CHARACTERIZATION The development of characters in a narrative. Characters can be well-developed (round characters) or poorly developed and stereotyped (flat characters).

CHYRON A piece of equipment that allows video editors to insert text and graphics over the video picture or within the video frame.

COMMERCIAL For profit. Also, paid announcements produced for targeted audiences to sell products or ideas. The economic force that finances commercial media.

COPYRIGHT The laws that require compensation for the use of property and information owned by artists, reporters and media producers.

CREDITS Used in electronic media to identify and acknowledge the cast, crew and production staff of film and television products.

CROP To cut an image, usually a photograph, down to size so that it fits into a prescribed space. To cut out unwanted portions from a photograph.

CUT An abrupt transition between two video or audio sources. The cut conveys a change of place, time or mood.

DIRECTOR The person responsible for the overall look of a video or film product. Directs the action behind and in front of the camera. Sometimes directs the editing process.

DISSOLVE A gradual transition between two video sources. The sources overlap as they go from one to another. The dissolve indicates a passage of time, mood or place. Also used to represent a sense of nostalgia or a dream-like quality. See also, Segue and Cut.

DOCUMENTARY Refers to film or video that explores a subject in a way the public expects to be factual and accurate. Documentaries may be balanced by including various viewpoints, or they may be subjective, offering the viewpoint and impressions of one producer.

DRAMATIC TENSION Also known as rising action. In traditional narrative structure, dramatic tension marks the beginning of a story as conflict moves toward a climax.

EDITING The process of arranging, assembling or excluding images, text and sound to produce a completed media product.

EDITOR The person responsible for assembling the various parts of a media product. An editor can work in print or electronic media.

ELECTRONIC MEDIA Media that require electricity in order to operate, function or communicate messages.

FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION The sender and receiver of information can communicate in a timely manner. The receiver may disagree, ask a question, or repeat information. The sender and receiver can engage in a dialogue about the message. In face-to-face communication, there is an opportunity for feedback. See also, Feedback.

FADE A transition to black space between video programming or to silence in audio programming. Sometimes used between images or music. Usually used as a complete stop to indicate the beginning of a program (fade up) or its end (fade out).

FAIR USE The legal guidelines which exempt educators from certain copyright restrictions. Fair use of educational materials allows some media products to be used to a limited degree in the classroom. Individual school districts interpret Fair Use policy differently.

FEEDBACK The process of communication whereby a person can disagree, ask a question, repeat information for understanding, or otherwise talk back in the communication process.

FILM The medium whereby images are recorded on plastic through a photochemical process. As a verb, "to film" means the production process used to record images and sound on film using film hardware.

FIRST AMENDMENT The right of free speech in the U.S. Constitution, which historically protects media messages from regulation and censorship.

FRAME The window for print or electronic media images. As a verb, “to frame” means the process whereby the frame’s boundaries are decided and images are arranged within the frame’s boundaries.

GATEKEEPERS Those in control of the flow of information. The gatekeeper can choose to accept or reject a piece of information for public consumption. Newspaper publishers, editors and reporters, television producers, press secretaries, government spokespersons, radio station owners and broadcasting executives have all been cited as examples of media gatekeepers.

GENRE Specific kinds of media content, e.g., drama, entertainment, information, news, advertising, etc. Each category is defined with traditional conventions, but categories may overlap as in "docu-drama" or "info-tainment."

GRAPHICS Includes pictographs, typography and some types of text, as well as symbols, photographs and geometric designs. Graphics are visual elements used to point readers and viewers to particular information.

HARDWARE The technology used to create and communicate with media. The physical device which enables messages stored on software to pass from a sender to a receiver. Television, radio, computers, movie projectors, telephones, etc., are hardware. Although pencils and printing presses are also technically hardware, the term is most often used to refer to electronic media. See also, Software.

INFORMATION Messages used as the basis for decision-making.

KEY The special effects technique which allows one picture to be inserted within another. The video “box” over the newscaster’s shoulder on television is an example of a key.

LAY OUT See Paste Up.

LICENSED CHARACTERS Characters, usually cartoons, licensed by their creators for use by mass marketers. Each time an item bearing that image is sold, a royalty is paid to the licensed owner. Snoopy and Mickey Mouse are examples of licensed characters.

LOG See Media Log.

LOGO The copyrighted symbol used to represent a corporation, company or individual.

MASS COMMUNICATION When a sender distributes messages to many people simultaneously.

MASS MEDIA Mass media are channels of communication through which messages flow, produced by a few for consumption by many people. As the messages go through the channels, they are distorted. When people receive mass-media messages, they have no opportunity for immediate feedback with the producers of the messages.

MASTHEAD Used in print media to identify the location, ownership and management of newspapers and magazines. Analogous to Station ID in electronic media.

MEDIA Vehicles which carry messages. Common media channels are televisions, radios, telephones, and newspapers. Less common media are building materials, paintings, sculpture, dance and other means of communicating ideas. See also the singular form, Medium.

MEDIA AGENCIES Producers of media. Also media institutions and industries that buy and sell media products.

MEDIA CENTER In schools, the place where media hardware and software are stored, checked out by teachers or procured. Often the school library.

MEDIA CONTENT Messages that are produced by the few for the many and delivered to large audiences simultaneously.

MEDIA LANGUAGES Media conventions, formats, symbols and narrative structures that cue the audience to meaning. The symbolic language of electronic media works much the same way as grammar works in print media.

MEDIA LITERACY The ability to read, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of media forms (television, print, radio, computers, etc.).

MEDIA LOG A record of media use, often used to assess and control personal media use.

MEDIA MESSAGES See Media Content.

MEDIA SPECIALIST In schools, the term covers a broad spectrum of educational roles. Can mean the person who operates audio-visual equipment, the librarian, a teacher with broad knowledge of media resources and the communication process, or one who helps other teachers locate an array of resources.

MEDIA TARGETS Audiences are media targets. Audiences are targeted, sold and delivered to advertisers by media agencies. Groups are targeted on the basis of demographics, media-use patterns, ZIP codes, and polling by those who wish to sell or persuade.

MEDIA USE The way people interact with media. Media use varies from person to person, group to group and at various times during an individual's life.

MEDIUM Any singular, physical object used to communicate messages. Television is a mass medium, but there are many other kinds of mass media. See also the plural form, Media.

NARRATIVE STRUCTURE Traditional devices used to tell a story. Simple narrative structure begins with setting and character development. The story rises to a conflict and falls to a conclusion.

NARROWCASTING Producing and designing media content in order to target a highly specific segment of the audience. Narrowcasting is often practiced by magazines, radio stations and cablecasters. Opposite of broadcasting.

NEWS Information the public expects to be factual and accurate. Nonfiction events reported to the public through print or electronic media.

OBJECTIVE The ideal that the media producer or reporter is representing a balanced viewpoint on issues. The ideal that media producers are fair, accurate, unbiased conduits for information. Opposite of subjective.

PAN A horizontal camera movement from side to side.

PASTE UP Arranging articles, graphics and photos in print on the page to produce the final product. Can be done by hand or on a computer.

PERSISTENCE OF VISION A visual phenomenon where an image is retained in the eye for a short period of time, creating an illusion of continuous motion in film and video.

PHOTOGRAPH A product produced by printing film negatives on paper through a photochemical process.

PLOT The beginning, middle and end in narrative structure and all the devices that move the story from one scene to another.

PRINT MEDIA Media consisting of paper and ink, reproduced in a printing process that is traditionally mechanical and photochemical.

PRODUCER The final authority in the electronic media production process. Sometimes the producer is the person who raises the money to produce media products.

PRODUCTION The working process of putting together media content to make a finished media product. Production techniques include editing transitions, design, style, color, placement in the frame or on a page, scripting, printing, broadcast engineering, etc.

PRODUCTION VALUES The elements that make up the complete media product. In electronic media, production values include cuts, dissolves, color, placement in the frame, editing, etc. In print; paper quality, ink color, placement on the page, size, shape, etc.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAMMING Television and radio programming based on information of interest to the general public. Usually about government, public safety, or health issues.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT Announcements that inform the public about safety and health information, community services or public affairs. Produced and programmed much like commercials, but usually not produced for profit.

PUBLISHER The publisher is the final authority for decisions in the print industry and is usually the owner of the magazine, newspaper or publishing company.

PYRAMID STRUCTURE The typical structure of a news report whereby facts are written in order of importance. Called the “inverted pyramid,” the least important facts are last so that editors can easily cut them for space or time constraints.

REGULATION Agencies regulate media through laws and guidelines. Advertising regulation takes place through the Federal Trade Commission. Broadcasting is regulated through the Federal Communications Commission. Media messages are also regulated through laws governing libel and self-regulated by business and professional organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters. Deregulation trends in the 1980s swept away many government regulations intended to constrain media industries in the United States.

REPRESENTATION The relationship between actual places, people, events and ideas and the resulting media content. Stereotypes are a common form of media representation. As messages pass through media, they are distorted so that media does not represent reality as much as it re-presents reality.

SCRIPT A blueprint for the action, narrative and dialogue in a media product.

SEGUE A gradual transition between two audio sources. The sources overlap as they go from one to another. Analogous to the dissolve transition in video and film.

SOFTWARE The place where media messages are stored. Intended for use with hardware. Software can take the form of computer diskettes, videocassettes, film, audiocassettes, etc.

SOUND EFFECTS Special effects using sound to suggest a story element such as background, time, place, character, etc. Also used to heighten and intensify action or evoke an emotional response.

SPECIAL EFFECTS Sound or video used in the editing process to heighten drama or suggest a time, place or story element. Often used as a transition.

STATION ID Used on radio and television to identify the station frequency and call letters. Analogous to a company logo or a newspaper masthead.

STORYBOARD A graphic plan for the frame-by-frame action in a film or on video. Usually done sequentially, a complete storyboard represents a print rendition of the final film or video product.

TAPE The medium whereby images and sound are recorded on plastic through an electronic process. As a verb, "to tape" means the production process which uses video or audio hardware to record images and/ or sound on tape.

TECHNOLOGY TOOLS Hardware used to create and communicate with media, e.g., radio, computers, telephones, satellites, printing presses, pencils, etc. See also, Hardware.

TRANSITION The production technique chosen to move from one scene to another in video or audio programming. Also production elements between programs. Some transitions are cuts, fades, dissolves, special effects, wipes, segues, etc.

TV LISTING Television schedules found in print media such as newspapers, TV Guide or magazines. TV listings can also be found as part of television and radio programming.

TILT A vertical camera movement up and down.

VIDEOCASSETTE The software required to record and play back video content. Also called a videotape.

VISUAL LITERACY The ability to look at visual information with perception. A visually literate person understands how visual elements contribute to the meaning of the whole.

ZOOM A smooth movement by the camera lens from far away to close up or from close up to farther away.

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