Broadcast Terminology

As a broadcast designer there are many terms one must understand in order to know what the hell a client is asking for. The problem is people use different names for the same thing. When I was first asked for a Clusterbuster I thought the guy wanted some kind of chocolate bar.  So once and for all I’d like to create a list of broadcast terminology that we can all use, and I’d like you to be involved. I’m going to start off by listing some of the terms I use and what I know to be the definition, and other names (I’ll include more as I remember). If you have alternate name for the same thing, or know of something I’ve missed, let us know:

Lower Third Super (lower third, super strap, strap, banner): A graphic that sits at the bottom third of the screen and includes information, most commonly someone’s name. The type on them can be a “slug” (ex. 5-alarm fire) or a “locator” (123 west elm st) or an “identifier”. (Joe Six-Pack from East Wherever)

Full Frame Super A graphic, usually text, that covers the entire frame.

Snipe  5-10 second lower third animations that play during the show promoting some other show or what’s coming up.

Interstitial (Clusterbuster): A short show (up to 5 minutes) that is broadcast in-between full length shows.

Promo (Promotion): A sequence that advertises an upcoming show.

Bumper (Next, Promo): A short sequence (5-10 seconds) that plays in-between shows, that advertises an upcoming show(s).

Play Off (Pingel, Bump in): A short sequence that plays before an advertising break.

Play On (Pingel, Bump out): A short sequence that plays after an advertising break.

Packshot (End Page, End Board): A graphic at the end of a promotion that includes the date and time of a show(s).

Ident (Station ID): A short animation that culminates with a channel’s name/logo. Used to brand a channel.

Animatic: A rough animated storyboard used to give some idea about the timing of a sequence.

Opening Title (Open, Leader, Intro, Intro sequence): The sequence that plays at the beginning of a show to open the show.

Billboard  A commercial right after a show or promo. For example, “This program was made possible by “brandname”. Preferably with the same design treatment as the program before it.

Classification (Netherlands = NICAM, Ratings bug): Graphic before a program designed to inform viewer of age suitability for that program. Can also be a bug.

Bug  A small graphic that appears in the corner of the screen, used to identify a channel, show etc.

Transition (Swipe) A short animation that acts as a transition between segments of a show. It has a logo or is designed according to the content.

Slate  A graphic placed at the beginning of sequence used to display information about the sequence, for example Duration, Format, etc.

Over The Shoulder (OTS)  The graphic that sits over a news anchors’s shoulder.

  1. Croiga73 aka Igor Majer

    Great idea JD, just what I need…

  2. Heerko Groefsema

    Ah nice, that would be great such a list. But I guess it will be a very long one.

    Some words that spring in to my mind:

    Ident or station ID

    cant come up with more now, but I guess the list would be on going so its quite ambitious and very welcome. The question is how deep do you want to go. Do you also want to include things which probably are known widely, like the term “3D” or “Blue screen”.

  3. JD

    Cool Heerko. What is your definition of a Leader and a Billboard? This will be specifically for broadcast “elements” terminology, so 3D and Blue Screen don’t quite fit.

  4. Heerko Groefsema

    A leader would be a program opening. A (graphical) intro for the program. I must be care full with giving descriptions cause sometimes every company seems to have their own terminology. Or companies use the same word but mean something completely different by it. I have done an intern at a national TV station in the Netherlands. They for instance used the term “pingles” for leading in and out the commercial breaks with some sort of ident build up.

    With billboard I mean an add on behind a show or commercial with some sponsoring names preferably with some design treatment that fits the program in front of it. Think of: this program was made possible by. But I have seen that “billboard” is used for other things too. So I’m also a bit confused.. that’s why I would applaud such a terminology list.

  5. Heerko Groefsema

    You could also add


    Bug (station id in the corner of the screen during a program/movie)

    In the netherlands we also have the term: NICAM (Netherlands Institute for Classification of Audiovisual Media). These are small symbols which are displayed in promo’s and beginning of programs/movies which will tell the viewer it contains violence/sex/durgs/scary/age. I guess you have something like that too?

  6. Heerko Groefsema

    Sorry for spamming but here is the link explaining all symbols of the NICAM:

    (there is an English language button on the left)

  7. Heerko Groefsema

    hmmm where did my other two posts go???

  8. Heerko Groefsema

    Ok I’ll try to recollect what I wrote before.

    A leader is a program opening (an intro).

    A billboard is some sort of commercial right behind a program or promo (another term you can add to your list offcourse 🙂 ). Think of a billboard of: this program was made possible by “brandname”. A billboard is preferably in the same sort of design treatment as the program before it.

    When I did my intern at a Dutch national TV station we called the “play off” and “play on”, Pingels. I have no clue why they were called like that.

    What we also have here in the Netherlands is NICAM. NICAM stands for the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audio-visual Media. They classify for whom a program is suited. In the beginning of a program/movie and even in the promo’s we are obligated to show the NICAM symbols. Which you can see at the link I gave above. I guess your country has something similar?

  9. Topher Welsh

    We really don’t have a name for those bugs in the top corner of the screen… but we do have a system of rating television for content, its just called a “TV Parental Guidelines” system
    thats the link to what we have in the USA.

    one that I think you definately have to have on the list is a BUG: a logo of some sort in the bottom corner identifying your shot, or channel, or company.

    Another one I use a lot is a Swipe: a 2-3 second long animation that acts as a tranisition between segments (a lot like they have on ESPN and sports stuff) it has a logo or is designed according to what content you are using the swipe in.

    and a Slate: if you are sending tapes to other companys, you always include a slate to show what is one the tape, how long, where it came from, who it is for and contact information back to your department.

    I also use the term Open a lot… Open: an animation or video that you put before your segment you are about to show. Usually has the title, and some background graphics so that the viewer knows whats coming up.

    thats all i got for now…

  10. Maltaannon

    I love the “Discrimination” icon. We have something like that in Poland. Usually there are three types of content, Green, Yellow and Red. Green – for everyone, Yellow – with parents approval, Red – adults. Some TV stations also put ages 12, 16, 18.

  11. Chris Prasol

    A few things i can add:
    Lower thirds are also called “banners”
    The type on them can be a “slug” (ex. 5-alarm fire)
    or a “locator” (123 west elm st) or an “identifier”. (Joe Six-Pack from East Wherever)
    In news, the graphic over the anchor’s shoulder is the OTS or Over-the-shoulder. These also get slugs.
    Slight difference in our market or area is what you call a bumper we call promos and the “play on” and “play off” are the bumps. (A” bump in” or “bump out” from commercial.)
    The swipes we just call transitions. (a graphical treatment using the look of the program to get from one show segment to another.)
    A “packshot” we call “end tags”
    Another term we use is a “snipe”. (Those annoying 5-10 second lower third animations that play during the show promoting some other show or what’s coming up.)
    The only other thing i can add is that we call the TV Ratings identifiers a “Ratings bug” (ex. TV-14MA, TV-LSV, TV-G, etc.)

    hope this helps!

  12. VFX-Anomaly

    Hmm I’m still hungry for a chocolate bar after reading all this 🙂
    /Me Bumps head

  13. Jonathan Clegg

    You could add Teaser and TVC

    Teaser – a movie preview, without a story line rundown – really short, basically a coming soon.

    TVC – Television commercial.

    thats all i got off the top of my head.

  14. Heerko Groefsema

    A few more:

    Interstitial Background (a.k.a Text Pages)= Animated background to be used with line copy

    Transition = Animated (keyable) transition

  15. Pedro F2

    Good one, on Portugal we call the “Bug” a “Fly” ehe

  16. automatic_ab

    Since is the field I going into, I find this extremely useful. thanks tons.

  17. Eric Mittan

    Working in TV news, we have what are called a “reopen” that plays after a commercial break to bring us back into the show. So we’ll have a news reopen to bring us into another news block (after the opening block) a weather reopen, a sports reopen, etc.

  18. Rob

    Bars and Tone: When submitting a tape there is usually thirty seconds of standard color bars and a 1KHz tone at some specified level; perhaps 0db.

    Countdown: I’m not sure what this is called but it is usually a ten second countdown to the beginning of the show where the numbers show and some animated graphic shows the movement through each second. It stops at two seconds with a tone called …

    2Pop: A one frame tone burst two seconds before the start of a show.

    That’s all I’ve got.



  19. Pau

    closing credits

    seasonal promo?: like a promo for the channel for the season.

    how do you call the graphics display on the right in the news? right third? with image and the name of the subject, and fancy background behind.

  20. Pau

    ok, now I see that the answer to the third item would be over the shoulder… although this in film is the usual shot of someone talking, while seeing the shoulder of the other person he is talking too.

  21. Alan E. Smith

    From the top of my head:

    Ticker – One line high panning text for news stations or special announcements

    Teaser – interest-inciting view of on upcoming show, much less revealing than a promo or trailer

    Cromo – commercial promo, usually short lived commercials aimed at upcoming shows or events with more or less equal interest to broadcaster and advertiser

    Tag-on – Short after-show or after-commercial/promo sequence, often used for temporary promotions or events

    Talking head – Presenter or commentator cropped at the waist by desk or camera framing

    Credits (opening- or end-), Credit Roll – List of people, facilties and corporations associated with a production, usually just superimposed text and occasional logos. Maybe too obvious

    Title Sequence – Animated or otherwise creatively enhanced opening (or closing) credits of a production, listing key crew and cast members. Leaders are usually much shorter and often only mention broadcaster/channel and host

    Adaptation – An existing commercial adapted to another language, or an existing commercial with a new edit or different voice overs and/or supers

    Cutdown – Shorter, re-edited version of an already aired commercial, to compact the message and cut advertising cost

    One-taker – A commercial or (short) production consisting of a single continuous shot

    Reel, Showreel – Short compilation or edit of work (portfolio) of production and post production professionals and companies

    Voice-over – Off-screen voice track, usually for narration or sales talk in commercials

    Pay off – Slogan (super) at the end of a promo or commercial, often emphasized with a voice over or jingle

    Demo or Product Demo – Animation of suggested workings of a product, i.e. vitamins on hair or skin in a cosmetics commercial

    Jingle – Recognition tune or short song for a product, show or broadcaster

    Sound Logo – Short melody, sometimes just 2 notes, user for brand identification

    A Pack Shot or Product Shot in advertising simply shows the product and usually an accompanying slogan, brand graphics and/or a pay-off

    The Countdown Rob brought up is usually incorporated in the Slate (Slate and Clock, like Bars and Tone)

    In my field of work an Animated Storyboard is called just that or rather a Moving Storyboard. It’s a cut-out 2D animation derived from the original storyboard and can be indicative for a production crew and as a guide for the edit in post production. An Animatic is an made-from-scratch animation (without using the artwork of the storyboard) to test out camera timing, movement, angles and framing, and to get an impression of set and location layouts. It gives a technical insight to the production and post production crews, whereas a Moving Storyboard is more of a means to present a planned production.

    Bumper – name for either Bump in or Bump out

    Pilot – Wait, was this getting too obvious?

    • Su

      Hi, How long do you feel an end tag should be in a 15 sec tv product spot?

      • John Dickinson

        Around 2 to 3 seconds depending on how much text there is to read.

  22. Steven Jenkins

    I don’t know if this is applicable here, but as a first-time freelancer I came away with one word:

    Sweeps – the time of the year or season when Neilson’s ratings happen?

    • John Dickinson

      Hi Steven, I haven’t heard that one before, thanks for your input. All the best, John.

  23. mookjams

    what about a ticker?

    • John Dickinson

      Nice one Mookjams. What is your definition of a Ticker? Best, John.

  24. Ryan M

    Thanks for putting this back John!

  25. Brian McNew

    OTS – Is sometimes called a Keyshot (derived from the act of keying the graphic over the camera shot using the video switcher)

    Splash or splash screen – The last frame or endplate of a commercial but I’ve also heard it used to describe the backdrop of press conferences most likely to be seen in those pressers relating to sports where the sponsor and the team logos are splashed all over.

    Stinger – usually a full screen animated graphic transition with “stinging” sound effect like BREAKING NEWS or CONTINUING COVERAGE

    Legal ID – 4 second station identification graphic that includes station call letters ie WTVK-TV which run at the top of every hour

    Ticker – the scrolling information text below the lower third.

  26. dan

    hey john
    over the ditch here we call lower third supers ‘baseline keys’
    and bumpers are called ‘breakstings’
    just thought I’d chime in for completeness
    nice work bro, keep it up

    dan from new zealand

    • John Dickinson

      Gee you Kiwis have some crazy names for things! 🙂 Thanks Dan. Best wishes, John.

  27. Olipool

    Hey John, great list!

    Regarding “Transition/Swipe”: I also read the term “breaker” for that somewhere, is this right? Or is a “breaker” more a transition to the commercials?

  28. Chris Mcfall

    In the UK on screen captions are also often refered to as “Astons”… I have no idea why, thought it might help. 🙂

    • Stuart Rankin

      Aston – because the name of the character generator was called an Aston.

  29. jay

    Thanks John, i’ve managed to find a reference on youtube.Search for “WBNG-TV Action News Donut (1996)”.
    thanks again for the terminology compilation above…

    • John Dickinson

      You’re welcome Jay, it seems there are endless variations in broadcast terminology. Best, John.

  30. Jeff

    The Station where I work calls the Packshot an End Plate.

  31. Navy

    I wish I had found this while attending college; I think I was misled on what an “interstitial” is. My teacher described the styled text (sometimes animated, sometimes not) in between cuts of footage as “interstitials.” For example, in the HP: Goblet of Fire trailer, “A Time for Change” and “A Change for Glory” appear between scenes from the movie.

    It’s possible Heerko Groefsema was describing the same thing when he mentioned “Interstitial Background (aka Text Pages).” No?

    Also, kinda would like to understand the difference between a “sizzle” and a “promo” if they are even different things.

    Anyway, thanks for the list!!! This was super helpful.

    • John Dickinson

      Hi Navy, I understand an interstitial to be a short spot between shows that promotes another show. What you are describing sounds to me like a full frame super. A sizzle reel is a longer form promotional spot that is generally used internally (in my experience) rather than broadcast.
      Best, John.

  32. Jeff Thomson

    Clusterbuster is a chocolate lolz its happens in animated video production and broadcasting kind of companies where words become complicated.

  33. kitty

    got curious of these terms. thanks for posting. really enjoyed reading posts. thanks 🙂

  34. Dick Richards

    Do people still use the term “bug”

  35. gosh

    can we possibly see screen grabs to some terminologies


    I want the name of the graphic that advertise product and others on tv or live streaming.

  37. afghan

    Thanks a lot

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