A Dictionary of AV Terminology for Event Production
It's helpful for event planners to understand some common AV terminology while working with their AV team.
Time to Read: 23 min | Last Updated: September 2018
Have you ever worked with a new vendor and found yourself incredibly confused when they started talking in acronyms and industry jargon? Yeah, so have we. And we’re a guilty party, too. The terminology we use on a daily basis is technical and may sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher if you’re not familiar with the event production industry. Although you don’t need to know every term we use, it’s helpful for event planners to understand some common AV terminology while working with their AV team.
Here’s a list of terms we use regularly.
Ambient Light (n.) The natural and existing light in a room or space.
Ambient light is any extra light in the room. For example, it could be light coming from the windows, bouncing off reflective surfaces, or house lights. It’s something your AV team will need to work with and try to control in order to make the stage a more prominent part of the room. If there is too much ambient light, your AV team can use shades, cover light sources, or turn off lights.
Aspect ratio (n.) The width and height of the screen.
Aspect ratio comes into play when dealing with video. If your AV team shows up with a nice 16:9 screen and one of the speakers created a 4:3 presentation, you’ll see big black bars on either side of the screen. While this isn’t detrimental to his presentation, it doesn’t look very good.
Backlight/Hair-Lights (n.) A source of light that comes from behind the subject.
Backlight adds dimension, separating the subject from the background. It can also create a halo effect on the subject’s hair, hence “hair-lights.” We especially recommend backlighting when video is involved.
Backline (n.) The equipment or instruments needed for a band’s performance that they don’t want to bring themselves.
Traditionally, this included equipment to amplify the band’s instruments (i.e. guitar cabinets or keyboard amplifiers). However, in the last 20 years, the term started to include instruments, too. Just think, if you hire a nationally touring band, it won’t be financially feasible for them to bring all their own gear. (You can’t fly with a drum set.) To ensure this works out smoothly, call the band, find out what they need when they arrive. It will save you and the band a lot of headaches later on.
FOH (Front of House)
Front of house (n.) The name of the specific location for lighting, audio, and video control within the audience.
Think back to the last concert you attended. Chances are there was a large grouping of tables holding equipment with lots of buttons and dials located somewhere amongst the audience. If it was an outdoor event, it would have been covered by a tent. That is the “front of house.” It’s the area where your AV team checks audio, lighting, and video to ensure the audience is getting the best experience possible.
Psst! The front of house doesn’t actually need to be located in the front. In fact, it’s probably best to locate the front of house in the middle of or behind the audience.
Front and Rear Projection
Front and rear projection (n.) The way the video is projected onto the screen.
Show flow (n.) A document explaining what will happen during the presentation in the order it will occur.
Cue-to-Cue (n.) The physical act of rehearsing every cue for the sequence of the show from start to finish.
A show flow document will detail who takes the stage, what they are going to say, who talks to who, and when do they leave the stage. It’s basically a detailed program that only you and your AV team need. Your audiences programs will look different.
Performing a cue-to-cue rehearsal is not unlike getting ready for a trip and using a map. The purpose is to be as efficient as possible and get to where you want to go on your journey. It’s important for running a smooth event.
Teleprompter (n.) A screen that provides text for the speaker to read verbatim.
A teleprompter is most commonly used for television newscasts, but it can be super helpful for speakers who get nervous talking in front of crowds. The teleprompter is a safety net for speakers, allowing them to read their presentation verbatim if necessary.
Upstage and Downstage
Upstage (n.) The back part of the stage furthest from the audience.
Downstage (n.) The front part of the stage closest to the audience.
Upstage and downstage are old theater terms that originated during Shakespeare’s time, when stages were commonly tilted, or raked, towards the audience to ensure all actors and stage elements were visible. An easy way to remember the stage terms when you need to move someone around the stage is to create a tic tac toe board (or nine squares). The middle square is center stage. The square behind it is downstage. The square behind and to the left is downstage left. The square in front of it and to the right is upstage right. You get the picture!
VOG (Voice of God)
Voice of God (n.) The voice of the announcer that’s usually at the beginning of an event or show.
The voice of God at shows often reminds you to silence your phones or other electronic devices. It can either be pre-recorded or live, and it helps your audience know when the event is starting.
White balance (n.) The color balance on a digital camera.
AV teams use white balance on their cameras to get the most natural skin tone out of the presenter. Have you ever seen a video, or photo for that matter, where the person’s skin looks too red, too green, too yellow, or too blue? That’s because the camera’s white balance wasn’t properly set for the situation. In order to set the white balance on a camera, you must use a plain white surface.
Wash (n.) The broad spread, or fill, of light across a stage that appears to have no edges.
A wash is commonly used to light an entire stage, but does not have harsh edges like a spotlight. For example, maybe the Minnesota Vikings organization wants to wash the stage with purple and yellow light to amplify its audience’s excitement and team spirit. Although a wash light uses the same amount of lumens and wattage as a spotlight, a spotlight will appear brighter.