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Film Glossaries


undefined, object
copy deck
A film produced by two or more business entities (studios, partnerships, independent producers, etc.).
A cut away from a shot- or setup, figure, or action- to which the editor will soon return. A cut to a shot whose function is to provide a break from, offer information about, or evade a flawed portion of the primary shot, or to intervene between two similar shots so that their joining will not create a jump cut.
screen left
The left side of the screen, as seen by the audience.
The use of a well-known cultural symbol or complex of symbols in an artistic representation. In movies, iconography can involve a star's persona, the preestablished conventions of a genre (like the shootout in a western), the use of archetypal characters and situations, and such stylistic features as lighting, settings, constuming, props, and so on.
An implied comparison between two otherwise unlike elements, meaningful in a figurative rather than literal sense.
independent producer
A producer not affiliated with a studio or large commercial firm. Many stars and directors have been independent producers to ensure their artistic control.
Biograph's peephole viewer; each frame was printed on paper and mounted on a card, and the cards flipped by as the viewer turned a crank.
rightist, right-wing
A set of ideological values, typically conservative in emphasis, stressing such traits as family values, patriarchy, heredity and caste, absolute moral and ethical standards, religion, veneration for tradition and the past, a tendency to be pessimistic about the future and human nature, the need for competition, an identification with leaders and elite classes, nationalism, open market economic principles, and marital monogamy.
A print copied from another print.
1. A movie whose running time is an hour or more. 2. A theatrical, narrative film that usually lasts over 85 minutes.
point-of-view shot, also pov shot, first-person camera, subjective camera, first-person point of view
Any shot that is taken from the vantage point of a character in the film, showing what the character sees.
camp, campy
An artistic sensibility typified by comic mockery, especially of the straight world and conventional morality. Campy movies are often ludicrously theatrical, stylistically gaudy, and gleefully subversive.
The degree of acceptable sharpness in a film image. "Out of focus" means the images are blurred and lack acceptable linear definition.
anamorphic lens
A lens that compresses or widens the horizontal dimension of an image without affecting the vertical dimension- squeezing a wide image to fit onto standard-sized film, then spreading out the skinny image to fill a wide screen.
subjective sound
A track that presents what a character hears, does not hear (e.g., if deaf), or imagines hearing.
sound stage
A large, windowless, soundproof building in which sound films are shot on artificially lit sets.
Film that is 35 millimeters wide; the standard professional film gauge.
coverage, covering shots, cover shots
Extra shots of a scene that can be used to bridge transitions in case the planned footage fails to edit as planned. Usually long shots that preserve the overall continuity of a scene.
Schüfftan process
A production special effect that allows actors, artwork, partial full-scale sets, and miniature sets to be photographed together; developed by Eugen Schüfftan.
1. The rate at which frames are exposed or projected. 2. The degree to which an emulsion reacts to light and the rapidity with which it does so; the "faster"- more photosensitive- an emulsion is, the less light is required for adequate exposure and the more grainy an image is likely to be. 3. A measure of the light-gathering ability of a lens.
program picture
A run-of-the-mill feature; a film made to fill basic programming needs, because theatres had to show something.
1. The sequence of title cards that includes the name of the film. 2. The opening or closing credits. 3. The intertitles, considered as a group.
To adjust the focal length of a zoom lens while the camera is running; also a shot taken while the zoom is being adjusted. As the focal length is shortened (a zoom out or backward zoom), the lens behaves more like a wide-angle lens, exaggerating depth relationships, decreasing magnification, and widening the field of view so that the camera appears to move away from the subject; as the focal length is increased (a zoom in or forward zoom), the lens behaves more like a telephoto lens, flattening depth relationships, increasing magnification, and narrowing the field of view so that the camera appears to move closer to the subject.
1. An instantaneous transition from one shot to another. 2. To splice one shot to another; also the splice itself. 3. The way a particular version of a film has been edited, as in the director's cut. 4. The instruction to stop shooting or to end a shot. 5. Abridged.
An American studio era term signifying a major production, usually with important stars and a generous budget. Shown as the main feature on double bills.
continuity editing, also découpage
Editing to create the impression that events flow seamlessly from shot to shot; the opposite of montage (in which cuts are called to the audience's attention and discontinuity is heightened).
Anamorphic; derived from "CinemaScope."
production values
The box-office appeal of the physical mounting of a film, such as sets, costumes, props, etc.
The amount of money earned by a film before any expenses are deducted. The domestic box-office gross is the amount spent on tickets to a particular movie in the country where it was produced. After deductions by the exhibitor and distributor, the amount returned to the filmmaker or production company is the producer's gross. See net.
B-film, also B picture
A low-budget movie usually shown as the second feature during the big-studio era in America. B-films rarely included important stars and took the form of popular genres, such as thrillers, westerns, or horror films. The major studios used them as testing grounds for the raw talent under contract, often character actors.
wide screen
Any film format, whether flat or anamorphic, that has an aspect ratio greater than 1.33:1. The adjective.
screenwriter, also scenarist, scriptwriter
The author or co-author of a screenplay; the artist who first determines the structure, characters, themes, events, and dialogue of a film as well as many of its crucial images.
dolly shot, tracking shot, trucking shot
A shot taken from a moving vehicle. Originally tracks were laid on the set to permit a smoother movement of the camera. Any shot in which the camera moves forward, backward, to the side, diagonally, along a curve, or across the ground; the term excludes shots taken from a crane or plane- as well as pans, tilts, and zooms.
Shots or pieces of shots that are not used in the final cut of a film. Leftover footage.
1. An individual recording. 2. One of the steel rails on which the steel wheels of a camera platform could smoothly ride; also one of the boards, laid over uneven terrain, on which the rubber wheels of a dolly may ride. 3. To move the camera forward, backward, to the side, diagonally, or along a curve, usually with perfect smoothness. The term excludes pivoting (pans and tilts), crane, and aerial movements as well as apparent camera movements (zooms in the camera or an optical printer).
loose framing
Usually in longer shots. The mise en scène is so spaciously distributed within the confines of the framed image that the people photographed have considerable freedom of movement.
1. A recurring musical theme that is associated with a recurring narrative element or theme; formulated by Richard Wagner. 2. A thematically significant narrative element that recurs and develops in the course of a movie.
classical cinema, classical paradigm
A vague but convenient term used to designate the style of mainstream fiction films produced in the United States, roughly from the midteens until the late 1960s. The classical paradigm is a movie strong in story, star, and production values, with a high level of technical achievement, and edited according to conventions of classical cutting. The visual style is functional and rarely distracts from the characters in action. Movies in this form are structured narratively, with a clearly defined conflict, complications that intensify to a rising climax, and a resolution that emphasizes formal closure.
star vehicle
A movie especially designed to showcase the talents and charms of a specific star.
A film script or screenplay.
stop-action photography, also stop-motion photography
Stopping the camera, making a change or letting a change take place in the action area, and the restarting the camera, creating what appears to be a continuous shot within which everything suddenly shifts position or something is instantly changed into something else.
subsidiary contrast
A subordinated element of the film image, complementing or contrasting with the dominant contrast.
1. The flexible medium, consisting of a perforated base coated with an emulsion, on which images are photographically imprinted. 2. Perforated film base coated with magnetic oxide; sound is transferred from magnetic tape to magnetic film, which is the same gauge as the film run through the camera and can easily be kept in frame-by-frame sync with the picture and with other tracks. Also known as fullcoat, mag film, mag, mag stock. 3. A movie. 4. Like cinema, a general term for the art of motion pictures. 5. To shoot a motion picture.
A camera platform with rubber wheels that allow it to move (be pushed) freely over a floor, unlike the earlier steel wheels that had to run on steel rails (tracks). See track shot.
The process of combining separately recorded sounds from individual soundtracks onto a master track. A mixing session. The composite soundtrack. OR A dissolve.
slow stock, slow film
Film stocks that are relatively insensitive to light, whose emulsion has a low "speed," and produce crisp images and a sharpness of detail. When used in interior settings, these stocks generally require considerable artificial illumination.
telephoto lens, long lens
A lens that acts as a telescope, magnifying the size of objects at a great distance. A side effect is its tendency to flatten perspective. Has a very long focal length and a very narrow field of view, high factor of magnification and flattens depth relationships. Loosely, any long lens.
boom, mike boom
An overhead telescoping pole that carries a microphone, permitting the synchronous recording of sound without restricting the movement of the actors. Also the arm of a crane, which supports the camera platform and moves it through the air.
An original model or type after which similar things are patterned. Archetypes can be well-known story patterns, universal experiences, or personality types. Myths, fairy tales, genres, and cultural heroes are generally archetypal, as are the basic cycles of life and nature.
A major box-office hit, presently one that grosses $200 million (before 1998, $100 million) or more during its first domestic release.
photocell, also photoelectric cell
A device that converts light into electric impulses- for example, when responding to light that has passed through an optical soundtrack.
cels, also cells
Transparent plastic sheets that are superimposed in layers by animators to give the illusion of depth and volume to their drawings.
1. The art of motion pictures; "the movies" in general. 2. A movie theatre. 3. The films of a country or group.
A list that prohibits the hiring of specific individuals and/or a particular class of people, such as left-wing screenwriters.
eye-level shot
The placement of the camera approximately one and a half to two metres from the ground, corresponding to the height of an observer on the scene.
Edison's first motion picture camera; invented by W. K. L. Dickson.
high key
A type of lighting emphasizing bright, even illumination, with few conspicuous shadows. The set is brightly lit and there is a low contrast ratio (darker areas not much darker than lighter areas). Used mostly in comedies, musicals, and light entertainment films.
An editing device, usually a line that travels across the screen, "pushing off" one image and revealing another, or in which parts of one shot are removed while parts of the next shot appear in their place.
depth of field
A measure of the range of focus in an image; specifically, the range before and behind the plane of focus within which objects remain acceptably sharp. (A lens might be focused at an object 8 feet away but still keep objects that are from 5 to 11 feet away in focus; at a setting yielding a greater depth of field, that same lens might be focused at 8 feet and keep objects in focus from 4 feet to infinity.) Thus, the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that are in focus, measured along the axis from the camera to infinity.
1. The act of telling or relating, whether or not the account is fictive, the presenter (narrator) is personalized, the act is deliberate, or words are employed. 2. Also narrative. A text or discourse; the words and/or images delivered by a narrator- who may be a character (Citizen Kane), the writer, a persona, the filmmaker, or an impersonal voice. 3. In sound film, a voice-over commentary; in silent film, the intertitles attributed to a narrator (usually impersonal, but sometimes a character).
A working copy of the film, edited into rough final form; also the positive print of the camera footage, which is cut and recut by the editor. The final, approved workprint is used as a guide when mixing the sound and cutting the negative.
rear projection, also back projection
The projection of stills or footage onto a translucent screen, from behind that screen, to provide a background for the live action that is performed between the screen and the camera.
A variation of a specific shot. The final shot is often selected from a number of possible takes. An unedited shot, beginning when the camera starts exposing film and ending when the camera stops. An attempt to photograph a shot; the attempts that prove satisfactory are printed.
A style of filmmaking emphasizing extreme distortion, lyricism, and artistic self-expression at the expense of objectivity. The artistic movement that held the look and style of the visible, external universe could take its shape, color, and texture from the artist's intuition of its essential inner being or from human emotions and sensations. 2. The art of rendering inner states as aspects of the outer world. 3. Emotionally intense creative distortion.
crane shot, also boom shot
A shot taken from a special device called a crane, which resembles a huge mechanical arm. The crane carries the camera and the cinematographer and can move in virtually any direction.
An Italian film movement that produced its best works between 1945 and 1955 after WWII. Strongly realistic in its techniques, neorealism emphasized documentary aspects of film art, stressing lose episodic plots, unextraordinary events and characters, natural lighting, actual location settings, nonprofessional actors, a preoccupation with poverty and social problems, and an emphasis on humanistic and democratic ideals. The term has also been used to describe other films that reflect the technical and stylistic biases of Italian neorealism.
Dolby Stereo
1. Also Dolby SVA (stereo variable area). A Dolby NR-encoded, optical, variable area soundtrack that usually carries four channels (left, center, right, and surround) on two tracks; most often found on 35mm prints. 2. A magnetic soundtrack, each of whose six or more channels has been Dolby NR-recorded and is carried on its own track; most often found on 70mm prints.
release version
The approved, final cut; the text or version of a movie that is approved for release and distribution.
the return to a shot, setup, figure, or action, from a cutaway.
leftist, left-wing
A set of ideological values, typically liberal in emphasis, stressing such traits as equality, the importance of environment in the determining human behaviour, relativism in moral matters, emphasis on the secular rather than religion, an optimistic view of the future and human nature, a belief in technology as the main propellant of progress, cooperation rather than competition, an identification with the poor and the oppressed, internationalism, and sexual and reproductive freedom.
match cut
A cut over which an action appears to continue seamlessly.
credits, also titles
A list including the name of the film, its distributor, copyright and other notices, and the names and contributions of those who worked on it, found at or near the film's start (head credits or opening titles) and/or at its end (tail credits or end titles). See intertitle.
POV shot, also subjective camera
Point-of-view shot. A shot in which the camera adopts the vantage point of a character's physical eye or literal gaze, showing what the character sees.
low key
A style of lighting that emphasizes diffused shadows and atmospheric pools of light. The set is dimly lit, with rich shadows and occasional highlights, and there is a high contrast ratio (in other words, the dark areas of the image are much darker than the bright areas). Often used in mysteries and thrillers.
classical cutting
A style of editing developed by D. W. Griffith, in which a sequence of shots is determined by a scene's dramatic and emotional emphasis rather than by physical action alone. The sequence of shots represents the breakdown of the event into its psychological as well as logical components.
medium long shot, also MLS
A shot whose field of view is narrower than that of a long shot but broader than that of a medium shot.
close-up, also closeup, CU, close shot
A detailed view of a person or object. A close-up of an actor usually includes only his or her head. A shot in which the camera is near or appears to be near (long lens) the subject. Close up also: A shot whose field of view is very narrow; in terms of the human figure, a face or hand might fill the frame. Close shot also: A shot whose field of view is slightly broader than that of the close-up; in terms of the human figure, the head and upper chest might fill the frame.
The addition of sound after the visuals have been photographed. For example: replacing one performer's voice with that of another, replacing all the performers' dialogue with dialogue spoken in another language, usually by other performers, re-recording with the same performer, especially when an actor replaces his or her dialogue as recorded during shooting with a new performance, under ideal sound conditions, of the same dialogue (looping), or copying or transferring a recording. Dubbing can be either synchronous with an image or nonsynchronous. Foreign-language movies are often dubbed in English for release in this country.
nonlinear editing
Assembling randomly accessible electronic copies of shots into temporary or final sequence, whether they are stored as video/laserdisc clips or- in the case of online editing or digital nonlinear editing- as digital computer files.
A camera mount, worn by the operator, that allows the camera to remain level even when the operator moves, ensuring extremely smooth hand-held traveling shots.
cross-cutting, also intercut, parallel editing, parallel montage
The alternating of shots from two sequences, often in different locales, suggesting that they are taking place at the same time. Cutting back and forth between ongoing actions- usually between scenes that are presented as occurring in different locations at the same time and that are dramatically or thematically related. See intercutting.
Too much light enters the aperture of a camera lens, bleaching out the image. Useful for fantasy and nightmare scenes.
Any unobtrusive technique, object, or thematic idea that's systematically repeated throughout a film.
lengthy take, long take
A shot of lengthy duration.
deep-focus shot
A technique of photography that permits all distance planes to remain clearly in focus, from close-up ranges to infinity. Sharp focus from foreground to background (extreme depth of field) and whose foreground and background planes appear to be widely separated (impression of a deep visual field, usually created by a wide-angle lens); often used to exaggerate composition in depth.
In Japan, the drama or comedy of middle-class and lower-middle-class life; a subgenre of the gendai-geki.
multiplex cinema
A theatre with many separate auditoriums.
A nonfiction film that records a real event in an unbiased manner.
1. The amount of light that is allowed to reach the film. Overexposure indicates too much light, underexposure too little. 2. The act of allowing light to reach film; the instant in which this happens.
The flexible component or vehicle of film stock, made of a cellulose compound and coated with a photographic emulsion.
A form of filmmaking characterized by photographing inanimate objects or individual drawings frame by frame, with each frame differing minutely from its predecessor. When such images are projected at the standard speed of twenty-four frames per second, the result is that the objects or drawings appear to move, and hence seem "animated." Also the process of making inanimate drawings or objects appear to come to life and move- usually by shooting sequential drawings, or an object in sequential positions, one frame at a time.
Frames per second; the rate of exposing and/or projecting frames. Almost all sound films run at 24 fps; silent films ran at speeds that varied from 16 fps to 24 fps, with 16 fps common for most films before 1920. On today's projectors, "silent speed" is 18 fps, since most films in the mid-1920s ran at 18-24 fps. To simplify matters, the convention is to define silent speed as 16 fps.
Anything with a profit-making potential in movies, though generally used to describe a story of some kind: a screenplay, novel, short story, etc.
A reference to an event, person, or work of art, usually well known.
Those individuals who serve as go-betweens in the film industry, who arrange to book the product in theatres.
The physical and optical characteristics of a negative or print, such as whether it is flat or anamorphic, the gauge of the film, the aspect ratio of the image, and the number of perforations per frame; also the placement and other characteristics of the soundtrack (single or double system, optical or magnetic, 4-track or 6-track, etc.).
optical composite
Any image created by combining elements from two or more separately photographed images, or combining two or more complete images, usually on an optical printer.
A film made of chapters that are shown at regular intervals- in most cases, weekly.
The sound-on-disc process first used by Warner Bros.; eventually made obsolete by the sound-on-film process.
Pertaining to motion and movement.
aspect ratio
The ratio between the horizontal (width, written first) and vertical (height, a constant) dimensions of the screen. The standard 35mm Academy Frame is 1 1/3 times as wide as it is high; its aspect ratio (1 1/3 to 1) is written 1.33:1. Other common aspect ratios are 1.66:1 (35mm European widescreen, a flat format), 1.85:1 (35mm American widescreen, also flat), 2.2:1 (70mm flat), 2.35:1 (Panavision, a 35mm wide-screen anamorphic format), and 2.75:1 (70mm anamorphic). CinemaScope (35mm anamorphic) began at 2.55:1 but soon changed to 2.35:1.
cranking back
Rewinding the film a short distance in the camera, usually so it can be re-exposed; invented by R. W. Paul.
formalist, formalism
A style of filmmaking in which aesthetic forms take precedence over the subject matter as content. Time and space as ordinarily perceived are often distorted. Emphasis is on the essential, symbolic characteristics of objects and people, not necessarily on their superficial appearance. formalists are often lyrical, self-consciously heightening their style to call attention to it as a value for its own sake. Whether practiced by an artist or a critic, the emphasis on the form, structure, and strategies of a work of art, rather than on its subject or the circumstances under which it came to be created.
production code, also Breen code, The Motion Picture Production Code
A moralistic list of what could and could not be shown or endorsed in a Hollywood film. A producer's self-censorship guide, considered preferable to censorship by groups outside the film industry, the Code was drawn up in 1930, approved by the Hays Office, and officially adopted by producers and distributors that same year. It was first enforced in 1934, when Joseph Breen was appointed to run the Production Code Administration.
1. 1,000 feet of 35mm film- in practice, between 850 and 990 feet- wound on a reel; in 16mm, a full reel is 400 feet of film. At silent speed, approximately 12-16 minutes long; at sound speed approximately 10 minutes long. 2. The sound, on tape or magnetic film, that accompanies a particular reel of film. Also called a reel of sound. 3. Up to 2,000 feet of 35mm film, wound on the metal projection reels in use today. Also double reel. 4. A metal or plastic spool on which film or tape is wound; unlike a core, a reel has outside rims or flanges.
Motion Picture Patents Company
Edison's patent-sharing trust, comprising the nine leading film companies of 1908 (Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Lubin, Selig, Kalem, Méliès, and Pathé) as well as inventor Thomas Armat and distributor George Kleine. The combine was incorporated and activated in 1908; Méliès was included in 1909, the same year that Eastman agreed to sell perforated raw stock only to members of the MPPC. Disbanded 1917.
shooting script
A written breakdown of a movie story into its individual shots, often containing technical instructions. Used by the director and his or her staff during the production.
long take
A shot that lasts longer than a minute.
Exposed film stock.
thematic montage
A type of editing propounded by the Soviet filmmaker Eisenstein, in which separate shots are linked together not by their literal continuity in reality but by symbolic association. A shot of a preening braggart might be linked to a shot of a toy peacock, for example. Most commonly used in documentaries, in which shots are connected in accordance to the filmmaker's thesis.
Triptych format (three cameras, three projectors) employing a high, wide, deeply curved screen, yielding a panorama or three-panel image that extended nearly to the limits of peripheral vision; a fourth projector played the six- or seven-track stereophonic sound. Original aspect ratio variable from 2.71:1 to 2.77:1. Introduced 1952; changed from a multi-film system to a large-negative anamorphic system in the early 1960s.
negative pick-up, also pickup
A deal whereby a studio buys and distributes an independently produced film.
full shot, also FS
A type of long shot that includes the human body in full, with the head near the top of the frame and the feet near the bottom. A medium long shot that offers a relatively complete view of the set and shows the human figure from head to foot.
A set of interlocking assumptions, values, and expectations held by a person, group, or culture.
dominant contrast, dominant
That area of the film image that compels the viewer's most immediate attention, usually because of a prominent visual contrast.
auteur theory
A theory of film popularized by the critics of the French journal Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s. The theory emphasizes the director as the major creator of film art, stamping the material with his or her own personal vision, style, and thematic obsessions.
story values
The narrative appeal of a movie, which can reside in the popularity of an adapted property, the high craftsmanhip of a script, or both.
dissolve, lap dissolve
The slow fading out of one shot and the gradual fading in of its successor, with a superimposition of images, usually at the midpoint.
1. The adjective for narration. 2. That which is narrated, whether true or false; the story (or series of events and perceptions) and the discourse in which it is presented.
art director
The individual responsible for designing and overseeing the construction of sets for a movie, and sometimes its interior decoration and overall visual style.
double exposure
The superimposition of two literally unrelated images on film. See also multiple exposure.
All the events that we see, hear about, or infer in a fiction film in the order in which they are supposed to have happened. The filmmaker constructs the plot from these events; the spectator reconstructs the story on the basis of the information supplied by the plot.
When the lights for a shot derive from the rear of the set, thus throwing the foreground figures into semidarkness or silhouette.
1. In the threading path of a camera, printer, or projector, a short length of film that is left slack. 2. A strip of film, tape, or magnetic film whose beginning is joined to its end.3. To postsynchronize dialogue, specifically by looping (listening repeatedly to the live sound, and recording the new reading, on a loop of magnetic film loaded in a dubber that is synchronized with a projector). See dubbing.
A term used in drama and film to signify the dramatic implications beneath the language of a play or movie. Often the subtext concerns ideas and emotions that are totally independent of the language of a text.
A vehicle equipped with an arm (or boom); at the end of the arm is a camera platform that can be lifted and moved through the air. See boom shot.
rite of passage
Narratives that focus on key phases of a person's life, when an individual passes from one stage of development to another, such as adolescence to adulthood, innocence to experience, middle age to old age, and so on.
release date
The date- loosely, the year- a film is first shown to a public audience, not on a sneak-preview basis but as an official opening.
direct cinema
A term often used as a synonym for cinéma vérité. In France and Canada, especially, it is used to designate an approach to documentary that stresses the relationship between filmmakers and their subjects. It is also applied to fiction films that use the equipment and techniques developed for documentary in the 1950s.
A type of film music that is purely descriptive and attempts to mimic the visual action with musical equivalents. Often used in cartoons.
In a camera, printer, or projector, the apparatus through which film passes as it is exposed to light.
The person who guides the actors in performance, determines the staging of the action, supervises all aspects of shooting, and works with the producer, writer, and designer before production and with the film and sound editors after production to ensure the consistency and excellence of the movie as well as the best possible use of the personnel, materials, and resources provided by the producer.
The 35mm anamorphic process introduced by 20th Century-Fox in 1953; eventually replaced by Panavision. See aspect ratio.
1. The original music composed for a film. 2. The music arranged for a film.
stock footage
Miscellaneous shots and scenes kept in a studio's film archive for repeated use; sufficiently famous (major news events) or anonymous (planes in flight) to be cut into a movie without the expense of new shooting.
aesthetic distance
Viewers' ability to distinguish between an artistic reality and external reality- their realization that the events of a fiction film are simulated.
extreme close-up, also ECU, tight close-up
A minutely detailed view of an object or person. An extreme close-up of an actor generally includes only his or her eyes or mouth. A shot with a very narrow field of view; the camera appears to be extremely close to the subject.
A filmmaker who finances projects independently, to allow maximum creative freedom.
A sheet of metal (a matte plate) or cardboard (a matte card), painted flat (matte) black- or a strip of exposed film (a fixed matte) that is transparent in some areas and opaque everywhere else- that admits light only to specific areas of the frame. Used to reshape the frame or in connection with the making of optical composites. See matte.
1. A filmmaking project. 2. The activity of making a film. 3. The shooting phase of filmmaking, particularly that involving the principal actors (which is called principal photography). It is prepared for in pre-production (scheduling, production design, etc.) and followed by post-production (editing, mixing, etc.).
The joining of one shot (strip of film) with another. The shots can picture events and objects in different places at different times. In Europe editing is called montage. The art of selecting, trimming, and assembling in order the shots (film editing) and/or the tracks (sound editing) that make up the finished motion picture.
A film-copying machine that directs light through processed film (the original) onto raw stock (which, when processed, becomes the print). A contact printer is used for relatively simple duplication, such as making a release print from a final negative, a workprint from a camera negative, or a brighter copy of a shot that is too dark. An optical printer is used to create the majority of optical special effects.
A plastic hub on which film is wound.
femme fatale
The deadly woman, found regularly in film noir.
The 35mm anamorphic format that replaced CinemaScope; its aspect ratio is 2.35:1.
A film actor or actress of great popularity. Types: personality and actor.
A rather vague term often applied to various kinds of fictional reconstruction of actual events.
cinéma vérité
French for "film truth"; kinó-pravda in Russian. A method of documentary filming using aleatory methods that don't interfere with the way events take place in reality. Such movies are made with a minimum of equipment, usually a handheld camera and portable sound apparatus. The catalyzing presence of the camera, with which the subjects interact, is acknowledged. In most cases the crew is small, sometimes only one person to run the camera and one to record the sound, and the equipment is lightweight.
A stylistic exuberance and subjectivity, emphasizing the sensuous beauty of the medium and producing an intense outpouring of emotion.
omniscient point of view
An all-knowing narrator who provides the spectator with all the necessary information.
reestablishing shot
A return to an initial establishing shot within a scene, acting as a reminder of the physical context of the closer shots.
optical soundtrack
A continuous black-and-white, sound-on-film image area running down one edge of the film (adjacent to the frames), containing the movie's final soundtrack and designed to allow varying amounts of light to pass through it to a photocell.
From the French, meaning "in the front ranks." Those minority artists whose works are characterized by an unconventional daring and by obscure, controversial, or highly personal ideas.
personality star
A film actor or actress of great popularity. Tends to play only those roles that fit a preconceived public image, which constitutes his or her persona. ex) Barbra Streisand
key light
The main source of illumination for a shot.
The camera's angle of view relative to the subject being photographed. A high-angle shot is photographed from above, a low angle from below the subject.
creative producer
A producer who supervises the making of a movie in such detail that he or she is virtually its artistic director. During the studio era in America, the most famous creative producers were David O. Selznick and Walt Disney.
matte box
A black, accordionlike device mounted in front of the camera lens (and often fitted with a sunshade or lens hood), capable of holding matte cards and filters.
iris shot
A shot whose picture area appears within a circle, whether or not the circle changes size during the shot.
1. The process of recording, after the picture has been shot, a track that is to accompany a particular MOS (silent) shot- or to be substituted for a track recorded during production- and of synchronizing this and other wild tracks with the picture. 2. The process of creating and synchronizing a soundtrack for a film shot silent or in a foreign language.
cutting continuity, also continuity
A list and description (including dialogue) of all the shots in the final version of a film, prepared by the editor; the film as a series of shots.
variable density track
An optical soundtrack whose dimensions remain constant but whose uniform degree of opacity varies.
sprocket holes, also perforations, perfs
The regularly spaced holes- into which the pins of claw mechanisms and the teeth of sprocket wheels precisely fit- that run along one or both edges of motion picture film and one edge of mag film.
A special effects technique in which two or more separately photographed images are rephotographed onto one strip of film.
Film d'Art
Early silent French "art" films consisting of filmed stage productions.
Transparent material chemically derived from cellulose; cut into strips to be used as film base or into sheets (cels) on which to paint individual elements of composite drawings.
proxemic patterns
The spatial relationships among characters within the mise en scène, and the apparent distance of the camera from the subject photographed.
screen right
The right side of the screen, as seen by the audience.
constructive editing, also linkage editing
A variety of montage in which many brief, distinctly individual shots (which are considered complementary and related rather than in conflict) accumulate into a whole, like a wall made out of bricks; formulated by Vsevolod Pudovkin.
prop, also property
Any movable item that is included in a movie: tables, guns, books, etc. the term includes set dressings and costumes.
In Japan, a film set in the present or recent past; the film of modern life.
A film genre characterized by bold and sweeping themes, usually in heroic proportions. The protagonist is an ideal representative of a culture- national, religious, or regional. The tone of most epics is dignified, the treatment larger than life. The western is the most popular epic genre in the United States.
The sound-on-film (optical sound) process introduced by Fox; virtually identical to Phonofilm.
1. Film stock that turns black where it has been exposed to light. 2. The camera original; the negative film run through the camera. 3. The completed movie; the edited and perfected final negative, from which release prints may be struck.
available lighting
The use of only that light which actually exists on location, either natural (the sun) or artificial (house lamps). When available lighting is used in interior locations, generally a sensitive fast film stock must also be used.
Edison's first projector, invented by Thomas Armat (with C. Francis Jenkins) and incorporating the Latham loop.
Planning and rehearsing the positions and movements of the actors and of the camera within a given playing area, shot, or scene.
The fade-out is the snuffing of an image from normal brightness to a black screen. A fade-in is the opposite. A dissolve to any monochromatic field (fade to red, fade to white, etc.). 2. To effect a fade; to fade out (rarely used alone to mean "to fade in").
subjective camera
1. A shot or setup that shows what a character sees; a POV (point-of-view) shot. 2. Loosely, a shot, scene, or sequence that shows what a character remembers, relates, dreams, hallucinates, or imagines; a mindscreen.
A symbolic technique in which stylized characters and situations represent rather obvious ideas, such as Justice, Death, Religion, Society, and so on.
contrapuntal sound
Sound that is synchronized to clash with what is shown; a soundtrack that works against the image track or in counterpoint with it. Audio-visual montage.
oblique angle, tilt, tilt shot
A shot photographed by a tilted camera. When the image is projected on the screen, the subject itself seems to be tilted on a diagonal.
1. An indoor set. 2. A scene that takes place indoors.
Information that is continuous, like a wave, and that indicates difference by having more or less of something, as the amplitude of a sound wave rises with an increase in volume; in an analog recording, the electrical waveform is analogous to the acoustical waveform, changing as it changes and continuing as it continues. See Digital.
Film that is 70 millimeters wide; most often used for release prints of films that have been shot on 65mm negative stock or 35mm anamorphic films that have been blown up.
A line of words printed near the bottom of the screen; in most cases a condensed translation of foreign language dialogue. Considered intertitles only when part of the original movie.
wild track, also wild recording, wild sound
A recording made without camera synchronization.
When a critic isolates and heightens one aspect of a work of art from its context to analyze that characteristic in greater depth.
The sound meant to be played through a particular speaker; e.g., the left, center, right, and surround channels of a Dolby Stereo soundtrack.
The Lumière brothers' 35mm camera, which could also be used as a projector and a printer.
1. Any group of consecutive shots and/or scenes. 2. A series of interrelated shots that is not restricted to covering an action in a single location and that has its own beginning, middle, and end (subtly limited structure) and distinct project (function, style, or concern) within the whole of the film; e.g., the dream sequence that opens Wild Strawberries or the Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin. 3. A series of interrelated scenes with a consistent dramatic project, constituting a significant unit of the structured narrative; e.g., the Bernstein sequence in Citizen Kane or the chain-gang sequence in Sullivan's Travels.
The sound-on-film process invented by Lee de Forest. see movietone
pixillation, also stop-motion photography
An animation technique involving the photographing of live actors frame by frame. When the sequence is projected at the standard speed of twenty-four fps, the actors move abruptly and jerkily, like cartoon figures. The art of animating a person or an object that is capable of moving under its own power- and may well move between exposures.
Multiple exposure; printing or shooting one image over another.
The practical planning phase of filmmaking, including all the work (location scouting, set construction, costume design, etc.) that must be done before shooting can get under way.
open forms
Used primarily by realist filmmakers, these techniques are likely to be unobtrusive, with an emphasis on informal compositions and apparently haphazard designs. The frame is exploited to suggest a temporary masking, a window that arbitrarily cuts off part of the action.
homage, also hommage
A shot, a scene, or an element within either, that is a direct or indirect reference within a movie to another movie, filmmaker, or cinematic style. A respectful and affectionate tribute.
Dolby noise reduction, also Dolby NR
A process for reducing system noise, particularly tape hiss, by compressing the signal during recording and expanding or decoding it during playback.
rushes, dailies
The selected footage of the previous day's shooting, which is usually evaluated by the director and cinematographer before the start of the next day's shooting.
A masking device that blacks out portions of the screen, permitting only a part of the image to be seen. Usually the iris is circular or oval in shape and can be expanded or contracted. Also a transitional device in which the image appears as an expanding circle (iris in) or disappears as a contracting circle (an iris out).
The arrangement of story events in the order in which they appear in the film. For example, events that occurred in the past might be introduced at any point though flashbacks or dialogue.
A shot, usually of an unmoving object, that is cut into a scene or a sequence; the principal actors, if they or any part of them should appear, are represented by doubles.
videocassette recorder, also VCR
A videotape deck that electronically records and plays back audio-visual information that may be displayed on a television; the videotape is wound on cores in a case, so that the tape itself need not be handled.
reverse angle shot, also reverse shot
A shot taken from an angle 180 degrees opposed to the previous shot. That is, the camera is placed opposite its previous position. Also one in a series of alternating, complementary views (a shot/reverse-shot pattern) whose angles are usually separated by 120-160 degrees; often used for conversations.
An editing technique that suggests the interruption of the present by a shot or series of shots representing the past.
high-angle shot
A shot in which the subject is photographed from above, the camera looking downward toward the subject.
perforated stock
Film or mag stock that has sprocket holes along one or both edges.
swish pan, also flash or zip pan
A horizontal movement of the camera at such a rapid rate that the subject photographed blurs on the screen.
A measure of the photosensitivity of an emulsion, following specifications established by the American Standards Association; the higher the ASA, the faster the "speed" and the greater the sensitivity of the film.
A filmmaker- usually a director, but sometimes a producer or writer- with a distinctive style and coherent thematic vision that are developed throughout a body of work. French for "author"; thus, the primary creator of a movie, who guides the collaborative filmmaking project so that it expresses his or her creative intentions.
orthochromatic film
Early black-and-white film stock, sensitive to blue and green (and, much less so, to yellow) but not to red or orange; replaced monochromatic film which was sensitive only to blue.
In Japan, the live narrator of a film.
miniatures, also model or miniature shots
Small-scale models photographed to give the illusion that they are full-scale objects. For example, ships sinking at sea, giant dinosaurs, airplanes colliding, etc.
The computerized process of adding color to black-and-white movies electronically.
low-angle shot
A shot in which the subject is photographed from below, in which the camera looks upward toward the subject.
first cut, also rough cut
The initial sequence of shots in a movie, often constructed by the director.
script, screenplay, scenario
A written description of a movie's dialogue and action, which occasionally includes camera directions.
An ambiguous term referring to the individual or company that controls the financing of a film, and often the way it's made. The producer can concern himself or herself solely with business matters, or with putting together a package deal (such as script, stars, and director), or the producer can function as an expeditor, smoothing over problems during production. The person who selects and hires the creative team to write and shoot a film, pays all the costs of filmmaking, owns the finished product, and arranges for the film's distribution. The business entity that collectively performs the functions of an individual producer. Also, the studio or production company executive who authorizes and directly or indirectly supervises the making of a film.
special effects, also SPFX
1. Physical effects that can be staged for the camera and shot in real time (e.g., a tree crashing through a window). Also known as production effects. 2. Production effects that entail the use of machines (e.g., an electronically detonated explosion). Also mechanicals, mechanical special effects, special mechanical effects. 3. Photographic illusions created through nonroutine shooting or printing techniques, usually during post-production (e.g., a traveling matte in which a bicyclist crosses the face of the moon). Also opticals, optical special effects, special optical effects, special effects cinematography.
metteur en scène
The artist or technician who creates the mise en scène- that is, the director.
traveling shot
Any track shot, dolly shot, crane shot, following shot, hand-held shot, or aerial shot in which the camera moves from one place to another. The term excludes pans and tilts (in which the camera only pivots) and zoom shots (in which the lens is adjusted and the camera does nothing).
Transitional sequences of rapidly edited images, used to suggest the lapse of time or the passing of events. Often uses dissolves and multiple exposures. In Europe, montage means the art of editing. The dynamic editing of picture and/or sound. The intensive, significant, and often abrupt juxtaposition of shots. Rapid cutting. A series of overlapping images; in the sound film, usually accompanied by music and used as a transitional device. Also known as Hollywood montage.
production still
1. A photograph, shot with a still camera, that is taken on the set, often approximating a scene in the film, or illustrates some aspect of the making of the film. 2. The photographs included in a film's press kit, including production and publicity stills.
split reel
1. A film that is half a reel or less in length (where a full reel is 1,000 feet of 35mm film or the equivalent). 2. A reel, one of whose sides may be unscrewed to allow the insertion or removal of film that has been tightly wound on a core.
freeze frame, freeze shot
A shot composed of a single frame that is reprinted a number of times on the filmstrip; when projected, it gives the illusion of a still photograph. A sudden cessation of movement created by the continual reprinting of the same frame.
The Motion Picture Association of America's Classification and Rating Administration; the board that awards a film its MPAA rating (G, PG, R, etc.), determining how old one must be- implicitly, how mature one ought to be- in order to see it.
The process of chemically converting a black-and-white image to a monochromatic color image; the darker the image (i.e., the greater the concentration of exposed silver crystals), the deeper the color. In a toned shot of a face, the whites of the eyes are white.
A style of filmmaking characterized by austerity and restraint, in which cinematic elements are reduced to the barest minimum of information.
Unexposed film. There are many types of movie stocks, including those highly sensitive to light (fast stocks) and those relatively insensitive to light (slow stocks).
The critical process of dismantling the logical, ideological, or fictional structures that support and are reflected in a text; analyzing the ways a work comprises contradictions and defers rather than delivers meaning. Formulated by Jacques Derrida.
high contrast
A style of lighting emphasizing harsh shafts and dramatic streaks of lights and darks. Often used in thrillers and melodramas.
storyboard, storyboarding
A previsualization technique in which shots are sketched in advance and in sequence, like a comic strip, thus allowing the filmmaker to outline the mis en scène and construct the editing continuity before production begins.
traveling matte
1. A matte that can vary the contours of its opaque area(s) from frame to frame; a film of a moving silhouette. 2. An optical composite that seamlessly, and without see-through ("phantom") effects, integrates elements from different shots into one image; isolated through special photographic and printing techniques, the elements are combined in an optical printer. 3. A video or digital composite, created by electronic matting techniques, of moving elements from separate sources.
A device that, when open, allows light to reach and expose the film in a camera or printer- or shine through the film and the lens in a projector- and that, when shut, keeps out light and allows the next frame to be advanced into position.
focal length
The distance in millimeters from the film plane (the location of the frame of film that is to be exposed) to the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused at infinity. In 35mm Academy-ratio cinematography, a "normal" lens has a focal length of 50mm, a short or wide-angle lens has a focal length shorter than that (e.g. 28mm), and a long or telephoto lens has a long focal length (e.g., 200mm). See zoom lens.
A large corporation specializing in the production of movies, such as Paramount, Warner Brothers, and so on; any physical facility equipped for the production of films.
release negative
The final negative of the release version, from which release prints are struck.
The end of a reel of film or tape.
In Japan, a costume drama or period piece set in the feudal past.
soft focus
The blurring out of focus of all except one desired distance range. Can also refer to a glamourizing technique that softens the sharpness of definition so facial wrinkles can be smoothed over and even eliminated.
Synchronization, especially between picture and sound.
Stop-motion animation
Frame-by-frame shooting of a model (e.g. King Kong), a cutout, or any object incapable of moving under its own power.
A technique whereby a portion of the movie image is blocked out, thus temporarily altering the dimentions of the screen's aspect ratio.
Imbibition printing, also called the dye transfer process, and the company that perfected it. The process of applying dyes directly onto the print (rather than putting the dyes through the film developing process) by means of a matrix, which is a celluloid strip bearing various thicknesses of hardened gelatin that is capable of absorbing and shedding dyes. In three-strip Technicolor, each of the three matrices is a black-and-white record of the red, green, or blue in the image (in negative, the cyan, magenta, or yellow, respectively).
1. An outdoor shooting location. 2. A scene that is set outdoors.
completion date
1. The year a film is finished and ready to be released; usually the year it is copyrighted. 2. The day the final trial print is approved.
multiple exposures
A special effect produced by the optical printer, which permits the superimposition of many images simultaneously.
The physical bond that joins one piece of film (or magnetic stock or tape) to another; also, to make such a bond, usually with glue or tape.
Music that accompanies a shot, scene, or sequence but is not being played by any character or object (radio, record, etc.) in the movie; nondiegetic music.
pull-back dolly
Withdrawing the camera from a scene to reveal an object or character that was previously out of frame.
1. Self-referentiality, whether displayed by a work or by its creator. 2. Also self-consciousness. The implication that a work of art is aware of itself as a work of art, either as an artifice in a particular creative tradition or as an autonomous and self-directing structure.
Unexposed and unprocessed.
matte shot
A process of combining two separate shots on one print, resulting in an image that looks as though it had been photographed normally. Used mostly for special effects, such as combining a human figure with giant dinosaurs, etc.
A popular narrative form that is characterized by intense emotion and draws strong, vivid distinctions between good and evil.
The artistic arrangement of light and dark elements in a shot or in any pictorial composition.
The width of the filmstrip, expressed in millimetres (mm). The wider the gauge, the better quality of the image. The standard theatrical gauge is 35 mm.
Any wide-screen process, lens, or format in which a wide field of view is squeezed (horizontally compressed) during shooting and unsqueezed (restoring normal width-to-height relationships) during projection. See Flat and Wide screen.
cult film
A movie, usually but not necessarily weird, with an insatiably devoted following.
nitrate film
Film whose base is made of cellulose nitrate; explosive, and obsolete since 1951, but often visually superior to safety-base film.
voice-of-God commentary
In documentary, the text is spoken by an unseen, authoritative, and apparently all-knowing male commentator.
final cut, also release print
The sequence of shots in a movie as it will be released to the the public. Also the right given to some directors to have the director's cut released without any changes.
wide-angle lens, short lens
A lens with a very short focal length and a very broad field of view that permits the camera to photograph a wider area than a normal lens. A side effect is its tendency to exaggerate perspective and deepens or exaggerates depth relationships in the visual field and produces distorted, bowed images of objects that are very near the camera. Also used for deep-focus photography. Loosely, any short lens.
An implied agreement between the viewer and artist to accept certain artificialities as real in a work of art. In movies, editing (or the juxtaposition of shots) is accepted as "logical" even though a viewer's perception of reality is continuous and unfragmented.
reaction shot
A cut or reverse shot, usually a close-up or close shot, to a shot of a character's reaction to the contents of the preceding shot or an offscreen action.
Computer-generated imagery.
actor star
A film actor or actress of great popularity, can play roles of greater range and variety. ex) Robert De Niro
A digitally encoded disc that is read by a laser beam and yields a high-quality video image with digital sound.
shooting ratio
The amount of film stock used in photographing a movie in relation to what's finally included in the finished product. A shooting ratio of 20:1 means that twenty feet of film were shot for every one used in the final cut.
1. Not anamorphic; a spherical-lens format. 2. Not 3-D; a two-dimensional format. 3. Not glossy; a dull, matte, or nonreflective surface.
slow motion, also overcranking
Shots of a subject photographed at a faster rate than twenty-four fps, which when projected at the standard rate produce a dreamy, dancelike slowness of action.
1. Any surface or coating that is "flat" (nonreflective) rather than shiny; most photographic and lighting equipment and accessories are matte black. 2. A mask that admits light freely to certain areas of the frame and completely blocks it from reaching other areas. In most cases, mask a is a rigid physical object or camera accessory, and a matte is a selectively opaque shot or shot element.
title card
A stable, full-frame title; also the card (which may or may not be decorated) on which the words are drawn or printed, and the shot of the card. Includes virtually all head and tail credits and narrative and dialogue titles in silent film and the majority of superimposed or stand-alone titles today, but excludes crawls and subtitles.
Pieces of glass and plastic placed in front of the camera lens that distort the quality of light entering the camera and hence the movie image.
The sound-on-film process developed by RCA; it used a variable area optical soundtrack (as most contemporary systems do) rather than a variable density track. see movietone, phonofilm, and vitaphone.
star system
The technique of exploiting the charisma of popular performers to enhance the box-office appeal of films. The star system was developed in America and has been the backbone of the American film industry isnce the mid-1910s.
fast motion, also undercranking
Shots of a subject photographed at a slower rate than twenty-four fps, which, when projected at the standard rate, conveys motion that is jerky and slightly comical, seemingly out of control.
release print
An original positive print (not a dupe of such a print) that is officially put into distribution and designed to be projected.
The arrangement of the elements of an image in relation to the boundaries of the frame and to each other.
tight framing
Usually in close shots. The mise en scène is so carefully balanced and harmonized that the people photographed have little or no freedom of movement.
1. The final sound composite; all the sounds heard in a film. 2. The optical or magnetic track(s) in which that composite is stored; usually an integral part of the release print.
A sound dissolve; pronounced seg-way.
long shot, also LS, far shot
A shot that includes an area within the image that roughly corresponds to the audience's view of the are within the proscenium arch in the live theatre. A shot that gives a wide, expansive view of the visual field; the camera appears to be far from the subject. In terms of the human figure, a person might be less than half the height of the frame.
1. A shot consisting primarily or entirely of words; it may appear on its own, as did most of the narrative and dialogue intertitles in silent film, or be superimposed over another shot. The term includes head and tail credits, intertitles, title cards, scrolling titles (titles that "crawl" up the screen), and subtitles. 2. The name of a work.
1. A knowledgeable film enthusiast. 2. Literally, a film producer, writer, or cameraman.
A nonfiction film that organizes and presents factual materials to make a point.
safety-base film
Camera or printing stock that has a slow-burning base made primarily of cellulose triacetate (originally, cellulose acetate), in contrast to the explosive base of nitrate film, which it replaced.
day-for-night shooting
Scenes that are filmed in daytime with special filters to suggest nighttime settings in the movie image.
principal photography
The process of shooting the principal performers and every dialogued scene in the script; the core activity of the production phase of filmmaking.
faux raccord
A jump cut with a false impression of continuity; often a match of action over a change of scene.
1. Originally, a film production company not affiliated with the Motion Picture Patents Company. 2. A filmmaker who works without studio support or interference and who may distribute the film personally or license it to a company that specializes in alternative, nonstudio projects. 3. A producer or small production company that makes a film autonomously but may have a financing and distribution deal with a studio.
block booking
The practice of forcing an exhibitor to rent a group of films rather than to bid on individual titles.
cutting to continuity
A type of editing in which the shots are arranged to preserve the fluidity of an action without showing all of it. An unobtrusive condensation of a continuous action.
Brechtian cinema
Films, and certain devices within them, that encourage audiences to remain critically distant from the fiction, to analyze the dramatized situation in political terms, and to keep in mind the theatrical or cinematic nature of the spectacle; the opposite of bourgeois cinema. Inspired by the "epic theatre" of German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) in which a variety of reflexive and stylized devices engage the audience's critical awareness. Uses the alienation effect.
screwball comedy
A film genre, introduced in the 1930s in the United States and popular up to the 1950s, characterized by zany lovers, often from different social classes. The plots are often absurdly improbable and have a tendency to veer out of control. These movies usually feature slapstick comedy scenes, aggressive and charming heroines, and an assortment of outlandish secondary characters.
fast stock, fast film
Film stock thats highly sensitive to light and generally produces a grainy image. Film whose emulsion has a high "speed," making it extremely reactive to light and useful in low-light conditions. Often used by documentarists who wish to shoot only with available lighting.
spherical lens
A lens that preserves the normal horizontal and vertical relationships found in the subject.
dialectical, dialectics
An analytical methodology, derived from Hegel and Marx, that juxtaposes pairs of opposites- a thesis and antithesis- to arrive at a synthesis of ideas. The theory and practice of systems that develop through conflict between opposites. The synthesis becomes the first term (thesis) in a new dialectical cycle
literal adaptation
A movie based on a stage play, in which the dialogue and actions are preserved more or less intact.
The positioning (location and angle) of the camera, fitted with a particular lens, and lights for a specific shot, at the start of a take. Any number of shots may be taken from the same setup.
1. A motion picture. 2. A feature-length narrative film.
master shot
An uninterrupted shot, usually taken from a long or full shot range, that contains an entire scene, and into which closer or more specific views are intercut. The closer shots are photographed later, and an edited sequence, composed of a variety of shots, is constructed on the editor's bench.
The dividing line between the edges of the screen image and the enclosing darkness of the theatre. Can also refer to a single photograph from the filmstrip. In the narrative film, a story or narrative situation within which another story or sequence is bracketed or presented.
zoom lens, zoom shot
A lens of variable focal length that permits the cinematographer to change from wide-angle to telephoto shots (and vice versa) in one continuous movement, often plunging the viewer in our out of a scene rapidly.
process shot, also rear projection
A technique in which a background scene is projected onto a translucent screen behind the actors so it appears that the actors are on location in the final image.
1. Closed-circuit television. 2. The art and technology of television. 3. A work made to be televised. 4. A videotape, laserdisc, or DVD copy of a movie or of a video work.
negative image
The reversal of lights and darks of the subject photographed: blacks are white, whites are black.
An imprecise unit of film, composed of a number of interrelated shots, unified usually by a central concern- a location, an incident, or a minor dramatic climax. A dramatic action or interaction that takes place in a single location. A complete unit of action that is capable of being covered in a single shot, regardless of how many shots are actually used to cover it. The shot(s) in which a scene is presented.
set dressing
1. Furniture, fixtures, and objects attached to the walls or floor of an interior set. 2. Integral parts of an exterior set.
An avant-garde movement in the arts stressing Freudian and Marxist ideas, unconscious elements, irrationalism, and the symbolic association of ideas. Surrealist movies were produced roughly from 1924 to 1931, primarily in France, though there are surrealistic elements in the works of many directors, and especially in music videos. Sought to pursue within artistic structures the juxtapositions, transitions, and bizarre logic characteristic of dreams and the unconscious.
Correcting overexposure, underexposure, and color values when making a print.
reverse motion
A series of images are photographed with the film reversed. When projected normally, the effect is to suggest backwards movement- an egg "returning" to its shell, for example.
short lens
A lens with a short focal length and a broad field of view, which exaggerates depth relationships in the visual field; a very short lens is called a wide-angle lens.
The field of the mind's eye.
Hays Office
Colloquial name for Hollywood's bureau of self-censorship, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, as administered by its first president (1922-45), Will Hays.
widescreen, also CinemaScope, scope
A movie image that has an aspect ratio of approximately 5:3, though some widescreens possess horizontal dimensions that extend as wide as 2.5 times the vertical dimension of the screen. A 35mm flat format whose aspect ratio is 1.85:1 in America and 1.66:1 in Europe. The adjective: widescreen.
Film that is 16 millimeters wide; the smallest professional gauge and the standard low-budget format.
aleatory techniques
Techniques of filmmaking that depend on the element of chance. Images are not planned out in advance but must be composed on the spot by the camera operator. Usually used in documentary situations.
An image or print whose color or black-and-white values correspond to those in the subject; created either by shooting reversal film (which yields a direct positive image) or by making a negative of a negative.
back lot
During the studio era, standing exterior sets of such common locales as a turn-of-the-century city block, a frontier town, a European village, and so on.
production designer
An art director responsible for designing the complete look of a film, coordinating and integrating its sets, dressings, props, costumes, and color scemes.
The light-sensitive component of film stock. See base.
magnetic soundtrack
One or more stripes of magnetized iron-oxide particles bearing the final soundtrack, either on magnetic film that is played by a machine synchronized with the projector, or bonded onto the release print (running alongside the frames) and played by the projector.
split screen
Any frame containing two or more separate and distinct frames or images.
panchromatic film
Black-and-white film stock, in use since 1926, that is sensitive to the entire spectrum. Because its speed, or photosensitivity, was less than that of the orthochromatic film it replaced, it required wider lens-aperture settings and yielded inferior depth of field.
1. A movie. 2. The image track of a movie, as distinct from the soundtrack.
Edison's battery-operated peephole viewer, invented by Dickson.
A theatre.
The beginning of a reel of film or tape.
nonsynchronous sound
Sound and image that are not recorded simultaneously, or sound that is detached from its source in the film image. Music is usually nonsynchronous in a movie, providing background atmosphere.
monopack, also integral tripack
A compound emulsion used in color photography; the three layers of the negative are sensitive to cyan, magenta, and yellow, respectively, yielding their complementary primaries- red, green, and blue- in the positive print.
The process of evenly and monochromatically coloring an originally black-and-white shot, either by dyeing the film or by printing on colored stock. in a tinted shot of a face, the whites of the etes are colored.
From the French, "work." The complete works of an artist, viewed as a whole.
women's pictures
A film genre that focuses on the problems of women, such as career versus family conflicts. Often such films feature a popular female star as protagonist.
alienation effect
Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt or "estrangement effect," removes or estranges the spectator from the illusion of reality in the spectacle and from the temptation to empathize with its characters and get lost in the illusion; from this distance, the spectator can study and judge the characters as well as the political and ethical implications of their problems and of the measures taken to solve them.
A deterministic realism that accounts for behavior through the close observation of hereditary, instinctive, psychological, social, economic, and political forces, rejecting theistic explanations along with sentimentality.
1. Opaque film spliced to the beginning (head leader) and end (tail leader) of a reel; used to thread film in a projector and protect it when stored on a reel. 2. Also Academy leader. The countdown head leader that permits the projectionist to adjust focus and framing as well as to load the projector for a proper changeover (by stopping right after the "3"). 3. Film base cut into a workprint or printing element, the same length as the missing or complementary footage it replaces.
An eyepiece on the camera that defines the playing area and the framing of the action to be photographed.
closed forms
A visual style that inclines toward self-conscious designs and carefully harmonized compositions. The frame is exploited to suggest a self-sufficient universe that encloses all the necessary visual information, usually in an aesthetically appealing manner.
mag track
A recording on magnetic film.
optical printer
An elaborate machine used to create special effects in movies. For example, fades, dissolves, multiple exposures, etc. A film copier in which the original and the printing stock are not in physical contact during the instant of exposure (in a contact printer, they are); instead, one or more optical systems intervene, allowing part or all of the original image to be rephotographed with or without modifications. An image might be cropped, flipped, repeated, superimposed on another, distorted, filtered, used in a special-effects composite, and so forth. The optical printer itself might be thought of as a camera facing a projector.
Bourgeois cinema
Films, and the history behind them, that encourage audiences to identify with fictional characters and situations, to forget their troubles, and to feel satisfied with fictional resolutions. Escapist fixations that make political analysis appear irrelevant and unnecessary. See Brechtian cinema.
From the Latin, "mask." An actor's public image, based on previous roles, and often incorporating elements from his or her actual personality as well.
The phase of filmmaking during which picture and sound are augmented and edited into final form, after the conclusion of principal photography.
live sound
Tracks recorded during shooting.
The degree to which an emulsion reacts to light.
rack focusing, selective focusing
The blurring of focal planes in sequence, forcing the viewer's eyes to travel with those areas of an image that remain in sharp focus.
Short for magnetic. Magnetic tape or film.
screen direction
1. In the interests of spatial continuity and logic, the practice of keeping track of the directions in which people or objects are facing or moving. 2. The trajectory of movement (or direction of a gaze, orientation of an object, etc.) within, across, and in relation to the borders of the frame (e.g., toward screen-right); its orientation to real or hypothetical three-dimentional space (e.g., toward the east window); and the continuity of trajectory from shot to shot (e.g., to indicate in a cross0cut sequence that X and Y, who are never seen in the same shot, are running in the same direction up opposite sides of the street, X runs up the west side of the street and toward screen right, and Y runs up the east side of the street and toward screen left).
electronic cinema
1. The technology and practice of shooting a movie with a high-definition television camera; the video images are transferred onto film with a scanner or in a lab. 2. The use of video and computers to storyboard, sketch, render, combine, and alter images from, for, or as a film. 3. Projection without film; the motion picture is sent as a compressed digital signal to the projection booth, where it is converted to high-definition video.
1. A decorated sound stage. 2. An artificially constructed setting, whether interior or exterior. 3. Any site where a movie is shot.
Changeover marks
Usually little circles in the upper right corner of the frame, which appear near and at the end of the reel (before the tail leader) to cue the projectionist.
1. To pivot the camera upward or downward. 2. A shot within which the camera pivots on a horizontal axis, moving in a vertical plane; a tilting movement. Also known as tilt shot, tilting shot. 3. A shot in which the camera is tilted to the side, so that the top and bottom of the frame are not parallel to the lateral horizontal axis of the set. Also known as Dutch angle, Dutch tilt shot, off-angle shot.
Socialist Realism
The Stalinist insistence that art serve the interests of the state and be clear to anyone; to be arty was to be elitist and confusing, and to deviate from the Party line was to fail to communicate plain reality.
An editing technique that suggests the interruption of the present by a shot or series of shots representing the future.
New Wave, Nouvelle vague
A group of young French directors who came to prominence during the late 1950s. The most widely known are François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Alain Resnais. Primarily in France in 1959, the sudden appearance, on many fronts, of a host of brilliant films by directors who had not previously made features or whose earlier work had gone unnoticed. Also any sudden appearance of many exciting new filmmakers in a country whose films have been undistinguished- and may have done little or no international business- for a long time.
offscreen, also OS
Outside of camera range.
A recognizable type of movie, a subcategory of the narrative film, characterized by certain preestablished conventions, choice and treatment of subject. A group of films, or a narrative approach, that deals with a specific avenue of human experience in a characteristic manner (or a variation of it), structuring the story and its presentation in relation to a recurring set of terms, themes, values, figures, and images. A particular genus or type of motion pictures. Within the nonfiction film, for example, cinéma vérité and the newsreel are distinct genres. Some common American genres are westerns, thrillers, sci-fi movies, etc. A ready-made narrative form.
Method acting
A style of performance derived from the Russian stage director Stanislavsky, which has been the dominant acting style in the United States since the 1950s. Method actors emphasize psychological intensity, extensive rehearsals to explore a character, emotional believability rather than technical mastery, and "living" a role internally rather than merely imitating the external behaviour of a character.
film noir
A French term- literally, "black cinema"- referring to a kind of urban American genre that sprang up after World War II (1940s-50s), (named by French critics who noticed the resemblance between these "black" or "dark" films and the series of dark mystery novels- many of them by American pulp writers- published as the Série noire) emphasizing a fatalistic, despairing universe where there is no escape from mean city streets, loneliness, and death. Characterized by sudden violence, tough romantic intensity, deceptive surfaces and emblematic reflections, unsentimental melodrama, narrative complexity, low-key lighting, and themes of entrapment and corruption, honor and duplicity, desire and revenge, compulsion and madness, betrayal and disenchantment, irony and doom. Stylistically, noir emphasizes low-key and high-contrast lighting, complex compositions, and a strong atmosphere of dread and paranoia.
extreme long shot, also ELS
A panoramic view of an exterior location, photographed from a great distance, often as far as four hundred metres away. The camera appears to be extremely far from the subject. A human figure might be less than one tenth the height of the frame.
Academy ratio, also Academy Frame
The standard proportions of the 35mm image: four units wide by three units hight, expressed as 4:3 or 1.33:1. See Aspect ratio.
The measurement of the size of the lens opening in the camera, indicating the amount of light that's admitted.
phi phenomenon
The preconscious process of combining perceived fragments into a mental whole, as when deducing and hallucinating movement from a series of stills, believing that one sees a continuous action rather than a series of consecutive but frozen phases of motion.
Any title or title card, whether or not it is superimposed on another image, that appears anywhere between the head credits (or opening titles) and the tail credits (end titles) of a movie. See credits and subtitle.
A single photograph, taken by a conventional camera rather than a movie camera.
anticipatory camera, anticipatory setup
The placement of the camera in such a manner as to anticipate the movement of an action before it occurs. Such setups often suggest predestination.
mise en scène
The arrangement of visual weights and movements within a given space. In the live theatre, the space is usually defined by the proscenium arch; in movies, it is defined by the frame that encloses the images. Cinematic mise en scène encompasses both the staging of the action and the way that it's photographed, such as the atmosphere, setting, decor, and texture of the shots.
handheld shot
A shot taken with a moving camera that is often deliberately shaky to suggest documentary footage in an uncontrolled setting.
rough cut
The crudely edited footage of a movie before the editor has tightened up the slackness between shots. A kind of rough draft.
The kind of logic implied between edited shots, their principle of coherence. Cutting to continuity emphasizes smooth transitions between shots, in which time and space are unobtrusively condensed. More complex, classical cutting is the linking of shots according to an event's psychological as well as logical breakdown. In thematic montage, the continuity is determined by the symbolic association of ideas between shots, rather than any literal connections in time and space. 1. The narrative structure of a film, laid out in sequence; the plot as a string of scenes. 2. The matching of details that allows shots taken at different times to appear to be recording a single, continuous event; the impression that conditions established in one shot continue to exist in later or related shots. 3. A list of the details- such as the length of a cigarette, the condition of a tablecloth, or the number of buttons left unbuttoned on a shirt- that have to be matched from shot to shot, either within a scene or from one scene to another. (Once the boot has been eaten in The Gold Rush, continuity demands that from then on, scene after scene, the tramp must have only one boot, and the correct foot must be wrapped the same way.
symbol, symbolic
A figurative device in which an object, event, or cinematic technique has significance beyond its literal meaning. Symbolism is always determined by the dramatic context.
sound speed
24 fps, although some formats have been designed for higher rates (multi-film Cinerama ran at 26 fps, early Todd-AO at 30 fps).
faithful adaptation
A film based on a literary original which captures the essence of the original, often by using cinematic equivalents for specific literary techniques.
Returning a film to the condition it was in when it was new and complete.
1. A set of films that feature the same main characters and generally may be shown in any order. 2. Loosely, a set of sequels.
persistence of vision
Retinal retention of a bright image that is followed by darkness or flashed in the dark.
Those images that are recorded continuously from the time the camera starts to the time it stops, beginning and ending with a cut or other transitional device. That is, an unedited strip of film. A take. In animation and special effects, a series of individual or composite frames that gives the impression of having been continuously exposed.
medium shot, also midshot, MS
A relatively close shot, revealing the human figure from the knees or waist up. Field of view midway between those of the close shot (or close up) and the far shot (or full shot).
three shot
A medium shot, featuring three actors.
parallel montage
Cross-cutting between two or more separate actions (different enough to "collide" when juxtaposed) to imply that they are dramatically or thematically related.
Minus optical sound; i.e., shot silent. Said to have originated with silent-trained German directors in Hollywood, who preferred to shoot "mit-out sound."
The dispersion, unfocusing, or scattering of light, creating "soft" rather than "hard" eggects.
synchronous sound
The agreement or correspondence between image and sound, which are recorded simultaneously, or seem so in the finished print. Synchronous sounds appear to derive from an obvious source in the visuals.
Trade name of the first multiplex cinema.
silent speed
Approximately 16 fps.
studio system
The control of all aspects of film production, distribution, and (when legal) exhibition by a small number of big studios; also the division of labor within the studio, with one department for writing, another for costumes, etc., and the practice of keeping all employees- including directors and stars- answerable to the studio executives' plans for their careers, decisions about which films should be made, and concepts of the studio's "house" style and entertainment mission.
The instantaneous switch from one projector to another, as the reel on the first projector ends and the next reel begins.
cinematographer, also director of photography or DP
The artist or technician responsible for the lighting of a shot and the quality of the photography. A motion picture photographer; the head of the camera crew.
problem picture
An issue-oriented feature film, particularly one that calls attention to a contemporary, real-world topic of concern.
director's cut
The film as the director would like to see it released; the final version presented to the producer or studio, usually with the contractual understanding that it may be altered without the director's approval.
A shooting site that is not on a studio lot; often a place where the film's fictional events are set or actual events occurred.
variable area track
An optical soundtrack whose amplitude or contour varies but whose density (a measure of opacity) remains constant.
intrinsic interest
An unobtrusive area of the film image that nonetheless compels our most immediate attention because of its dramatic or contextual importance.
semiotics, also semiology
The study of signs and signifying systems.
plastic material
Visually expressive objects and images; formulated by Vsevolod Pudovkin.
A rigid soundproof camera housing that muffles the noise of the camera's motor so sound can be clearly recorded on the set. A blimped camera is one with internal soundproofing.
cameraman, also cameraperson
1. The person in charge of lighting and shooting a movie. Also known as cinematographer, DP, director of photography. 2. Loosely, the camera operator.
A ground or moulded piece of glass, plastic, or other transparent material through which light rays are refracted so they converge or diverge to form the photographic image within the camera.
loose adaptation
A movie based on another medium in which only a superficial resemblance exists between the two versions.
bird's-eye view
A shot in which the camera photographs a scene from directly overhead.
The first permanent movie theatre in America, which was converted from a store, opened in 1905; it was called a nickelodeon because admission to the theatre (odeon in Greek) cost a nickel.
A group of similar films made at a particular time, usually fueled by audience and industry support for movies with a certain tone, approach, or subject matter; a flurry of films in a particular genre, released continuously until audience interest dries up and the cycle ends.
blue screen, also bluescreen
A bright blue background against which action or models may be shot; when filtered and printed, the blue area may be rendered opaque or transparent, permitting the generation of traveling mattes. If the foreground subject is blue or wearing blue, this colour difference process won't produce usable results, so a contrasting greenscreen or redscreen is used instead.
The principal production studios of a given era. In the golden age of the Hollywood studio system- roughly the 1930s and 1940s- the majors consisted of MGM, Warner Brothers, RKO, Paramount Pictures, and Twentieth Century-Fox.
normal lens
A lens whose focal length is neither long nor short and that reproduces perspective much as it is seen by the human eye.
jump cut
An abrupt transition between shots, sometimes deliberate, which is disorienting in terms of the continuity of space and time. A cut between two shots that are so similar that the subject appears to jump from one position to another.
paper print
A positive copy of a film, made on sheets of paper and sent to the Library of Congress (until 1907, when copyright law was revised to allow the registration and protection of materials not printed on paper) to establish copyright on each of the individual photographs that constituted the movie.
vertical integration
A system in which the production, distribution, and exhibition of movies are all controlled by the same corporation. In America the practice was declared illegal in the late 1940s.
sound composite
Any recording created by mixing other recordings.
dialectical montage, also intellectual montage
A variety of editing in which shots "collide" or significantly conflict with each other, ideally generating a synthesis (which may be a metaphor or a concept) in the mind of the viewer; formulated by Sergei Eisenstein.
voice-over, also voice-over narration, V-O
A nonsynchronous spoken commentary in a movie, often used to convey a character's thoughts or memories. Not delivered aloud by any onscreen or offscreen indigenous source; instead laid "over" the indigenous sounds of the scene.
1. Inserting one or more shots into another series of shots or into a master shot. 2. Interweaving shots from separate scenes, not necessarily in a cross-cutting pattern but usually to imply relatedness.
lip sync
Perfect synchronization between picture and sound, so tight that an actor's lip movements and recorded dialogue absolutely match.
long lens
A lens with a long focal length and a narrow field of view, which flattens depth relationships and appears to bring the subject closer; a very long lens is called a telephoto lens.
pan, panning shot, panoramic shot
Short for panorama, this is a revolving horizontal movement of the camera from left to right or vice versa.
frame enlargement
A printed enlargement of an individual frame from a movie.
A padded bag placed over the camera to soundproof it. See Blimp.
A film whose action follows or predates (as a prequel) that of a previously released film, whose essential narrative and thematic elements it sets out to vary, extend, and repeat. Unlike the films in a series, the original and its sequels are meant to be shown in numerical order (or release order, if the films aren't numbered).
two shot
A medium shot featuring two actors.
sequence shot, also plan-séquence
A single lengthy shot, usually involving complex staging and camera movements.
A novel about the formative experiences of a central character; e.g., Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship or Atwood's Surfacing.
narrative film
1. A movie whose story is primarily or entirely fictitious. 2. Any movie that tells a developing story; this general sense includes many nonfiction, avant-garde, and animated films.
A style of filmmaking that attempts to duplicate the look of objective reality as it's commonly perceived, with emphasis on authentic locations and details, long shots, lengthy takes, and a minimum of distorting techniques. Present a state of affairs without distortion.
In German silent cinema, an intimate "chamber drama," relatively free of intertitles and usually concerned with the close psychological observation of a small number of characters who must deal with the problems of every day life in realistic but evocatively lit settings; inspired by the Kammerspiele of Max Reinhardt (a theatre so small that the audience could see the actors' subtle gestures; also, the plays performed there); formulated by Lupu Pick in reaction against Expressionism.
An ideological term used to describe any person or film that is biased in favour of left-wing values, particularly in their more extreme form.
Information that is discrete, like a flipped switch, and that signifies in yes/no, on/off, present/absent terms rather than varying a continuous signal; usually in the form of electronically stored data, binary numbers, intermittent electronic pulses, or linguistic units. See analog.
aerial shot
Essentially a variation of the crane shot, though restricted to exterior locations. Usually taken from a helicopter.
far shot
Unlike the close shot, a shot in which the camera is or appears to be distant from the subject.
The amount of money earned by a film after all expenses are deducted.
composition in depth
The composition of a visual field in relation to the axis that runs from the camera to infinity; in most cases, significant elements are distributed from the foreground to the background of the image.
establishing shot
Usually an extreme long or long shot offered at the beginning of a scene, providing the viewer with the context of the subsequent closer shots. Often introducing a location.
1. A positive, projectable copy of a film. 2. Any printed copy of a film, whether positive or negative, intermediate or final. 3. To duplicate a frame, a shot, a reel, or a complete movie, with or without making alterations.

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