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Appendix 2: Minimal glossary

Betacam.  Widely used, high-quality family of video tape formats. Digital Betacam - "DigiBeta" (see appendix on technical standards ) is currently the dominant format in broadcast TV production, at least in Europe. It is under challenge, though, from lower-cost, high quality systems (including XD CAM), and from the other end by the emergence of affordable high definition cameras and edit systems.

In the non-broadcast world, DigiBeta remains a force, though the excellent quality and lower costs of other formats including DVC Pro, DV CAM  D9 (Digital S), domestic DV (and no doubt, anytime soon, HDV) have seen them take over large sections of the market.

HD, Hi Def, HDTV, HDV. The "next big thing" in production, and likely to replace the Betacam  family in due course. Rapid growth in High Definition TV broadcasting in the USA and Japan as well as the great popularity of modern plasma and LCD screens has fuelled a surge in investment by broadcast technology manufacturers. High Definition TV makes use of much more picture information that current - Standard Definition - TV. There are a number of competing Hi Def formats, of course. To date, the most widely used HDTV standards include frame sizes 1280 x 720 pixels, or 1920 x 1080 pixels. Either offers dramatic visual impact and great improvements on Standard Definition (SD - 720 x 576 for PAL) on a high-resolution screen. Different (incompatible) Hi Def recording formats include Sony's HD CAM and HD CAM SR, and the promising XD CAM HD, Panasonic's D5 HD and DVC PRO HD, and a lower-cost format agreed by a consortium of manufacturers - HDV. See appendix on technical  standards for links to more.

Broadcast Standard. Claim frequently made and sometimes justified that equipment or programmes reach a sufficiently high technical standard to be suitable for broadcasting. If an eventual broadcast use is envisaged for a programme, treat this claim with extreme caution. The BBC and (for ITV and Channel 4) the Independent Television Commission set strict technical standards which most mainstream programmes must meet to be acceptable for broadcast: many producers and facilities companies make untrue claims of broadcast quality for their services. For minority-audience satellite channels, less strict quality criteria apply 

Budget. A blueprint for the production process and the financial resources which it will consume; or a figure beyond which the commissioner will not pay, come what may. Alternatively, of course, a budget is the prime creative output of some rogue production companies; the basis on which inflated charges will be justified. Budgets supplied to commissioners rarely show real costs, company overhead charges, allowed contingency reserves, mark-up and profit margin.

Corporate production company. Video or film production company specialising in producing programmes for specific target audiences to meet a commissioner's brief.

Electronic Press Kit - EPK  Bundle of (usually promotional or public relations) material that might interest media, offering journalists or programme-makers reusable resources  - background information, as well as copyright-cleared photography, audio or video. Can be delivered via the web or as CD, DVD, video or any combination.

Facilities company. Supplier of specialised services (crew, equipment hire, studio, editing, graphics, animation, duplication) to producers or other customers.

Independent producers: Three main usages: for film, producers not part of the Hollywood financier/distributor circuit; for television, producers of broadcast programmes not attached to broadcast TV stations; for specialised film/video production, workshop/art film producers not aiming at mainstream production styles or audiences.

The treatment. Short written description of a proposed film or video programme.

VNR Video News Release. VNRs are often used by organisations wishing to get developments in their products, services or area of interest onto the news agenda and into television news programmes.

Strictly speaking, a VNR is a short-form video production, made to broadcast technical standards on behalf of a sponsoring organisation, for a production fee, and circulated to TV broadcast newsrooms. (Some companies and organisations, though, send broadcasters prepared tapes of  background imagery from their activities, in case this may be useful in illustrating a story, and call these free library tapes VNRs. )

VNRS so far have been most successful with local ITV newsrooms and with satellite and cable broadcasters; BBC is not in favour, and both BBC and ITN take a fully-independent editorial line. See BBC guidelines at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidance-video-news-releases 

Nevertheless striking visual material or a well-presented story can sometimes lift an otherwise-unconsidered story into contention for a place on the news agenda: Greenpeace have specialised in this form of publicity, but many others have used it with at least some success 

Unless there is a strong news story to tell (and not too much competition from other news events that day) VNRs struggle to gain any newsroom attention. And of course VNRS date very quickly 

With VNRs, the key to success is distribution, which depends on an understanding of what will make a good news story, how to tell it, and who might be interested in broadcasting it.