Talk the talk: understanding video terminology

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After decades of working in the video production industry, as much as we try to avoid it we can be guilty sometimes of using jargon that our clients may not understand.

So to help explain what we mean and to provide a common language here are some regular terms that we use.

Thumbnail: This is the image that appears at the start of a video. This can be changed to a different frame within the video or a customised thumbnail can be created and uploaded to maximise engagement. Below are some examples of thumbnails. This is how they appear on our Vimeo channel. What a client sees when we submit a video to them is irrelevant as the client should select their own thumbnail once they upload the video to their own YouTube or Vimeo account.

Social media videos: This simply describes any video that is played on social media. It can be a variety of aspect ratios from 1920 x 1080, 1080 x 1920, 1080 x 1080 and others. Here are some examples of different aspect ratios that can be used on social media.

Widescreen videos: Your television is widescreen, your laptop is widescreen. It can also be called landscape. Typically a widescreen or landscape video is 1920 x 1080 pixels. It is also known as 16:9 (which is the ratio). Widescreen videos can be watched on phones by simply rotating the phone 90 degrees (try it, it’s not that difficult :)). They are ideal for laptop or TV viewing as well.

Vertical videos: Vertical videos are typically watched on phones, when you are holding your phone in the vertical or portrait mode. Their aspect ratio is 1080 x 1920 pixels, or 9:16. This aspect is used for Reels, Stories and YouTube Shorts.

Captions: The text that shows what is being said in the same language is referred to as captions. This allows the video to be watched without sound. Did you know 85% of social media videos are watched mute? So if you are planning to host your video on social media then consider including captions.

Subtitles: Subtitles are like captions but are typically in a foreign language. They allow viewers to understand the message as it is subtitled in their language. The audio will be in the original language.

Supers/Lower thirds:
Supers is an abbreviation of superimposed. It typically refers to the name that appears on the bottom of the screen when someone is talking. The text has been superimposed over the vision. This is also referred to as a lower third as it appears in the lower third of the screen.

The design of a Super can be as simple as straight text or it can be designed to match the brand of the organisation. Typically the Super will include the name of the person on screen and their title:

B-roll: B-roll or overlay is the footage you see when a voice over, or commentary is happening but you don’t see the person talking. Typically this will enhance the story and demonstrate what is being said. Sometimes it can be used effectively to reveal more than just what is being said.

Video resolution: There are various video resolutions. Standard definition is an old resolution and has a 4:3 aspect ratio at 768 x 576 pixels. For those old enough to remember it was used for the older squarer TVs:

High definition: Is 1920 x 1080 pixels and is known as HD resolution or full HD.

Ultra High definition: This is also known as 4K and has a pixel resolution of 3840 x 2160. Both of these resolutions have a 16:9 aspect ratio and are considered widescreen.

If you catch us using words you don’t understand, please let us know. We are in the communication business and that doesn’t work if people don’t know what we mean. Also if you hear a phrase or terminology regarding video from someone, also ask us. Hopefully we can help.

If you are looking for some creative solutions to get your clients to take the critical next step, give us a call on

About Geoff Anderson

About Geoff Anderson

Geoff Anderson is the owner of Sonic Sight and has been producing videos for 30 years. He is an author, presenter as well as a video producer.

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