We've listed some commonly heard terms, that are specific to film.

A

Animation

Meaning literally ‘bringing to life’. This applies to any process which presents a series of images fast enough to give the impression of continuous movement. There are numerous types of animation from Flip Books to the sophisticated computer animation of modern Hollywood films. (see our animation section)

C

Camera Angle

This is the way the camera is positioned in relation to the subject. A high angle usually suggests weakness or vulnerability on the part of the subject, whereas a low angle usually signifies domination or power.

Cinematographer

The cinematographer the (or director of photography) is the person in charge of lighting, and what the camera shows in a film

Clip

Usually refers to the individual video file stored on your hard drive, or a single shot without any cuts in your editing software

Close-Up

The image created when the camera is placed close to the subject. The close-up will highlight objects which have a particular significance or, in the case of a person, can be used to reveal emotions

Crab

See tracking

Crash zoom

An extremely fast zoom in, usually done with the manual zoom

cut

Definition a: This is the simplest form of joining two shots, where the end of one shot is followed immediately by the beginning of the next, with no break or transition (see our editing section)

Definition b: The director's call to the crew to stop filming

Cutaway

A shot briefly interrupting one action, to provide a glimpse of something else

D

Dissolve

A transition between two shots, where one shot appears to ‘melt’ into the next, often used to denote the passage of time or to signify a dream sequence

Dolly

See tracking

E

Edit

Editing is the stage of ‘making’ the film, where we combine moving images and sounds in a particular order to create the finished product. What is cut out is just as important as what is put in. (see post production

Establishing shot

See long shot

F

Fade

A way of ending a shot where the image darkens to a black screen, or in some cases becomes white (also called a fade-out). The reverse process can be used to ‘fade-in’ to a shot or sequence.

Foley

Recording background sound for a shot at a different time to the actual filming. (eg. A woman walks along a gravel path, turns a key in a lock and opens a creaky door. The footsteps, jingle of keys and creak of hinges can all be put into the soundtrack in post production)

Frame

Definition a: see 'framing' below

Definition b: One image. Most moving image texts are made up of at 25 or 30 still frames per second. (this originates from the days of recording onto film, where each image existed as a separate frame on a celluloid strip) In animation to 'take a frame' is to record one stage of movement

Framing

Is composing your shot - hence the term framing up (it can also be used as a verb, ‘to frame’ a shot)

G

Graphics

Anything which is added to the film (words, drawings, diagrams, charts or symbols) in the editing process, especially in the opening or closing credits or for special effect.

L

Lighting

The way films are lit contributes to the meaning in a number of ways, most obviously in whether it is bright or dark, but also in more subtle ways such as the creation of shadows, or areas of brightness created by spotlighting

Long Shot

Sometimes referred to as an ‘establishing shot’ or a ‘wide shot’, the long shot is used to reveal context or setting (often at the beginning or end of a sequence) and is created by placing the camera well back from the subject, showing a wide panorama or long view. (see main shot types)

M

Medium Shot

In the medium shot, the subject and the setting occupy roughly equal areas of the frame. In dialogue scenes between characters, while the audience can still see facial details, enough of the surrounding can be seen to affect the narrative. (see main shot types)

Montage

An edited sequence of shots (usually a good variety) which builds an impression of something

For a larger glossary and to find out more about film words, Google: glossary film terms

P

Pan

Swivelling movement of the camera from left to right, or vice-versa, from a fixed position. (see moving camera)

Persistence of Vision

This is the phenomenon created when the brain tries to process a series of related images at a speed of around ten per second or greater, and interprets them as continuous motion. All moving image texts are based on this illusion, which can be demonstrated by the creation of a ‘flip’ or ‘flick’ book.

Point of View Shot (POV)

A shot which presents the view from the eyes of one of the characters. A very useful cinematic tool. (The equivalent of first-person narrative in printed texts.)

R

Reaction shot

An insert or cutaway shot (usually close-up) showing how a key character or a group are reacting to action we have just been shown.

Real Time

Real time is where the elapsed time on the screen is (apparently) the same as the time taken by the same actions in real life. (more notes on real time)

Recce

The search for appropriate locations to film at

Rendering

Refers to when the computer processes a special effect in your movie, we usually only notice rendering on complicated effects where the process can take quite a while (hence render-farms exist for CGI movies)

Rushes

The original, raw unedited material you have filmed

S

Scene

As in a play, a scene is a section of film which takes place in real time in one location.

Sequence

Several shots in an order which makes sense and is relatively self-contained. This is not necessarily the same as a scene. A common sequence is a close-up of a character followed by a point-of-view shot, followed by a reaction shot of the character and so on.

Shot

Anything recorded by the camera, from a particular position, between pressing the start and stop buttons. Shots may be shortened in the editing process. In the finished film, any continuous action between transitions can be called a shot.

Sound Effects

Sound effects are usually added in the editing process. ‘Spot effects’ are single sounds such as a gun firing or a doorbell, whereas continuous sounds like traffic noise or birdsong are called ‘atmosphere’. Sound can often signal what is about to happen, such as the sound of an approaching train or rushing water. (see sound effects)

Soundtrack

The totality of sound which accompanies a moving image text.

Steadicam

A specialised hand-held camera support system which allows the operator to take smooth shots while following the action

Storyboard

Storyboards are used in the film planning process to provide an overview of key scenes or sequences. Unlike a cartoon version of the narrative, which simply tells the story in a different format, the storyboard is used to record camera angles, movement, transitions and sound

synch

In synch is where the sounds is in time with the moving images.

Synopsis

A summary of the main contents or elements of the plot in film. (see ideas onto paper)

T

Tagline

The tagline is a phrase or slogan designed to sum up the tone or message of the film so that it will reinforce the memory of the film in the viewer’s mind.

Timecode

Timecode is very like the frame counter in your viewfinder that tells you how much you've recorded (so one hour, twenty two minutes, four seconds and twelve frames would be expressed 01:22:04:12)

Tilt

The swivelling movement of the camera up or down, from a fixed position. (see moving camera)

Tracking

A tracking shot moves the camera on some kind of trolley (dolly), often following a character. This can be on specially laid tracks or over an existing or prepared flat surface. A 'crab' is the same sort of thing but the camera moves sideyways

Trailer

A one-two minute selection of short sequences from a film or programme edited together, sometimes with a special music track or voice-over, to promote the film to potential audiences

Transition

The cross-over from one shot to the next. (they are like the punctuation in a printed text) Common types of transition are cut, fade, dissolve and wipe

W

Wide shot

See long shot

Wipe

A shot transition in which a line appears to cross the screen, replacing one shot with another.

Z

Zoom

Changing how much is included in your shot by adjusting the lens. This 'looks' similar to moving the camera nearer or further from a subject (normally called a 'tracking' shot)