PART 8 – 20 media business terms for non-native English speakers

Hello! Here is Part Eight of this series and this time we look at business terms in English used in the media like television, theatre, radio, music and more. These are not technical terms but are words and phrases widely used by the public, as well as by people who work in media industries.

For direct links to the other articles in the series, scroll down to the bottom of this one. This is the last article for this northern hemisphere’s summer, but the series will return in the early [northern hemisphere] autumn 2016 … so watch out for it!

PART 8 – 20 media business terms for non-native English speakers

The old BBC TV Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London, England

Part 8: 20 business terms used by TV, radio and other media industries

Whether you work in television, video, radio, music or elsewhere in the media or are just wanting to understand some of the more basic terms and what they mean, here is my top 20 selection extracted from one of my earlier books, “The A to Z of video and TV jargon.”

English media business terms normally are not self-explanatory

1.Anchor: mainly television, and mainly in news and some documentary programmes. The anchor is the presenter or journalist who stays in the TV studio and leads each section, handing over to reporters or other TV people who are out reporting from the actual place where the news story is taking place. The word anchor is used because of its original meaning, the “anchor” of a ship (a huge hook that is dropped to the bottom if the water to attach itself to something and so prevent the ship from moving.)

2.Arrangement: music business. The arrangement is how a simple song concept is developed and expanded with various instrument parts and vocals (singing parts). An arrangement can consist of music created for a few guitars and a solo singer, right up to an arrangement for an entire orchestra.

3.Autocue: television, speeches, presentations. Like many other words which have crept into English as brand names, the brand name “Autocue” is now widely used to describe any electronic prompting device speakers use so they can read from a script, but not appear to be using any help.

The correct generic term for these devices is “teleprompter.”

A one-way screen is used which reflects the text on the speaker’s side, but from the other side is invisible. In TV or video this screen placed over the camera, and for a live speech one or two of these screens are placed on the lectern. The speaker can control the speed at which the text scrolls through. Look out for these screens the next time you see a very senior politician giving a speech – although not all politicians use Autocue.

4.Backing track: music business. Usually it means the recording of an entire song without the vocals, rather as you have with karaoke! Often singers will sing along to a backing track when there isn’t room or enough money to pay for a group or an orchestra. The word “backing” comes from the same root as “background,” combined with “backing up” or supporting the main element.

5.Bullet points: online and offline text, presentation slides, video images. Bullet points are an alternative to number lists. This article uses numbers, but you can also use symbols like dots or arrows. We must assume they’re called “bullet” points because the dots can look like bullet holes…

6.Cherrypicker: television, filming. A type of crane like fire fighters use to enable people to reach high places, with a platform at the top. On here you can mount a camera and move it around at high level to film from different angles. The word comes from an imaginary machine that raises you up so you can pick cherries from high up on their tree!

NB: cameras mounted on cherrypickers now are gradually being replaced by drones (see #8 below).

7.Continental seating: theatre, conferences, presentations. A way of setting out the seats in a theatre without a “central aisle” (a gap running down the middle of the seating) but leaving lots of room for people to move along the seats from side to side.

8.Drones: photography, filming, television. As you probably know drones are very small people-free aircraft that are piloted remotely from the ground. These are used for a number of purposes but in media terms, drones are fitted with either still or moving picture cameras. The advantages of using drones in this way give photographers and film/TV people a lot more freedom to film wherever they want – there’s no need to find somewhere to park the large truck needed to use a cherrypicker (see #6 above). And of course drones are much cheaper to hire than a big cherrypicker truck.

9.Documentary: television, film, video. This is a type of movie/film, or television/video programme, that tells the true, factual story of a place, person, event, problem or other topic of interest.

The term probably comes from the fact that to “document” something means to record it exactly as it is or was.

Sometimes on television you will see “docudramas” or “dramadocs” which are the same true stories using actors to convey the information about the people involved.

10.Dramatisation: television, video, film. Unlike the “dramadoc” (see #9 above) a dramatisation is the portrayal of any story, true or fiction – often a text-only story – as a play with actors. In business, training films or videos sometimes use dramatisation in short sections to show how the training point can work out in real life. It’s often a very useful way of helping to train staff in sales and customer care roles.

11.Eyeline: television, film, video. This refers to where someone is looking when they are being filmed talking. With business video, especially the simple-but-effective video you can film yourself, expecting people to look straight at the camera and talk is often difficult for them and so looks unprofessional. For more on how to use video for business effectively, type “video” into the search box at the top right of this page.

12.Fly on the wall: a style of documentary TV or video programme.

Here, the camera acts as a “fly on the wall, in other words is present to act as an observer of the reality that the program or film is sharing.

Usually there is little or no commentary or narration (see below) other than what is needed to introduce the programme and link its parts. The filming is carefully edited so that it speaks for itself.

13.Green room: TV, radio, theatre. this is the name given to a room, usually in a TV studio, where guests in – for example – a talk or chat show can wait comfortably for their turn to be interviewed or go on set. The origin of the term is not really known, although many theories exist. The most likely is that in early days when there were “green rooms” used for actors in a play at a theatre, the rooms were painted in green which was supposed to be a relaxing colour and easy on their eyes after having worked in the very bright, harsh theatre lights.

14.Landscape format: all images/photos. Landscape is the rectangle shape common to television screens and many photographs where the horizontal edges are longer than the vertical edges. Portrait or upright format, is the other way around. The word landscape means a view usually over countryside which naturally has much longer horizontal edges, hence the metaphor here. A portrait is a painting, picture or photograph of a person which, as you know, nearly always has longer vertical edges and shorter horizontal edges.

15.Lip sync: TV, film, video. This term is sometimes used to describe the difference between narration (see below) where a human voice is heard but not seen “over” the pictures, and when we see someone talking to the camera. Lips obviously are what you see moving when someone speaks, and “sync” is short for “synchronised,” which means that things happen at the same time.

In the old days actors would often re-record their words in a studio after filming had taken place somewhere else, to make sure the sound quality was as good as possible. they would do this while watching the pictures of themselves, and the process was called “lip syncing.”

Now with digital techniques that’s normally not necessary but you still see movies – usually on airplanes – where the sound doesn’t really match the pictures, so making the sound “out of sync.”

16.Narration: The words spoken on a television or video programme, usually played over pictures so you can’t see who is talking. Narrating is basically story-telling without seeing the story teller. It’s often called “voice-over narration,” probably because the sound of the voice goes “over” the pictures.

17.Master shot: a film direction term, also used in TV and video. This is main framework of a section of a film or video where you start off with a wide view of a particular scene – let’s say a TV studio where a presenter (see below) is sitting around a desk with one, two or more people to be interviewed. The first of these master shots is also called an “establishing shot.” The director will then add in some closer shots of individuals, plus “cutaways” (inserted pictures) of images that complement or explain what is being talked about. Every now and again we will go back to the master shot, especially when there is a change of topic or in the case of drama (fiction) an especially tense or important point in the story.

18.Off camera interview: TV, video. A very useful way of getting a nervous person to speak naturally on a video or TV programme. The “interviewee” (person to be interviewed) sits in front of the camera and the interviewer sits facing him or her, close beside the camera.

The camera starts rolling and the interviewer has a relaxed, natural conversation with the interviewee who looks at the interviewer while talking, not at the camera.

If you watch TV news you will see this technique used a lot. Although the interviewee may be a little nervous to start with, a good interviewer can make them forget about the camera and talk as if to a friend over a cup of coffee. Afterwards, when the programme is edited, obviously the interviewer is not in sight and the questions s/he asked are cut out, so leaving an edited version of what the interviewee says.

19.Presenter: TV, video. Someone who acts as the main spokesperson for a programme, nearly always documentary (see above) or for business, training, etc. The presenter will be seen describing what’s happening in the programme, perhaps interviewing people, and also narrating (see above) some parts out of sight. The word itself is pretty easy to understand: the presenter “presents,” or hosts, the programme.

20.Proscenium arch: theatre. This is the main arch structure above the stage in a theatre, parallel with the edge of the stage that’s nearest to the audience. The word “proscenium” comes from both Latin and Greek going back about 500 years, and means the entrance to a tent, porch, or even the stage itself.

Tune in soon for 20 more explanations of English business terms to help you with your writing!

To read Part 1, click here

To read Part 2, click here

To read Part 3, click here

To read Part 4, click here

To read Part 5, click here

To read Part 6, click here

To read Part 7, click here

There is much more business writing help ready for you here on HTWB

And just take a look at the useful resources you can find here…even if your business English isn’t that good – yet!

Questions? Drop Suze a note on suze@suzanstmaur.com.

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