Understanding Film Terms

As a videographer, I tend to speak a different language than my co-workers and partners when it comes to anything video related. Their response 85% of the time is "what does (insert film term here) mean?". I thought I would share with everyone a few of the most common film terms used and their definition so that you will have a better understanding when discussing your next video. 

180 DEGREE RULE – The convention that the camera can be placed in any position as long as it remains on one side of the action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

B-ROLL – is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot.

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

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

CONTINUOUS – Action moving through multiple locations without interruptions.

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.

CUTAWAY – A sudden shift to another scene of action or different viewing angle; or a shot inserted between scenes to effect a transition (as a bridging shot).

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

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

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

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

FRAME – Each individual photographic image making up the film. Also refers to the area of the picture seen on the screen.

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).

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.

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

MISE-EN-SCENE – Everything placed within the frame, including set decoration, costume, and styles of performance (implies an emphasis on psychological and visual unity in a film from one frame to the next).

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

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.

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

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

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.

VOICEOVER – Voice heard while an image is projected but not being spoken in sync with one of the characters appearing on screen. Used to suggest a character’s thoughts or recall of something said earlier, or to provide objective (extra-diegetic) narrative or commentary.

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).

Story By: Barbara