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Film glossary


A/B: Literally, "as before;" often refers to when a camera shot is to be the same as the previous one.

ACTION:The order the director or first assistant gives to begin the scene.

ACTION LINE: A header appearing in a script before each scene or shot detailing the characters, their location within the scene, entrances, etc. that will occur during the following action.

ACTION PROPS: Objects used or handled by actors, as opposed to props used only as set dressing.

AFM: Assistant Floor Manager.

ART FILM: It is a term used to describe films that are made more for artistic reasons than commercial ones.

ASPECT RATIO: The width to height ratio of a screen: 4 to 3 or 1.33:1 (normal TV screen); 1.85:1 (standard American wide screen); 2.35:1 (wide screen such as Panavision).

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: The film director's main link, help (and bully boy).

ATMOSPHERE: (Also known as ATMOS) The background sound recorded to cover possible unevenness in previously recorded background sounds from different shots.


BACK LIGHT: Lights the back of the actor's head/body as seen by the camera (to make the actor stand out from the background). Can be used to create a "halo" effect.

BACKGROUND ACTION: The action of the extras (or supporting) artists at the rear of the shot in order to add a backdrop to the main action; e.g., the bustle of a crowd.

BANANA: Walking on a curved line, usually to allow the camera to see you earlier or to prevent masking a fellow actor or to increase the time used by the movement.

BEAT: A small pause; also a unit of action determined by a single character intention.

BEST BOY: Chief assistant to the GAFFER (the chief electrician).

BG: Background.

BLOCKING THE SCENE: Giving the moves for a scene (can apply both to actors and cameras); this is usually done during the first rehearsal.

BOOM: Telescopic arm, usually mounted on a moveable platform, that holds the microphone above the action but out of camera shot. It may also refer to a movable arm that attaches the camera to a DOLLY.

BOOM UP/DOWN: Moving the boom and its microphone up and down; or the camera up/down.

BREAK: Cease working for a while. "Take a break."

BUSINESS (or BIZ): Actions for an actor, usually involving a prop. Contrasts with movement that refers to an actor moving from one place to another. Can also refer to the business aspects of the film industry.

BUST SHOT: A head shot of a single actor, framed from the bust up.


CAMERA ANGLE: How high, low, and in which direction the camera is to point.

CAMERA CARDS: Cards attached to a camera in a multi-camera studio telling the operator what sort of shot (e.g., close up or CU) they should do at what time (e.g., shot number 56).

CHEATING: The art and craft of doing something that is untrue, but appears true to the camera; as in "Cheat your eyes or body towards camera; Cheat your height by standing on this box."

CLAPPER BOARD (also CLAPSTICK BOARD; SLATE): Used for shot, scene and take number in film (not video); it has a hinged piece that gives the satisfying clap at the start of a film sequence that helps them synchronize sound and picture in the editing.

CLOSE-UP (or CU): A shot that includes only the face, or the neck and face (sometimes shoulders) of one actor.

CONTINUITY GIRL: It is also called SCRIPT GIRL, it is the person who takes copious continuity notes (and Polaroid photos) so that the same props are located in the same spots and the same business is done at the same time on all shots covering the same sequence.

CONTRAST RATIO: The difference between the brightest and darkest part of the picture; the human eye can cope with a contrast ratio of 100:1; film less than that and video much less than that - leading to difficulties in shooting video against sunny windows because the faces appear too dark.

CRAB: Moving the camera sideways. Sometimes done on a "Crab Dolly."

CRANE: A device that can raise the camera up; small ones take it up to six feet up; giant ones can take it up to look down on roof tops.

CRAWL: Very slow movement of the camera.

CROSS-CUTTING: To cut back and forth, especially between two unrelated scenes where things are happening simultaneously; used in editing.

CROSSING THE LINE: The crime of getting the geography wrong and confusing the audience as to where everyone is. If two shots are taken of two actors talking to each other, then both cameras should be on the same side of an imaginary line drawn between them; if they are on opposite sides of the line, the two actors on screen will seem to be looking in the same direction rather than talking to each other.

CU: Close up.

CUE (Also Q): The signal to begin; often given as a hand signal from one of the production team.

CUE CARDS: Large sheets or cards containing the performer's lines (also called IDIOT CARDS); nowadays often replaced with the TELEPROMPTER.

CUT: The point where one shot is changed for another, either by editing ("I want to CUT as you get up out of the chair to leave") or in the multi-camera studio ("I want to CUT from the close-up on Camera 1 to the wide shot on Camera 3 as the door opens"); also used to stop everything, the opposite of ACTION.

CUTTER: The person who joins the chosen bits of different takes together to make the finished product. Also called the EDITOR.

CYCLORAMA: A large backdrop, sometimes painted to illustrate that a scene shot inside a studio is actually occurring out of doors; sometimes it is blue and functions as a "blue screen" backdrop on which a wide variety of settings may be projected subsequent to the shooting of the scene.


DAILIES (or RUSHES): Shots from the day before, quickly developed in order to show to all interested people in case anything needs to be re-shot. Actors usually don't get to see them (which is often wise).

DEEP FOCUS: The system of wide lenses and small apertures that allow objects close (foreground)and far away (background) from the camera to be in focus.

DEEPER: Farther away.

DEPTH-OF-FIELD: The area that is in focus.

DISSOLVE: Cross-fading from one picture to another, usually indicating passage of time.

DOLLY: The truck on wheels that allows the camera to move about the studio or to follow the action.

DOLLYING (or TRACKING, TRUCKING): The act of the camera moving to follow the action.

DRY RUN: Running through a scene without all the special effects that will be there in an actual TAKE.

DUBBING: Transferring all the sound effects, music, replaced voices, etc. onto the finished product (tape).


ECU: Extreme Closeup.

EDITOR: The person who joins the chosen bits of different takes together to make the finished product. Also called the CUTTER.

ELS: Extreme long shot. Taken from far away.

ESTABLISHING SHOT: The shot at the beginning of a scene that lets the audience know where they are.

EYELINE: The direction an actor takes when looking at the other actor. Directors often like the camera to "get into the EYELINE" - it means that both the eyes of the actor will be seen, and so they can do more with them.


FG: Foreground. The area nearest to the camera.

FILL LIGHT: The light that fills in the shadows caused by the KEY LIGHT.

FINE CUT: The final assembly of the filmed material. This is usually what the audience will see.

FISHPOLE: A hand held portable boom with a microphone allowing the mike to get close to the performer and yet stay out of frame (camera range).

FULL SHOT: A shot of the full body of an actor framed at the feet, or beyond.

FREEZE FRAME: Where the action in "frozen" by keeping one picture (frame) going; sometimes used to end a scene.

FILM ACADEMY: A film academy is an organization which induces comprehensive knowledge of the arts, science and commerce of film making in its students.

FILM MUSIC: Is the music that serves either as background or foreground for a film.

FILM REEL: Film Reel is a visually exciting effect that scrolls a strip of moving video "thumbnails" continuously across the screen, overlaying the selected video clip.

FILM REVIEW: A film review is not just a summary of a film, is a critical analysis that examines why and how a movie works and whether the film succeeds in its presentation.

FILM STRIP: A series of photographs on a strip of film, for separate projection as slides.


GAFFER: Chief electrician.

GRIP: Person who transports and sets up the camera equipment; "stage hands."


HAND-HELD: When the camera is hoisted onto the cameraperson's shoulder (or otherwise held manually) so the cameraperson can follow the action without a moveable CAMERA BOOM.

HINDI FILM: It is the name given to the Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India.


IDIOT CARDS: Large sheets/cards containing the performer's lines (also called CUE CARDS); nowadays often replaced with the TELEPROMPTER.

IN THE CAN: The finished product. A satisfactory recording or TAKE, as in "we have got it IN THE CAN."


JUMP CUT: Two similar shots cut together with a jump in continuity, camera position or time.


KEY LIGHT: The main light for an actor usually coming in over the top of the camera often slightly off to one side, e.g. from the right or left of the camera.

KILL: Stop or turn off, as in "KILL that light."


LINED SCRIPT: A copy of the shooting script which is prepared by the script supervisor during production to indicate, via notations and vertical lines drawn directly onto the script pages, exactly what coverage has been shot. A given vertical line may indicate, via the line's start and end point, what script material is covered in a particular shot and whether given dialog or action is on-screen or off-screen in the shot, indicated by the line changing between straight and wavy respectively. Different colored lines may also represent certain types of shots: close-up, insert, long shot, etc. The lined script also frequently incorporates the script supervisor's script notes on the facing pages for a given scene. The lined script is used by the film editor as a reference to what coverage was shot and to changes made to the script during production. Lined scripts give editors a quick view of all available coverage at a glance, so that he or she can make quick editing decisions without having to sort through all the footage repeatedly.

LS: Long shot. Shot from a distance.


MARKS: Tape or chalk marks to indicate where a performer should stand or where they should come to after a move: "Be sure to hit your MARK."

MASTER SHOT: A wide shot that includes one or more actors. It tracks with the movement of the performers in the scene. A master shot may be uninterrupted from the beginning of a scene, or it may be interrupted several times because the director knows he/she will break it up in its final edited form anyway. This is a usually wide angle shot of the entire scene that is done first so that everyone knows what lighting and positional movements have to be matched for all subsequent shots.

MATCHING: Editing several pieces (usually CLOSE-UPS and OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOTS) with a MASTER SHOT in order to produce a final "scene" in which the important material receivesproper coverage and emphasis in a carefully integrated manner.

MCU: Medium close-up shot.

MIXER: Technician who mixes together the various inputs from the different microphones to get the proper sound.

MOS: Made without sound. Also MUTE.

MS: Medium shot.


NEGATIVE: The original film that is used in the camera.

NON-LINEAR EDITING: The computer-assisted editing of a movie without the need to assemble it in linear sequence.


OC: Off-camera; out of view of the camera and therefore not seen.

OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOT: A shot in which we look across the back of one actor to the face of the other. Often simply OTS.


PAN: Rotating the camera head horizontally while keeping the base still.

POV: A POINT OF VIEW shot shows what a character sees. "Subjective camera."

POST-PRODUCTION: Everything that happens to a production after the shooting has finished, such as editing, dubbing, special effects, etc.

PRACTICAL: A working prop; may be used to describe anything that actually works, such as a lamp, stove, sink, radio, etc.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: In film, the assistant to the producer; in television, the person responsible for logging all shots, timing them, and noting down all TIME CODES, and taking continuity notes. RACKING FOCUS: With a shallow depth of field, changing the focus from foreground to background, or vice versa.


QUARTER: It refers to a quarter of a year (three months).

QUICK RELEASE: A latching device for quickly mounting and removing the camera from the tripod.

QUOTA QUICKIES: It is a term which was used to describe an extremely low-budget film that was made solely to help cinemas maintain their compulsory quota of British films.


REACTION SHOT: The shot of what one actor is doing or "thinking" while the other is speaking.

REVERSES: Shooting the opposite direction of what you have just done. "After shooting all the shots of the person speaking to you, we will now do all your REVERSES."

ROLL TAPE: The act of beginning to tape a video recording.

ROUGH CUT: The first rough editing of a sequence.

RUNNING: What the camera operator says when the camera is ready and stabilized to start shooting.

RUNNING ORDER: The actual order in which the scenes will be recorded.

RUNNING TIME: The length of a program.




SETUP: Every camera position or change in photographic composition is called a "setup."

SHOOTING SCRIPT: The final approved script, often with cameras and cutting points marked in.

SHORT FILM: The short film is usually shown prior to the feature in a theatrical environment, it is usually less complex and covers only one main or a limited number of narrative arcs and threads.

SHOTS: The pictures taken by the camera. See TAKE.

SINGLE: Shot of one person, usually in a medium closeup. Also ONE-SHOT.


SLUG LINE: A header appearing in a script before each scene or shot detailing the location, date, and time that relates to the following action.

SOFT: Slightly out of focus. Fuzzy.

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Anything that is achieved by tricks such as miniatures, computer generated images, split screen.

SPIKING THE CAMERA: When the actor, usually accidentally looks directly into the lens of the camera, thereby destroying the illusion.

STORYBOARD: The cartoon-like layout visualizing all the shots planned and how they relate to each other.

STRIKE: To remove or take away.


TAKE: A take refers to a scene that is actually being filmed, as opposed to a rehearsal.

TELEPROMPTER: Trade name for the device in the studio that has the script rolling across the camera lens so the actor/performer can read the lines. Often replaces CUE CARDS and IDIOT CARDS. Also called AUTOCUE.

THREE-SHOT: Three people in frame; 3-S.

TIGHT: Close.

TILT: Vertical movement of the camera head. Camera tilts up to look up and tilts down to look down.

TWO-SHOT: A shot that includes two people in the scene in the frame. Also DOUBLE or 2-S.


ULTRA-SONIC CLEANER: It is a high-technology machine that is used for cleaning negatives prior to printing or transfer to video.

ULTRA-SONIC SPLICER: It is a splicing machine used for splicing Polyester Base stock.

UNDERCRANKING: The process of slowing the frame rate of a camera down, so that when the captured pictures are played at the normal frame rate the action appears to be in fast motion.

UNDEREXPOSURE: This term is used when someone films a scene with less light than the emulsion of the film needs for a correct exposure which produces the image appear grainy, and very muddy.

UTILITY PERSON: This person is responsible of several manual jobs such as running errands.

UNIT PRODUCTION MANAGER (UPM): It is the person who hires the crew and manages the resources.


VCR: A video cassette recorder/recording.

VOICE-OVER (VO): The disembodied voice that speaks while pictures are shown. Popular with commercials.

VTR: Video tape recorder/recording.


WAIST SHOT: A shot of an actor framed from the waist up.

WEB: The practice of using objects (furniture, trees, stationary props, etc.) with triangulation to locate your MARK without obviously looking at the MARK.

WIDE ANGLE: The camera "sees" a broad view.

WIPES: Transitional techniques including:
  • Flip Wipe: Ending scene appears to turn over on its vertical, horizontal, or diagonal axis, being replaced by the new scene as if it were on the reverse side of a card or sheet of paper.
  • Natural Wipe: Using a prop or actor in the scene to complete obliterate the scene before the transition takes place.
WRAP: The end.

WS: Wide shot.


XENON: A very bright, daylight balanced projection lamp, or a projector with a xenon lamp.

XXX: A term used to name to a pornographic film.


YARN: Slang for an apocryphal story.


ZOOM SHOT: It is a shot in which the magnification of the objects by the camera's lenses is increased (zoom in) or decreased (zoom out/back).