With terms like “chiaroscuro” and “variac,” it seems like filmmakers almost speak another language. Now filmmaking terms are more than a little daunting at first but it’s a good idea to take the time to learn them to better understand the film industry.
The last thing you want is to stare blankly when someone asks for a particular piece of equipment or says a funny word you don’t understand. So, build up your filmmaking vocabulary!
That’s why we compiled the ultimate film term glossary for filmmakers to reference anytime they need to decipher film industry slang.
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Whether you want to discover basic film terms or TV production terminology pdf, we’ll do you one better! Our comprehensive filmmaking glossary covers all of the technical movie terms you need to know from A to Z.
Below we highlight some of the most popular film terms and definitions based on the searches of filmmakers across the web!
TOP CINEMATOGRAPHY TERMS
As a cinematographer, you must be able to distinguish between various styles of composition, camera movement, lighting techniques, and countless other areas behind the camera. Don’t get caught slack-jawed!
The language of film recognizes five main body positions that actors (respectively characters) can be placed and photographed in.
Each basic position in which the actor faces the viewer in a different way also has different psychological connotations.
- Full front
- Quarter turn
- Three-quarter turn
- Full back
The term “proxemic patterns” refers to the distribution and relationship of people in a given space.
The underlying concept of proxemic patterns was developed by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, who distinguished the following four major proxemic patterns:
In the context of film analysis, some film scholars adopted this concept and related it to the various camera distances:
- Intimate distance → distance of physical involvement, reserved for lovers and members of family ~ ECU, CU
- Personal distance → arm’s length away, reserved for friends rather than lovers and family members ~ MCU, MS, MLS
- Social distance → impersonal business and casual relationships ~ LS
- Public distance → formal and rather detached ~ ELS
Tight framing refers to a shot in which there is little visible space around the main subject(s).
It stresses a lack of mobility and can thus be used to evoke an oppressive feeling of confinement or a comfortable sense of safety.
A technique used to block out parts of an image, masking can be achieved on the level of cinematography (i.e. masking the lens) or by means of the mise en scène (i.e. a subject or object masking the background).
Masking is often used to suggest a point-of-view shot as seen through an optical device (i.e. binoculars, telescope, etc.).
A static shot is a shot with no camera movement at all; the fixed camera remains motionless.
In most cases, the camera is mounted on a tripod (or a similar support).
Long static shots help the viewers to notice subtle changes in the mise en scène.
Depending on the context, static shots can variously convey calmness and contemplation, or a feeling of being secure, fixed, or trapped.
Deep Space is a cinematic style in which several significant elements of an image are positioned at various points both near to and distant from the camera.
This means that the characters in the shot have a large spatial scope so they sometimes even seem to disappear within the wide area.
Deep space can be achieved by establishing a very long z-axis that opens the available stage.
More often than not, deep space is combined with deep focus, which requires that elements placed along very different depth planes of the image (i.e. foreground, middle ground, and background) be in focus at the same time.
However, for deep staging, these objects do not necessarily have to be in focus. Staging in a deep space is the opposite of staging in a flat space.
Loose framing refers to a shot in which there is plenty of visible space around the main subject(s).
It emphasizes a subject’s freedom of movement, which depending on context, can be used to evoke a feeling of freedom, or alternatively, forlornness.
The opposite of loose framing is tight framing.
TOP POST-PRODUCTION TERMS
As an assistant editor in the edit bay, the last thing you want is to ask what an editing term means when you’re getting direction from your editor.
Here are some of the most popular filmmaking terms for editors.
The assembly is the first stage of editing in which all the shots are arranged in script order.
Also called overlapping editing, overlapping action is an expansion of time, which is accomplished by intercutting a series of shots, or by filming the action from different angles and editing them together.
In this way, part or all of an action may be repeated from another viewpoint.
Since this cinematic device strongly disrupts the audience’s sense of real-time, it is commonly associated with experimental filmmaking.
However, it can be used more unobtrusively to stretch time or to exaggerate the time of a certain movement for dramatic effect. In such cases, overlapping action is then often combined with slow motion.
In the continuity editing system, a cheap cut presents continuous time from shot to shot. However, it mismatches the positions of figures or objects.
A superimposition is an editing technique and special effect that blends two or more shots (of separately photographed action) on the same film strip in such a way that the images are seen simultaneously.
The technique of superimposition always draws attention to itself since it breaks up the apparent continuity of time and space.
During a lap dissolve, one image is momentarily superimposed on another.
In contrast, however, a superimposition usually lasts longer than the blending of two shots in a lap dissolve, and unlike a lap dissolve, usually does not signify a transition from one scene to another.
Superimpositions are frequently used in montage sequences.
An elliptical cut is a cut between two shots that omits parts of an event. Thus, this causes an ellipsis in the plot and story duration.
Often, an elliptical cut is used to create the impression that time has elapsed.
The respective editing technique is called elliptical editing. In fact, a jump cut is a special type of elliptical cut.
TOP SOUND DESIGN TERMS
When most think of filmmaking — or movies in general, for that matter — the sound design is incredibly undervalued but just as important as the visuals.
Below are some of the most popular filmmaking sound design terms.
Offscreen sound is a sound emitted by a source that is not visible in the frame, but which is part of the diegetic world of the film.
I.E.) A character shouting from offscreen with the next shot then showing this character or the sound of an explosion that is not (yet) visible in the frame.
Audio bridge refers to an outgoing sound (either dialogue or sound effects) in one scene that continues over into a new image or shot. In this case, the soundtrack, not a visual image, connects the two shots or scenes; AKA lightning mix.
Diegetic refers to everything belonging to the fictional world of a film that the characters themselves experience and encounter.
The implied world of the story, including its settings, events, sounds, spaces, and the characters that inhabit these, as well as many other things, actions, and attitudes that are not explicitly shown in the film but are inferred by the audience as belonging to it are known as the diegesis.
In keeping with this, any sound (voice, music, or sound effect) that is presented as originating from a source within the film’s world is referred to as diegetic sound.
In contrast, background music, a narrator’s commentary, or sound effects that do not seem to originate from within the film’s world, are considered to be non-diegetic sound.
The audience constructs a diegetic world from the material presented in a narrative film, and all elements that exist outside this diegesis are then labeled as non-diegetic.
Dubbing is the process of adding or replacing sound after the film has been shot (i.e. in the post-production stage).
Most typically, the term refers to the substitution of the voices of the actors shown on the screen by those of different performers. They may be speaking a different language since many films are dubbed into the local language of a foreign market.
Music is also usually dubbed into a film after editing is completed.
TYPES OF FILM SUBGENRES
There are many shades of film director terminology. One particular shade is understanding the types of film subgenres. This serves as a reference point for your own work. So, try to watch as many movies throughout the multitude of film movements and every kind of subgenre.
Check out some of the most searched movie subgenres from our audience below…
Abstract film is a subgenre of experimental film. It is a non-narrative visual/sound experience with no story and no acting.
They rely on the unique qualities of motion, rhythm, light, and composition inherent in the technical medium of cinema to create emotional experiences.
Dogme 95 is a Danish film movement and style that was started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg with the signing of the Dogme 95 Manifesto and the so-called “Vow of Chastity.”
Above all, the Dogme directors rejected the expensive filmmaking techniques used in most commercial films (especially those from Hollywood), genre conventions, spectacular special effects, and too much editing.
Instead, their aim was to place emphasis on the actual story and on the actors’ performances. They strive for more “truthful,” “non-Hollywood” cinematic storytelling.
Gag-based comedies are comedy films that are often nonsensical and literally filled with multiple gags (i.e., jokes, one-liners, pratfalls, slapstick, etc.). They are designed to produce laughter in any way possible, and often with comic or spoofing references to other films.
Spaghetti Western, also known as Italo-Western, is the nickname given to an Italian film movement and sub-genre of Western films from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
The name derives from the fact that most of these films were produced and directed by Italians. They are usually in co-production with a Spanish partner, and in some cases, a German partner.
Typically, the partners would insist that some of their stars be cast in the film for promotional purposes.