From Aspect Ratio to Gobo: 10 Common AV Terms You Need to Know

Posted by Jon Young on Jun 22, 2018 1:12:49 PM
common av terms

If aspect ratio, beam lights, rigging, and spot fixtures aren't familiar terms in your vocabulary, you likely don't work in the audio visual industry. But if you're an event planner, you may need to know these terms and others like it when working with a production company to host a stellar event.

When you can speak the lingo, it's much easier to communicate. No misunderstandings and no lengthy explanations needed. The more you know about the equipment your production company uses and its role in creating your event, the easier it will be to plan and execute flawlessly.

Here are a few of the most common sound and lighting terminology you may not be familiar with.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio describes the shape of your screen, as a ratio of width to height. Standard (older) ratio is 4:3, but these days video is almost always produced in widescreen format (16:9) to fit newer LCD/high-definition monitors and projectors. Videos, slides and PowerPoint decks that are “out of aspect” won’t display properly. If you have a guest speaker who will be doing a presentation, alert them in advance about the proper ratio for your equipment.


Spot Fixtures

You know what a spotlight does. Spot fixtures have moving heads to create special effects such as light that spins or changes color.


A gobo (which stands for “goes before optics”) is a type of “stencil” made specifically for inserting into lighting fixtures. This allows for the projection of images such as patterns, textures and company logos, etc. in light.

Beam Lights

These are very tightly-focused spot fixtures whose beams can look similar to a laser. They are often used with fog or haze to enhance the effect.

Dongles or Adapters

Laptops and other computers, monitors, audio equipment, etc. use a variety of port types and cables as connectors. Adapters ensure the equipment you’re using and the equipment brought to your event by speakers, entertainers, etc. can be properly connected. A dongle is a little device similar to a flash drive that plugs into a computer or other device, typically enabling software or the device itself to operate.

Frequency Band

The frequency band (and more specifically, the radio band) is usually used in conjuction with  communication devices and wireless microphones and receivers. Careful choice and assignment of frequencies will help eliminate interference from outside sources, especially in large cities.

Lav Mics

In French, lavalier is a pendant necklace. Unlike stand mics and wireless hand-held mics, a lav mic is a wireless, hands-free device that can be suspended around the neck or clipped to a person’s clothing. A lav gives speakers/performers complete freedom of movement.

Mixer or Soundboard

Any time you have more than one sound source, your AV crew will need to monitor and adjust all those audio signals for proper balance. A mixer/soundboard enables them to do that from a single console.


This is what your AV crew uses to suspend lights, speakers, draperies, etc. from above. Rigging is constructed of trusses (crossbeams or scaffolding), to which equipment, cables, and small motors are attached. The motors allow crew members to raise and lower the rigging for easy access, or to move lights, etc. for effects during the event.

Rigging can be extremely heavy. Hotels and conference centers have reinforced rigging points built into ceilings to accommodate this, and they will give your AV team a rig plot (chart) that shows where they are located.

Transmitters (and Receivers)

From wireless mics and projectors to live streaming video, using transmitters and receivers to send and capture signals eliminates “cable spaghetti.” This looks tidier and more professional, and it’s safer around foot traffic.

Want to know about other terms? Just ask! It will help you decipher your AV quote and communicate clearly with your AV company, so you can work together to produce an event that is as smooth and spectacular as you envision.

AZ AV Terminology Dictionary

Topics: Event Production, Event Technology

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