Peruse our lists of industry terms to familiarize yourself with the lingo of your field.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

ABOVE THE LINE – Part of a film’s budget reserved for major players in the production such as the director, producer, writer, main actors, etc. So called because these names used to appear above an actual line on old budget formats, separating them from the other filmmakers on the project.

AERIAL SHOT – Filming a shot from above through use of plane or helicopter. Should be used only when necessary due to the costs involved.

ALAN SMITHEE FILM – Directors who want to disassociate themselves with a film will use the pseudonym “Alan Smithee” (alternatively Alan Smithee Jr., Allan Smithee, or Allen Smithee).

ANCILLARY RIGHTS – The agreement that dictates what percentage of merchandise profits is allocated to individuals. This may include books, action figures, posters, etc.

ANGLE – AKA camera angle. The viewpoint from which the subject of the shot is depicted

ANGLE ON – Directing the camera to move and focus onto a specific subject.

APERTURE – A measure of the width of the opening allowing light to enter a camera.

ARC SHOT – Filming the subject through a moving, encircling camera.

ART DIRECTOR – The person responsible for the look and feel of the film’s set; responsible for set construction, design and props (number, type and placement).

ART-HOUSE FILM – Non-mainstream films that are still thought to hold artistic value. These films are often low-budget, foreign, and/or independent. Since these films do not have mass-appeal, they usually do not play in mainstream theatres. However, they can be found playing in niche art-house theatres.

ASIDE – When a film character breaks the imaginary “fourth wall” and speaks directly to the film viewers.

ASPECT RATIO – A measure of the relative sizes of the horizontal and vertical components of an image.

ASSEMBLY – Arranging all the shots in accordance with the order of the script. This is the first step of editing.

AVAILABLE LIGHT – At an off-set location, this is the light that is naturally available. Shots are more realistic when natural light is used rather than artificial light.

AXIS OF ACTION – Also called the “180° line “is an imaginary line that passes through the two main actors of a scene, defining the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left.

ABBY SINGER – The second-to-last shot of the day. Named after production manager Abby Singer, who would frequently call “last shot of the day.” Also called the martini shot.

B-MOVIE – A low-budget, second-tier movie, often the second movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets.

BACKGROUND ARTIST – Also known as a matte artist; the person responsible for designing a visual backdrop to fill in the background of a film scene. Historically created using traditional paints, backdrops today are mostly created digitally.

BACKLIGHTING – Lighting for a shot emitting from behind the subject, causing the subject to appear as a silhouette or in semi-darkness.

BACKLOT – A large, undeveloped area on studio property used for constructing large open-air sets.

BALANCE – How elements such as light, sound, and movement work together within a film’s visual frame.

BARN DOORS – Metal folding doors on all four sides of a lighting fixture. These can be moved on their hinges in order direct light for the shot.

BARNEY – A sound-minimizing blanket placed over a camera to reduce the noise emitting from its moving mechanisms.

BELOW-THE-LINE EXPENSES – All physical production costs not included in the above-the-line expenses, including material costs, music rights, publicity, trailer, etc.

BEST BOY – Also called the Assistant Chief Lighting usually of the gaffer or key grip. In charge of the people and equipment, scheduling the required quantities for each day’s work. The term originates from promoting the crew’s ‘best boy’ to supervising.

BLIMP – A housing for the camera intended to prevent sound equipment from picking up any extra sounds emitting from the camera.

BLOCKING – deciding where actors will move and stand so that lighting and camera placement can be set.

BLUE SCREEN – Also known as green screen. This is a blue or green backdrop that actors are filmed in front of. Later the blank screen can be filled with digitally generated images to complete the background.

BOOM MICROPHONE – A long pole with a microphone on the end. Controlled by the “Boom Operator.”

BOUNCE BOARD – A large white card made of foam or poster board used to reflect soft light.

BRACKETING – Shooting the same scene with several different F-stops.

CALL SHEET – A listing of which actors will be required for which scenes, and when they will be required.

CEL – A hand drawn sheet representing a single animation frame, usually made of a clear material like cellulose.

CHEATER CUT – Introductory footage at the beginning of a series episode to overview what happened in the previous episode.

CINEMATOGRAPHER – A person with expertise in the art of capturing images either electronically or on film stock through the application of visual recording devices and the selection and arrangement of lighting. The chief cinematographer for a movie is called the director of photography.

CLAPBOARD – Also known as the clapper. A small board which holds information identifying a shot. It is filmed at the beginning of a take. Also called a slate or “sticks.”

CLAYMATION – Filming of figures and models constructed out of moldable material such as clay. This is often done through use of stop-motion.

CLOSE-UP – A shot in which the subject is larger than the frame, revealing much detail.

COLORIZATION – Digitally altering a black and white film to include color.

COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY (CGI) – The use of 3D graphics and technology to enhance special effects.

CONTINUOUS – Action moving through multiple locations without interruptions.

CRANE SHOT – A shot taken from a raised apparatus such as a crane or boom (mechanical arm).

CROSS-CUTTING – Also known as inter-cutting or parallel editing. The act of alternating two different scenes – usually in different locations – to suggest parallel action.

CROSSFADE – Fading out of one scene and into another. There is a moment of interruption between the scenes.

CUT – A change in camera angle or placement, location, or time. “Cut” is called during filming to indicate that the current take is over.

CYCLORAMA – A seemless, floor-to-ceiling curved backdrop used on studio sets to create a background for a scene. Often used to represent the sky on such sets.

DAILIES – Unedited rough cuts of the day (or from the previous day) which the director reviews to decide if a re-shoot needs to take place.

DEEPFOCUS SHOT – a shot with exceptional depth of field.

DEPTH OF FIELD – The distance between the elements in the foreground and background of a shot that appear in sharp focus.

DIFFUSION – Placing materials (such as filters, glass, mesh, etc.) in front of the light in order to reduce the light’s harshness.

DIRECTING THE EYE – The use of lighting to emphasize what is important in the shot.

DIRECT SOUND – When sound and image are recorded at the same time.

DIRECTOR – The principal creative artist on a movie set. A director is usually (but not always) the driving artistic source behind the filming process, and communicates to actors the way that he/she would like a particular scene played.

DIRECTOR’S CUT – The first fully-edited version of a film prior to any intervention from outside parties such as studios.

DOLLY – A dolly is a small truck that rolls along dolly tracks carrying the camera, some of the camera crew and occasionally the director.

DUNNING – Combining studio-filmed shots with background footage that has been filmed in a different place.

DUTCH TILT – A shot composed with the horizon not parallel with the bottom of the frame.

DYNAMIC FRAME – The narrowing and widening of a frame to fit an appropriate ratio for the scene.

ESTABLISHING SHOT – The first shot of a new scene that introduces the audience to the space in which the forthcoming scene will take place.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER – Person in charge of production. Not involved in technical aspects, but oversees overall production. Usually involved on the business/finance end of filmmaking.

EXTREMELY LONG SHOT – When the camera is placed an extremely far distance from the subject.

EYELINE MATCH – Creating the illusion of a character looking at an object by cutting between two shots.

FAVOR ON – Focusing and/or highlighting a specific subject or action in a shot.

FLASH CUT – A very quick shot that can have an almost subliminal effect. These shots can sometimes be as short as one frame.

FILM STOCK – Medium where photographic images are recorded.

FOLEY – The art of recreating incidental sound effects (such as footsteps) in synchronization with the visual component of a movie.

FOURTH WALL – The imaginary plane that separates the characters and action of the film from the viewing audience.

FRAME RATE – The rate at which film stock passes in front of the aperture while filming. Scenes shot at a higher frame rate appear slowed down when projected, while scenes shot at a lower frame rate appear unnaturally fast when projected. Also called frames per second (FPS).

GAFFER – Chief lighting technician who is responsible for designing and creating lighting plan.

GRIP – person responsible for the set-up, adjustment and maintenance of production equipment on the set.

HEAD-ON SHOT – When film’s action moves directly at the camera.

HIGH-ANGLE SHOT – When the scene is filmed from above; often to make the subject(s) appear smaller.

HIGHLIGHTING – Using beams of light for the purposes of illuminating particular aspects of a subject.

INTO FRAME – A person or object moving into the picture without the camera moving. This is similar to a character making his way onto the stage in a play.

IRIS OUT – Ending a scene with a closing circle that comes in from the edges of the screen. Similar to an iris of the eye contracting.

KEY LIGHT – The primary light source illuminating the subject.

LAP DISSOLVE – Transitioning between two scenes by fading out of the first as the next one becomes clearer.

LENS – An optical device used by a camera to focus an image onto film stock.

LINE PRODUCER – Person responsible for managing all the people and expenses while the film is being shot.

LOCKED-DOWN SHOT – Filming a scene while the camera is fixed to keep the image motionless.

LOW-ANGLE SHOT – When the scene is filmed from below; often to make the subject(s) appear larger.

MATCH CUT TO – Also known as a graphic match. A cut or transition between two unrelated objects to establish physical or metaphorical continuity or comparison.

MEDIUM SHOT – Camera shot from medium distance, typically above the waist. Allows viewers to see body language, but not facial expressions.

MONTAGE – Editing a sequence of shots or scenes together in a continuous sequence to more quickly convey information over a period of time.

NTSC – The standard for TV/video display in the US and Canada, as set by the National Television Standards Committee, which delivers 525 lines of resolution at 60 half-frames per second.

OFF BOOK – When an actor has completely memorized his or her lines and is no longer in need of the script.

OVERCRANKING – The process of speeding the frame rate of a camera up, so that when the captured pictures are played at the normal frame rate the action appears to be in slow motion. The term originates from early film cameras that employed a crank handle to roll film.

PAN – The action of rotating a camera about its vertical axis. Related to a tilt, the action of rotating a camera up and down its horizontal axis.

PIPELINE – A schedule of movie projects in production.

POINT OF VIEW (POV) – A shot from the vantage of the eyes of a character to show the viewer what the character is seeing.

POSITIVE PRINT – An original light image captured on film.

POST-PRODUCTION – Work performed on a movie after the end of principal photography. Usually involves picture and sound editing and effects.

PRODUCER – One or more producers are responsible for seeing a film through from development to production to post-production to distribution. Producers are involved in raising funds, hiring key personnel, and attracting distributors.

PULL BACK – A shot where the camera physical moves away or zooms out from the subject to reveal the full context of the scene.

PUSH IN – The opposite of a pull back; a shot in which the camera moves towards or zooms into an object.

REVERSE SHOT – Also called reverse angle. Happens when a shot is taken at a 120-180 degree angle from the preceding shot, thus showing the reverse of what was previously on screen.

RIGGER – Workers responsible for setting up lighting and scaffolding on film sets.

SCENE  – A series of shots taking place in one location dealing with one action.

SCREENPLAY – A script written to be produced as a movie.

SCREENWRITER – A person who either adapts stories or writes screenplays for film.

SHOOTING SCRIPT – The final script which is used for the actual filming.

SHOT – The section of unedited film from the time the camera starts to the time it stops.

SHOT LIST – List given to the film crew of all the shots to be filmed during that workday.

SHUTTER SPEED – The length of time that a single frame is exposed for.

SMASH CUT TO – An abrupt cut from one scene to another without a smooth transition.

SOFT FOCUS – A visual effect blurring the image by using filters or shooting with an out-of-focus lens.

SOUNDSTAGE – A large area (usually in a studio) where elaborate sets may be constructed.

SPEC SCRIPT – Sending a non-commissioned script to studios for consideration.

STATIC SHOT – A shot using an immobile camera.

STOCK SHOT – Previously recorded footage, such as footage of historical events, which can be edited into the film.

STOP MOTION – A form of animation in which objects are filmed frame-by-frame and altered slightly in between each frame, creating the illusion of movement.

STORYBOARD – Sequence of pictures created to describe each scene in the film production. Usually indicates camera angle and movement, blocking of actors, and size of the frame.

TIGHT ON – A close-up shot of the subject.

TRACKING SHOT – A shot which follows the subject through space. Often involves mounting the camera onto a dolly and moving it along dolly track.

TRANSITION – The style by which shots and scenes are joined together and progress from one to the next.

TREATMENT – An abridged script; longer than a synopsis. It consists of a summary of each major scene of a proposed movie, and may even include snippets of dialogue.

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.

UNDEREXPOSED – Film that has not been exposed to light for a long enough time to provide proper contrast and thus appears dim.

VERTIGO EFFECT – Also known as “contrazoom.” A camera technique created by Alfred Hitchcock during his film Vertigo that involves tracking backwards while simultaneously zooming in, making the person or object in the center of the image seem stationary while their surroundings change.

WRAP – To finish shooting at the end of the day or the end of the production.

ZOOM SHOT – A shot in which the magnification of the objects by the camera’s lenses is increased (zoom in) or decreased (zoom out/back).