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Peacock Streaming: Is the Free Trial Worth It? A Detailed Analysis

In recent years, streaming services have become increasingly popular as a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy our favorite movies, TV shows, and live events. One such service that has garnered attention is Peacock Streaming. Boasting an impressive library of content and a unique pricing structure, Peacock offers users the chance to explore a wide range of entertainment options. But is their free trial really worth it? In this article, we will delve into the details of Peacock’s free trial offer to help you make an informed decision.

What is Peacock Streaming?

Peacock Streaming is a subscription-based on-demand streaming service launched by NBCUniversal. With various subscription tiers available, including a free option with limited content access, Peacock aims to cater to different types of viewers. The platform offers a vast library of TV shows, movies, live sports events, news coverage, and original programming.

The Benefits of the Free Trial

One major advantage of Peacock’s free trial is the opportunity it provides to explore the platform’s features without committing to a paid subscription right away. During the trial period, users can access a selection of content from various genres and get a feel for what Peacock has to offer. This allows potential subscribers to assess whether the service aligns with their interests before making any financial commitments.

Additionally, Peacock’s free trial grants users access to exclusive original content not available on other streaming platforms. This includes popular shows like “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Yellowstone.” By taking advantage of the trial period, viewers can binge-watch these highly acclaimed series without spending a dime.

Limitations and Considerations

While there are several benefits associated with Peacock’s free trial offer, it is essential for potential subscribers to understand its limitations as well. Firstly, unlike paid subscriptions, the free trial comes with advertisements. These ads can interrupt your viewing experience, which may be a drawback for those seeking uninterrupted entertainment.

Furthermore, it is important to note that not all content available on Peacock is accessible during the free trial period. Some premium shows and movies may require a paid subscription or be exclusive to certain tiers. Therefore, if you are primarily interested in specific content that falls under these categories, it might be worth considering the paid subscription options instead.

Making an Informed Decision

Deciding whether Peacock’s free trial is worth it ultimately depends on your viewing preferences and tolerance for advertisements. If you enjoy exploring diverse content options and are open to discovering new shows and movies, the free trial can provide a valuable opportunity to test out Peacock’s offerings without any financial commitment.

However, if you prefer an ad-free viewing experience or have specific premium content in mind that falls outside of the free trial’s limitations, it may be more beneficial to opt for a paid subscription from the start.

In conclusion, Peacock Streaming’s free trial can be a worthwhile option for those looking to explore a vast library of TV shows, movies, and original programming without immediately committing to a paid subscription. By taking advantage of the trial period, users can assess whether Peacock aligns with their entertainment needs before making any financial commitments. However, it is essential to consider the limitations of the free trial and weigh them against your personal preferences before making an informed decision about subscribing to Peacock Streaming.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


movie analysis terms

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Glossary of Terms for Film Discussion and Analysis

Black and white photograph of Lois Weber (left) directing Anna Pavlova and Douglas Gerrard on the set of The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916).

Lois Weber (left) directing Anna Pavlova and Douglas Gerrard on the set of  The Dumb Girl of Portici  (1916).

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Whether you are teaching film literacy as part of a media arts course or using films to complement your social studies or English language arts curriculum, you will want to arm your students with the terminology to understand film criticism and share their own thoughts and analysis using a shared vocabulary.  

This selection of terms will be particularly useful with our lesson plan In Her Shoes: Lois Weber and the Female Filmmakers Who Shaped Early Hollywood .  

The following definitions are taken from Columbia University’s Film Glossary as well as other film terminology resources and online dictionaries. 

A character is a person or other being in a narrative such as a novel, play, television series, film, or video game.

Derived from the French word cinématographe coined by the Lumière brothers, cinematography literally means “writing in movement” and is generally understood as the art and process of capturing visual images with a camera for cinema. Closely related to photography, cinematography has as much to do with lighting as it does with film. Cinematography includes technical elements, such as camera, lens, film stock, and lighting, and more aesthetic concerns, such as camera angle, framing, duration of a shot, distance, and movement. The member of a film crew who is responsible for cinematography is known as the cinematographer or director of photography. 

A close-up is a shot in which a person’s face fills most of the screen, although the term can also refer to any shot in which an object appears relatively large and in detail.

A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay (or script) while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision. The director has a key role in choosing the cast members, production design, and all the creative aspects of filmmaking.

Editing is the process of putting a film together – the selection and arrangement of shots and scenes. Editing can condense space and time, emphasize separate elements and bring them together, and organize material in such a way that patterns of meaning become apparent. Editing can determine how a film is perceived: for instance, quick, rapid cuts can create a feeling of tension, while slow motion can create a dramatic effect. 

Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films and the film medium. The concept is often used interchangeably with that of film reviews. A film review implies a recommendation aimed at consumers, however not all film criticism takes the form of reviews. 

A film studio (also known as a “movie studio” or simply “studio”) is a major entertainment company or motion picture company that has its own privately owned studio facility or facilities that are used to make films, which is handled by the production company. 

A word or group of words (such as dialogue in a silent movie or information about a setting) that appear on-screen during a movie but are not part of a scene.

Juxtaposition is the act of placing two or more things side-by-side to compare or contrast. It is used throughout art and literature to create meaning from two or more things. In film editing, to juxtapose a shot before or after another is to create meaning that the shots would not have without each other. 

The lighting is responsible for the quality of a film’s images and often a film’s dramatic effect. Early photoplays were usually filmed outside, with natural light, or in studios with glass roofs. Eventually, better lighting techniques made it possible for studio productions to have a more natural look.

Literally translated as “staging in action,” mise-en-scène originated in the theater and is used in film to refer to everything that goes into the composition of a shot–framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and the visual environment, and sound. 

The main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, editing; and arranging the financing.

A production company, production house, production studio, or a production team is a business that provides the physical basis for works in the fields of performing arts, new media art, film, television, radio, video games, websites, and more. Generally, the term refers to all individuals responsible for the technical aspects of creating a particular product.

Set design is the creation of theatrical, as well as film or television scenery such as the interiors of homes.

A silent film is a film with no synchronized sound (in particular, no audible dialogue). The plot may be conveyed by the use of title cards or intertitles. Silent films were almost always accompanied by live sounds, such as a pianist or theater organist, or sometimes a small orchestra.

Superimposition is when two or more images are placed over each other in the frame.

In screenwriting, a movie synopsis is a brief summary of a completed screenplay's core concept, major plot points, and main character arcs.

A treatment is a document that presents the story idea of your film before writing the entire script. Treatments are often written in the present tense, in narrative-like prose, and highlight the most important information about your film, including title, logline, story summary, and character descriptions. 

Related on EDSITEment

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Film Terms — The Definitive Glossary of Film Terminology - Featured

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Ultimate Guide to Film Terms: The Definitive Glossary of Film Terminology

Browse film terms   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k   l   m   n   o   p   q   r   s   t   u   v   w   x   y   z.

W hether you’re working on your first or 100th film, there is always something new to learn. When you need to update your film terminology, this resource will be your best friend. We’ve included as many film terms as humanly possible all on one page, so let’s get into it.

Abby Singer Shot 

An Abby Singer shot is the name for the second-to-last shot of the day. It is named after Abby Singer, a famous assistant film director and production manager. 

Movie Terms

Above the line.

Above the line   is the costs of making a movie associated with the major creative talent, including the director, actors, writers, and producers. Films with special effects will also have a greater number of above the line costs than films without special effects. 

Film Terminology

Aerial shot.

An  aerial shot   is a shot filmed from far overhead. The shot is typically obtained from a plane, blimp, drone, or other aerial device. When an aerial shot opens a film, it is referred to as an establishing shot. 


  • Overhead Shots →
  • Epic Drone Shots Mashup →
  • What is an Establishing Shot →

Film Vocabulary

An allegory is essential an extended metaphor. When a film suggests a correspondence or resemblance with a visible part of the film (character or event) to an abstract meaning that exists outside of the film. 



Alliteration is a literary technique when two or more words are linked that share the same first consonant sound, such as “fish fry.”

cinematography terms

An  allusion  is an implied or indirect reference to something, used either in general discussion, or within a text — a novel, play, movie, song, TV show, video game, or even a T-shirt. 

Cinema Terms

Ambient light.

Ambient light is natural light (Sun, Moon, etc.) or pre-existing light in a location before any additional lighting is added. Ambient light is typically soft, that exists around the subject of the scene.

Cinematography Terms

An angle is the relative position of the camera in relation to the subject. This could be a low-angle shot looking up, a high-angle looking down, or even a Dutch angle where the camera is tilted on the y-axis.

  • Eye Level Shots →
  • The Low-Angle Shot →
  • The High-Angle Shot →
  • Guide to Camera Shots & Angles →

Movie Related Words

Angle on is the act of directing the camera to move and focus on a particular subject. 

To delve deeper into the topic of camera angles, we invite you to explore our informative blog post titled " Camera Angles Explained ".

Film Terms Glossary

Animation is a type of filmmaking in which individual drawings of inanimate, static objects are filmed one frame at a time. This creates the illusion of movement. Famous animated films include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Lion King . 

  • Best Pixar Shorts →
  • Best Animated Movies of All Time →
  • How to Do Stop Motion Animation →

Movie Terminology

Anime is a distinct form of animation that has roots in Japan. It is generally recognized by colorful images, highly-stylized backgrounds, and extremely exaggerated facial expressions. The best Cyberpunk movies also take a great deal of inspiration from anime.

Movie Vocabulary

An antagonist is typically known as the villain of the story. However, the antagonist can be a person, group, force of nature, or interpersonal conflict.

  • Best Realistic Movie Villains →
  • How to Create the Ultimate Antagonist →

Film Making Words

Anthology film.

An anthology film is a movie with multiple parts or segments devoted to differing narratives. They are sometimes linked together by a theme, but it is not necessary. 


An  anti-climax is anything following a film’s high point, the climax, that is seen as a disappointing or unsatisfying let-down. Usually, what you expected to happen didn’t happen. 

Movie Dictionary Terms

An anti-hero   is the protagonist of a film who lacks the generally-accepted attributes of a traditional hero. A protagonist who is plagued with character defects or ambiguous morals (e.g., Walter White in Breaking Bad ). 

Production Terminology

An aperture is the opening of a camera lens that controls the amount of light allowed to pass through and actually contact the film. Aperture is part of the exposure triangle with shutter speed and ISO .

An apple box is a different sized (quarter, half, full, pancake) wooden boxes used for a variety of purposes.

An   a rc shot is a shot that captures a subject while moving around in a circle. See the dizzying shot during the prom scene in Carrie . 

Film Terminology for Students

An archetype is a character, thing, or place that is routinely presented in film with a certain characterization. For example, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an archetype. 

  • What are the Jungian Archetypes? →
  • Character Archetypes Examples →

Basic Film Terms

An arret  is a French word meaning “stop.” It refers to an in-camera film technique where the camera stops, then an object is placed within the frame, and the camera restarts, giving the illusion that the item magically appeared.

Film Lexicon

Art director.

An Art Director is an individual who belongs to a film’s art department who is in charge of the feel, look, construction, and design of the set. This includes determining the placement for props.

Film Set Lingo

An Art-House is a niche movie theater that specializes in playing non-mainstream indie films, foreign films, or small-budget films. They are considered high-brow, or “art” films.

Film Studies Key Words

An a side is when a film character breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience. Commonly used by characters like Frank Underwood in House of Cards or Deadpool .

Motion Picture Terms

Aspect ratio.

Aspect ratio is the relative length and width of an image. Early cinema used more of a square shape (4:3), whereas today's movies and television are more of a rectangle (16:9 or 2.35:1, for example). 

aspect ratio

  • What is 4:3 Aspect Ratio? →
  • What is 2:1 Aspect Ratio? →
  • What is 16:9 Aspect Ratio? →

Words Associated With Movies

An assembly is the first step in editing. All the shots are arranged by their order in the script. To gain a comprehensive understanding of film editing, we encourage you to check out our blog post titled " Unpacking the Art of Film Editing ."

Basic Glossary of Film Terms


Asynchronous  is a situation when audio tracks are out of unison with the visuals in the frame. It can sometimes be intentional and sometimes accidental.

Director Lingo Dictionary

Atmosphere is either a nebulous or concrete aesthetic of a film that adds to the overall dimensional tone of a film’s action. 

Editing Terms

Audio is any sound component of a film. This could diegetic sound (e.g., dialogue, Foley sound , etc.) or non-diegetic sound (e.g., scored music, narration, etc.).

  • What is ADR in Film? →
  • Sound Editing vs. Sound Mixing →
  • Guide to YouTube’s Royalty-Free Audio Library →

Filming Terms and Definitions

Audio bridge.

An audio bridge   is an outgoing sound, such as music or dialogue, that carries on from one scene to the next. For example, the soundtrack could connect two scenes instead of visual images. 

An audition is the process in which an actor or performer reads from a prepared script or does a “cold reading” or a portion of dialogue. The performer may receive a call-back for additional readings. 

  • The Ultimate Guide to Auditions →
  • How to Become a Casting Director →
  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Holding Auditions →

An auteur is the French word for “author.” Most often refers to a director with a distinct or signature style. Directors are often seen as the “authors” of film due to the amount of creative control they hold over all processes held within.

  • Denis Villeneuve Directing Style →
  • The Directing Style of David Fincher →
  • Martin Scorsese and His Filmmaking Techniques →

Cinema Lingo

Available light.

Available light is the naturally-occurring light you find on the film location. Available light can help enhance a film’s sense of realism. It exists in contrast to artificial light a film crew would normally bring in. 

available light

  • Film Lighting Techniques →
  • Cinematography Tips and Techniques →
  • How to Capture Images at Golden Hour →

Movie Director Lingo


Avant-garde is an experimental or abstract art movement. Avant-garde movies tend to challenge conventional filmmaking techniques. 

Movie Set Terminology

Axis of action.

The  axis of action is an imaginary line that runs between the two primary actors in a scene. Also known as the 180-degree line, it defines the spatial relations between all of the scene’s elements as being either left or right to the performers in order to maintain scene geography.

A B-movie is an offbeat, low-budget movie. B-movies generally come from independent producers. They have become to be defined by campy acting, catchy titles, and low-grade special effects.

Basic Film Vocabulary

A backdrop is to a huge photographic painting or backing seen in the background of a scene. It typically portrays a landscape, such as mountains. Backdrops were more commonly used before film studios either shot on set or used green screens.

Film Production Jargon

Background is anything within the rear plane of action. Anything occurring in the front plane of action is referred to as the foreground. It is often abbreviated as “b.g.”

Cinema Vocabulary English

Background artist.

A b ackground artist is the person responsible for designing the visual background of a movie. This person is also referred to as a “matte artist.”

Film Audio Terms

Background music.

Background music is the score or music heard in the background of a scene. Generally, this music helps set the tone or mood of the scene.

background music

  • Guide to YouTube’s Royalty-Free Music →
  • Creating Unforgettable Moments with Music →

Film Lighting Terms


Backlighting  is the lighting placed behind the subject so that it faces the camera and helps to separate the subject from the background.

TV Production Terms Definitions

A back lot is a piece of land on a studio’s property where filmmakers can shoot outside scenes in an enclosed area. This differs from on-location shoots where the team goes to an actual part of the city to film. For example, many scenes in Back to the Future were shot on a back lot.

Film Industry Dictionary

Back projection.

Back projection (aka rear projection ) is a photographic technique in which a live action scene is filmed in front of a transparent screen where a background is added later. It was commonly used to portray actors driving in a car.

Screenwriting Terms

A b ack story is the events that transpired directly before the film began. It can help fill in information about certain characters so that the actors, or the audience can better comprehend motivations.

Film Frame Lingo

Balance is an overarching term about how the light, movement, and sound all work together within a single scene. 

Film Lighting Slang

Barn doors is slang for the four metal folding doors found on all sides of a light. The barn doors can be repositioned to help direct light in a certain direction.

Acting Terminology

A beat  in acting is a pause before an actor carries out a movement or speaks their next line of dialogue. In a screenplay, a beat may be signified through the use of ellipses (...).

Movie Making Dictionary

Below the line.

Below the line refers to any production costs that are not "above the line" (see above). This can include film crew salary, publicity, music rights, and cutting together a trailer. 

A   Best Boy is the aide, assistant, or technical assistant for the key grip or gaffer. The best boy is responsible for coiling and routing all of the power cables needed to run the lights. The best boy may also schedule what people and equipment are needed on a given day of a shoot.

Movie Terminology Glossary

Billing is the placement of actors’ names on a movie poster. The most prominent actor in a film will generally have top billing. The second most prominent actor will have second billing and so forth. 

Moviegoing Terms

A biopic is a biographical film about a real-life subject. It is often seen as a sub-genre of dramas and epics. Examples of biopics include The Last Emperor and Rocketman .

Acting Lingo

A bit part is a small acting role. Generally, a bit part will have a couple lines of dialogue in a single scene in a film. Actors who play waiters are generally considered to have bit parts. 

Movie Genre Definitions

Black comedy.

Black Comedy (aka dark comedy) is a sub-genre of comedy that rose in prominence around the 1950s and '60s. It takes typically serious subjects, such as death and war, and treats them with macabre humor. Fargo , American Psycho , Fight Club   would be considered some of the best Black Comedies of all time. 

Film Words Dictionary


Blacklisting is a term popularized during the "McCarthyism" of the late 1940s and early '50s where actors, directors, and other prominent people in Hollywood were persecuted for perceived connections with communism. Today, “blacklisted” individuals are those who have trouble finding work due to a variety of reasons (difficult to work with, wronged someone powerful, etc.).

Movie Genre Terms


Blaxploitation   is a combination of the words “black” and “exploitation” and refers to low-budget, sensational movies primarily made in the 1970s that featured mostly African-American casts and tackled gritty topics like racism, drugs, and the criminal underworld (e.g., Superfly ). 

Common Movie Terms


A b lockbuster  is a standout movie that is a major box office success. Generally, a movie has to gross at least $200 million to be considered a blockbuster (e.g., Jaws ,  Avengers: Endgame ). 


  • Best Marvel Movies, Ranked →
  • Michael Bay's Best Movies, Ranked →
  • A Complete Ranking of James Cameron Movies →

Film Camera Terminology

Blocking a shot.

Blocking a shot is the process by which a director determines where the actors stand, where the lights will shine, and how the camera will be positioned. Generally, a director will block a shot before bringing the actors on set to actually film. 

bLOcking a shot

  • Blocking and Staging in the Godfather →
  • Ways to Make Blocking More Interesting →

Filmmaking Lingo

A b looper is an embarrassing or humorous mistake made during the course of filming. Bloopers are also known as flubs, flaws, or goofs. In some comedies, bloopers will play over the end credits. 

Film Framing Terminology

A b low-up is an optical process involving the enlargement of a film frame or photographic image. It was often used to make 70mm film prints from original 35mm movies.

Film Techniques Glossary

Blue screen.

A blue screen (aka green screen) is an evenly-lit, monochromatic background actors perform in front of. The blue (or green) is then replaced with the desired background through chroma-keying. Many films made today heavily utilize blue or green screens. 

Terms for Actors

Body double.

A body double   is a performer who will take the place of an actor for certain shots. In many cases, this is done for nude scenes where a big-name actor may not want to use his or her actual body for the scene. 

Filmmaking Terms Around the World

Bollywood is the huge filmmaking industry in India. It derives its name from Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hollywood. Sholay and Mother India   are examples of Bollywood films. 

Film Glossary

Bookends are when the opening and end scenes of a film complement one another. It can help tie a film together, much like a framing device. Whiplash has bookends with Andrew beginning and ending the film while playing the drums.

Good Cinematography Terms

A b oom shot is any shot where the camera is attached to a mechanical arm like a crane or jib. 

Film Viewer Terms

A b ootleg  is an illegally obtained version of a film and distributed online or through the black market. It is also known as a pirated film.

Lighting Film Terms

Bounce board.

A bounce board is a device used to reflect light during filming. It is typically a solid white surface constructed out of poster board or foam. It helps add soft light to a scene.

Film Camera Lingo

Bracketing is the process of shooting the same scene multiple times using F-stops resulting in different exposures. An F-stop is the ratio of the focal length of a lens to the entrance pupil’s diameter.

Movie Cinematography Terms

Bridging shot.

A bridging shot is a type of transitional shot used to “bridge” a jump in place or time. For example, in Raiders of the Lost Ark ,  the movie uses bridging shots of a map to indicate Indiana Jones is moving. 

Old-School Film Terms

A bumper  is the pre-film segment that plays before the movie begins. It typically contains the movie studio’s logo. Disney movies have a bumper of a magical castle, for example. 

A Butterfly is a large sheet of fabric used to diffuse a wide area of light.

Film Production Definitions

A call sheet is a schedule given to crew members over the course of the film’s production. It lets every department member know when they are to arrive on set. It also lists which actors are necessary for which scenes.

  • How to Make a Call Sheet Online →
  • The Ultimate Guide to Call Sheets →
  • Best Practices for Prepping Call Sheets →

Basic Acting Terminology

A cameo is brief appearance by a famous actor, director, or celebrity in a film. For example, Lance Armstrong has a short cameo in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story .

Filmmaking 101

A camera is the most basic, essential machine necessary for filmmaking. The camera captures images using the lens, aperture, magazine, viewfinder, and other quintessential components. They range in size from immense IMAX cameras to modern smartphones. 

  • When Was the Camera Invented? →
  • Best Video Cameras for Filmmakers →
  • Different Types of Cameras for Film & Video →

Filmmaking Terminology

Camera angle.

A camera angle refers to the point of view the camera operator chooses to photograph a subject. Some of the most basic camera angles include high angles , low angles , dutch angles , and eye-level shots .

camera angle

  • Different Types of Camera Angles →
  • Creative Examples of Overhead Shots →
  • A Quick Guide to Aerial Shots with Examples →

Cinematic Storytelling Terms

Camera movement.

Camera movement is the act of moving the camera to capture various angles and perspectives. Some examples of common camera movements include pan , track , tilt , and zoom . 

camera movement

  • The Dolly Zoom →
  • Deep Focus Shot →
  • What is a Camera Pan? →

Movie Job Terms

Camera operator.

A Camera Operator is the person responsible for operating the camera. The camera operator works under the supervision of the director as well as the director of photography. 

Movie Critique Dictionary

Capsule review.

A capsule review is an incredibly short movie review. A short snippet of a review you find on Twitter would fall into this category.

Movie Watching Definitions

A c aption  is a printed line of text you find at the bottom of a frame that describes or translates what characters are doing/saying. It is beneficial for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. Another word for this would be “subtitles.”

Character Terms

A caricature  is a character, usually a drawing, that is ridiculously out of proportion physically, psychologically, or morally. It portrays an individual in an unrealistic and/or stereotypical fashion. 

Box Office Dictionary

A cash cow is a movie that will be a guaranteed financial success. It could serve as another term for a blockbuster, but one with minimal risks. Star Wars   is a cash cow franchise for Disney. 

Actor’s Dictionary

A  cast is a term for the collective performers in a film. A cast is generally divided into two categories: the leads and the supporting characters. 

Dialogue Terms


A catchphrase is a short phrase said by a movie character that takes on significance within the general public. In the Die Hard   franchise, John McClane’s catchphrase is, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker,” one of the best one-liners in cinema history .

Screenwriting Lingo

Catharsis  is the point in a film’s climax where the audience experiences a cleansing of emotional tension. It provides relief and a sense of restoration. An audience will experience a cathartic moment when the hero definitively emerges triumphant over the villain. 

Animation Terms

A cel  is an individual hand-drawn sheet for a cartoon. It represents a single animation frame that allows for multiple layers of composition. Several character cels will be placed against the same background cel to show movement.

CGI is computer-generated imagery used in filmmaking to create special effects and the illusion of motion. It can be used to create giant, fantastical creatures or fill in a crowd in lieu of hiring a bunch of extras. 

Classic Movie Making Terms

Change-over cue.

A change-over cue is a dot that would appear in the top right-hand corner of a movie projection. It signals to the projectionist that that a change in film reel was coming up. Change-over cues are no longer common as most films are shown on a single reel or projected digitally. 

Basic Filmmaking Definitions

A c haracter  is the individual within a movie, played by an actor. Batman is a character while Robert Pattinson is an actor who plays him. 

  • Character Development →
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl - A Eulogy →
  • Character Archetypes in Film & Literature →

Character Actor

A Character Actor is a specific type of actor who specializes in portraying unique, offbeat, colorful characters. It could also describe an actor with a certain body type who is well-suited for certain roles. J.K. Simmons is a great character actor, best known for his role of J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man   films.

character actor

  • Who Played the Joker? →
  • What is Method Acting? →

Movie Genre Studies

Character study.

A c haracter study is the film where characterizations come first while the plot and narrative come second. The Seven Samurai and Boyhood are examples of character studies.


Chiaroscuro is a combination of two Italian words meaning “light” and “dark.” In filmmaking, it refers to the contrast between light and darkness in an individual scene. It has roots in German Expressionism and is also known as high-contrast lighting.

Film Genre Definitions

Chick flick.

A c hick flick is a term used to describe films that primarily appeal to women. It is often used in a derogatory sense to demean films that primarily star women or utilize heavily emotional components. 

Child Actor

A c hild actor is any actor who is under the age of 18. Macauley Culkin and Drew Barrymore were famous child actors. Because they are minors, there are special rules for working with child actors .

Chimera (Soft Box)

A Chimera is a cloth frame that attaches to a hard light and turns it into diffused light.

Movie Critic Terms

A c ineaste  is another word for a film/movie enthusiast. It was also the name for a popular film magazine. 

Cinematic Phrases

Cinéma vérité.

Cinéma Vérité is a French word meaning “true cinema.” It is a filmmaking style dedicated to capturing “real life” or utilizing techniques in a fictional film that suggest the viewer is peering into the lives of the characters. It was part of the French New Wave movement and popularized in the states by David and Albert Maysles.

Movie Job Titles


A Cinematographer is the individual responsible for the technique and art of film photography. It is this person’s job to photograph images for a movie by selecting the right lenses, film stock, camera angles, and recording devices to use. 


  • Best Cinematographers →
  • Essential Cinematography Books →
  • What Does a Cinematographer Do? →

Unique Film Terms


CinemaScope is a film presentation technique that uses an aspect ratio of 2:35:1. It typically refers to anamorphic techniques and widescreen processes that utilize various magnifications in the vertical and horizontal to fill in the screen.

Interesting Movie Terms

Cinerama is a process of wide-screen filming that utilized three cameras and three separate projectors to attain an all-encompassing view of the frame. It would be projected on a curved screen, and it was the first commercially-viable multiple-screen process. 

There are all different kinds of clamps you’ll use on set. Everything from C-47s to Cardellinis and beyond. These hold gels to lights, lights to walls, and diffusion to whatever it takes.

Film Shoot Terms


A clapperboard is the black-and-white board or slate with a hinged top used to display information of the shot on the screen. It typically contains information about the director, title of the movie, and take being filmed. Today, electronic clappers have come into style.  

Animated Film Terms

Claymation is a style of animation where the characters are made out of clay, plasticine, or putty. The characters are then filmed, generally through stop motion animation. 

  • What is Stop Motion Animation? →
  • Best Rankin Bass Christmas Claymation Movies →

Storytelling Definitions


A c liffhanger  is the film that ends with the primary conflict unresolved. It came into fashion during the time of film serials but is still prevalent today. Avengers: Infinity War   ended on a cliffhanger that lead into Avengers: Endgame . 

Screenwriting Basics

A c limax  is the topmost point of tension within a narrative. It is the primary point with the protagonist must confront the antagonist and all of the consequences there within. The climax is then generally followed by denouement or anti-climax. 

Basic Cinematography Terms

A close-up   is the shot taken from an incredibly close distance to the subject. A single object or part of an actor’s body will appear in the frame. This is to emphasize importance and make the audience focus on a single item. 

  • Extreme Close-Up Shots →
  • The Medium Close-Up Shot →

Film Structure Definitions

A coda is the word meaning “tail” in Italian. It refers to the final portion of a film, also known as the epilogue . It is the scene that provides closure, such as in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 . 

Old-School Cinema Terms


Colorization is the process of film alteration where black-and-white film is turned into color. It was a popular, albeit controversial, process in the 1980s when classic films received modern updates. 

Film Acting Terms

Comic relief.

Comic Relief is a character who provides comedic moments in otherwise serious films. It was popularized by Shakespeare but can still be found in movies today (e.g., Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King ). 

comic relief

  • What is Comedy? →
  • The Best Comedies of All Time →
  • The Best Dark Comedy Films & TV Shows →

Understanding Film Genre

Coming-of-age film.

A C oming-of-Age Film is the movie associated teenagers growing into adulthood through relatable rites of passage. These films are usually defined by the loss of innocence, attaining sexual identity, and/or living out childhood dreams. 

Actor’s Phrases

Command performance.

A c ommand performance generally refers to an amazing performance given by an actor. Most of the time, this performance has come right before the actor’s death. 

Film Jobs Vocabulary

A Composer is the musician who creates a movie’s score. This is in contrast to a conductor, who directs the orchestra playing the score, and a lyricist, who writes the lyrics to a song. 

  • How to Use Suspenseful Music →
  • How to Design a Surreal Film Score →

A Director’s Movie Vocabulary


A composition  is the way in which different elements of a scene are arranged on the frame. This refers to the lighting, movement of the actors, props, lines, and other figures. 


  • What is the Rule of Thirds? →
  • Rules of Shot Composition in Film →
  • Shot Composition & The Quadrant System →

Movie Magic Dictionary

Concert film.

A  concert film is a movie that records a live musical performance of a band, singer, or stand-up comedian. It can take footage from a single performance or stitch together footage from multiple concerts. 

Essential Film Terminology for Students

Continuity is one of the responsibilities of the Script Supervisor to make sure elements are consistent from shot to shot and scene to scene. When there is a mistake, such as an actor wearing different clothing within the same scene, it is referred to as a “continuity error.” 

Film Set Lingo for Lighting

Contrast is the difference in light and shadow in a scene. A frame with high contrast has a sharp delineation between the bright and dark elements. The opposite of this is known as low contrast. 

Filmmaking Understanding

A convention is a typical element audiences expect out of certain genres of film without question. For example, Film Noir is expected is expected to have a lot of shadows and pose questions related to human corruption and betrayal. 

Film Glossary for Students

Coogan's law.

Coogan's Law is the landmark legislation passed in the late 1930s intended to protect the earnings from child actors. As a result of the bill, a portion of the child’s earnings go in a court-administered trust fund the child receives upon reaching maturity. The bill is named after child actor Jackie Coogan and is one of the rules for working child actors .

Cinema Basic Terminology

Coverage is the term to describe all of the shots, including reverse angles and close-ups, a director obtains in addition to the master shot. Having “proper coverage” means to have all of the necessary shots to put together a complete film. 

Cinematography Glossary

A crane shot is the camera shot taken from a huge camera dolly or another electronic device, such as a crane, resembling an extendable arm or boom. It can raise the camera high above the ground, allowing the camera to move in practically any direction. They provide a form of overhead view of the scene. 

Main Film Glossary

A crawl  is the superimposed text on the screen that can move up, down, diagonally, or across. The most famous example of this is the opening crawl detailing a prologue in the Star Wars   films.

Film Definitions Terms

Credits  is the text appearing before or after a film detailing the cast, production crew, and technical personnel who worked on a movie. Each person listed receives a credit on what he or she did on the film. 

Movie Personnel Terms

A Crew is the collective of individuals involved with the technical aspect of shooting a movie. It does not refer to the performers in a film.

  • How to Find the Best Production Crew →
  • Film Production Crew Contact List Template →
  • A Better Film Crew List Template Booking Sheet →

Movie Watching Vocabulary

A c ritic   is someone who publishes reviews of movies for analytical or educational purposes. A movie review will discuss the finer points of a film, such as quality of the acting, directing, or writing. Roger Ebert is one of the best-known film critics to ever live. 

Film Editing Terms


Cross-Cutting is an editing technique of interspersing, interweaving, or alternating one action with another. Usually, these will be in separate places or locations, and the cut combines the two. It is an editing method to suggest parallel action or two events that take place simultaneously. 

Movie Director Dictionary

A c ross-fade is a fading technique with two components. First, there is a fade to black. Next, it fades into the next scene. When it does not cut to black first, it is referred to as a “dissolve.”

Movie Marketing Terms

A cross-over is a film marketed toward one audience but would also be enjoyed by a completely different demographic. For instance, Toy Story 4 was a children’s film, but adults also enjoyed it.

Film Shoot Vocabulary

A crowd shot  is a shot consisting of a large group of extras. Today, many crowd shots utilize CGI so that the production does not have to hire a bunch of extras. 

A C-Stand is a sturdy light stand that has three different legs that can be adjusted to accommodate steps; a long metal “arm,” and a round clamping head called a gobo.

A Cucoloris is a type of flag with shapes cut into it that creates the look of tree branches, window shades, etc.

An Actor’s Glossary

A cue is the signal for an actor to start performing. Typically, a cue will be one actor’s last line of dialogue, signaling to the other person in the scene to start. However, a cue can also come from the director or from within the script. 

Everyday Film Terms

A cue card is the large board with dialogue printed on it to help an actor remember his or her lines. Today, actors can receive electronic cues by means of a teleprompter.

Editing Dictionary

Cutaway shot.

A cutaway shot is a quick shot that temporarily cuts between a continuously-filmed sequence by inserting another person, object, or action into the scene. It is then followed by a cutaway back to the main sequence. Family Guy   has become famous for its cutaway shots. 

Film Studio Words

A cyclorama  is the seamlessly curved backdrop reaching from the floor to the ceiling to showcase a background for a scene. It is generally used to represent the sky when outdoor scenes are shot indoors. 

Cinematic Lingo

Dailies   are copies of the footage shot on the previous day and reviewed. Directors will review this footage at the end of the day (or start of the next day) to see what they have so far. Dailies are vital for making sure continuity is correct and sound quality is good. 

Moviegoing Phrases

A Dark Horse is a little-known movie that goes on to become a massive hit either financially or on the awards circuit. Moonlight was the dark horse winner for the Best Picture Oscar over La La Land . 

Cinematographic Words

Day-for-night shot.

A D ay-for-Night shot is filmed during the day to make it appear as if it takes place at night. This can be attained through unique lighting, filters, and lenses. It was common in the 1950s and '60s but doesn’t happen as often today but, if it does, there are tips on how to schedule a day-for-night scene . 

Comedic Vocabulary

Deadpan is a comedic device in which a performer assumes an expressionless demeanor to deliver comedic lines or performances. Leslie Neilsen and Buster Keaton had famous deadpan deliveries. 

Deep Focus Shot

A deep focus shot is a cinematography technique portraying great depth of field. Wide angle lenses are used with small lens apertures to create a sharp focus in both distant and nearby planes within the same shot. 

Screenwriting Concepts

Denouement   is the point in a film that immediately follows the climax when everything in the plot has been resolved. It’s typically the final scene in a movie and is also known as the resolution. 

Directorial Terminology

Depth of field.

Depth of field is the depth of a shot’s focus in relation to the foreground, middle-ground and background. Shallow depth of field might keep only one of those planes in focus, while deep depth of field would keep all of them in focus.

depth of field

  • What is Deep Depth of Field? →
  • What is Shallow Depth of Field? →
  • The Essential Guide to Depth of Field →

In-Depth Movie Terminology

Depth of focus.

Depth of Focus is directly related to depth of field. It refers to making an adjustment so that a camera shot keeps its deep focus throughout all of the various planes.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina is the resolution of a plot by what is basically a force from God. It usually refers to a clumsy, contrived, or illogical intervention that alleviates the tension through something other than a character’s actions. The bacteria in War of the Worlds could be considered a deus ex machina, one of many cliches to avoid .

Sound Editing Terms

Diegetic sound.

Diegetic sound  is the logically or realistically existing sound within a scene. Music playing on the radio or the sounds of keys turning within the ignition would be examples of diegetic sounds. If the characters in the film can hear it, it's considered diegetic. Non-diegetic sound includes the musical score and narration.

Lighting Vocabulary

Diffusion is the softening or reduction of a light’s intensity. This is achieved through a translucent sheet, made from silk or lace, or through a diffuser in front of the light source to cut down on shadows.

Digital Film Terms

Digital production.

A digital production is a movie on filmed with digital video by means of high-resolution cameras. Afterwards, post-production is carried out using video editing methods, which completely eliminates the need for 35mm film. 

Framing Phrases

Directing the eye.

Directing the eye is a cinematographic term. It refers to using frame composition, camera movement, or lighting to make clear what is most important in the frame. 

Movie Set Words

A Director  is the artist responsible for total artistic control during all phases of a movie’s production. The director makes day-to-day decisions about acting, lighting, sound, casting, and editing. More than anyone else, the director is the single person most responsible for ensuring a film comes to fruition. 

  • Auteur Theory →
  • Producer vs Director →
  • How to Become a Director →

Film Viewing Vocabulary

Director's cut.

A Director's Cut is a version of a movie a director is able to make without any studio interference. This is the version the director would like audiences to see the film. Arguably, the most famous director’s cut is that of Blade Runner , which audiences and critics alike seemed to agree was superior to the theatrical version. 

Movie Editing Terms

A d issolve  is a transitional edit between two scenes, shots, or sequences in which the image of one shot is slowly replaced, blended, or superimposed with a different image. It’s usually done to suggest a passage of time. 

Film Theory Terms

Dogme 95 is the filmmaker collective founded by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995 that established a clear set of rules and philosophy that rejected contrived camera work and special effects in lieu of “honest” and “truthful” storytelling. Some of the other rules included shooting on location and using hand-held cameras. 

Movie Sound Terms

Dolby stereo.

Dolby Stereo is the stereo-sound process for movies developed by Dolby Laboratories, Inc. to enhance sound quality. 35mm prints of films have dual optical sound tracks while 70mm films have six magnetic tracks as well as multi-channel playback. 

Movie Production Terminology

A dolly shot is the movie shot where the perspective of the background and subject is altered. A camera will be mounted onto a tripod or wheeled camera platform, pushed on rails, and moved slowly during the filming while the camera runs. When combined with a zoom, the background stretches behind the subject and is called a dolly zoom .

Cinematography Jargon

Double exposure.

Double exposure is the process of exposing one frame twice so that elements of the two images are visible within the final product. It results in an effect similar to superimposition. It is commonly used to create a “ghostly” effect.

Movie Lexicon

A dub   is the process of inserting a new soundtrack into a movie or adding a new soundtrack of music, sound effects, or dialogue following production. A dub will match the lip movements and actions of the filmed shots to make it seem natural. This is in contrast to direct sound where sound is recorded on the scene and synched with the shot.

Cinematography Basics

Dutch angle.

A Dutch angle is a shot where the camera is tilted to one side, along the horizontal axis, producing a diagonal angle. It is typically done to create a sense of unease within the viewer. 

Photographic Dictionary

Dynamic frame.

A dynamic frame is a photographic technique meant to mask the projected image shape and size to any ratio that is seen as appropriate for the scene. An example of this would be the aspect ratio narrowing when an actor walks through a narrow passageway. 

French Movie Lexicon

Enfant terrible.

An E nfant terrible is a French word meaning “terrible baby.” It refers to a young director who is brash or egotistical. This is often a director who is innovative but uses unorthodox techniques. 

Storytelling Jargon

An e pilogue  is the short scene at the end of a movie that concludes the film. Many times, the main characters will be older, reflecting on the events just witnessed. Saving Private Ryan   ends with such an epilogue. 

Common Words Associated With Movies

Establishing shot.

An establishing shot   is a long shot that shows the location from a distance. It is often an aerial shot, and it informs the audience of the time and locale of the setting. It helps orient the viewer so that they know where the next scene takes place. 

Movie Production Lingo

Executive producer.

An Executive Producer is the individual responsible for overseeing a movie’s financing. The Executive Producer may also help arrange various elements of a film’s production, such as a writer and actors. 

A Fun Film Terms List

Exposition is the conveyance of vital background information, either through actions or dialogue, to further the events of a story. It could also set up a movie’s story. It can include information about the main problem or what’s at stake for the characters. Writing exposition is particularly tricky when trying to weave it into the script organically.

Movie Theory Lingo


Expressionism is the movie technique that involves the distortion of reality through costumes, editing, and lighting. It’s meant to reflect the inner emotions of the characters or the filmmaker. It was popularized in Germany in the 1920s and '30s, often characterized by dramatic lighting, grotesque shots and dark visual images. 

Film Slang for Directors

An Extra is an actor who appears in a movie in a non-speaking, unnoticed role, such as part of a crowd or a patron in a restaurant. Extras generally do not receive a screen credit.

Videography Terminology

Extreme close-up.

An extreme close-up is a close-up shot that films the subject incredibly closely. In many cases, the outer portions of the subject will be cut out of the frame. Extreme close-ups are typically done on actors to showcase their eyes, mouth, or another singular part of the body.

Film Editing Glossary

Eyeline match.

An   eyeline match is a cut in filmmaking between two shots that shows an illusion that the character, presented in the first shot, is looking at an object, presented in the second shot.

Editing Techniques Dictionary

A fade  is a transitional tool that consists of a slow change in intensity of a sound or image. A normally-lit scene will transition to black or vice versa. This also applies to sound and how it fades in and out of a scene.

Film Editing Terminology PDF


Fast-Cutting is a movie editing technique consisting of multiple fast consecutive shots. These are known as staccato shots that only last for a brief duration of time each to create a fast-paced effect.

Movie Making Slang

Favor On is when the camera focuses or highlights a certain subject or action within a shot.

Film Studies Terminology

Film Grain is a light-sensitive material that exists in a film’s emulsion or coating. It results in a fine-grained aesthetic, which requires more light to film, or a coarse aesthetic, which is preferable for low-light scenes.

Film Analysis Terms

Film Noir is a French word meaning “black film.” It was a popular genre in the 1940s that consisted of dark subject matter, downbeat tones, and low-key lighting. Often, the protagonist was an anti-hero or private detective. The Maltese Falcon is an example of a film noir.

  • Best Neo-Noir Films →
  • Top Christopher Nolan Movies →
  • Best Film Noir Movies of All Time  →

Film stock refers to a film’s gauge or size as well as the film speed. It can also refer to the unused, unexposed film where photographic images will later be stored. The different types of film stock include tungsten and daylight.

Camera Lens Vocabulary

A f ilter  is a plastic, glass, or gelatinous substance placed behind or before a camera lens. This changes the character and effect of the lighting within the frame of the film.

Movie Camera Jargon

Fish-eye lens.

A fish-eye lens is an extreme type of lens that films subjects at super wide angles. It also has an incredibly short focal point, in addition to a practically infinite depth of field, that distorts the linear dimensions of the image. This results in a more curved image.

A Flag is a black, light-absorbing cloth (duvetine) stretched on a metal frame and used to block out areas of light in all different sizes.

Essential Storytelling Terms

A f lashback  is a technique used in filmmaking where the natural order of the narrative is interrupted to show what happened in the past. Many times, this flashback has occurred prior to the first frame in the film. It provides backstory on the events and actions presently taking place.

Other Storytelling Terms


A f lash-forward is the opposite of a flashback. It interrupts the natural order of the story to show what will happen in the future. A flash-forward can also go from the past to the present.

Vital Film Terms

Focus is the degree of distinctness or sharpness in an image. As a verb, it relates to the adjustment or manipulation of a lens to create a far sharper image. You can have shallow, deep, or soft focus.

  • What is Shallow Focus? →
  • The Rack Focus: Creative Examples →
  • Deep Focus Shot: Creative Examples  →

Film Job Vocabulary

Foley artist.

A Foley Artist   is an individual who works during the editing and post-production phase of a movie’s production. This person adds or creates incident sounds and noises, such as gunshots, footsteps, and punches, to synchronize to the finished product. Named after pioneer Jack Foley.

Motion Picture Terms Glossary

Footage is any sequence, portion, or length of film, either shot or soon to be shot, that is measured in feet. It also refers to a specific sequence of events depicted in the movie.

  • Best DJI Ronin-S Footage  →
  • Panasonic GH5s Footage  →
  • Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro Footage →

Complete Movie Terminology List

Foreground is the opposite of a background. Any action or object closest to the camera. In writing, the foreground is generally abbreviated as b.g.



Foreshadowing is a literary device that is utilized to give a hint or indication of a future event in the story. It can be a very effective tool for developing curiosity, suspense, and even narrative harmony at the end of a film or novel.

Documentary Film Terms

Fourth wall.

The Fourth Wall is the illusory, imaginary plane through which the audience is able to watch the film. It is possible for characters or the narrative to break the fourth wall, letting the audience know then are, indeed, watching a movie.

Movie Terms to Know

A f rame  is a single image. It is the smallest compositional unit you can have in a film’s structure. A series of frames will be shown in rapid succession to make up the moving picture.

Movie Phrases for Students

Frame Rate is the rate at which film stock passes through the camera. Most modern films run at 24 frames per second. Older films ran at 18 fps while some films made today crank at 48 or 96 fps.

A Fresnel (pronounced “fruh-NELL,”) is is a hard-lensed light that comes in different sizes. Each size of fresnel has a different nickname. 

A Guide to Film Terms

A Gaffer is the head electrician in the film crew on a movie set. This individual is responsible for the design and final execution of the production’s lighting on the set.

Gaffer Tape

A Gaffer Tape is a strong fabric-backed tape that is easily removed when no longer needed. Used for all kinds of things on set.

Movie Projector Terms

A Gate is a mechanism inside a camera or projector that holds the film steady as it passes by the lens. "Checking the gate" is a phrase used when someone on the camera crew makes sure no dust or particles obstruct the exposure on the film.

Movie Filter Vocabulary

A Gel is a tinted, transparent colored plastic sheet used as a movie light’s filter. It creates a colored glow over a scene. This is typically done to evoke a certain mood.

Film Distribution Terms

General release.

A g eneral release is the widespread distribution and simultaneous exhibition of a movie. This is in contrast to a limited release where a movie only plays at select theaters for its initial run.

Dictionary of Movie Terms

Genre  is a French word meaning “type” or “kind.” It refers to a specific class of film, such as science-fiction or musical. All films in a given genre share common, distinctive thematic or artistic elements.

Pre-Production Lingo

Greenlight is a term used when a film has received the go-ahead to into production. This is in contrast to a redlight, where a film remains stuck on a shelf to not enter production.

Film Genre Vocabulary

A Grindhouse  was originally a burlesque theater, often in a red-light district, that would show exploitation and B-films. They became popular in the 1960s and '70s, and Grindhouse films today are those that carry on that aesthetic. 

Film Crew Member Terminology

A Grip is a crew member who sets up dolly tracks, moving props, camera cranes, and other pieces of equipment. The key grip is the head grip who coordinates all of the duties with the other grips in the crew. The head grip receives direction from the gaffer.

Box Office Glossary

Gross is the total box office take. The total amount of money a movie brings in during its theatrical release. It does not include earnings from DVD/Blu-Ray sales or rentals.

Student Filmmaking Lingo

Guerrilla film.

A g uerrilla film is a low-budget film made without acquiring filmmaking permits and often using non-SAG actors. Escape From Tomorrow is a guerrilla film shot without permission in Disneyland.

Movie Studies Phrasing

Handheld shot.

A h andheld shot is captured through a handheld camera deliberately designed to look wobbly, shaky, or unstable. It’s often used in documentary films or Cinéma Vérité works.

Film History Terms

The  Hays Code is a series of censorship restrictions imposed in the 1920s and enforced until the late 1960s. The code stated what could and couldn’t be shown in films, such as nakedness, methods of crime, illegal drug use, alleged sexual perversion, and other taboo subjects at the time. Named after Will Hays, chairman of the MPPDA, the organization in charge of regulating censorship in Hollywood.

Basic Cinematography Jargon

Head-on shot.

A h ead-on shot  is where the action comes directly to the camera. It works to increase the audience’s feeling of participating in the film. It works particularly well for 3D movies.

Moving Camera Terms

Helicopter shot.

A helicopter shot is a moving shot, often used as an establishing shot taken from a bird’s eye view. It is generally taken from a helicopter, allowing it to weave through a landscape.

Movie Director Lingo Dictionary

Helm is another word to refer to the director of a film. A director can also be referred to as a “helmer.”

A Cinematographer’s Terminology

High angle shot.

A high angle shot is where the scene or subject is filmed from above. The camera looks down upon the action, making the subject appear small or vulnerable. It is the opposite of a low angle shot .

High Definition

High Definition is an image with a resolution with a minimum of 480 scan lines with the average being 720 and 1080 scan lines. 

Blocking Film Term

Hitting a mark.

Hitting a mark is for actors moving to the correct position during rehearsals and while the camera rolls. Sometimes, a mark will be set with a physical piece of crossed tape on the floor to help the actor stand in the right spot.

A HMI is a powerful hard light that can be used in place of sunlight.

Movie Analysis Dictionary

A h omage  is a respectful tribute to something or someone. In film, this generally occurs when one movie is referenced in a different film. Many Star Wars   films pay homage to classic samurai movies.

Movie genres

Horror  is a genre of storytelling intended to scare, shock, and thrill its audience. Horror can be interpreted in many different ways, but there is often a central villain, monster, or threat that is often a reflection of the fears being experienced by society at the time. 

Movie Terms and Definitions

A hybrid  is a movie that combines elements of two distinct genre types. As a result, it can’t be defined by a single genre. Little Shop of Horrors is a hybrid of a horror film and a musical.

Film Icon Terms


Iconography is the use of a famous icon or symbol. It is designed to analyze the themes and various styles present within a given film. The rose in Beauty and the Beast has become an icon.

Movie Production Glossary

IMAX   is a large-screen film format roughly 10 times larger than the traditional cinema format (35mm). It debuted in 1970, and initially, it was used to showcase nature films or short documentaries. It produces amazing high-definition sharpness on movies projected onto screens eight-stories high.

Glossary of Film Editing Terms

In-camera editing.

In-camera editing is used for filming in the precise order needed for the final product. It eliminates much of the need for post-production editing. It is a quick, but unprofessional, way to create a film, often used by amateur filmmakers or students.

Film Slang Terms

Ink is a word used when people sign a contract to work on a film. It is often phrased as “[Actor] inked a deal to star in [film].”

Good Editing Terms

Insert shot.

An insert shot is a shot occurring in the middle of a larger shot, typically a close-up of another object or some otherwise minor detail. It draws the audience’s attention to the item, providing more information. It is filmed at a different focal length or angle from the rest of the scene.

Dictionary of Screenwriting Basics

Inside joke.

An i nside joke is an obscure, generally show business-related joke, that is only understood by few in the audience. You have to understand the reference to get. For example, the great white shark in Finding Nemo is named Bruce, the name of the mechanical shark used for Jaws.

Beneficial Film Terminology

Intercut shots.

An intercut shot is a series of shots containing two simultaneous events. They alternate together to build suspense. It is often used to portray two individuals involved in a phone conversation.

List of Movie Terms

An i nterlude  is a short, intervening film sequence or scene that appears in a movie. It does not necessarily have to be tied to the plot.

The Essential Film Words Dictionary


An i ntermission  is a break in the middle of a movie. They provide a chance for the audience to use the restrooms or get more snacks. They are not as common today but still happen every so often, like in The Hateful Eight .

A Student’s Basic Film Vocabulary

A jump cut is an abrupt transitional device that breaks up a continuous shot. When the shot returns, time has jumped between the two scenes. This can be done to create an artistic effect showcasing discontinuity.

Filming Definitions and Terms


Juxtaposition in film, it is the contiguous positions of two scenes, objects, characters, or images in a sequence to contrast and compare them. It can also establish a relationship between two disparate ideas.

Movie Industry Dictionary

A k ey light is the primary light on a subject. It is generally off-center and angeled. It is designed to selectively illuminate prominent features on the subject to create shadows or depth. It is the main source of light in a 3-point lighting setup.

A Kino Flo is a bank of fluorescent bulbs used for soft light.

Unique Filmmaking Terminology

A Klieglight is a powerful type of carbon-arc lamp that creates an intense light. It is sometimes used in filmmaking, but it can also be used for promotional purposes at movie premieres.

Movie History Lingo

Landmark film.

A l andmark film  is a movie deemed revolutionary. This can either be due to its artistic merits or its technological prowess. Jaws was a landmark film because it introduced the concept of the modern blockbuster.

Lap Dissolve

A l ap dissolve is a certain kind of transition between two scenes. The first scene ends with a fade out while the beginning of the next scene comes onto screen through a fade in.

Movie Technology Jargon

A l avalier  is a small microphone that is clipped or taped to an actor to record dialogue. It is generally wireless and omnidirectional as well as small enough to not be seen in the shot.

An  L-cut is also known as a delayed edit, J-cut, or split edit. It is an edit used in digital films that refers to a transitional edit in which the video and audio do not begin simultaneously. The audio may begin before or after the picture is cut.

Expansion of Film Vocabulary

A Leitmotif is a recurring, intentionally-repeated theme or element in a movie. This motif can be a person, sound, action, or idea. It helps unify the film by reminding the audience of its earlier appearance.

  • What is a Motif in Film? →
  • How Jojo Rabbit Uses Motifs  →

Words Associated With Movie Cameras

A l ens   is an optical glass placed in a camera through which light can pass through. The image is focused before it makes contact with the film stock. There are numerous types of lenses out there, including normal, telephoto, and wide-angle.

  • Cooke Cinema Lenses →
  • Carl Zeiss Cinema Lenses →
  • What is a Telephoto Lens? →

Vocabulary of Filmmaking


Letterboxing is the process of shrinking a film image so that it can appear on a television screen with black spaces below and above the image. This emulates the widescreen format typically used on older, box-shaped TV screens.

Cinematic Shot Word List

Library shot.

A l ibrary shot is a term used to describe a stock shot. It can also refer to a commonplace or unimaginative shot. A shot of the New York skyline would be a library shot for any movie set in New York.

Movie Scene Terms

Lighting is the illumination present within a scene. It also refers to the manipulation of said illumination by way of the cinematographer trying to alter shadows and brightness.

  • 3-Point Video Lighting →
  • The Best Video Lighting Kits  →

Occupational Movie Terms

Line producer.

A Line Producer is the movie producer who works on location. He or she is responsible for the budget of a given film shoot as well as the daily operations. The line producer manages the everyday aspects involving film expenses and all people on the crew.

line producer

  • What Does a Line Producer Do? →
  • Guide to Duties of a Line Producer →
  • Producer vs Director: Who Does What →

Post-Production Terminology

Lip sync in film is the process of synchronizing the movement of the mouth with the words on the soundtrack.

Hollywood Lingo

A l ocation  is the places or properties used to film. A location can either be exterior or interior, and it can take place in a real location or on a studio lot. Interiors are abbreviated as “Int.” while exteriors are abbreviated as “Ext.”

  • How to Secure Locations  →
  • Location Scouting Checklist  →
  • Essential Location Scouting Tips  →

Movie Sound Words

Location sound.

Location sound is also referred to as a buzz track. It refers to the recording of background sound while the crew is on location. Acquiring ambient noises helps improve the movie’s sense of realism.

Film Marketing Ideas

A logline  in a 1-2 sentence summary of the movie that focuses on the main character, the conflict and an emotional hook. Writing a logline is more difficult than it seems.

Video Cinematography Dictionary

A l ong shot is a camera view of a character or object from a vast distance away. This makes the subject appear small in the frame. You can also have a medium or extreme long shot.

Film Dialogue Lingo

Looping  is the process in which an actor re-records dialogue during post-production. This helps match the dialogue with the actor’s lip movements on screen. It is also known as Automated Dialogue Replacement (or ADR ).

Learn Cinematography Terms

Low angle shot.

A low angle shot is when the subject is filmed from below. The camera tilts up to capture the character or action, making the subject seem larger than life or more formidable.

Slang in the Movies

Magic Hour is the optimal time of day for filming magical or romantic scenes with the soft and warm lighting conditions naturally present. Also known as Golden Hour , it is characterized by golden-orange hues and soft shadows, which takes place 30 minutes around sunset and 30 minutes around sunrise. It is one of many different lighting techniques .

Terms in Films

A m ask  is the act of blocking out or covering up part of the camera frame with darkness or opaqueness. Most masks will be black. A mask would be necessary when portraying a character looking through binoculars.

Film Director’s Vocabulary

Master shot.

A m aster shot   is a long take or continuous shot that shows the setting or main action of a whole scene. Many scenes will have one or two master shots with the rest of the scene comprised of smaller, tighter angles.

A Film Editor’s Vocabulary

A   match cut   is a transitional technique for cutting between two unrelated shots that are deliberately linked or matched by a physical, aural, visual, or metaphorical parallelism.

Progressive Film Terminology

A   matte shot is the process of optically combining or compositing separate shots into one print. This is achieved through double exposure that masks off part of the frame area for one exposure and the opposite area for the other.

Hitchcockian Film Terms

A MacGuffin is a movie term coined by Alfred Hitchcock for a plot element or device that drives the action or logic of the plot. It is extremely important for the characters, but it is often ignored once it serves its purpose. The sled in Citizen Kane is a MacGuffin.

Main Glossary of Film Terms

Medium shot.

A medium shot is a conventional camera shot filmed from a medium-length distance. It typically captures the actor from the waist up, while a medium close-up is from the chest up. It’s abbreviated as “m.s.”

Dramatic Film Glossary

A Melodrama  is a film with an expressive plot where the characters have intensely strong emotions. It was originally a drama accompanied by music and typically contains elements of hardship, illness, and pathos.

screenwriting Film Glossary

A  metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or an analogy between them.

In-Depth Acting Terms

Method acting.

Method acting is an acting style designed by Konstantine Stanislavsky in the early 1900s. It refers to actors who draw on personal emotions and experiences to create a more realistic performance. Daniel Day-Lewis often utilizes method acting to create more realistic performances.

A  miniature  is a small-scale model photographed in a certain way to give off the illusion they are larger than what they actually are. This specific shot is known as a miniature shot.

Innovative Movie Phrases


Mise-en-Scène is a French phrase for “putting into the scene or shot.” It refers to the sum total of all elements that exist within the frame. It relates to the complete artistic feel and look of the shot, including the visual composition and arrangement.

mise en scene

  • How Kubrick Uses Color in Mise en scene →
  • Mise-en-Scène in Amazon’s The Boys  →
  • How Wes Anderson Uses Mise-en-Scène →

Mixing  is a process of combining different sounds, music, dialogue, and sound effects from all sources into a movie’s master soundtrack. This is part of the post-production process. The soundtrack is ultimately blended together by a mixer.

  • Sound Editing vs Sound Mixing →
  • Best Sound Mixing - Oscar Winners Ranked  →

Film Parody Terms


A m ockumentary  is a fictional movie that has the style of a documentary but with irreverent humor that’s designed to mock the subject if features. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping   is a mockumentary of self-serious pop star documentaries.

Good Film Slang to Know

A m oney shot is   any climactic moment, revelation, or image that gives the audience “their money’s worth” even if it cost more money to create.

Editing Film Terms

A m ontage  is a French term meaning “assembling shots” or “putting together.” It’s a film technique for putting together a series of short shots that create a composite picture. The montage in Rocky of the titular character shows us how hard he’s worked to compete in the final match. For screenwriters, there are a few approaches to writing a montage .

Film Words Connecting Together

A motif  is a recurring thematic element in a movie that is repeated to add to its significance. A motif can be a symbol, word, object, or line in a film that relates to the movie as a whole.

Film Organization Glossary

MPAA is an acronym meaning “Motion Picture Association of America.” It is an organization that represents the interests of the primary motion picture studios including film ratings.

good film terms to know

Mumblecore is an independent film movement that originated in the early 2000s. It’s often characterized by naturalistic acting that’s occasionally improvised. The plots generally focus on a group of people in their 20s or 30s dealing with terrible jobs or bad relationships. 

Glossary of Film Techniques

Narration is telling of a story by providing supplemental information given to the audience by a voice offscreen. The narrator can either be a character in the movie or an omniscient presence.

Artistic Terminology

Naturalism is a film term signifying a hyper form of realism. With naturalism, life is depicted in an unbiased, stoic way. On the Waterfront is a naturalistic movie.

Film Philosophy Dictionary


Neo-Realism is an innovative movement in the late 1940s and '50s that has roots in Italy. It refers to movies made outside the studio system. They are shot on real locations, sometimes feature no professional actors, and often do not require a script.


  • What is French New Wave? →
  • What is Italian Neo-Realism? →
  • Cinéma Vérité — Style That Keeps It Real →

College Film Studies

New Wave originally referred to a collective of non-traditional, innovative French filmmakers, such as Alain Resnais , Eric Rohmer , and Jean-Luc Godard . They espoused principles of auteur theory . French New Wave movies are characterized by non-linear storytelling, improvised direction, and jump cuts.

era of filmmaking

New hollywood.

New Hollywood is a film movement that took place in the United States from roughly 1967-1976. The movement was lead by a group of film students, such as George Lucas , Steven Spielberg , Martin Scorsese with a passion for filmmaking and the desire to challenge the stagnant status quo.

Movie Theater Terminology


A n ickelodeon  is a business that might be described as a "movie arcade." Patrons would pay a nickel to watch short films on individual machines like a Kinetoscope or a Mutoscope. 

Movie Reel Phrases

Nitrate film base.

Nitrate film base is a type of film base that was highly-flammable. It was comprised of cellulose nitrate and was commonly in use until the late 1940s. At that point, it was replaced with an acetate base.

Non-Traditional Movie Slang

A n ut  refers to the operating expenses associated with a movie. It is the exhibitor’s calculation of what it will take to lease a theater, run it, and staff it. It is also known as a house nut.

Actor’s Lingo

Off book refers to a performer who has completely learned his or her lines. At this point, there is no need for the performer to hold a script because everything has been memorized.

Filmmaking Concepts

Omniscient point of view.

Omniscient point of view is a  in which the narrator knows everything going on. The narrator understands all of the thoughts, feelings, and events transpiring between the characters.


  • What is Point of View ? →
  • What is Third Person Point of View? →
  • What is First Person Point of View ? →

A Camera Operator’s Glossary

180-degree rule.

The  180-Degree Rule is states that there is an imaginary line on a single side of the axis of action. The camera cannot cross this line or else it will create visual disorientation and discontinuity.

Glossary for Comedies

A o ne-liner is a term for a quick, one-line joke. Often in the best one-liners , punchlines will come instantaneously after a set-up. It can also refer to a few words used to describe the film’s premise.

Dictionary for Shooting a Movie


Overcranking is a technique when a camera’s frame rate exceeds 24 frames per second. As a result, the image on screen appears to be in slow-motion. This is a common technique for shooting miniatures.

Movie Effect Terminology


Overexposed is an adjective describing a shot that has more light than recommended, resulting in a washed-out, blinding effect. It is typically used for dream or flashback sequences.

Knowledge of Director Terms

Overhead shot.

An overhead shot is when the camera is placed over the actors. It tends to be set at about a 90-degree angle from where the performers are located. It is also known as a bird’s eye view shot.

Techniques for Filmmakers

Over-the-shoulder shot.

An over-the-shoulder shot is a medium camera angle commonly used in dialogue scenes. The camera records the action and dialogue from behind the actors’ shoulders. The two individuals are then linked to each other, and the audience understands their positions.

Traditional Film Terms

An o verture  is the opening credits or pre-credits in a film. This is often a musical selection that helps set up the theme and mood for the rest of the movie.

Movie Slang From Decades Ago

An o zoner  is a slang word for a drive-in movie theater. It can also be referred to as a hard-top or a passion pit.

Movie Jobs Lingo

A PA is an abbreviation for “production assistant.” This is a member of the film’s crew who is responsible for numerous aspects of the production. The duties of a PA can vary greatly depending on the size of the film’s budget, as does how much a PA can make .

A Film Dictionary for Everyone

Pace is the tempo or speed of the dramatic action in a movie. The pacing can be enhanced by the speed of the dialogue, the soundtrack, and the style of editing used.

Education in Movie Terms

A pan  is an abbreviation for a panorama shot, referring to the rotation, scan, or horizontal movement of the camera in one direction. In film criticism, pan means to express a negative opinion of a movie.

Television Terminology

Pan and scan.

Pan and Scan is a technique for avoiding letterboxing of a widescreen movie. Instead, it focuses on elements of the picture that are more relevant to the plot and adjusted accordingly. The picture will then mechanically pan to the side to show whatever is missing.


A  paradox is a statement, proposition, or situation that seems illogical, absurd or self-contradictory, but which, upon further scrutiny, may be logical or true — or at least contain an element of truth. 

Screenwriter’s Glossary


A p arenthetical  is a term for screenplay directions, shown in parentheses, to express how the actor should deliver his or her lines. A parenthetical may read (angrily) or (calmly) before the dialogue.


  • Formatting a Screenplay  →
  • How to Write a Movie Script →
  • How to Format a Script With Keyboard Shortcuts →

P ersistence of vision

Persistence of vision is the optical phenomenon where the illusion of motion is created because the brain interprets multiple still images as one. When multiple images appear in fast enough succession, the brain blends them into a single, persistent, moving image. 

Film Production Slang

A p ipeline  refers to a film project currently in the system that is under development. It is scheduled for a future release. Some synonyms include “in process,” “in the queue,” or “in the works.”

Film Framing References

Pixilation is a technique where the illusion of continuous movement in three-dimensional subjects, typically people, is broken up and made to look jerky or uneven. This is achieved by only printing selected frames from the continuously-exposed negative.

Shot Listing Term

P.o.v. shot.

A   P.O.V. shot is a shot taken from the perspective of one character to show what the scene would look like through his or her eyes. It is generally coupled with a reaction shot to establish the point of view.

Small Movie Details

Positive print.

A p ositive print is the opposite of a negative print. It refers to the original light image captured or printed on the film reel.

Movie Terms Popularized by Marvel

Post-credits sequence.

A p ost-credits sequence is an epilogue or throwaway scene that occurs during or after the end credits. It can help generate buzz for an additional scene. Iron Man   ends with a post-credits scene of Nick Fury informing Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative.

Film Theories

Postmodern is a description of all art that rebukes more modernist themes. Postmodern films work to subvert expectations of classic narratives and film structure.


Plato's allegory.

Plato’s "Allegory of the Cave" is a concept devised by the philosopher to ruminate on the nature of belief versus knowledge.

Film History Definitions

Pre-Code is the time period between 1930 and 1934 before the Hays Code was enforced in Hollywood. For 30 years afterward, promiscuity, adultery, and other themes were prohibited. However, pre-code films had no such restrictions.

Process of Filmmaking


Pre-Production is the planning stage of a production after a movie has been greenlighted. This occurs before principal photography begins. Pre-production usually involves script treatment, scheduling, casting, set design, and financial planning.


  • How to Plan a Movie Shoot →
  • The Pre-Production Process Explained →
  • 7 Pre-Production Hacks for a 2nd Assistant Director  →

An Entire Film Words Dictionary

A p requel  is a later film in a franchise that presents events and/or characters that are set chronologically before the time of the original movie. It is the opposite of a sequel.

Terms for Moviegoers

A p re-screening is showing of a movie before it is released to the public. Studios will often pre-screen movies so that they can receive feedback from audiences to know what to alter before it is officially released.

Phrases for Film Productions

Principal photography.

Principal photography is when the majority of a film is shot. These are the scenes that typically involves the lead actors. This is in contrast to second-unit photography or certain VFX shots needing to be completed. 

Movie Making Terms and Definitions

Principals is a way to describe the main characters in a movie. It is usually those who have dialogue. The principals are different from the protagonists and have greater roles than extras.

Occupations Related to the Film Industry

A Producer   is a chief of a film’s production. The producer is in charge of raising funds, acquiring a story, hiring key personnel, finalizing the script, and arranging for distribution. The producer often serves as the liaison between the filmmakers and the financiers.

  • What Does a TV Producer Do? →
  • What Does a Co-Producer Do? →
  • What is an Associate Producer? →

Director Jargon

Production design.

Production Design is a term for a movie’s overall visual look and design. The production designer has the job of creating all of this with the help of the art department.

production design

  • Production Design Tips  →
  • What Does a Production Designer Do?  →
  • Masterclass: Production Design Techniques  →

Must-Know Film Production Lingo

Production value.

Production Value refers to the overall quality of a movie. This value is based on criteria like set design and costumes. It is not based on criteria like the directing, acting, and the script.

Movie Composition Terminology

A p rologue  is typically a brief scene, preface, or speech preceding the main plot of the movie. It often provides information that will help the audience better understand the plot and is the opposite of an epilogue.


A  protagonist   is a character who pushes a story forward. He or she is also the central force of the story. 

Better Understand Film Cameras

A p ull back is a camera shot where the camera physically moves away from the subject. It helps provide the full context of the scene. It is the opposite of a push in.

Movie Camera Experts

A p ush in is a camera shot where the camera physically moves toward the subject. It provides a closer look to see more details. It is the opposite of a pull back.

On-Screen Film Terms

Racking focus.

Racking focus is an in-camera technique that moves between focal planes in a sequence. The focus may change from an object in the background to one in the foreground or vice versa.

Student’s Guide to Making Movies

Reaction shot.

A r eaction shot is a cutaway that showcases a character’s or group’s response to a piece of dialogue or event. It is often accompanied by a P.O.V. shot in a sequence known as shot-reverse shot . 

Expert Movie Terms

Real time is when the timespan of a plot equals the running time of the film. This is in contrast to filmic time where time can be slowed down or sped up depending on the needs of the plot.

Student’s Movie Dictionary Terms

Realism is a style of filmmaking that aims to present the film as realistically as possible. Realism is further attained through deep focus shots and long, uninterrupted takes. It is in contrast to Expressionism. See also: Cinéma Vérité .

Special Effects Terms

Rear screen projection.

Rear screen projection is a photographic technique in which a live action scene is filmed in front of a transparent screen where a background is added later. It was commonly used to portray actors driving in a car.

Producer’s Glossary

A redlight is a film project that had previously been greenlighted but has now been cancelled, either temporarily or permanently. It is also known as a film in turnaround .

A r eel  is the metal or plastic spool for winding film. Older movies would be measured in reels since one reel would equal about 10 minutes of running time. More contemporary connotations refer to reels as highlights of an actor or director's work used to get more work.

cinematographer GLOSSARY

Rembrandt lighting.

Rembrandt lighting is a technique utilizing one light and one reflector or two separate lights. It’s predominantly characterized by a lit-up triangle underneath the subject’s eye on the less illuminated area of the face (fill side).

Hollywood Movies Lingo

Reshoot contingency.

A r eshoot contingency refers to funds saved by the producer in case supplementary shoots, or reshoots, are necessary to complete a film. These reshoots often occur after test screenings or when studio executives offer their input.

Terminology for Cinematographers

Reverse angle shot.

A r everse angle shot is photographed from the reverse side of the subject to offer a varying perspective. It is often used in dialogue scenes and can be combined with an over-the-shoulder shot . 

Reverse Motion

Reverse motion is a camera trick created by running the film backwards within the camera or in the middle of optical printing. It is also known as reverse action.

Theatrical Terms

Revival house.

A Revival House is an exhibition or film theaters that dedicate themselves to showing a certain kind of film. This often includes older movies, foreign films, silent movies, classics, or rarely-seen gems.

Film Crew Dictionary

A Rigger is one of the production workers on a film set who hangs, sets up, and focuses all of the lighting equipment. It is also the rigger’s job to construct the scaffolding.

Old Movie Making Terms

A roadshow is an exploitation film that contained controversial content but were often disguised as educational, medical films. They would be heavily promoted and shown on the road around the United States. They had to leave quickly to elude authorities.

Animation Cinema Lingo


Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which live-action footage is traced frame by frame by animators. This can be done either automatically or manually. A Scanner Darkly was filmed using rotoscoping technology.

Film Editing Slang

A r ough cut is a term used for the early edited cut of a film. All of the main pieces have been assembled in sequential order, but it may not contain all of the finer details, such as finished CGI. Rough cuts are often used during focus group screenings.

Words Related to the Movie Industry

A r ush  is a print of the camera footage from one day’s worth of shooting. It is typically shown without any editing or correction. The director will look through it before shooting for the next day.

Key Motion Picture Terms

A   Satire  is a ridiculing, mocking film that targets social, religious, political, or economic institutions. Tropic Thunder   is a satire of Hollywood and overly-serious actors.

  • What is Sarcasm?  →
  • Various Types of Comedy  →

Movie Music Terms

A s core  is the musical portion of a film’s soundtrack. This is often music created specifically for the movie by a composer. It consists of background music as well as orchestral pieces.

  • Mastering the Film Score: John Williams →

Mastering the Film Dictionary

Screen (single, double).

A screen is a mesh on a metal frame used to cut the intensity of light without blocking it out.

Screen Direction

Screen direction is the direction that characters and objects move in the scene. Some common screen directions can include “camera right” or “camera left.” A jump cut can also be a form of screen direction.

Screen Test

A screen test is filmed during Pre-Production to test various elements, from costumes and make-up and practical effects to auditioning actors. 

screen test

  • The Ultimate Guide to Auditions  →
  • A Step-by-Step Guide for Holding Auditions  →

Film Industry Jargon

A screener is a physical copy of a film sent to film critics and awards voters. The movie studios send these out as a convenience during awards season.

Script Terms

A s creenplay  is the script for a movie production written by a screenwriter. The screenplay contains all of the dialogue, character movements, and essential actions.

  • Best Charlie Kaufman Screenplays  →
  • Academy Rules for Adapted Screenplays →
  • Mastering the Screenplay: Writing Exposition  →

Terms for Film Jobs


A Screenwriter is the individual who creates a movie’s screenplay. A "scripter" can either create an original screenplay or adapt another's work, such as a book or news article, into a film.


  • Best Screenwriting Apps →
  • Inciting Incident Examples  →
  • Best Script Writing Software  →

Blockbuster Movie Terms

Second unit photography.

Second unit photography is the unit responsible for filming less important scenes, such as foreign location backgrounds or large crowd scenes. This unit is essential for larger film productions where the main crew cannot be available. It is helmed by a second-unit director and a subordinate crew.

Film Textures

Sepia Tone is an image that was originally black and white but has been converted into a sepia tone, which is a dark olive brown. This is used to increase the dramatic effect or create an “antique” aesthetic.

Film Terms Everyone Should Know

A s equel  is a movie that continues the events, characters, and settings from a previously made film. It is in contrast to a prequel. The Dark Knight   is a sequel to Batman Begins .

Basic Film Lexicon

Setting is the time and place in which the movie’s story occurs. This includes the landscape, social structures, climate, moral attitudes, customs, and codes of behavior.

screenwriter's lexicon

A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things using the words “like” or “as.” 

Dictionary of Film Studies

Shot, scene, and sequence.

Shot, Scene, and Sequence are concepts that make up the dramatic narrative of a film. Scenes are made up of shots while sequences are made up of scenes. Films are comprised of entire sequences.

Terms for Film Crews

A s hot list is a list provided to the film crew often the day before shooting. It describes all of the shots the director wants to get that day.

  • How to Make a Shot List  →
  • The Only Shot List Template You Need  →
  • Mastering the Shot List: Christopher Nolan →

people on set

A  showrunner  is the individual who has primary creative control and management of a TV show. They aren’t always necessarily the creator of the show, but they’re almost always a writer. 


Shepard tone.

The Shepard Tone is an audio illusion that creates the feeling of consistent, never-ending rising/falling.

Film Terms for Cameras

Shutter speed.

Shutter Speed is the length of time in which a single frame of film is exposed. A traditional shutter angle is 180 degrees while the film itself is exposed for 1/48 second at 24 frames.

Rudimentary Film Vocabulary

A s kip frame is an optical printing effect of cutting out or skipping specific frames of an original scene. 

Dictionary of Film Terms

A s late   is the digital board held in front of the camera that identifies the camera person, director, shot number, and title. There is also the take number, and the slate operator will say “mark” before clapping. This is for sound sync purposes.

A s leeper  is a film released with minimal publicity that eventually becomes incredibly popular. It grows to become a financial success, usually thanks to positive buzz.

Good Videography Terminology

Slow motion.

Slow Motion is running film through a camera at a faster than typical rate. It is then projected at a standard speed, making the playback appear slower than in actuality.

Movie Awards Terms

A s nub  is a term that comes up during awards season when a prominent movie, crew, actor, or director is inexplicably excluded for nominations. People will say a movie was “snubbed” by the Academy.

Glossary for Film Techniques

Soft focus is an effect cinematographers use when applying vaseline or a filter over the camera lens to reduce sharpness. It will blur the image, creating a hazy light. This effect can also be attained by merely shooting out of focus, and it tends to be used for dreamy or romantic scenes.

The Fundamentals of Movie Terminology

Sound is the audio component of a movie. Sound includes dialogue, sound effects, and music. Sound effects refer to all of the sounds created for a movie excluding music and dialogue.

  • What is Diegetic Sound? →
  • Sound Editing vs Sound Mixing  →
  • Sound Recording Basics for Video Production  →

Movie Set Terminology Dating Back Decades

A so undstage  is a huge, soundproof room used for movie productions. Elaborate sets can be constructed, allowing filmmakers more control over sound, lighting, and climate.

Audial Movie Terminology

A s oundtrack  is the audio portion of a film. Technically, it refers to the dialogue, sound effects, and musical score that accompanies a film. However, in popular circles, it refers to an assortment of songs heard through the film, which is then sold as an album.

Film Vocabulary for Genres

Spaghetti western.

A Spaghetti Western is a low-budget Western that technically classified as a B-movie. Spaghetti westerns were generally filmed in Spain or Italy during the 1960s and they were often characterized by sparse dialogue and low production values.

Movie Terminology for Those Who Want to Break In

Spec script.

A spec script is a non-commissioned or unsolicited screenplay sent to a studio by a screenwriter in hopes of landing a paid gig. There is also the hope the spec script itself will be purchased or optioned.

Basic Film Terms Everyone Knows

Special effects.

Special Effects is a broad term for fantastical audio and visual illusions that could not have been filmed by normal means. Special effects include in-camera effects, miniatures, CGI, rear-camera projections, and stop motion animation. Visual effects are a subcategory of special effects.

special effects

  • How to Use a Green Screen  →
  • What is Stop Motion Animation?  →
  • Inception Special Effects: Explosion Animation  →

Keyword here...

A s pin-off is a derivative work of another film that can either be a sequel or prequel. It includes characters from a previous property but takes them in a different direction than a straightforward sequel would do. Alien vs. Predator   is a spin-off of both Alien and Predator .

Silent Era Film Lingo

A s plit-reel are two different short-subject movies that would be put together for showings in the silent era. They were both too brief for separate screenings, so they would be joined together onto a single reel for exhibition.

Terms From Motion Pictures


Split-screen is the act of combining two actions filmed independently and then copying them into a single frame, so they appear to have taken place side-by-side. It is also known as a multiple image.

A Dictionary of Moviegoing Terms

A s poiler  is any information about plot details or a film’s ending that could hinder one’s enjoyment of watching the film if it is known ahead of time. Many critics will warn readers with spoiler alerts, so they know to stop reading.

Film Dictionary

Static shot.

A static sho t is any shot where the camera remains completely stationary. This is generally achieved through the use of a tripod to ensure there is zero movement.

Innovative Cinema Terms

A Steadicam  is a hand-held camera developed in the late 1970s. It was created by Garrett Brown, and the operator uses a mechanical harness to take smooth, steady shots, even when the camera needs to move. This allows the operator to move along smoothly with the action.

Film Image Terms

A still  is a single, immobile image. It can either be a frame still from a completed movie or a production image taken from an unfinished work. It can also be a publicity shot used to advertise the fact that a certain actor will be in the movie.

Film Industry Lingo

A stinger  is a last-minute, often surprising, piece of footage or dialogue that appears at the very end of the closing credits. Ferris Bueller breaks the fourth wall at the very end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off .

A stinger is an extension cord.

Stock Footage

Stock footage is a previously-recorded footage of common elements, such as shots of deserts or travelogue shots. It can also include footage of historical events that have been archived.

stock footage

  • Best Stock Footage Websites  →
  • Stock Photo Sites for Creative Ads →
  • How Stock Video Footage Can Save the Day  →

Animated Movie Terms

Stop motion.

Stop motion is an animation technique using solid 3D models, figures, or puppets appear to move. One frame is shot at a time while the models are repositioned, giving the illusion of natural motion. The best stop motion movies are able to achieve incredible levels of realism.

Film Set Terminology

A storyboard  is a sequential series of rough sketches or stills showing what will happen in the movie. It captures what the camera lens will film so that the filmmakers can outline the various shots needed. The storyboard provides a rough synopsis of what will take place.

  • Best Storyboard Software →
  • Storyboard Examples From Movies →
  • How to Make a Storyboard for Video and Film →

Storytelling Terms

A s ubplot  is a secondary or auxiliary plot that typically complements the main plot. The main storyline is known as the A story while the subplot is referred to as the B story. 

Cinematic Meanings

Subtext is the deeper meanings of a character’s actions or spoken lines. Subtext encourages the audience to read between the lines to discern the true meaning of a film.

Vocabulary for Filmmakers

Subtitles   are   the printed lines of text displayed at the bottom of the frame. Subtitles can be used to translate a phrase in a foreign language or to describe a place and time.

List of Film Jargon


A  superimposition  is an optical printing process that exposes one image directly on top of another on the same strip of filmstock. In Vertigo ,  Scottie’s face is superimposed on a drawing.

Film Auteur Lingo

Surrealism   is an art movement that prioritizes images and narratives born from the subconscious. These works often present a fantastic, distorted, or nightmarish dream state. David Lynch is famous for his surreal films.

Filmmaking Glossary

A swish pan is a camera rotation on the x-axis that moves so quickly it creates an intentionally disorienting effect. It can be done on a dolly, gimbal, or tripod. It is also known as a whip pan.

Composition Terms

Symmetry is when two halves of an image (or a story) that distinctly mirror each other. Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson utilize highly-symmetrical frames in their work.

screenwriting terms

Symbolism is the art of imbuing objects/things with meaning, making them represent something more than the sum of its parts. 

Movie Marketing Lingo

A tagline   is a short sentence or clever phrase that memorably summarizes the film to a general audience. It’s supposed to tease what the film will be about. In Alien , the tagline is “In space, no one can hear you scream” is one of the best taglines ever .

Cinematic Vocabulary

A t ake   is a single shot of a scene that is continuously recorded. Generally, a director will film several takes of the same shot. Once the director is happy with the shot, the crew moves onto the next set-up.

Jargon for Film Processes


Technicolor is the best-known color film process. These films were described as being high saturated with vivid colors and a three-color dye transfer system. It is also known as three-strip color.

Camera Lens Dictionary

Telephoto lens.

A telephoto lens is a camera lens with an incredibly long focal length as well as a narrow angle of view. The purpose of this lens is to condense and compress depth within a space. It brings faraway objects closer to the viewer without actually having to move the camera.


A  theme  is the inferred stance taken on the central topic or message of a story.

Basic Film Understanding

A t hree shot is a shot consisting of three individuals in the frame. This is in contrast to a "single" or " two shot ."

Director’s Playbook

Tight on is a cinematographic term that relates to a close-up shot of the subject. A director will often say “tight on” when he or she wants an extreme close-up or tight framing on the subject.

Cinematographer’s Cheat Sheet

A tilt shot is when a camera tilts down or up along a vertical axis. It is often used to suggest a sense of imbalance or to emphasize a character’s menace or power.

Filmmaking Methodology

Time lapse is a technique where frames are shot much slower than a normal rate (e.g., 24 frames per minute instead of per second). This allows the action to progress much faster than in reality. This is typical for nature documentaries to capture clouds moving or plants growing.

Film Colors 101

A t int  is a use of color to make film stock appear in a different shading to attain a desired mood. The method behind this is generally done by hand, and it was often used in black and white movies before the widespread use of filming in color.

A Useful Film Techniques Glossary

Tracking shot.

A tracking shot is where the camera moves alongside the subject throughout a space. The camera is usually mounted on a dolly track, and it is best for side-to-side motions. It is also known as a follow shot.

Film Proposal Terms

A treatment  is a detailed summary of a movie’s story, including each major scene. It is written in prose form, and it is generally necessary when pitching a film to a studio. 

  • How to Write a Film Treatment →
  • How to Break Down a Music Video Treatment  →

Standard Filmmaking Terminology

24 frames per second.

24 frames per second (fps) is the standard frame rate for movies shot on film. It refers to the number of frames projected onto the screen per second. Most modern films come in at 24 frames per second, but in the past, they would be projected 16 or 18 fps.

A Film Director’s Lexicon

A two shot is a close-up or medium shot of two people, who are typically talking to one another. The two actors are often framed from the chest up, and this is meant to create a contrast between the two characters. 

Old Film Terminology

A U-matic is a ¾-inch magnetic tape, which would originally be found on a professional cassette tape format. In recent years, it has been supplanted to new digital formats. It was a competing yet inferior tape format to both beta and VHS.

Keywords for Your Film Studies


Undercranking is the process of slowing down a camera’s frame rate. This is achieved by shooting at a slower speed than the usual 24 frames per second. This results in the captured images appearing in fast motion.

Glossary of Director Lingo


Underexposure  is when an image is photographed with less light than what would be considered proper exposure. This results in a dimly-lit, indistinct image that lacks contrast and is the opposite of an overexposed shot.


A union is an organization that represents the best interests of a certain segment of professionals in the motion picture industry. There are unions for writers, actors, directors, and others to help those workers negotiate contracts, pursue rights, and receive recognition. Therefore, there are rules and regulations when working with unions .

scriptwriter's Dictionary

Unreliable narrator.

An unreliable narrator is a character whose perspective we follow in the story but lacks a certain degree of credibility. These narrators may simply lack all the information necessary to adequately translate the story to the audience, or they have a clear bias.

Film Editing Definitions

Vertigo effect.

The  Vertigo Effect is a camera technique achieved by tracking backwards while simultaneously zooming toward the subject, or vice versa. This keeps the subject at the center of the image while the surroundings stretch or contract behind them. Also known as a dolly zoom , this effect was named after Hitchcock 's prominent use in Vertigo .

Movie Making Parlance

A v ignette  is a scene in a movie that can stand on its own. For example, the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally is often viewed and referenced on its own, separated from the rest of the film.

Dictionary For the Film Industry

Visual effects.

Visual Effects is anything added to a movie that was not in the original shot under the subcategory of special effects. They can either be achieved through CGI or through special techniques, such as rear projection and double exposures.

visual effects

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Essential Film Terms

Voice-Over is recorded dialogue that comes from off-screen or is unseen in the frame. It is often done to convey a character’s thoughts or from a narrato. In a script, a voice-over is abbreviated as “V.O.”

A w alk-on is a role consisting of a brief appearance on the screen. It is typically done without any dialogue or credit. It differs slightly from extras, who may be on screen for an extended period of time.

Good Film Slang to Learn


A walk-through is the first rehearsal done on a film’s set. It is necessary for the director to figure out camera positioning, sound, and lighting. This is done before the cameras start to roll.

Filmmaking Vocabulary

Wardrobe is the general term used to talk about the costume department. It can also refer to an individual costume and all of the accessories associated with it.

List of Film Terms

White balance.

White balance is a camera setting that establishes the true color of white. This produces a baseline from which all other colors are measured. White may not appear “white” under all lighting conditions, so this helps correct it.

Your Cinematography Terminology PDF

Wide angle shot.

A wide angle shot is taken with a lens capable of capturing a wider field of view than a regular lens. It exaggerates the disparity, depth, and distance between the background and foreground. All objects are kept in focus and within perspective.

Widescreen is a rectangular aspect ratio, wider than the standard 1:33:1 used before the 1950s. After that time, widescreen processes such as VistaVision and CinemaScope came into the mainstream and became the industry standard.

Film Terms for Editors

A w ipe  is an optical effect or transitional technique where one shot seems to be “wiped off” the screen by another shot that replaces it. It is also known as a flip-over or push-over. 

A w rap  is the completion of shooting either for the entire production or at the end of a single day. Decades ago, cameramen would say, “Wind, Reel, and Print, which would later become abbreviated as “WRAP.”

A Z-movie is an independently-made, low-budgeted, and often non-union movie with first-time directors and actors. They are generally made quickly and designed to look amateurish. They have a campy appeal and often contain exploitative subject matter, such as cheap horror flicks that are even worse than B-movies.

List of Film Analysis Terms

A zoom shot is a camera shot taken with a lens with a variable focal length. This allows the cinematographer to alter the visual distance between the camera and the subject without physically moving the camera. This moves from a wide-angle shot to a telephoto one in a single, seamless motion.

End of the Basic Glossary of Film Terms

Zoptic special effects.

Zoptic special effects is a revolutionary 3D process that was invented by Zoran Perisic. It incorporated the camera system with the projector containing synchronized zoom lenses. This created the illusion of depth movement.

Cinematography and Film Terms

Film vocabulary is expansive. Fortunately, you can return to this list any time you need a refresher or before you head back to a film set. You should also make sure to check out our glossary devoted solely to cinematography terms that really goes into depth about some key terms every filmmaker should know.

Up Next: Cinematography Terms →

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The Language of film analysis 

Film Art 101

An introduction to the aesthetics of film, film analysis: basic terms, basic terms.

French for “author”. Used by critics writing for Cahiers du cinema and other journals to indicate the figure, usually the director, who stamped a film with his/her own “personality”. Opposed to “metteurs en scene” who merely transcribed a work achieved in another medium into film. The concept allowed critics to evaluate highly works of American genre cinema that were otherwise dismissed in favor of the developing European art cinema.

movie analysis terms

Director Abbas Kiarostami appearing as himself in the last scene of Taste of Cherry ( Ta’m e Guilass , Iran, 1997)

The diegesis includes objects, events, spaces and the characters that inhabit them, including things, actions, and attitudes not explicitly presented in the film but inferred by the audience. That audience constructs a diegetic world from the material presented in a narrative film. Some films make it impossible to construct a coherent diegetic world, for example Last Year at Marienbad ( L’année dernière à Marienbad , Alan Resnais, 1961) or even contain no diegesis at all but deal only with the formal properties of film, for instance Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963). The “diegetic world” of the documentary is usually taken to be simply the world, but some drama documentaries test that assumption such as Land Without Bread ( Las Hurdes , Luis Buñuel, 1932).

Different media have different forms of diegesis. Henry V (Lawrence Olivier, England, 1944) starts with a long crane shot across a detailed model landscape of 16th century London. Over the course of its narrative, the film shifts its diegetic register from the presentational form of the Elizabethan theater to the representational form of mainstream narrative cinema.

The joining together of clips of film into a single filmstrip. The cut is a simple edit but there are many other possible ways to transition from one shot to another. See the section on editing .

movie analysis terms

Picture: Yelizaveta Svilova at the editing table of Man with the Movie Camera ( Chelovek s kinoapparatom , Dziga Vertov USSR, 1929)


A jump backwards or forwards in diegetic time. With the use of flashback / flashforward the order of events in the plot no longer matches the order of events in the story. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) is a famous film composed almost entirely of flashbacks and flashforwards. The film timeline spans over 60 years, as it traces the life of Charles Foster Kane from his childhood to his deathbed — and on into the repercussions of his actions on the people around him. Some characters appear at several time periods in the film, usually being interviewed in the present and appearing in the past as they tell the reporter of their memories of Kane. Joseph Cotten, who plays Kane’s best friend, is shown here as an old man in a rest home (with the help of some heavy make-up) and as a young man working with Kane in his newspaper.

movie analysis terms

Focus refers to the degree to which light rays coming from any particular part of an object pass through the lens and reconverge at the same point on a frame of the film negative, creating sharp outlines and distinct textures that match the original object. This optical property of the cinema creates variations in  depth of field — through shallow focus , deep focus , and techniques such as racking focus . Dziga Vertov’s films celebrated the power of cinema to create a “communist decoding of reality”, most overtly in Man with the Movie Camera ( Chelovek s kinoapparatom , USSR, 1929).

movie analysis terms

Types of film recognized by audiences and/or producers, sometimes retrospectively. These types are distinguished by narrative or stylistic conventions, or merely by their discursive organization in influential criticism. Genres are made necessary by high volume industrial production, for example in the mainstream cinema of the U.S.A and Japan.

Thriller/Detective film: The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)

movie analysis terms

Horror film: Bride of Frankestein (John Whale, 1935)

Western: The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

movie analysis terms

Musical: Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen, 1952)


All the things that are “put in the scene”: the setting, the decor, the lighting, the costumes, the performance etc. Narrative films often manipulate the elements of mise-en-scene, such as decor , costume , and acting to intensify or undermine the ostensible significance of a particular scene.


Perhaps more correctly labelled fabula and syuzhet, story refers to all the audience infers about the events that occur in the diegesis on the basis of what they are shown by the plot — the events that are directly presented in the film. The order, duration, and setting of those events, as well as the relation between them, all constitute elements of the plot. Story is always more extensive than plot even in the most straightforward drama but certain genres, such as the film noir and the thriller, manipulate the relationship of story and plot for dramatic purposes. A film such as Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) forces its audience to continually reconstruct the story told in a temporally convoluted plot.


A scene is a segment of a narrative film that usually takes place in a single time and place, often with the same characters. Sometimes a single scene may contain two lines of action, occurring in different spaces or even different times, that are related by means of crosscutting . Scene and sequence can usually be used interchangeably, though the latter term can also refer to a longer segment of film that does not obey the spatial and temporal unities of a single scene. For example, a montage sequence that shows in a few shots a process that occurs over a period of time.

A single stream of images, uninterrupted by editing . The shot can use a static or a mobile framing , a standard or a non-standard frame rate , but it must be continuous. The shot is one of the basic units of cinema yet has always been subject to manipulation, for example stop-motion cinematography or superimposition . In contemporary cinema, with the use of computer graphics and sequences built-up from a series of still frames (eg. The Matrix ), the boundaries of the shot are increasingly being challenged.

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Film analysis – Technical terms

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movie analysis terms

Extreme long shot (ELS) / panoramic shot ( Panoramaeinstellung ): The camera is far away from the subject, emphasising the surroundings ( Umgebung ) e.g. a tiny group of riders in a vast landscape in a western.

Long shot (LS) ( Totale ): A human usually takes up less than half the height of the frame ( Bild ), often used to show the setting of a scene.

Medium shot (MS) [`mi:diEm] ( Halbnah ): The subject and the surroundings have about equal impor­tance. The picture shows e.g. the upper body of a person.

Close-up (CU) [`–] ( Großauf­nahme ): The subject fills most of the frame (e.g. the entire head) and little of the surroundings is shown. Close-ups are often used to show a character’s feelings. 

Extreme close-up (ECU) ( Detailauf­nahme ): For example only the eyes or a certain object (like a knife or a gun) are shown.

Establishing shot ( Anfangseinstellung ): Usually a long shot or an extreme long shot, which “estab­lishes”, i.e. shows the setting ( Schauplatz ) often at the beginning of a film.

POV shot (point-of-view) [pÂf] ( subjektive Kamera ): The camera adopts ( übernehmen ) the per­spective of a character. We see what a character sees and therefore often identify with him/her.

Reaction shot: Someone’s face reacting to an event, for example when a villain ( Bösewicht ) comes into a saloon. Before we see him we see the fearful expression on the faces of some of the guests.

Camera Positions

Aerial shot / Bird’s-eye view ( Vogelperspektive ): The camera looks down from a great height (often from a helicopter), frequently used in an establishing shot to give the viewer an overall impression of the setting.

High angle [`ÃNgl] shot ( Aufsicht ): The camera looks down at a character, making the character smaller e.g. to reduce his importance or convey loneliness.

Eye-level shot ( Normalsicht ): The camera is on the same level as the character.

Low angle shot ( Untersicht/Froschperspektive ) The camera looks up e.g. to emphasize a character’s importance and/or power. A director may use a low angle shot to show a scene from a child’s perspec­tive to convey fear and inferiority ( Unterlegenheit ).

Camera Movements

Panning shot ( Horizontalschwenk ): A horizontal movement of a stationary ( feststehend ) camera. It corresponds to the turning of our head from one side to the other, used e.g.  to present a pan oramic view of a wide landscape in a western.

Swish pan ( Reißschwenk ): A very fast panning shot which produces blurred images, often used to convey great speed.

Tilting shot ( Vertikalschwenk ): A vertical movement of a stationary camera, corresponding to moving our head up and down.

Mobile camera: There are different ways to move the camera. One way is to move a platform with the camera and its operator on tracks ( Schienen ).

Tracking / Traveling shot: A shot in which the camera moves from one point to another, either side­ways, in, or out.

Forward tracking shot ( Verfolgungsfahrt ): The camera follows a person from behind, e.g. during a chase.

Reverse tracking shot ( Rückwärtsverfolgung ): The camera moves backwards (= reverse), a character moves towards the camera, e.g. a man tries to escape and runs towards the viewer.

Parallel tracking shot ( Parallelverfolgung ): The camera moves parallel e.g. to a driving car or a group of riders.

Dolly ( Kamerawagen ): A platform on wheels used to move the camera and its operator around while filming.

Crane ( Kran ): Mechanical device to position the camera in the air or to move it above the ground; mostly used for high angle shots.

Hand-held camera: Sometimes used to produce a deliberately jerky [`dGã:kI] ( verwackelt ) picture, e.g. to convey emotional turmoil ( seelische Qualen ).

Zoom: A special lens ( Linse ) gives the camera the apparent power to vary its distance from any sub­ject. It creates the effect of smooth and fluid movement toward or away from the subject without actu­ally requiring any movement of the camera. You zoom in on a character or an object.

When a film is shot ( Film drehen ) the director ( Regisseur ) and the cinematographer / camera­man ( Kameramann ) must decide which of the actors and/or props ( Requisiten ) must later be sharp / in focus ( scharf ) and which blurred [blã:d] / out of focus ( un­scharf, ver­schwommen ). As the human eye is automatically drawn to the object which is in focus, the director may guide the viewer’s attention by focussing on ( scharf stellen ) e.g. a certain character or object.

Deep focus ( Tiefenschärfe ): The photographic technique of keeping the entire image, no matter how far from the camera, in sharp focus. This allows action to occur at the same time in the fore­ground ( Vordergrund ), middleground and background.

Shallow focus ( geringe Tiefenschärfe ): Only people or objects in the foreground are in focus, whereas the background is blurred; thus the importance e.g. of a dialogue can be visualized.

Soft focus ( Weichzeichner ): A special lens creates a “soft”, dream-like picture, which often conveys that a character remembers e.g. his wonderful youth.

The smallest structural unit of film is a shot ( Einstellung ). A group of several interrelated shots form a scene ( Szene ). A group of consecutive ( aufeinander folgend ) and interrelated scenes which form a narrative unit ( Einheit ) are called sequence ( Sequenz ).

Editing ( schneiden ) is the creative process of assem­bling ( zusammenfügen ) a meaningful film. The person who does this is called editor ( Cutter ).

Cut ( Schnitt ): The most common transition ( Übergang ) between shots, made by joining the end of one shot to the beginning of the following shot. 

Fade-in ( Aufblende ): An image that appears out of a black field. It is frequently used at the beginning of a film.

Fade-out ( Abblende ): A picture fades ( langsam verschwinden ) into black, used e.g. at the end of a film as a gradual exit from its world.

Dissolve ( Überblende ) also: lap dissolve:  A transition between shots in which one shot begins to fade out as the next shot fades in, over lap ping the first shot before replacing it.

Wipe ( Wischblende ): One shot is “pushed off” the screen by the next shot. The most common wipe is a vertical line, moving across the screen from one side to the other.

Cross-cutting: Alternating ( abwechseln ) between subjects or events occurring at the same time at different places; often used to create suspense. Example: Cross-cutting between a murderer threat­ening to kill his female victim and the detective coming to save her.

Visual Effects

Slow motion / slomo ( Zeitlupe ): Movements on the screen are slower than in real-life. Slow motion is used e.g. to increase the impact of a dramatic fight like in Matrix . The opposite is fast motion ( Zeitraffer ): Movements on the screen are faster than in reality, often used for comic effects.

Freeze frame ( Standbild ): An unmoving picture, that is used e.g. to create the impression that all action has suddenly stopped.

Morphing: Changing an image with the help of CGI (Computer Generated Image) software, e.g. robots changing into humans in the Terminator movies.


Subjective sound: “Unreal” sound, i.e. we hear something the way a character perceives ( wahr­nehmen ) something; for example normal steps may become very loud and threatening ( bedrohlich ) because a woman is alone in a house and afraid of a burglar ( Einbrecher ).

Voice-over [`-] ( Erzählerkommentar ): The voice of a narrator who speaks and comments on the story but is not shown.

Flashback  [`–] ( Rückblende ): A scene that interrupts the chronological order to show earlier events. Its opposite is a flashforward [-`–] ( Vorausschau ), a scene that breaks the chronological order to show events that happen in the future.

Homage [`hÂmIdG]: A tribute ( Würdigung, Hommage ) to a certain film or a film genre (e.g. westerns). The director re-creates certain shots/scenes or respectfully imitates certain aspects.

Parody ( Parodie ): An amusing imitation of a well-known genre ( Gattung ) or specific movie. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parody of horror movies.

Product placement : “Placing” (= showing) products in a film so that viewers notice them. A character drinks e.g. from a Coca-Cola can and emphasizes how good it tastes.

Critic ( Kritiker ): Somebody who publishes a review ( Besprechung, Kritik ) of a movie e.g. in a news­paper.

Sequel [`si:kwEl] ( Fortsetzung ): A film that shows a story that happens after the story of an earlier film. Its opposite is called prequel ,  a story that happened before (= “pre”) the story of an earlier film (cf. Star Wars )

Screenplay ( Drehbuch ): The earliest version of a script, written before filming begins. The shooting script is t he version of the script that is used during filming. The storyboard is a series of drawings of each shot of a planned film.

Credits ( Vor- und Nachspann ): A list of all the people who were involved in the making of a film.

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abstract Form: A type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to one another through repetition and variation of such visual qualities as shape, color, rhythm, and direction of movement.

academy ratio : The standardization shape of the film frame established by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the original ratio, the frame was 1 1/3 times as wide as it was high (1.33:1); later the width was normalized at 1.85 times the height (1.85:1).

aerial perspective : A cue for suggesting depth in the image by presenting objects in the distance less distinctly than those in the foreground.

anamorphic lens : A lens for making widescreen films using regular Academy ratio frame size. The camera lens takes in a wide field of view and squeezes it onto the frame, and a similar projector lens un-squeezes the image onto a wide theater screen.

angle of framing : The position of the frame in relation to the subject it shows: above it, looking down ( a high angle); horizontal, on the same level ( a straight-on-angle); below it, looking up (a low angle). Also called camera angle .

animation : any process whereby artificial movement is created by photographing a series of drawings (see also cel animation ), objects, or computer images one by one. Small changes in position, recorded frame by frame, create the illusion of movement.

aspect ratio : The relationship of the frame’s width to its height. The standard Academy ratio is currently 1.85:1.

associational form : A type of organization in which the film’s parts are juxtaposed to suggest similarities, contrasts, concepts, emotions, and expressive qualities.

asynchronous sound : Sound that is not matched temporally with the movements occurring in the image, as when dialogue is out of synchronization with lip movement.

auteur : The presumed or actual author of a film, usually identified as the director; also sometimes used in an evaluative sense to distinguish good filmmakers ( auteurs ) from bad ones.

axis of action : In the continuity editing system, the imaginary line that passes through the main actors or the principal movement. The axis of action defines the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left. The camera is not supposed to cross the axis at a cut and thus reverse those spatial relations. The axis of action is also called the 180º line. See also 180º system , screen direction .

backlighting : Illumination cast onto the figures in the scene from the side opposite the camera, usually creating a thin outline of high-lighting on those figures.

boom : A pole on which a microphone can be suspended above the scene being filmed and that is used to change the microphone’s position as the action shifts.

camera angle : See angle of framing .

canted framing : A view in which the frame is not level; either the right or left side is lower than the other, causing objects in the scene to appear slanted out of an upright position.

categorical form : A type of filmic organization in which the parts treat distinct subsets of a topic. For example, a film about the United States might be organized into 50 parts, each devoted to a state.

cel animation : Animation that uses a series of drawings on pieces of celluloid, called cels for short. Slight changes between the drawings combine to create an illusion of movement.

CGI : Computer-generated imagery: using digital software systems to create figures, settings, or other material in the frame.

cheat cut : In the continuity editing system, a cut that presents continuous time from shot to shot but that mismatches the positions of figures or objects.

cinematography : A general term for all the manipulations of the film strip by the camera in the shooting phase and by the laboratory in the developing phase.

close-up : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large; most commonly, a person’s head seen from the neck up, or an object of a comparable size that fills most of the screen.

closure : The degree to which the ending of a narrative film reveals the effects of all the casual events (or “close off”) all lines of action.

continuity editing : A system of cutting to maintain continuous and clear narrative action. Continuity editing relies on matching screen direction, position, and temporal relations from shot to shot. For specific techniques of continuity editing, see axis of action , crosscutting , cut-in , establishing shot , eye-line match , match on action , reestablishing shot , screen direction , shot/reverse shot .

contrast : In cinematography, the difference between the brightest and the darkest areas within the frame.

crane shot : A shot with a change in framing accomplished by placing the camera above the subject and moving through the air in any direction.

crosscutting : Editing the alternates shots of two or more lines of action occurring in different places, usually simultaneously.

cut : (1) In filmmaking, the joining of two strips together with a splice. (2) In the finished film, an instantaneous change from on framing to another. See also jump cut .

cut-in : An instantaneous shift from a distant framing to a closer view of some portion of the same space.

deep focus : A use of the camera lens and lighting that keeps objects in both close and distant planes in sharp focus.

deep space : An arrangement of mise-en-scene elements so that there is a considerable distance between the plane closest to the camera and the one farthest away. Any or all of these planes may be in focus. See also shallow space .

depth of field : The measurements of the closest and farthest planes in front of the camera lens between which everything will be sharp focus. A depth of field from 5 to 16 feet, for example, would mean everything closer than 5 feet and farther than 16 feet would be out of focus.

dialogue overlap : In editing a scene, arranging the cut so that a bit of dialogue coming from shot A is heard under a shot that shows another character or another element in the scene.

diegesis : In a narrative film, the world of the film’s story. The diegesis includes events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and spaces not shown onscreen. See also diegetic sound , non-diegetic insert , non-diegetic sound .

diegetic sound : Any voice, musical passage, or sound effect presented as originating from a source within the film’s world. See also non-diegetic sound .

digital intermediate : A strip of film is developed and scanned, frame by frame, to create a digital copy of sequence or a whole movie. The digital copy is manipulated with software. When finished, it is scanned frame by frame onto a strip of negative film, which will be used to make prints to send to theaters.

digital resolution : The detailed clarity of a digital image, typically measured by the number or density of pixels. The common professional image resolutions are measured at horizontal resolutions of 1280, 2K, and 4K.

direct sound : Music, noise, and speech recorded from the event at the moment of filming; opposite of post-synchronization .

discontinuity editing : Any alternative system of joining shots together using techniques unacceptable within continuity editing principles. Possibilities include mismatching of temporal and spatial relations, violations of the axis of action , and concentration on graphic relationships. See also elliptical editing , graphic match , intellectual montage , jump cut , non-diegetic insert , overlapping editing .

dissolve : A transition between two shots during which the first image gradually disappears while the second image gradually appears; for a moment, the two images blend in superimposition .

distance of framing : The apparent distance of the frame from the mise-en-scene elements; also called camera distance and shot scale. See also close-up , extreme close-up , extreme long shot , medium close-up , medium shot , plan américain .

distribution : One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of marketing the film and supplying copies to exhibition venues. See also exhibition , production .

dolly : A camera support with wheels, used in making tracking shots .

dubbing : The process of replacing part or all of the voices on the sound track in order to correct mistakes or rerecord dialogue. See also post-synchronization .

duration : In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the time span presented in the plot and assumed to operate in the story . See also frequency , order .

editing : (1) In filmmaking, the task of selecting and joining camera takes. (2) In the finished film, the set of techniques that governs the relations among shots.

ellipsis : In a narrative film, the shortening of plot duration achieved by omitting some story duration. See also elliptical editing , viewing time .

elliptical editing : Shot transitions that omit parts of an event, causing an ellipsis in plot duration.

establishing shot : A shot, usually involving a distant framing, that shows the spatial relations among the important figures, objects, and setting in a scene.

exhibition : One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of showing the finished film to audiences. See also distribution , production .

exposure : The adjustment of the camera mechanism in order to control how much light strikes each frame of film passing through the aperture.

external diegetic sound : Sound represented as coming from a physical source within the story space that we assume characters in the scene also hear. See also internal diegetic sound .

extreme close-up : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body.

extreme long shot : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a building, landscape, or crowd of people will fill the screen.

eye-line match : A cut obeying the axis of action principle, in which the first shot shows a person looking off in one direction and the second shows a nearby space containing what he or she sees. If the person looks left, the following shot should imply that the looker is offscreen right.

fade : (1) Fade-in : a dark screen that gradually brightens as a shot appears. (2) Fade-out : a shot that gradually disappears as the screen darkens. Occasionally, fade-outs brighten to pure white or to a color.

fill light : Illumination from a source less bright than the key light , used to soften deep shadows in a scene. See also three-point lighting .

film noir : "Dark film," a term applied by French critics to a type of American film, usually in the detective or thriller genres, with low-key lighting and a somber mood.

film stock : The strip of material on which a series of still photographs is registered; it consists of a clear base coated on one side with a light-sensitive emulsion.

filter : A piece of glass or gelatin placed in front of the camera or printer lens to alter the quality or quantity of light striking the film in the aperture.

flashback : An alteration of story order in which the plot moves back to show events that have taken place earlier than ones already shown.

flashforward : An alteration of story order in which the plot presentation moves forward to future events and then returns to the present.

focal length : The distance from the center of the lens to the point at which the light rays meet in sharp focus. The focal length determines the perspective relations of the space represented on the flat screen. See also normal lens , telephoto lens , wide-angle lens .

focus : The degree to which light rays coming from the same part of an object through different parts of the lens re-converge at the same point on the film frame, creating sharp outlines and distinct textures.

following shot : A shot with framing that shifts to keep a moving figure onscreen.

form : The overall system of relationships among the parts of a film.

frame : A single image on the strip of film. When a series of frames is projected onto a screen in quick succession, an illusion of movement is created.

frame rate : In shooting, the number of frames exposed per second; in projection, the number of frames thrown on the screen per second. If the two are the same, the speed of the action appears normal, whereas a disparity creates slow or fast motion. The standard rate in sound cinema is 24 frames per second (fps) for both shooting and projection, although some European films aiming at television broadcast are shot at 25 fps. In video, common frame rates are 23.98 fps, 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, and 60 fps.

framing : The use of the edges of the film frame to select and to compose what will be visible onscreen.

frequency : In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the number of times any story event is shown in the plot . See also duration , order .

front projection : A composite process whereby footage meant to appear as the background of a shot is projected from the front onto a screen; figures in the foreground are filmed in front of the screen as well. This is the opposite of rear projection .

frontal lighting : Illumination directed into the scene from a position near the camera.

frontality : In staging, the positioning of figures so that they face the viewer.

function : The role or effect of any element within the film's form.

gauge : The width of the film strip, measured in millimeters.

genres : Types of films that audiences and filmmakers recognize by their familiar narrative conventions. Common genres are musical, gangster, and science fiction films.

graphic match : Two successive shots joined so as to create a strong similarity of compositional elements (e.g., color, shape).

handheld camera : The use of the camera operator's body as a camera support, either holding it by hand or using a harness.

hard lighting : Illumination that creates sharp-edged shadows.

height of framing : The distance of the camera above the ground, regardless of the angle of framing .

high-key lighting : Illumination that creates comparatively little contrast between the light and dark areas of the shot. Shadows are fairly transparent and brightened by fill light .

ideology : A relatively coherent system of values, beliefs, or ideas shared by some social group and often taken for granted as natural or inherently true.

intellectual montage : The juxtaposition of a series of images to create an abstract idea not present in any one image.

internal diegetic sound : Sound represented as coming from the mind of a character within the story space. Although we and the character can hear it, we assume that the other characters cannot. See also external diegetic sound .

interpretation : The viewer's activity of analyzing the implicit and symptomatic meanings suggested in a film. See also meaning .

iris : A round, moving mask that can close down to end a scene (iris-out) or to emphasize a detail, or that can open to begin a scene (iris-in) or to reveal more space around a detail.

jump cut : An elliptical cut that appears to be an interruption of a single shot. Either the figures seem to change instantly against a constant background, or the background changes instantly while the figures remain constant. See also ellipsis .

key light : In the three-point lighting system, the brightest illumination coming into the scene. See also backlighting , fill light , three-point lighting .

lens : A shaped piece of transparent material (usually glass) with either or both sides curved to gather and focus light rays. Most camera and projector lenses place a series of lenses within a metal tube to form a compound lens.

linearity : In a narrative, the clear motivation of a series of causes and effects that progress without significant digressions, delays, or irrelevant actions.

long shot : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is small; a standing human figure would appear nearly the height of the screen.

long take : A shot that continues for an unusually lengthy time before the transition to the next shot.

low-key lighting : Illumination that creates strong contrast between light and dark areas of the shot, with deep shadows and little fill light .

mask : An opaque screen placed in the camera or printer that blocks part of the frame off and changes the shape of the photographed image, leaving part of the frame a solid color. As seen on the screen, most masks are black, although they can be white or colored.

masking : In exhibition, stretches of black fabric that frame the theater screen. Masking can be adjusted according to the aspect ratio of the film to be projected.

match on action : A continuity cut that splices two different views of the same action together at the same moment in the movement, making it seem to continue uninterrupted.

matte work : A type of process shot in which different areas of the image (usually actors and setting) are photographed separately and combined in laboratory work.

meaning : (1) Referential meaning: allusion to particular items of knowledge outside the film that the viewer is expected to recognize. (2) Explicit meaning: significance presented overtly, usually in language and often near the film's beginning or end. (3) Implicit meaning: significance left tacit, for the viewer to discover upon analysis or reflection. (4) Symptomatic meaning: significance that the film divulges, often against its will, by virtue of its historical or social context.

medium close-up : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is fairly large; a human figure seen from the chest up would fill most of the screen.

medium long shot : A framing at a distance that makes an object about 4 or 5 feet high appear to fill most of the screen vertically. See also plan américain , the special term for medium long shot depicting human figures.

medium shot : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is of moderate size; a human figure seen from the waist up would fill most of the screen.

mise-en-scene : All of the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed: the settings and props, lighting, costumes and makeup, and figure behavior.

mixing : Combining two or more sound tracks by recording them onto a single one.

mobile frame : The effect on the screen of the moving camera, a zoom lens, or certain special effects ; the framing shifts in relation to the scene being photographed. See also crane shot , pan , tilt , tracking shot .

monochromatic color design : Color design that emphasizes a narrow set of shades of a single color.

montage : (1) A synonym for editing . (2) An approach to editing developed by the Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s; it emphasizes dynamic, often discontinuous, relationships between shots and the juxtaposition of images to create ideas not present in either shot by itself. See also discontinuity editing , intellectual montage .

montage sequence : A segment of a film that summarizes a topic or compresses a passage of time into brief symbolic or typical images. Frequently, dissolves , fades , super-impositions , and wipes are used to link the images in a montage sequence.

motif : An element in a film that is repeated in a significant way.

motion capture : In digital filmmaking, the recording of patterns of movement of a figure. Small reflective markers are placed at key points on a person, animal, or object. These are recorded by a special camera and provide a record of the motion but not the appearance of the subject. From that record, animation software can imbue other creatures with the same patterns of motion. When the markers are placed on an actor's face, the recording is often called performance capture .

motion control : A computerized method of planning and repeating camera movements on miniatures, models, and process work.

motivation : The justification given in a film for the presence of an element. This may be an appeal to the viewer's knowledge of the real world, to genre conventions, to narrative causality, or to a stylistic pattern within the film.

narration : The process through which plot conveys or withholds story information. The narration can be more or less restricted to character knowledge and more or less deep in presenting characters' perceptions and thoughts.

narrative form : A type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to one another through a series of causally related events taking place in time and space.

non-diegetic insert : A shot or series of shots cut into a sequence, showing objects that are represented as being outside the world of the narrative.

non-diegetic sound : Sound, such as mood music or a narrator's commentary, represented as coming from a source outside the space of the narrative.

non-simultaneous sound : Diegetic sound that comes from a source in time either earlier or later than the image it accompanies.

normal lens : A lens that shows objects without severely exaggerating or reducing the depth of the scene's planes. In 35mm filming, a normal lens has a focal length between 35 and 50mm. See also telephoto lens , wide-angle lens .

offscreen sound : Simultaneous sound from a source assumed to be in the space of the scene but outside what is visible onscreen.

offscreen space : The six areas blocked from being visible on the screen but still part of the space of the scene: to each side and above and below the frame, behind the set, and behind the camera. See also space .

180º system : The continuity approach to editing dictates that the camera should stay on one side of the action to ensure consistent left-right spatial relations between elements from shot to shot. The 180º line is the same as the axis of action . See also continuity editing , screen direction .

order : In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the sequence in which the chronological events of the story are arranged in the plot . See also duration , frequency .

overlap : A cue for suggesting represented depth in the film image by placing objects partly in front of more distant ones.

overlapping editing : Cuts that repeat part or all of an action, thus expanding its viewing time and plot duration.

pan : A camera  movement with the camera body turning to the right or left. On the screen, it produces a mobile framing that scans the space horizontally.

performance capture : See motion capture .

pixels : Short for "picture elements." The small glowing dots that make up the image on a television monitor or computer screen; also visible in digital theatrical projection. Changes in color and brightness of the array of pixels create moving images on these devices.

pixilation: A form of single-frame animation in which three-dimensional objects, often people, are made to move in staccato bursts through the use of stop-action cinematography.

plan américain : A framing in which the scale of the object shown is moderately small; the human figure seen from the shins to the head would fill most of the screen. This is sometimes referred to as a medium long shot , especially when human figures are not shown.

plan-séquence : A French term for a scene handled in a single shot, usually a long take .

plot : In narrative film, all the events that are directly presented to us, including their causal relations, chronological order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations; opposed to story , which is the viewer's imaginary construction of all the events in the narrative. See also duration , ellipsis , flashback , flashforward , frequency , order , viewing time .

point-of-view shot (POV shot) : A shot taken with the camera placed approximately where the character's eyes would be, showing what the character would see; usually cut in before or after a shot of the character looking.

post-production : The phase of film production that assembles the images and sounds into the finished film.

post-synchronization : The process of adding sound to images after they have been shot and assembled. This can include dubbing of voices, as well as inserting diegetic music or sound effects. It is the opposite of direct sound .

pre-production : The phase of filmmaking that prepares for production on the basis of a screenplay, design, and financing.

process shot : Any shot involving re-photography to combine two or more images into one or to create a special effect; also called composition shot. See also matte work , rear projection , special effects .

production : One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of creating the film. See also distribution , exhibition .

racking focus : Shifting the area of sharp focus from one plane to another during a shot; the effect on the screen is called rack-focus.

rate : In shooting, the number of frames exposed per second; in projection, the number of frames thrown on the screen per second. If the two are the same, the speed of the action will appear normal, whereas a disparity will create slow or fast motion. The standard rate in sound cinema is 24 frames per second for both shooting and projection.

rear projection : A technique for combining a foreground action with a background action filmed earlier. The foreground is filmed in a studio, against a screen; the background imagery is projected from behind the screen. The opposite of front projection .

reestablishing shot : A return to a view of an entire space after a series of closer shots following the establishing shot .

re-framing : Short panning or tilting movements to adjust for the figures' movements, keeping them onscreen or centered.

rhetorical form : A type of filmic organization in which the parts create and support an argument.

rhythm : The perceived rate and regularity of sounds, series of shots, and movements within the shots. Rhythmic factors include beat (or pulse), accent (or stress), and tempo (or pace).

rotoscope : A machine that projects live-action motion picture frames one by one onto a drawing pad so that an animator can trace the figures in each frame. The aim is to achieve more realistic movement in an animated film.

scene : A segment in a narrative film that takes place in one time and space or that uses crosscutting to show two or more simultaneous actions.

screen direction : The right-left relationships in a scene, set up in an establishing shot and determined by the position of characters and objects in the frame, by the directions of movement, and by the characters' eyeline. Continuity editing will attempt to keep screen direction consistent between shots. See also axis of action , eyeline match , 180º system .

segmentation : The process of dividing a film into parts for analysis.

sensor : A chip designed to capture visual information in digital form. It is located behind the lens in a digital motion-picture camera.

sequence : Term commonly used for a moderately large segment of film, involving one complete stretch of action; in a narrative film, often equivalent to a scene .

shallow focus : A restricted depth of field , which keeps only one plane in sharp focus; the opposite of deep focus .

shallow space : Staging the action in relatively few planes of depth; the opposite of deep space .

shot : (1) In shooting, one uninterrupted run of the camera to expose a series of frames; also called a take. (2) In the finished film, one uninterrupted image, whether or not there is mobile framing.

shot/reverse shot : Two or more shots edited together that alternate characters, typically in a conversation situation. In continuity editing , characters in one framing usually look left; in the other framing, right. Over-the-shoulder framing are common in shot/reverse-shot editing.

side lighting (sidelight) : Lighting coming from one side of a person or an object, usually to create a sense of volume, to bring out surface tensions, or to fill in areas left shadowed by light from another source.

simultaneous sound : Diegetic sound that is represented as occurring at the same time in the story as the image it accompanies.

size diminution : A cue for suggesting represented depth in the image by showing objects that are farther away as smaller than foreground objects.

soft lighting : Illumination that avoids harsh bright and dark areas, creating a gradual transition from highlights to shadows.

sound bridge : (1) At the beginning of one scene, the sound from the previous scene carries over briefly before the sound from the new scene begins. (2) At the end of one scene, the sound from the next scene is heard, leading into that scene.

sound over : Any sound that is not represented as coming from the space and time of the images on the screen. This included both non-diegetic sounds and non-simultaneous diegetic sound. See also non-diegetic sound , non-simultaneous sound .

sound perspective : The sense of a sound's position in space, yielded by volume, timbre, pitch, and in stereophonic reproduction systems, binaural information.

space : Any film displays a two-dimensional graphic space, the flat composition of the image. In films that depict recognizable objects, figures, and locales, a three-dimensional space is represented as well. At any moment, three-dimensional space may be directly depicted, as onscreen space or suggested, as offscreen space . In narrative film, we can also distinguish between story space—the locale of the totality of the action (whether shown or not)—and plot space—the locales visibly and audibly represented in the scenes.

special effects : A general term for various photographic manipulations that create fictitious spatial relations in the shot, such as superimposition , matte work , and rear projection .

story : In a narrative film, all the events that we see and hear, plus all those that we infer or assume to have occurred, arranged in their presumed causal relations, chronological order, duration, frequency, and spatial location; opposed to plot , which is the film's actual presentation of events in the story. See also duration , ellipsis , frequency , order , space , viewing time .

storyboard : A tool used in planning film production, consisting of comic-strip-like drawings of individual shots or phases of shots with descriptions written below each drawing.

style : The repeated and salient uses of film techniques characteristic of a single film or a group of films (for example, a filmmaker's work or a national movement).

superimposition : The exposure of more than one image on the same film strip or in the same shot.

synchronous sound : Sound that is matched temporally with the movements occurring in the images, as when dialogue corresponds to lip movement.

take : In filmmaking, the shot produced by n uninterrupted run of the camera. One shot in the final film may be chosen from among several takes of the same action.

technique : Any aspect of the film medium that can be chosen and manipulated in making a film.

telephoto lens : A lens of long focal length that affects a scene's perspective by enlarging distant planes and making them seem close to the foreground planes; in 35mm filming, a lens with a focal length of 75mm or more. See also normal lens , wide-angle lens .

3D computer animation : Digitally generated series of images that imitate the rounded look of people, puppets, or models (not to be confused with stereoscopic 3D images viewed through glasses).

three-point lighting : A common arrangement using three directions of light on a scene: from behind the subjects ( backlighting ), from one bright source ( key light ), and from a less bright source balancing the key light ( fill light ).

tilt : A camera movement with the camera body swiveling upward or downward on a stationary support. It produces a mobile framing that scans the space vertically.

top lighting : Lighting coming from above a person or an object, usually in order to outline the upper areas of the figure or to separate it more clearly from the background.

tracking shot : A mobile framing that travels through space forward, backward, or laterally. See also crane shot , pan , and tilt .

2D computer animation : Digitally generated series of images that give the appearance of flat drawings or paintings.

typage : A performance technique of Soviet Montage cinema. The actor's appearance and behavior are presented as typical of a social class or other group.

under-lighting : Illumination from a point below the figures in the scene.

unity : The degree to which a film's parts relate systematically to one another and provide motivations for all the elements included.

variation : In film form, the return of an element with notable changes.

viewing time : The length of time it takes to watch a film when it is projected at the appropriate speed.

whip pan : An extremely fast movement of the camera from side to side, which briefly causes the image to blur into a set of indistinct horizontal streaks. Often an imperceptible cut joins two whip pans to create a trick transition between scenes.

wide-angle lens : A lens of short focal length that affects a scene's perspective by distorting straight lines near the edges of the frame and by exaggerating the distance between foreground and background planes. In 35mm filming, a wide-angle lens has a focal length of 35mm or less. See also normal lens , telephoto lens .

wipe : A transition between shots in which a line passes across the screen, eliminating one shot as it goes and replacing it with the next one.

zoom lens : A lens with a focal length that can be changed during a shot. A shift toward the telephoto-lens range enlarges the image and flattens its planes together, giving an impression of magnifying the scene's space; a shift toward the wide-angle range does the opposite.

Definitions are from Film Art: An Introduction , Tenth Edition by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (University of Wisconsin: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2013).


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