7 Broadcast Design Terms You Should Know

Motion Design 03/09/2019 4 min read

Every industry has its words. Often the same thing will have different names across different industries. Because… words.

The broadcast design industry is no different. So, if you are a designer or editor and you are getting introduced to the world of broadcast design, we figured we’d give you a head start with some terms that you will likely hear but may not know.

When someone asks you to do a bump, we don’t want you to think they are offering you drugs. And when they put you in charge of a snipe, please don’t kill anyone. Fear not, after reading this article, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Essential Broadcast Design Terms

1. Broadcast Design

Let’s start with the term “broadcast design.” What does that mean? Well, broadcast design is really just motion graphics, animation, and the like that is done for television.

With the way we consume media rapidly changing, television now means television, streaming services, and sites like YouTube. But anytime you are working on graphics for something that looks like a TV show or a network spot, then you are talking about broadcast design.

Glad we got that settled.

2. Bumps

So, back to that drug thing. What is a bump? Hint, not a drug thing.

Bumps, also called bumpers, are the little segments in shows that come between the show and the commercial break. One of the most common types of bump is the 5-second logo animation that pops up reminding you what show you are watching as you go to or come back from a commercial.

Bumps are not required and not every show will use them, but if you are working on a package for a show and you are asked to create one, now you know. You’re welcome.

3. Snipe

Here’s another one that sounds way worse than it is. A snipe if not violent, although you might have a violent reaction to a snipe depending on how annoying it is.

A snipe is a graphic that pops on screen during programming to let you know about something else you should be aware of. Imagine you are watching a very suspenseful episode of Game Of Thrones and down in the corner you suddenly see a call out for new episodes of “Ballers” coming in the fall.

That’s a snipe.

Snipes usually live in a corner space where they won’t take up too much space, but they have to be a bit dynamic so they still catch the viewer’s eye. They generally contain information like programming dates and the like. And they can be, but maybe not always, annoying.

4. Mortise

Mortise is one of those words that could probably just be replaced with an easier word like “frame.” Because a mortice is a frame.

In carpentry terms, a mortise is basically a hole cut in wood, so it makes sense that a mortise in broadcast design is a hole for video.

A mortise is basically a frame you make to put video in instead of having it be full screen. It could be a contained frame or it could be graphics that overlay a portion of the video.

5. Lower Third

This is one that may be familiar to lots of designers and editors from other projects, but they are quite common in broadcast design.

Lower thirds, not to be confused with snipes, are graphics that generally sit in the “lower third” portion of the screen and contain important information like a speaker’s name, location, and other tidbits of information.

The important thing to remember with lower thirds is to keep them from interfering with the action on screen. You should also be aware of title safe when creating lower thirds. More on that next.

Here’s a good example of an entire show package with lower thirds highlighted 05 seconds in.

6. Title Safe

The terms title safe and action safe aren’t thrown around as much anymore with modern televisions, but they are still useful to be aware of, especially if someone asks you about it.

Older televisions wouldn’t commonly show everything that was in the video. The edges of the screen would get cut off. You can almost think of it as margins and bleed in print.

The title safe area is the part of the screen that is considered to be safe for titles because all TVs will show that area.

There is another area between the title safe area and the edge called action safe. This area is considered to be fine for some graphics and “action”, but because some TVs might cut it off, they should remain in title safe.

Although modern HD TVs will show all or most of the screen, it’s still a good idea to utilize title safe just so your text has some breathing room from the edge of the frame.

Title safe and action safe

7. Credit Bed

Here’s one more that may be a little more known by some of you, but it’s still important. The credit bed is something we’ve all seen on television a million times. It’s the layout and design for the credits at the end of the show.

Sometimes a credit bed will be designed almost like a lower third that doesn’t interfere with what’s on-screen. Other times, a credit bed will have a custom full-screen design. Either way, basically every show produced will have some sort of credit bed, so you better know what it is.

So, there you have it. There are plenty of other words that may pop up and surprise you. It doesn’t help that different people use different terms, but either way, knowing these terms will give you a good head start in understanding the world of broadcast design.

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