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