A lot of us who are WFH are still learning how to adapt to the current situation. I am printing up some warning signs for our "crew" who are stuck in the house with me and sharing space.

What is the equivalent of "open mic" for cameras? i.e.

Don't walk behind me because everyone can see you on my web cam.

The sign would read:

Do not disturb

open mic, [cam on?]

How do I refer to the 2 separate prohibitions? The umbrella term "On Air", however useful, does not actually refer to "on camera". In other words, it is possible to be quiet, but still intrude in the "on camera".

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    I'd use on camera. But there's no universal phrase that I'm aware of. If it just means the camera is on (rather than you being visible), then perhaps rolling camera (to use a variation of an industry phrase). May 7, 2020 at 18:08
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    The equivalent of "open mike night" would be "Zoom bombing".
    – Hot Licks
    May 7, 2020 at 18:11
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    "on air?" This hearkens back to those golden olden times when information from either radio or television was broadcast through the air via electromagnetic waves. Many participants may have audio enabled but not video. This catch-all phrase would imply that the signal is going out- stay quiet and out of sight.
    – lumbrjak
    May 7, 2020 at 18:19
  • @Rattler I think you need to clarify what you're looking for. I can suggest something that's webcam specific, but I don't want to waste my time if the umbrella term from the existing answer is fine. Alternatively, I can suggest alternate phrasing for an umbrella term. May 7, 2020 at 19:13
  • @JasonBassford What I am looking for is something which separates the 2 expressions: after all, 'open mic' refers to only the microphone, May 7, 2020 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


From a clarifying comment under the question:

What I am looking for is something which separates the 2 expressions: after all, 'open mic' refers to only the microphone.

While I like on the air as an umbrella term, I suggest the following more specific term for a webcam (or any camera):

Do not disturb

open mic, live video feed

What makes this distinction important is that it's possible you could decide you don't mind being seen in the background, but you don't actually want to have anybody hear you say anything. Without specifying both audio and video components, it might be unclear exactly what is involved.

The use of live suggests danger, or at least the need for increased awareness. An umbrella term also involving it would be live broadcast.

  • +1 Also, “Do not disturb. Broadcasting Live.”
    – Jim
    May 7, 2020 at 20:08

On air or On the air.
From Meriiam-Webster unabridged:
(1) : the medium of transmission of radio waves; also : radio, television
— often used in the phrase on the air
He went on the air with the first of a series of Saturday-night broadcasts — Atlantic

Though the technology has changed, the idiom has stuck. Much as in the way you might still say "we set sail" despite not being under wind power, or "crank the engine" despite there no longer being a hand-operated crank.

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    This only works if it's a complete replacement for open mic, [something]. The sign wouldn't read open mic, on the air. In other words, it would be a hypernym for both open mic and whatever the webcam equivalent is. It's good, but it's kind of bypassing the specific question. May 7, 2020 at 19:01
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    @Jason Agreed, open mic becomes redundant. The OP may not have considered the possibility of a more concise phrase encompassing the audio and visual components. So technically, my answer does not precisely answer the question as asked. But sometimes painting with the broader brush gets the job done more quickly.
    – lumbrjak
    May 7, 2020 at 19:10

"Open mic" does not mean what you think it means: See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_mic

"An open mic or open mike (derived from the expression "open microphone") is a live show at a coffeehouse, nightclub, comedy club, strip club, institution or pub at which audience members who are amateur or professional may perform, often for the first time, or promote an upcoming performance, are given the opportunity to perform onstage."

You need "On Air!"

For "Do not disturb!", I would have "Keep out of camera."

  • That's only one meaning of "open mike". The mistake of saying something that is picked up by a microphone that one didn't realise was live is also fairly commonly (or at least, not uncommonly) called an "open mike" situation, and indeed the Wikipedia page you've linked to has a link to that other meaning.
    – nnnnnn
    May 8, 2020 at 9:25
  • That seems to come from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_mic#See_also This article is about the type of live show. For the comedy series, see Open Mike with Mike Bullard. For type of gaffe, see microphone gaffe." ++ "A microphone gaffe, sometimes referred to as an open microphone (in aviation, a stuck mic) or a hot mic, is an apparent error whereby a microphone is switched on in proximity of a subject who is unaware that their remarks are being recorded."
    – Greybeard
    May 8, 2020 at 9:58

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