Shooting Live: Terminology

8 minute read

by Jon

October 18, 2015

While most of my work is scripted commercials, TV, or movies, occasionally I get to work as a camera operator for live events. This summer, I was lucky enough to join High Five Entertainment of Nashville to shoot the Willis Clan’s appearance at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest. While there is much in common between live and scripted shooting, there are a lot of differences in the language we use. I teamed up with one of my favorite PAs to create this crash course for people finding themselves working on live video production for the first time.

General Terms

Ped (Ped Camera, Ped Op)
Ped means pedestal, which is the basic camera support for live cameras. Some pedestals have wheels for moving the camera around in a small area, but most of the time, a ped camera is locked in one position. The ped op is the camera operator on a pedestal camera. Ped may refer to a field camera mounted on a tripod, as well.
HH (HH Camera, HH Op)
HH is an abbreviation for handheld, usually only used in print. Typically, this is a shoulder-mounted camera, but may also be a smaller camera with an operator.
Shader (Camera Shader, Video Shader)
The camera shader is the person responsible for matching the cameras to each other. Since large productions typically use multiple different camera models, as well as different lenses, this can be a challenge. The camera shader is typically near the switcher, handling any exposure adjustments for all the cameras from a central location. The closest analog to a camera shader in the narrative/scripted production world is a colorist.
Line Cut
The line cut is the live video feed, alternating between the camera angles that the director has chosen. The line cut may be the broadcast live, recorded for broadcast later (called “as live,” “as-live,” or “aslive”), or it may just be a guideline for the editor.
Iso is short for isolated (not to be confused with ISO, the sensitivity of the camera). An iso video track is the “clean” video feed from a single camera. Many productions will record one or more cameras individually, even while recording or broadcasting the line cut.
Robo (Robot, PTZ cam)
The robo cam is operated entirely from the switcher. It typically has pan, tilt, and zoom controls, which is why is may also be called a PTZ camera.
Lock-off may refer to a camera position, or just a type of shot from a ped camera. The shot does not move, and the camera pan, tilt, and zoom are locked.
A2 (AA, Audio Assist, Audio Assistant)
The A2 helps with all things audio, which may include running and testing cables, verifying levels, and troubleshooting audio issues. Since many live events take place over a relatively wide area, it’s helpful to have someone working at the audio source, while someone else is in near the mixer/switcher.
Chip Chart
A chip chart is a precisely printed card that is used to match the color and exposure of each camera. When possible, all cameras will shoot the chip chart at the same time, under uniform lighting. Other times, the cameras may need to shoot different charts or shoot them at different times, depending on the distance between cameras and other production logistics.

Here, you can see a chip chart visible on the camera monitor. Each live camera can be precisely calibrated by matching each of the colors on the chart.

Here, you can see a chip chart visible on the camera monitor. Each live camera can be precisely calibrated by matching each of the colors on the chart.

CCU (Camera Control Unit)
A CCU is the device that remotely controls the exposure and color from a camera. If a production uses CCUs, exposure and color temperature settings are decided centrally, by the shader. If there are no CCUs, each camera operator is responsible for exposure and color temperature settings.

Graphics Terms

A graphic that takes up at least the center of the screen. Sometimes fullscreens won’t have any transparency, so there is no camera “underneath” them. Other times, a fullscreen graphic may have a live camera angle visible through the “holes” in the graphic. This is frequently an aerial or lock-off shot.
Lower Third
This type of graphic usually either identifies a person or a location. In standard definition days, it had to be relatively large to be legible, and occupied approximately the lower one-third of the screen. Today, a more accurate term might be a “lower sixth.” Camera operators typically allow extra room on the bottom of the frame when they know a lower third will be added “over the top” of their video feed.
A super is any graphic that is superimposed over video. Some live video productions (particularly live news) will use the term “super” to indicate a lower third with location information. Some people will use the term generically in place of the term lower third. In all cases, it’s a graphic with some amount of transparency.
A hat is a partial screen graphic that is placed on the top of the frame. Camera operators will generally allow extra room on the top of the frame when they know a hat is being added.
OTS (Over-the-Shoulder)
An OTS is a graphic that appears over the shoulder of the person on camera, typically in a close up. This is most commonly used in news, while the subject is reading directly to camera.
Alpha is a technical way to refer to transparency of graphics elements. If a graphic has an alpha channel, it (probably) has some amount of transparency, as is designed to be used “over” a live video feed. Live video can have an alpha channel added, this is done with chromakey (greenscreen) effects.

Did you find these definitions useful? Are there other terms I should cover? Let me know in the comments below!