Film Terms — The Definitive Glossary of Film Terminology - Featured

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Whether 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.

Film Terms

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. 

Film Vocabulary

Allegory

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. 

CINEMA TERMS

Alliteration

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

Allusion

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

Angle

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.

Movie Related Words

Angle On

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

Film Terms Glossary

Animation

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

Movie Terminology

Anime

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

Antagonist

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.

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. 

Film Making Words

Anti-Climax

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

Anti-Hero

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

Aperture

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.

Film Lingo

Arc Shot

An arc 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

Archetype

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. 

Basic Film Terms

Arret

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

Art-House

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

Aside

An aside 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). 

Words Associated With Movies

Assembly

An assembly is the first step in editing. All the shots are arranged by their order in the script. 

Basic Glossary of Film Terms

Asynchronous

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

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

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.).

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. 

Motion Picture Terms

Audition

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. 

Director Lingo Dictionary

Auteur

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.

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. 

Movie Director Lingo

Avant-Garde

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

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.

Film Slang

B-Movie

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

Backdrop

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

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 background 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.

Film Lighting Terms

Backlighting

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

Back Lot

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

Back Story

A back 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

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

Film Lighting Slang

Barn Doors

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

Beat

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. 

Film Industry Dictionary

Best Boy

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

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

Biopic

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

Bit Part

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

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

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

Blockbuster

A blockbuster 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., JawsAvengers: Endgame). 

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. 

Filmmaking Lingo

Blooper

A blooper 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

Blow-Up

A blow-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

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

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

Boom Shot

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

Film Viewer Terms

Bootleg

A bootleg 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

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 Arkthe movie uses bridging shots of a map to indicate Indiana Jones is moving. 

Old-School Film Terms

Bumper

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. 

Film Production Definitions

Call Sheet

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.

Basic Acting Terminology

Cameo

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

Camera

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. 

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.

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

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

Caption

A caption 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

Caricature

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

Cash Cow

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

Cast

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

Catchphrase

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

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

Cel

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.

VFX Words

CGI

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

Character

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

Acting Lingo

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.

Movie Genre Studies

Character Study

A character 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.

Film Lighting Terms

Chiaroscuro

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 chick 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. 

Film Industry Dictionary

Child Actor

A child 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.

Movie Critic Terms

Cineaste

A cineaste 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

Cinematographer

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. 

Unique Film Terms

CinemaScope

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

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. 

Film Shoot Terms

Clapperboard

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

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. 

Storytelling Definitions

Cliffhanger

A cliffhanger 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

Climax

A climax 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

Close-Up

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. 

Film Structure Definitions

Coda

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

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). 

Understanding Film Genre

Coming-of-Age Film

A Coming-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 command 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

Composer

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. 

A Director’s Movie Vocabulary

Composition

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. 

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

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

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

Convention

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

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

Crane Shot

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

Crawl

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

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

Crew

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.

Movie Watching Vocabulary

Critic

A critic 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

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

Cross-Fade

A cross-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

Cross-Over

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

Crowd Shot

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. 

An Actor’s Glossary

Cue

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

Cue Card

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

Cyclorama

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

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

Dark Horse

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 Day-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

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. 

Film Camera Terminology

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

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.

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.

Screenwriting Basics

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

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

Director

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. 

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

Dissolve

A dissolve 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

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

Dolly Shot

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

Dub

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 Enfant 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

Epilogue

An epilogue 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

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

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

Extra

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

Fade

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

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

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

Film Studies Terminology

Film Grain

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

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.

35mm Terms

Film Stock

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

Filter

A filter 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.

Essential Storytelling Terms

Flashback

A flashback 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

Flash-Forward

A flash-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

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.

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

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.

Complete Movie Terminology List

Foreground

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.

MOTION PICTURE TERMS GLOSSARY

Foreshadowing

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

Frame

A frame 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

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 Guide to Film Terms

Gaffer

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.

Movie Projector Terms

Gate

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

Gel

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 general 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

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

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

Grindhouse

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

Grip

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

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 guerrilla 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 handheld 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

Hays Code

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 head-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

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.

TV Production Terms Definitions

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.

Movie Analysis Dictionary

Homage

A homage 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

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

Hybrid

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

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

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

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 inside 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

Interlude

An interlude 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

Intermission

An intermission 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

Jump Cut

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

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

Key Light

A key 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.

Unique Filmmaking Terminology

Klieglight

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 landmark 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.

Movie Editing Terms

Lap Dissolve

A lap 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

Lavalier

A lavalier 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.

Digital Film Terms

L-Cut

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

Leitmotif

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.

Words Associated With Movie Cameras

Lens

A lens 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.

Vocabulary of Filmmaking

Letterboxing

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 library 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

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.

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.

Post-Production Terminology

Lip Sync

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

Hollywood Lingo

Location

A location 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.”

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

Logline

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

Long Shot

A long 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

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

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

Mask

A mask 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 master 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

Match Cut

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

Matte Shot

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

MacGuffin

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

Melodrama

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

Me​taphor

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.

Movie Magic Dictionary

Miniature

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

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.

Movie Sound Terms

Mixing

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.

Film Parody Terms

Mockumentary

A mockumentary 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

Money Shot

A money 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

Montage

A montage 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

Motif

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

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

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

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

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

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.

College Film Studies

New Wave

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

Nickelodeon

A nickelodeon 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

Nut

A nut 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

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.

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

One-Liner

A one-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

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

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

Overture

An overture 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

Ozoner

An ozoner 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

PA

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

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

Pan

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.

EDUCATION IN MOVIE TERMS

Par​adox

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

Parenthetical

A parenthetical 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.

EDUCATION IN MOVIE TERMS

Persistence 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

Pipeline

A pipeline 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

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 positive 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 post-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

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

PHILOSOPHY TERM

​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

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

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.

An Entire Film Words Dictionary

Prequel

A prequel 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

Pre-Screen

A pre-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

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

Producer

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.

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.

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

Prologue

A prologue 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.

Movie Composition Terminology

Pro​tagonist

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

Better Understand Film Cameras

Pull Back

A pull 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

Push In

A push 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 reaction 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

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

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

Redlight

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.

Film Terminology

Reel

A reel 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 reshoot 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 reverse 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

Film Vocabulary

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

Rigger

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

Roadshow

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

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

Rough Cut

A rough 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

Rush

A rush 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

Satire

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.

Movie Music Terms

Score

A score 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 Dictionary

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.

Terms for

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. 

Film Industry Jargon

Screener

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

Screenplay

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

Terms for Film Jobs

Screenwriter

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.

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

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

Sequel

A sequel 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

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

S​imil​e

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

Shot List

A shot 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.

people on set

Showrunner

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. 

DICTIONARY OF FILM TERMS

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

Skip Frame

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

Dictionary of Film Terms

Slate

A slate 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.

Movie Terms

Sleeper

A sleeper 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

Snub

A snub 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

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

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.

Movie Set Terminology Dating Back Decades

Soundstage

A soundstage 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

Soundtrack

A soundtrack 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.

Keyword here...

Spin-Off

A spin-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

Split-Reel

A split-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

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

Spoiler

A spoiler 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 shot 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

Steadicam

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

Still

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

Stinger

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.

Film Terms

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.

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

Storyboard

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.

Storytelling Terms

Subplot

A subplot 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

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

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

Superimposition

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

Film Auteur Lingo

Surrealism

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

Swish Pan

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

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

Sym​bolysm

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

Movie Marketing Lingo

Tagline

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

Take

A take 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

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.

JARGON FOR FILM PROCESSES

Th​eme

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

Basic Film Understanding

Three Shot

A three 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

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

Tilt Shot

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

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

Tint

A tint 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

Treatment

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. 

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

Two Shot

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

U-matic

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

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

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.

KEYWORDS FOR YOUR FILM STUDIES

Union

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

Un​reliable 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

Vignette

A vignette 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.

Essential Film Terms

Voice-Over

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.”

Movie Set Terminology

Walk-On

A walk-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

Walk-Through

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

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.

Motion Picture Terms

Widescreen

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

Wipe

A wipe 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. 

Movie Vocabulary

Wrap

A wrap 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.”

Film Industry Dictionary

Z-Movie

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

Zoom Shot

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

Zo​ptic 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.

UP NEXT

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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