When describing the structural elements of your video, we ask that you use the correct terminology to avoid confusion. Our Editors' Glossary contains the most widely used terms in the industry. Please use the following terms, even if your script is in another language.
A-roll refers to all the visuals that contain the main action that drives the narrative forward, such as an interview, a key step in a process, or a key interaction between characters.
B-roll refers to all the visuals that do not contain the main action. B-roll consists of all the secondary shots that you need to build a scene, such as close-ups, medium shots and wide shots. B-roll is used to introduce characters and places, as well as cover edits.
A J-cut refers to an editing technique used when you cut between A-roll (interview shots) and B-roll. B-roll is used to cover the the end of an interview byte. This means you begin to see B-roll, while you still hear the A-roll’s audio.
An L-cut is the opposite of a J-cut, meaning you start the audio of the interview under the B-roll before seeing the actual A-roll footage. Then, after a second or more, you cut to the A-roll to see the person who is speaking.
Let It Breathe
A breath refers to an audio break between sound bytes. Your editor might ask you to give it a breath, or let it breathe, which means extending moments of nat sound in order to slow down the piece.
This is when a video editor increases the volume of the nat sound to emphasize an action or scene. If you are asked to add a nat pop of a car door slamming, you should increase the volume of the door slamming.
Nat sound, or natural sound, are the ambient noises that you record at a given location. Nat sound is important in editing a documentary and should be rhythmically used between scenes, especially when introducing a new location or action.
A nut graph is a print journalism term referring to the paragraph where the reporter lays down what the story is about and why it matters. Likewise, when you begin producing a video, the nut graph will help you focus on what the story is really about. This way, when you are in the field, you will know which visuals, sound bytes and scenes to capture.
A sound byte refers to any word or sentence spoken by characters in your documentary. You should listen to everything you recorded your subjects saying and try to find emotional or memorable moments that really personalize the story and drive the narrative. As a rule of thumb, sound bytes should not be filled with numbers or facts, which can be included more succinctly in narration or text cards.
A treatment consists of both the nut graph and a scene breakdown of your story. This is normally last step of pre-production and will basically outline the story as you plan to shoot it. Click here to download a sample treatment. While in the field, it is helpful to refer back to your treatment regularly to ensure that you are capturing what you need to tell the story you outlined.
Verite consists of all the moments when your characters interact with one another or with an object naturally (i.e. not during a sit-down interview). These moments are captured by allowing your camera to become like a fly on the wall, observing the unfolding action without participating in it.
VO stands for voice-over. This is the recorded voice of the narrator, who is off-camera and not seen in the video piece. The narrator should only include relevant context and facts that will drive the narrative. For video journalism, VO should use simple language, short sentences and not last longer than 15 seconds without a transition to an interview or verite scene.