Television Alphabet Soup

Throwback Thursday: CBC History

Television, NASA and the military definitely have one thing in common; acronyms and odd terms.

Today we are going to test your knowledge about the short cut language used in television. Some terms are still in use today. Are you ready? GO!

  1. What do the letters ENG stand for?
  2. What do the letters CONUS stand for?
  3. What is SNG?
  4. What is DVE?
  5. What was a Quantel?
  6. What was a Vidifont?
  7. What was a film chain island?
  8. What is a spot?
  9. What is “B” roll?
  10. What is a cart?


  1. ENG

    Early version ENG. (circa 1975) Jack Edwards, WRAL News photographer working with Oscar Smith, WRAL News reporter.

    Electronic News Gathering. Back in the 70’s, the term ENG was used to distinguish film from videotape during a newscast.

  2. CONUS started in early 1984 when Hubbard Broadcasting and CONUS Communications developed the first satellite news gathering. WRAL was a charter member of CONUS. The technological breakthrough allowed local television stations the ability to provide live coverage from across the U.S., and exchange video with others. At the end of 2002, CONUS underwent restructuring that resulted in the end of their newsgathering operations. In the military, CONUS stands for Continental United States

    LIVESTAR 5. WRAL news reporter Fred Taylor and photographer Bruce Wittman.

    SNG stands for Satellite News Gathering. “Livestar 5” was WRAL’s first SNG Truck. It went into service October 31, 1984.

  4. DVE stands for Digital Video Effects. This makes it possible to manipulate an image.
  5. In 1978, Quantel, an English company, developed one of the first DVE units to be used in combination with a video switcher in the control room. In the ‘80s, control rooms at WRAL used the Quantel DPE 5000. DPE stood for digital processing effects. The name Quantel comes from Quantised Television which references the process of converting a television picture into a digital signal.
  6. Vidifont


    The Vidifont was developed by CBS labs circa 1970. It is one of the first titling systems used by television stations. The names and locations seen at the bottom of the television screen were generated and stored by the Vidifont. The titling could be recalled instantly by the operator. Prior to that time, titling was accomplished by using menu-boards and studio cards that were shot with cameras and superimposed over the subjects. Chyron is another brand name of these so-called character generators.

  7. film chain island

    WRAL Projectionist Earll Thompson standing beside a film chain island

    Not a trick question. A film chain island is one or more projectors (film and slides) aligned into the lens of a camera. With two or more projectors, a system of mirrors switch different projectors into the camera lens. The director would select the film chain camera button in the switcher during production or a live newscast.

  8. Spot is not to be confused with the name of Dick and Jane’s pet dog named Spot. Spot is another term meaning commercial. A business buys a spot of time for their message to be aired on a broadcast station.
  9. “B” Roll is a term that has survived the linear days of 16 mm film. In news, stories were typically edited and loaded in the order they were to air on a supply reel designated as the “A” roll. The “B” roll was another film reel that was loaded onto a different projector. The “B” roll was used as a “cut-away” to cover a jump-cut on the “A” roll.  After the jump-cut passed, the director would then switch back to the “A” roll. Timing was essential. It was a thing of beauty when it worked, when it didn’t, it was a hot mess. Ask a news photographer to show you an example of a jump-cut.
  10. CART is an abbreviation of the word cartridge. The video application of a cart referred to a small box with videotape, about the size of a pop-tart box, which was used to playback commercials, PSAs, and promos during a station break. The audio version of a cart resembled an 8 track tape cartridge, for those who are old enough to remember, that played back any sound recorded onto them.Today, there is a digi-cart, an updated version of an audio cart – but it is now officially old school, in the control room. Stop by and check it out before it makes its way into the CBC History archives.

Video cart (front and back view of a cart), audio cart, digicart

Did you correctly answer all of the questions? If so, you are a CBC History Fossil. Congratulations!

Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.


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