Basic Film Glossary

 Terms related to filmmaking and theatrical release.

Film Crew

  1. Art Director
    The Art Director facilitate the Production Designer's creative vision for all the locations and sets that eventually give the film its unique visual identity. Art Directors are responsible for the art department budget and schedule of work, and help the Production Designer to maximize the money allocated to the department.
  2. Best Boy
    In lighting the Best Boy is the chief assistant to the gaffer. They are not usually on set, but dealing with the electric truck, rentals, manpower, and other logistics. In grip the Best Boy is chief assistant to the key grip. They are also responsible for organizing the grip truck throughout the day.
  3. Boom Operator
    The Boom Operator, Sound Grip, First Assistant Sound or "1st AS", is responsible for utilizing microphones on the end of boom poles (lightweight telescopic poles made of aluminum, or more commonly, carbon fiber) held above Actor's heads during a scene to capture dialogue.
  4. Digital Colorist
    They’re the ones who step in during a movie’s editing stage to alter the look of the colors used in the movie or the appearance of the stars. Digital Colorists work with the Director and the production crews, especially the Director of Photography, to color correct certain parts of the film that need changing.
  5. Composer
    Composers are responsible for writing original music for films. They write scores that guide the audience through the drama, increase films' emotional impact, and give them atmosphere. They discuss ideas with Directors, and establish where and when music is required during spotting sessions.
  6. Director
    Person who takes the screenplay and turns it into pictures and sounds, by directing the DoP and camera crew, sound, lighting, art and design, wardrobe etc. and actors, and the driving the post production process, as to what he or she wants on screen and looking to achieve that.
  7. Director of Photography
    DoP. In overall charge of camera work, lighting and camera crew / department. Highly experienced cameraperson, ultimately makes all decisions relating to camera, composition etc., subject to Director approval.
  8. Editor
    The Film Editor is the person who assembles the various shots into a coherent film, with the help of the director. There are usually several Assistant Editors.
  9. Location Sound Engineer
    Is the member of a film crew responsible for recording all sound recording on set during the filmmaking using professional audio equipment, for later inclusion in the finished product, or for reference to be used by the Sound Designer, Sound Effects Editors, or Foley Artists.
  10. Hair Stylist
    The Hair Stylist, is responsible for maintaining and styling the hair, including wigs and extensions, of anyone appearing on screen. They assist and report to the key hair.
  11. Make-up Artist
    The Make-up Artists work with makeup, hair and special effects to create the characters look for anyone appearing on screen. They assist and report to the key Make-up Artist.
  12. Producer
    Person(s) who deal with and oversee every areas of a film that is not essentially within the Director's purview. This includes: finance, legal, administration, marketing, personnel, a watching brief on editorial and creative etc.
  13. Production Designer
    The Production Designer is responsible for creating the visual appearance of the film - settings, costumes, character makeup, all taken as a unit. The Production Designer works closely with the Director and the Director of Photography to achieve the look of the film.
  14. Wardrobe Stylist
    A Wardrobe Stylist, also Fashion Stylist, is a consultant who selects the clothing for published editorial features, print or television advertising campaigns, music videos, concert performances, and any public appearances made by celebrities, models or other public figures.
  15. Screenwriter
    Person or persons who write a film script. Either an original script or adapted from another written work, in which case the original work and author(s) may also be credited.
  16. Script Supervisor
    Also known as the Continuity person, they keeps track of what parts of the script have been filmed and makes notes of any deviations between what was actually filmed and what appeared in the script. They make notes on every shot, and keep track of details to ensure continuity between shots and scenes.
  17. Sound Designer
    The Sound Designer, or Supervising Sound Editor, is in charge of the post-production sound of a movie. Sometimes this may involve great creative license, and other times it may simply mean working with the Director and Editor to balance the sound to their liking.
  18. Actors
    Actors interpret others' words in order to bring a script to life, and to put flesh and blood on the characters they portray. Theirs is the public face of a production, representing many others' work and efforts. It is rare for the public to see the Scriptwriter, or the Director - their perception is based on what the Actors portray on screen.

Pre-production

  1. Casting
    The process of hiring actors to play the characters in a script, typically done by a casting director, but with some input from a director, producer, or studio.
  2. Location scout
    A person who looks for suitable locations for filming.
  3. Pre-production
    Arrangements made before the start of filming. This can include script editing, set construction, location scouting, and casting. See also production.
  4. Development notes
    Development notes will tend to start with the script you have and offer more detailed suggestions for areas that need attention. Good development notes will analyze what is and is not working in a script and will examine why. Development notes will aim to move the script on to its next draft, or next stage.
  5. Development treatment
    A development treatment is a document that describes the story in prose form and might run anything up to 15 pages. This document is sometimes also called an outline. This kind of treatment is a document that sets out the story in the way a writer wants to tell it.
  6. Marketing treatment
    A marketing treatment is one that a producer takes to pitch meetings, film festivals and markets, or networking opportunities where they might meet potential financiers. Its job is to sell the project. It will probably have a title page (with contact details on).
  7. Script
    Usually 90–110 pages, usually 120–160 scenes. Pages and scenes should be numbered. Title, writer and producer or agent contact details should be on the front page, along with a date and probably a draft number.
  8. Script notes
    These are also sometimes called writer's notes because they are written for the writer. Script notes will generally focus on the script, and will take the form of detailed feedback on a script, usually including page–by–page or scene–by–scene notes where they are needed.
  9. Short film
    A movie that is shorter than 40 minutes. Contrast with feature.
  10. Synopsis
    This describes the plot of the story in its entirety. A synopsis will include the ending and will never finish with a question or a dot. A synopsis should not be long and ideally not more than one side of A4. A synopsis is not the same thing as a treatment or an outline: it usually describes a story that already exists in screenplay form.
  11. Feature film
    A movie at least 40 minutes (2 reels) long intended for theatrical release. Contrast with short subject.
  12. Stages of production (5)
    1) Research and development, including writing, pitching, finding finance. 2) Pre-production: production is definitely on and preparations are made. 3) Production or shoot: filming. 4) Post-production or post: editing of sound and vision. 5) Distribution and exhibition: marketing the film, getting it shown and watched.
  13. Three act structure
    The way that a classic film story is put together in three blocks of storytelling (think beginning, middle, end) each with its own climax.
  14. Treatment
    There are two kinds of treatment, one that does a marketing job and is about selling the film, and one that does a development job and is about working on the story.
  15. Tagline
    The clever phrase that might sell the story. Do not underestimate how hard it can be to write these well. Geniuses in marketing departments are paid a fortune for their tagline skills. A really good tagline makes you notice the film.

Production

  1. 180-degree rule
    States that if two people are filmed in a sequence then there is an invisible line between them. The camera should then only be positioned within the 180 degrees on one side of that line. “Crossing the line” results in a jump cut, where the people appear to change positions and eye line.
  2. Aerial shot
    A camera shot filmed from an airplane, helicopter, blimp, balloon, kite or high building (higher than a crane).
  3. Aperture
    A measure of the width of the opening allowing light to enter a camera. Larger apertures allow more light to enter a camera, hence darker scenes can be recorded. Conversely, smaller apertures allow less light to enter, but have the advantage of creating a large depth of field.
  4. Barndoors
    Very useful blinders on the sides of lights that can be used to keep light from spreading out everywhere. Can also be used to clip lighting gel onto. Barndoors get very hot when a light is on, so best to wear gloves when adjusting them, and let them cool before removing or packing them.
  5. Boom ploe
    A long extendable pole which allows a microphone to be held over the action or a subject during filming. This keeps the microphone out of shot but means it can still be positioned close enough so that good, clear sound is recorded.
  6. Bridging shot
    A shot that connects one scene to another by showing a change in time or location. A bridging shot can also be used to connect two shots from the same scene by using a close-up, distant pan or different camera angle thus relating the shots via content.
  7. Camera angle
    The position of the camera on a vertical continuum relative to the object being shot: eye-level, high-angle (looking down from above), low-angle (looking up from below), Dutch-angle (with the normal vertical axis tilted diagonally).
  8. Clapper
    Clapperboard: Sometimes known as The Slate. Used to mark a sync sound and picture take of a shot.
  9. Close-up
    A shot in which a smallish object (e.g. the human head) fits easily within the frame.
  10. Continuity
    Ensuring by the placement of actors, props, movement etc. that the audience does not notice when a film or TV program cuts from one shot to another.
  11. Composition
    The complete arrangement of a scene by the director. The process includes camera angles, lighting, properties, characters, and the movement of the actors.
  12. Crane shot
    A shot in which the camera rises above the ground on a mobile support.
  13. Crossing the line
    Also known as the 180-degree rule, which states that if two people are filmed in a sequence then there is an invisible line between them. The camera should then only be positioned within the 180 degrees on one side of that line. “Crossing the line” results in a jump cut, where the people appear to change positions and eye line.
  14. Cutaway
    A shot, often a close-up or Wide Shot, that is used to break up a matching action sequence. Often vital in editing to rescue filmmaker from an impossible break in continuity.
  15. Depth of field
    Lens focuses on a single plane of depth, there is usually an additional area in focus behind and in front of that plane. That is called the depth of field. Wider the lens the more depth of field; longer the lens, less depth of field. Deeper area in focus, the further away the lens is focused. Smaller depth of field, when lens is focused close.
  16. Diffusion
    Filter used on camera to create a soft focus effect. It can also refer to a white sheet of material used on a movie light to soften the shadows.
  17. Prop
    Anything an actor touches or uses on the set; e.g. phones, guns, cutlery, etc. Movie animals and all food styling (food seen or eaten on set/screen) also fall into this domain.
  18. Dolly shot
    Where the camera is placed on a dolly, a piece of equipment that allows smooth movement while recording the shot.
  19. Dutch tilt
    Composition with the camera viewing the scene at a diagonal. Same as Canted Angle. Much used in The Third Man.
  20. Establishing shot
    A long shot, often the first in a sequence, which establishes the positions of elements relative to each other and identifies the setting.
  21. Extreme close-up
    A shot in which a small object (e.g. a part of the body) fits easily within the frame.
  22. Flashback
    Narrative device in which the action is interrupted by scenes representing a character’s memory of events experienced before the time of the action.
  23. Flashforward
    The opposite of flashback: future events (or events imagined by a character) are shown.
  24. Focal length
    How wide or how narrow a view the lens will provide. Smaller focal length numbers mean wider; larger numbers mean narrower.
  25. Frame
    Single image on a piece of film. 24 fps (frames per second) on 16mm film.
  26. Framing
    The size and position of objects relative to the edges of the screen; the arrangement of objects so that they fit within the actual boundaries of the film.
  27. Frontality
    The placing of the camera at a 90º angle to the action.
  28. Gaffer tape
    Cloth tape specifically used for film shoots, usually two inches wide, black or silver. Very strong and does not leave any sticky residue behind.
  29. Hand-held
    Shooting without a tripod. Unusual in film, used more often in TV.
  30. Headroom
    Space between the top of a subject's head and the top of the frame. Headroom needs care so there is not too much, and not too little. Audience attention is easily distracted if this is wrong.
  31. Iris
    A valve within the lens to control the amount of light that passes through. Opening the iris permits more light through, closing the iris permits less. The degree to which the iris is opened is measured in F-Stops.
  32. ISO
    In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds.
  33. Jump cut
    Two similar shots cut together with a jump in camera position, time or continuity.
  34. Location sound
    Synch sound, recorded on location, plus any other sort of wild track such as atmos or room tone.
  35. Long shot
    A shot in which a large object (e.g. a complete human figure) fits easily within the frame.
  36. Long take
    A shot that is allowed to continue for longer than usual without editing.
  37. Mark
    Clapping of clapperboard to create a synch mark for the shot. This term is also used to refer to piece of tape on floor, which is an Actor's mark for standing or moving to.
  38. Master shot
    A single shot, usually a wide shot that incorporates the whole scene from beginning to end. Usually filmed first, and then all the close-ups and other shots are done afterwards.
  39. Medium long shot
    A shot in which a largish object (e.g. the human figure from lower leg up) fits easily within the frame.
  40. Medium shot
    A shot in which a medium-size object (e.g. the top half of a human figure) fits easily within the frame.
  41. Mise-en-scene
    Everything placed within the frame, including set decoration, costume, and styles of performance (implies an emphasis on psychological and visual unity in a film from one frame to the next).
  42. Off camera
    Out of the boundaries of the camera’s field of vision (although a performer’s presence may be indicated by the context of the scene or their presence in dialogue).
  43. Overhead shot
    A shot looking down vertically on the action from above.
  44. Pace
    The tempo at which the storyline of a film unfolds, affected by various elements including action, the length of scenes, camera angles, color levels, editing, lighting, composition and sound.
  45. Pan
    Horizontal camera on an axis, moving from left to right or vice versa. Camera is turning on own axis, not across space as in Dolly or Tracking shot.
  46. Parallel action
    Aspects of a story happening simultaneously with the primary performer’s situation, edited so that the projected image goes back and forth between the primary and secondary scenes (often leading up to a convergence of the two actions).
  47. Plan Américain
    Same as medium long shot.
  48. POV
    Camera gives a Point of View shot of a character, as though the camera and hence the audience can see what the character can see.
  49. Production sound
    Synch sound, or any other sort of wild track.
  50. Racking focus
    A shift in focus between planes at different distances from the camera within the same shot. 
  51. Reaction shot
    A close-up in which an actor or group is seen to respond to an event, often accomplished with a cutaway from the primary action to someone viewing the occurrence.
  52. Reverse angle
    Two successive shots from equal and opposite angles, typically of characters during conversation.
  53. Room tone
    May be called 'atmos', recording the 'silence' of a room or any location.
  54. Sequence
    Series of segments of a film narrative edited together and unified by a common setting, time, event or story-line.
  55. Sequence shot
    A relatively long and complete scene shot in one take without editing (similar to long take).
  56. Set
    A constructed environment in which to shoot a scene: often consists of flat backdrops or façades, but can be a three-dimensional construction.
  57. Shot
    Basic element of shooting and post production, representing the film exposed from the time the camera is started to the time it is stopped.
  58. Shutter speed
    The length of time that a single frame is exposed for. Slower shutter speeds allow more light to enter the camera, but allow more motion blur. See also aperture, depth of field, go motion.
  59. Subjective camera
    A camera shot or film style that provides the audience with the specific vision or perspective of a character in the film (i.e. the technique of using POV).
  60. Wide lens
    Lens with focal length smaller than 25mm in 16mm or 50mm in 35mm.
  61. Wild sound
    Not synch, recorded without the camera running.
  62. Tilt
    Vertical camera movement on its axis, up or down. Not to be called and Up or Down Pan, but Tilt Up and Tilt Down.
  63. Two shot
    A shot in which two actors appear within the frame.
  64. Voice-over
    Voice heard while an image is projected but not being spoken in sync with one of the characters appearing on screen. Used to suggest a character’s thoughts or recall of something said earlier, or to provide objective (extra-diegetic) narrative or commentary.
  65. Zoom
    The effect of rapid movement either towards or away from the subject being photographed, either by using a specialized zoom lens or by moving the camera on a boom, crane or dolly. Zoom effects can also be achieved and enhanced by the use of an optical printer.
  66. Insert
    A close-up shot of an object, often produced by the second unit. The term probably came about to reflect the fact that this shot will be "inserted" into the final version of the movie during editing.
  67. Blocking
    A process during which the director and actors determine where on the set the actors will move and stand, so that lighting and camera placements may be set.
  68. Production schedule
    A detailed plan of the timing of activities associated with the making of a movie, of particular interest to production managers.
  69. Call sheet
    A listing of which actors will be required for which scenes, and when they will be required. Call sheets are created by assistant directors and others.
  70. On location
    Filming which occurs at a place not constructed specifically for the production. Typically this is either outdoors, a well-known location, or a real place which suffices.
  71. Production
    In the movie industry, this term refers to the phase of movie making during which principal photography occurs. Popularly, however, "production" means the entire movie project.
  72. Principal photography
    The filming of major or significant components of a movie which involve lead actors.

Post-production

  1. ADR
    Automated Dialogue Recording. Very popular term. This is essentially Dubbing, done in addition to, or as replacement for Location Sound. The term ADR has certain secrecy around it, probably because it obscures the fact that dubbing sound was involved when it appears on the credits of films.
  2. Continuity editing
    The conventions through which the impression of an unbroken continuum of space and time is suggested, constructing a consistent storyline out of takes made at different times.
  3. Cross-cutting
    Swiftly cutting backwards and forwards between more than one scene.
  4. Dubbing
    Recording of dialogue in a sound studio, after the footage is shot, where the actors watch the footage and match the lip movements whilst recording their dialogue. Also, the process by which programs made in another country are edited to have a new audio or sound track in the appropriate language for the new audience.
  5. Dynamic cutting
    Combining a series of seemingly unrelated shots, objects, people, situations, details and characters in juxtaposition with one another (a form of montage, opposed to continuity cutting).
  6. Editing
    The cutting and arranging of shots.
  7. Fade cut
    Slow transition from one shot to black. Fade Out is where the image becomes black. Fade In or Fade Up is where the image fades up from black.
  8. Foley
    Recording of customized sound effects during post production in the same way that dialogue is dubbed. The inventor of the system was Foley.
  9. Montage
    Style of editing involving rapid cutting so that one image is juxtaposed with another or one scene quickly dissolves into the next. Angles, settings and framing are manipulated in a conspicuous way (violating coherent mise-en-scene) so as to convey a swift passage of time, to create some kind of visual or conceptual continuity.
  10. Narration
    The telling of a story and the information supplied to the audience by a voice coming from off screen who may or may not be a character in the story.
  11. Parallel editing
    Intercutting between two simultaneous stories or scenes.
  12. Rough cut
    Edited film, the stages after first assembly but prior to Fine Cut.
  13. Color Correction
    (Digital Color Grading) Process of adjusting the color and look of images in digital post-production. Digital color correction allows far more control than tradition color timing.
  14. Visual Effects
    Alterations to a film's images during post-production. Contrast with special effects (except in UK television, where visual effects and special effects are sometimes the same).
  15. Dissolve
    Transition between two shots, where one shot fades away and simultaneously another shot fades in.

Theatrical Distribution

  1. Anamorphic
    Method of creating a wide screen image with standard film, using a special lens on the camera and projector, which compresses the width of the image exposed on the film and then expands it when projected.
  2. Aspect Ratio
    The proportions of the frame. In 16mm and 35mm the camera photographs a slightly square image, with an aspect ratio of 1:33 to 1. In 35mm the image is generally shot with the Academy Aperture and then masked in the projector to produce a higher image: 1:85 in the USA, and 1:66 in Europe.
  3. DCP
    A Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema (DC) audio, image, and data streams.
  4. Flat
    (1998 × 1080 or 3996 × 2160), ~1.85:1 aspect ratio
  5. Scope
    (2048 × 858 or 4096 × 1716), ~2.39:1 aspect ratio
  6. Calibration
    Sets each device in the post-production pipeline to a specific standard. Calibration ensures all devices acquire, display, and output an accurate image.
  7. 2K
    A digital image 2048 pixels wide. A standard 2K scan of a full 35 mm film frame is 2048 X 1556 pixels.
  8. 4k
    A digital image 4096 pixels wide. A standard 4K scan of a full 35 mm film frame is 4096 X 3112 pixels.
  9. XYZ
    Digital Cinema uses XYZ’ as its target color gamut. XYZ is agnostic to translation to other color models because it is not tied to the limitations or conventions of any particular display technology. It can even address color outside the scope of human vision. In this way colors are addressed as accurately and efficiently as RGB.