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Glossary of Video Terms

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By Christian Roemer

As you’ve been browsing around Legacybox, you’ve probably seen a bunch of strange words and terms that made your head spin. That’s OK, we’re here to help.

As with basically every industry, video production (and by extension digitization) uses all sorts of jargon.

If you’re not familiar with that language, it can be frustrating trying to understand what exactly you’re reading.

Sometimes special terminology is charming, sometimes it’s grating, but if you don’t understand it, it’s always annoying. That’s why we’re giving you a peek behind the curtain. We want you to know exactly what you’re reading – so that you know exactly what you’re buying – when you shop at Legacybox.

The great news is that most of these terms apply to basically every video format. It doesn’t matter if you’re digitizing VHS, VHS-c, MiniDV, 8mm tapes, BETA/PAL tapes, 8mm film reels, 16mm film reels, Super 8 film reels, or something else completely, you’ll still be able to use this film term glossary to catch what we’re drifting.

Timecode: Every tape runs for a certain amount of time. It starts at 0:00:00 and then goes however long the recording is. If it’s five minutes, the timecode would read 0:05:00 at the end. When we digitize your videos, we always do the entire video, so we’ll start at 0 and go until the recordings stop.

Canopus Box: This is the name of the snazzy equipment we use to digitize your films. They look sort of like fancy VCRs.

Resolution: This term refers to how clear your picture is. It’s usually measured in pixels. A higher resolution means a larger, clearer image – and more pixels!

Standard Definition (SD): Standard Definition is the resolution of stuff before HD came along. SD videos aren’t nearly as crisp as HD. Since most older media was recorded in SD, that’s how we deliver the digitized versions to you too. Regrettably, there’s not much you can do to make SD videos HD quality.

480p: 480p is another way to say standard definition (SD). 480p literally means 480 pixels, because SD is 480 pixels high!

High Definition (HD): High Definition means much higher picture quality With HD, you get a bunch more pixels, which makes the images much clearer, more colorful, and more detailed.

1080i/p: 1080i/p is the number-version of HD. It basically means that the pictures are 1080 pixels tall.

720i/p: 720i/p is another high definition (HD) resolution. It’s almost doubly as clear as standard definition (SD). It’s very uncommon that we receive any old tapes above standard definition.

Aspect Ratio: This term refers to how wide versus how tall something is. For example, a square is 1:1, because each side is the same length. Usually, videos are a little wider than they are tall, so common aspect ratios you’ll see are 4:3, 16:9, and 21:9.

4:3: Basically every screen before 2000 was in a 4:3 ratio. That means the screen is slightly wider than it is tall. We also call this full screen.

16:9: Once HD came around, pretty much everything switched to a 16:9 aspect ratio. 16:9 is almost twice as wide as it is tall, making it look more like a movie theater. In a few rare instances, standard definition tapes were recorded in a 16:9 aspect ratio, but most of the time, 16:9 recordings are HD.

Video Container: This is a strange term. It sounds like something that would hold a tape, like the case of a VHS or the canister of 16mm film. The way we use it though refers to the file format on your digitized movies, usually MP4 or MOV.

MP4: MP4 is a file type that computers use to read video files. All you need to know is that your computer needs to know a file type before it can play it.

MOV: MOV is Apple’s file type for videos, but it works basically the same way as MP4. Computers look at the .mov to decide what program will open that file.

We know it can be tough to understand a bunch of video terminology that you never use and rarely see. That’s why we’re here to help. If you have any questions about some of the crazy words you see while browsing around Legacybox, just refer to this glossary of video terms, and you’ll be ready to rock!

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