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Glossary of Film Terms


A.S.A.: The number assigned to a can of film that indicates its sensitivity to light. Also known as film speed, I.E., and I.S.O.

ADR (additional dialogue recording): If there is a problem with the sound, an unexpected breeze, somebody drops something, or the mic just didn't pick up the sound as desired, the actor is called in to redo his or her lines. It is recorded as close to what is on film as possible, such as if it was in an empty room, or in a car, provisions must be made to capture the line as you would hear it in its environment.

Aperture: The measurement of the opening in a lens of a camera that allows a specific amount of light to be let in.

Art Director: The Art Director is responsible for creating and maintaining the visual consistency of the art elements connected with the production including the design, construction and coloration of the sets and props. Analyzing the script for the number and type of props, furniture, window, floors, ceilings dressings, and all other set materials. Works closely with the Set Decorator, Carpenter and Property Master.

Aspect Ratio: How the image appears on the screen based on how it was shot. "Academy" ratio (1.33 to 1), the most common format, is masked in the projector and in the lens and produces an image that is roughly 1.85 to 1 when projected back on the screen.

Assistant Camera: Responsible for keeping the camera reports, loading and unloading the camera and assisting the Operator. Other important duties include (but certainly not limited to) marking out focus distances prior to takes and pulling manual zooms

Assistant Director (1st, 2nd, sometimes 3rd): The First Assistant Director is the Director's right hand man or woman who works closely with the Unit Production Manager. They are responsible for seeing that the production is on schedule and within budget and that all scenes are covered. He/she works on the set, supervising the actions of the talent, staff and Crew for the Director and as called for by the shooting schedule.

Assistant Editor: Important duties include receiving Script Supervision Notes, Camera Reports and Sound Reports from the Script Supervisor, (First Assistant Cameraman and Production Sound Mixer) with or prior to dailies and noting any missing circled takes and immediately orders them after confirming that they were called for.



Barndoors: Black metal folding doors an all four sides of a light that can be bent back and forth on their hinges to control where the light goes. They are usually slid in front of the light and objects not extremely sensitive to heat can be clipped to them for effects.

Barney: A blanket that is placed over the camera to reduce the noise made by the mechanisms moving inside.

Bayonet: A lens mount that locks the lens in place instead of screwing it in place. Using a bayonet will allow for a much heavier lens to be used and changing them is quicker and easier.

Best Boy: The assistant gaffer or the assistant to the key grip. They are responsible for the routing and coiling of power cables necessary to run the lights for a shot.

Beta: 1/2 inch videotape that was originally called Betamax. Since the creation of Betamax, improvements have been made to boost the resolution producing a very clear picture with 500 lines of resolution. The problem with beta is it is basically an industry format not easily found in your local electronics store.

Blimp: A housing a noisy camera is put in so all the sound equipment will not pick up extra sounds from the camera. Originally the cameras were placed in old refrigerators with windows cut in them so the shot could happen.

Blocking: Arranging where the lights will go and how they will hit the talent before shooting gets underway. Commonly done before the scene with the stand-ins and lighting crew in preparation for the actors.

Boom: a long arm for a camera or microphone which range from small handheld types (called fish poles) to the very large, which might be carried as part of a moving vehicle.

Boom Man: the person in the sound crew that holds a microphone on the end of a long pole (called a fishpole) and gets it as close to the talent as possible without the mic being in the shot.

Bounce Card: A silver or white card that light is bounced off to highlight a certain area of the subject.

Bracketing: Shooting a scene several times with different F-stops to try and get a certain desired effect.



Call Sheet: Piece of paper given out periodically during the production that lets every department know when they are supposed to arrive and where they are to go. It is important to get the next weeks call sheet if there is a change in location.

Camera Reports: Vital to knowing everything that has happened to the film you are shooting. The camera reports contain the following information: How much of and what type film has arrived and is left over, what takes were good and which were bad, what effects were used on the shot, special instructions for the lab, and what scene it is in the script.

Camera Roll: Any roll of film that is shot. It is helpful to number them and keep a record of what is on each numbered roll in order to avoid confusion when the footage returns from the lab.

Cast: The group of people that actually appear on the film participating in the story as guided by the director. Usually broken down into two groups, talent with speaking roles, and background players or "extras"

Casting: Responsible for bringing actors/actresses under contract to appear in the piece. Talent is cast to appear as they do in the story (short, skinny, large, Latino, Caucasian, African-American, etc.).

Clamp Light: A light intended to use a standard screw-in light bulb with an aluminum reflector and a clamp built in so it can be clipped to a table, bedpost, etc.

Clapper: Also called the clapstick, the two sticks on the slate hit together to link the picture and the sound.

C-Mount: Commonly found on smaller 16mm cameras, a type of lens that screws onto the camera.

Color Correction: A process that adjusts the final print so that colors match from shot to shot no matter what type of film stock and/or camera was used to shoot the scene.

Color Temperature Meter: Method for measuring the overall color of a light source. Color temperature is measure in degrees Kelvin (K). Color temperatures of some common lights are: sunlight about 5500k, fluorescent lights about 4100k, and tungsten movie lights are about 3200k

Cookie: A screen with random holes cut out of it intended to be in front of a light giving off shadows and breaking up the boredom of plain light on a plain wall.

Costume Design: Decides what the cast will wear based on what the story calls for. Examples of what different types of wardrobes movies might require could be a military movie, a modern piece, a fifties movie, a movie in ancient Egypt, a piece on Franciscan Monks, etc.

Coverage: To get proper coverage means having all the proper scenes, angles, lightings, close-ups, and directions. All of this coverage then goes to the editing room where it is arranged into the final product.

C-Stand: A light stand with three legs that swing out. In addition to lights, an arm can be mounted on a c-stand and from that a flag or cookie can be hung.

'Cut!': Yelled by the director when a scene that is being shot is to stop. If for some reason you are working on a set and think you hear cut do not stop working because the director is the only one who should give the cut order.

Cut: The point in a piece where the shot the audience is watching stops and another shot appears on screen. A good example is when you see two people talking; we start out on the character speaking, then cut to the other person's reaction and hear what they have to say.



Dailies: Usually viewed by the editor, producer, and director the day after they were shot. The purpose being if the continuity is not right, a prop is missing or out of place, the sound is bad or a host of other reasons, these mistakes can be caught and a schedule can be made for them to be re-shot.

Depth of Field: Area in front and behind the subject that is in acceptable focus. As a rule of thumb, the area 1/3 in front of and 2/3 behind the subject is the actual distance in focus. There are charts and tables with depth of field distances depending on what lens you are using. A book that has one such table is the American Cinematographer's Manual.

Diffusion: A translucent sheet (could be lace or silk) used in front of a light to cut down the shadows.

Dimmer Board: An electrical panel that all of the stage lights are connected to. From the dimmer board it is possible to control many lights at one time making them brighter or darker.

Diopter: The part of the eyepiece on the camera that must be focused based on each individual's eyesight. There are lines in a film camera and numbers in a video camera that can be used to focus the diopter. If the diopter is not focused, the image through the camera will appear focused to the operators eye but what is being recorded will appear out of focus on screen to a different set of eyes.

Director: During production, works closely with the actors to make sure they convey the message the story requires through different methods such as facial expression or tone of voice. Also works with the Director of Photography to see what a particular shot will look like and if it is appropriate to where the story is going.

Director of Photography: Also known as the "DP", the "Cameraman" and the "Cinematographer", is the head of the production unit (and second units) and is directly responsible to the Director. The DP helps the Director translate the written word to the screen, supervising the operation of the lighting equipment and the camera crews. During pre-production, goes over the script with the director and producer and decides which scenes will be dark, light, high angle, low angle, etc. and what equipment will be necessary to get the shot.

Distribution: The selling of a property, usually the finished piece to be exhibited, where it is to go, and who will show it.

Dolly: A camera mount with smooth rolling wheels that allows the camera to be moved along the ground.

Dolly Shot: Named after the apparatus (called a dolly) that the camera is mounted on that allows it to be moved left and right during the shot.

Dress: Term used to describe the action of getting a set ready for shooting. Usually refers to all of the smaller items in the scene such as things on a table, blankets on a couch, bathroom fixtures, etc.

Dutch Tilt: Made famous by Dutch filmmakers, a type of shot that appears diagonal on the screen, close to a 45-degree angle.



Editor: The Editor works with the Director in assembling the footage of the production. He or she is responsible to the Director until they have made the "First Cut" thereafter the Editor is responsible to the Producer. Attends screenings of dailies. Prepares for all looping or ADR sessions including the preparation of picture and dialogue loops.



Filler: Scrap film used to fill in blank spots in the soundtrack, the desired effect being to keep the soundtrack running the same time as the picture (keep them in-sync).

Film Stock: This is simply unprocessed film. They are differentiated by amount of film in the can and what speed it is.

First Cut: Usually the editor's arrangement of dailies based on what is in the script. Has a very raw and unfinished look usually not even having music. This cut will indefinitely change when the producer and director see it.

Fishpole: A long pole that has a microphone mount on the end so the dialogue can be recorded from the actors closely without them having to talk into a hidden mic in a flowerpot.

Flag: A black cloth on a metal frame that is used to block light from part of the shot.

Flex-Fill: A collapsible ring with reflective material on both sides (usually gold and silver) that can be folded up and carried in a jacket pocket.

Flying Walls: The part of the set wall that can be moved to allow the camera to shoot from another angle.

Focal Length: How wide or narrow a view a particular lens will provide.

Focus Puller: One of the most important and difficult jobs on the set. The focus pull is usually performed by the first assistant camera person and what they do is without looking through the eyepiece of the camera, adjust the focus on the lens. This is accomplished by reading the numbers on the lens (the numbers telling them how many feet away is in focus) and following a series of marks X number of feet away and focusing the lens accordingly.

Foley: Creating sound effects suitable to the director and sound mixer (or supervisor) by watching picture and mimicking the action, often with props that rarely match the action.

Foot Candle: A measurement of light based on the amount of light from one candle falling on a sphere one foot away. Most light meters that measure foot-candles convert the reading into F-stops taking into account what speed of film you are using.

French Flag: A small black piece of metal positioned above the lens to block any unnecessary light that may cause a lens flare (the lens catching extra light and recording it along with the image).

F-Stop: The scale used to measure the size of the opening of the iris (the opening that lets light in) on a lens. F-stops can be confusing, because the larger the number, the smaller the opening (iris), less light is let in, on the other hand the smaller the number, the larger the opening, more light is let in. Common f-stops are 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22.



Gaffer: The chief lighting technician for a production who is in charge of the electrical department. The gaffer handles all lights and lighting crew.

Gel: A sheet of transparent plastic that comes in a variety of colors to add a certain effect to the light. Also is made in a dull clear form to soften the look of the light.

Generation: How many times the tape you are watching has been copied. If you are watching a VHS copy of a movie that was copied from a Beta that was copied as a back up to the master tape, it is said to be third generation. This is the third step from the original media.

Grip: Grips work closely with the key grip and gaffer in setting up the lights and assists the crew in all aspects of getting the shot (hang flags, diffusion, cookies, run power cables, get coffee, etc.)

Groundglass: In a film camera, the piece of glass located the same distance from the lens as the film. On the ground glass there are cross hairs and a box letting you know where the center and edges of the shot will be. This is what the diopter is focused on.



Halogen Light: More accurately called a quartz light, halogen is the gas inside of a quartz light that extends the life of the bulb.

Hard Scenery: Scenery that is made out of more durable materials (wood, metal, etc.) used mainly for the main set pieces.

Hi Hat: A piece of plywood with a camera mounting mechanism attached so the camera can be mounted and shoot from a very low angle. Hi Hat's can be on the floor, placed on a table, or mounted on a stand high above the action making it a very mobile tool unlike a tripod.

High-Definition: The future of television where the on screen image will appear in a ratio of 16:9 compared to today's analog signal ratio of 4:3. The image will appear sharper because of the increased resolution that will be 1080 lines of resolution rather than the 525 of analog.

HMI: A huge bright type of light that is set up to expose the film the same way the sun would.



In the Can: Term used to describe a movie or piece that is all finished shooting. "So have you finished your show yet?" "No, it is in the can and we finish editing in a month." It can be the whole finished piece or at the very least the shots are all finished.

Incident Light Reading: The amount of light falling on an object. Incident meter - A type of light meter that reads the amount of light falling on an object.

Iris: Similar to your eye, the adjustable opening in the lens that allows light to pass through. The measurement for the iris opening is F-stop.



Jib Arm: A camera-mounting device that allows for a more fluid movement of the camera. Similar to a dolly in the sense that it allows for camera movement but the jib arm can be moved in all directions (raised, lowered, diagonal) if so desired, while the dolly will only roll on the ground.

Jimmy Jib: A camera mounting apparatus that is similar to a crane but doesn't need a person on it to operate the camera. The controls for the camera are on one end of the arm and the camera is on the other and from the controls it is possible to move the camera from a low angle close up to a 20 foot high wide shot.



Key Grip: The chief grip who works directly with the gaffer in creating shadow effects for set. Also supervises camera cranes, dollies and other platforms or supporting structures according to what the Director of Photography calls for.

Kino-Flo: Large panels of lights usually hung from the ceiling pointing down to light up the majority of the set and talent.



Latitude: This simply means the maximum or minimum amount you can under or over expose your film to get the desired result. Also called pushing or pulling.

Light Meter: Tool that measures light in foot-candles then converts that reading to F-stops based on what speed of film you are using.

Line Producer: Producer who is intimately familiar with the day-to-day operations of the production. The Line Producer works with the upper management of the production including the UPM, First AD, Director, Art Director, Editor and Composer in preparing the budget and production schedule. All final budgets and schedules have to be approved by the Line Producer. They are responsible for supervising the production on a daily basis, making sure the production goals are met.

Location Scout: Finds locations off of the studio lot, locations suitable to the story, where they can shoot the footage needed for that day.

Locked Down Shot: A shot where the camera is unable to move but something is happening off screen we can't see. Often used to increase suspense, for example, if there was a fight and a gun fires off screen but we stay on the fighters.

Looping: Another term for ADR. This describes more the actual action of replacing the dialogue where ADR is a more broad term.



M.O.S.: A sequence shot with out sound. Said to have originated from a German director asking for a scene "Mit Out Sound".

Makeup Department: Responsible for the way the actors look on camera. Could require a simple squirt of hairspray or a three-hour application of a prosthetic mask that looks like an alien.

Mark: Has two definitions. One, the name for the clapping of the sticks to sync the sound and the picture; and two, something on the ground (tape, a stick, chalk, etc.) that lets the talent know where they should be for the shot.

Master: A type of shot that establishes a setting for where the scene will take place. The typical sequence from a master shot is the master of the room and all who are in it, a two shot of the people talking and then a close up of the one of the characters.

Matte Box: Placed on the lens, it is usually a square shade that can hold filters.

Mini DV: The newest of the video formats. Mini DV can be bought at any electronics store and will deliver a 500-line resolution image similar to a beta. The advantage is Mini DV is a common format and does not need to be bought (or cameras rented) at specialty stores.

Monitor: A small television monitor hooked up to the camera and/or a recording device that allows people other than the camera operator to check the quality of a scene as it is being shot or to check and see if it needs to be done again.

Music Supervisor: Responsible for acquiring the rights to use the music in the picture. Also provides input for which music should go where to enhance the story.



Noisy: Video or audio signal interference. In video it is seen as a fuzzy image (snow) and in audio it is head as a hiss.



Option: An agreement met usually dealing with some sort of property (usually a script) that states that X will happen if Y is done in a certain amount of time.



P.O.V. Shot: Shot taken from the point of view of one of the characters. On screen it appears as if we the audience are actually interacting with one or more of the people in the scene.

Pan: A camera move from left to right from a fixed point. In a pan the camera is rotating on the head and not moving on a dolly.

Pigeon: A large disc that has a mounting knob for a light. Similar to a hi hat for a camera, this allows lights to be placed low to the ground.

Post-Production Supervisor: The person in charge of all phases of the post-production process. Includes but not limited to editing (the actual piece), sound (effects or ADR), music, and anything else that is needed to finish the product.

Practical: A light that is actually seen in the shot. Commonly used in lamps found on an indoor set, practicals can be bought color matched if there is more than one in the shot.

Prime Lens: A lens that has only one focal length (the maximum and minimum distance from the camera the lens will focus). Prime lenses will not zoom in and out but the image appears sharper.

Producer: Oversees and delegates the acquisition of talent, crew (with help from the director), equipment, contracts, permits, and anything else necessary to complete the project. Producers deal more with the business aspect of making movies.

Other types of producers: executive, line, co, associate, assistant, supervising

Production Designer: Works with the director, the director of photography and the producer closely to try to develop a visual and thematic approach to the piece.

Production Management (Unit Production Manager): The Unit Production Manager or Production Manager is in charge of the below-the-line crew. The UPM prepares a budget for the project by based on the script, prepares a shooting schedule, negotiates, approves and arranges for equipment, locations, crew and everything else needed to make the piece.

Property Master: The Property Master is responsible for the designing, selecting, acquiring, placing and disposing of all Props needed for a shoot.

Propmaster: The Property (prop) Master is responsible for the designing, selecting, acquiring, placing and disposing of all Props needed for a shoot.



Quartz Light: A bright light that after long use lets off lots of heat. The color temperature (important for the correct exposure) is close to 3200 Kelvin. These lights are very sensitive to the oils on your hands so when replacing them you should use extreme caution or wear gloves.



Rack Focus: A technique that within the same shot shifts focus from one object to another to re-direct the viewer's attention.

Raw Stock: The term used to describe unexposed, unprocessed film.

Recans: Film that has been loaded into a magazine and put back into the can it came from for use at a later date.

Reflective Light Reading: The amount of light bouncing off of the subject. A special light meter with a lensed grid is required to get such a reading.

Remote Head: A head the camera is mounted on that can be controlled from someplace other than directly behind the camera.

Rigging: This refers to the technical aspects of filmmaking. Rigging is the placement of lights, whether it is on the ground, from the roof, next to the catwalk above the camera line, in preparation for shooting. On exterior shots the catwalks are replaced with platforms and scaffolds from which lights and lighting effects can be hung.



Scene Dock: Area near the stage where the large pieces of the set are stored. The basic contents of the set, walls for rooms, large props, etc. are stored in the scene dock.

Script Supervisor: During the shoot has a copy of the script and marks any information on changes in dialogue, props, lights, shot angles, lenses or anything else that may have changed from what is printed in the script. Also writes down scene numbers and takes and circles which one are the good ones.

Second Unit: A photographic team that shoots scenes the main cast are not involved with, like establishing shots and some stunts.

Set Decorator: Takes care of how the set appears. Everything from the color of the carpet (if there is carpet), to the curtains, to the salt and pepper shakers is handled by the set decorator.

Shooting Ratio: The ratio of how much film is shot to how much footage is actually used.

Shortends: Extra film that is left over from the day's shooting that is cut and put back into the can which it came from. If there is a 1000 foot roll loaded in the magazine and the day wraps after shooting 300 feet, the remaining 700 feet is saved for another day.

16x9 Film Format: Shooting in the 16x9 format will allow for the project to be seen on all the new high definition TV sets without any special format changes.

Slate: On the film at the beginning of each shot, the slate has the clap sticks and the scene number, take and production name usually written on it. The person operating the slate will say "mark" and clap the sticks for picture and sound sync purposes.

Sound Mixer: The person responsible for capturing sound as it plays out live, determining microphone types and placement that will give the best audio possible.

Sound Stage: Large building where you are able to shoot in a totally controlled environment. Up on the roof there are grids of lights and a catwalk for the rigging gaffer to adjust the lights, the floor is usually painted concrete allowing for the use of a number surfaces (carpet, linoleum, wood, etc.), there is a large curtain that surrounds the whole area hiding the cables and pulleys leading up to the roof. There are a number of power supply outlets for the cameras, lights, monitors, and whatever else needs electricity.

Special Effects: Responsible for the trickery of making movies. Some of the duties of the special effects team include making miniatures for explosions, rear screen projection, blue screen with the background to be put in later by a computer, squibs (miniature explosions, i.e. a gunshot), so on and so forth.

Spot Meter: A light meter that will measure the amount of reflective light. This meter has a short sight that allows you to get an accurate reading from a small area.

Spreader: A mounting tool with three arms the legs of the tripod go in to keep the tripod's legs from moving outward.

Stage Line: Invisible line drawn between the actors that the camera can't cross. If by chance the camera crosses the line, there will be a break in continuity and additional shots will be needed to complete the scene.

Stand-In: Paid people usually there for lighting purposes so if there is a scene with complicated lighting the star doesn't have to stand still for a long amount of time under the hot lights. Stand-ins are roughly the same size as the main actors.

Steadicam: Hand held camera usually used to follow an actor around or walk through a location if the scene calls for it. It takes a special skill to be a steadicam operator because of their weight and awkwardness.

Sticks: The tripod legs or the whole tripod.

Stunts: Actors in the sense you see them on screen but they are participating in the dangerous shots (jumping out of windows, car crashes, fights, etc.) instead of the higher paid actors. Made up to look as close to the star as possible so the viewer believes it is still the star while the stunt is happening.



Telecine: A machine that transfers film to video.

Tilt: A camera move up and down from a fixed point. Similar to a pan except a tilt is moving above to below (or vice versa) moving on the camera head.

Tracking Shot: A shot where the camera follows a character around in the scene. Can also be called a dolly shot.

Transfer: The process of copying the media from one source to another. For example, transferring your footage from Digital Video to Beta.

Tripod Head: Joins the camera and the tripod. The head is constructed in such a way that the operator is able to point the camera up, down, left, right.

T-Stop: Measures of light that indicate how much light is actually hitting the film. Created to compensate for any light lost due to the amount of glass in the lens.



VHS: Eclipsed the Betamax in popularity, another 1/2 inch format where the image is not as clear, but because of its popularity, this is overlooked.

Visual Effects: Anything added to the final picture that was not in the original shot. Commonly done now days with computers. In the beginning VFX were done entirely inside the camera, or added to the film negative.



Wild Wall: A wall that has not been altered in any way that is the background for the shot.

Writer: Writes the content of the piece from pre-existing material or uses an entirely new idea. Usually there are many writers involved with re-writes, adaptations, character development, so on and so forth.




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