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PhotoVideoEDU Motion Picture Glossary


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BY PhotoVideoEDU staff February 21, 2011 · Published by PhotoVideoEDU

Learning to capture video with your digital SLR? Get up to speed on terms for the equipment, crew, and techniques used in motion picture shooting.


Apple Box

This is a wooden box, often used to raise equipment. There are also half apples and quarter apples, which are half and one quarter as thick when compared to a normal apple box.

Boom Microphone
A long pole with a microphone on the end. Controlled by the "boom operator."

Bounce Board/Card
A large white card made of foam or poster board used to reflect soft light.

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

Follow Focus
A follow focus is a mechanical device used to direct the viewer's eye by providing precise control over what part of the image is in focus.

This is an abbreviation for fiber-reinforced plastic. It is often used as an essential material in cinematic DSLR rigs.

Green Screen
Also known as blue screen. It is a blue or green backdrop against which actors are filmed.  When the footage is edited, the screen is dropped out and replaced with background images.

This is a square piece of plywood with a bracket attached, to which a tripod head may be added or permanently affixed. This is often used when the camera is very low to the ground.

The arm of a mechanical crane used to suspend a camera high above the ground.

Linear Tracking System
Linear tracking systems are self-contained kits that enable filmmakers to capture smooth footage when moving the camera forward, backward, or alongside the subject they are filming.

Matte Box
A matte box is designed to prevent glare or lens flare as well as hold filters in front of the lens.

The standard for TV/video display in the U.S. and Canada, as set by the National Television System Committee. It delivers 486 visible lines of resolution at 29.97 interlaced frames per second.

Viewfinders are used for critical focus, framing, and monitoring the LCD screen found on the back of HDSLR cameras.

Filmmaking Terms

Aspect Ratio
The ratio of the horizontal to the vertical measurement of an image frame. Common video aspect ratios include 4:3 and 16:9.

Axis of Action
Also called the "180-degree line" is an imaginary line that passes through the two main actors of a scene, defining the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left.

An undeveloped area on studio property used for constructing large, open-air sets.

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI)
Computer-generated digital special effects and imagery. 

A small chalkboard that holds information identifying a shot and is attached to a hinged clapstick that makes a loud noise when snapped down against the top of the board. It is shot at the beginning of a take. The clap noise of the clapstick is used to synchronize sound with image when they are recorded separately. Also known as a "clapper" or "clapboard."

A shot in which the subject is larger than the frame.

A change in camera angle or placement, location, or time. "Cut" is also called during filming to indicate that the current take is over.

Deep-Focus Shot
A shot with exceptional depth of field.

Demo Reel
Also referred to as a “reel,” this is the motion picture or video equivalent of an artist's portfolio. It is typically used as a tool to promote the artist's skill, talent, and experience in a selected field, such as acting, directing, cinematography, editing, special effects, animation, or video games and other graphics. A demo reel is frequently submitted with résumés.

Dutch Tilt
Describes the composition of a shot in which the horizon is not parallel with the bottom of the frame.

Establishing Shot
The first shot of a new scene, the establishing shot introduces the audience to the space in which the forthcoming scene will take place.

The art of recreating common sounds (such as footsteps) for use in synchronization with the visual component of a movie.

Frame Rate
This is the frequency (rate) at which an imaging device produces unique consecutive images called frames. Frame rate is most often expressed in frames per second (fp), and in progressive scan monitors as hertz (Hz).

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

The process of speeding up the frame rate of a camera, so that it can convey slow motion when played at a normal frame rate. For example, footage captured at 60fps will appear slower when played back at 24p.

The action of rotating a camera about its vertical axis.


Pull Focus
The practice of shifting the attention of a viewer of a film or video by changing the focus of the lens from a subject in the foreground to a subject in the background, or vice versa.

Any work performed on a movie after the end of principal photography. Usually involves editing and visual effects.

Reverse Shot
Also called reverse angle. Happens when a shot is taken at a 120- to 180-degree angle from the preceding shot.

A script that is to be produced into a movie.

An environment used for filming.

Shot List
List given to the film crew of all the shots for a given day.

Shutter Speed
The length of time that a single frame is exposed.

A soundproof area (usually in a studio) where sets may be constructed.

Stop Motion
A form of animation in which objects are filmed frame-by-frame and altered slightly in between frames, so that when the frames are played in sequence, the objects appear to be in motion.

This refers to each filmed "version" of a particular shot or setup. Takes of each shot are generally numbered starting with one. The number of each successive take is increased until the filming of the shot is completed.

Tracking Shot
Also known as a dolly shot or trucking shot, it is a segment in which the camera is mounted on a camera dolly and pushed on rails while the scene is being captured.

T-stops are sometimes used in place of f-stops for setting exposure, and indicate the actual amount of light that is hitting the film or sensor. F-stops, on the other hand, represent the ratio of a lens's focal length to the diameter of an aperture.  F-stops are still relevant, because they indicate how much depth of field will be captured.

Sequence of pictures created to describe each scene in a film production.

The process of slowing the frame rate of a camera down, so that when the captured pictures are played at the normal frame rate the action appears to be in fast motion.

Vertigo Effect
A camera technique created by Alfred Hitchcock while filming the movie Vertigo. It involves tracking backwards while simultaneously zooming in, making the person or object in the center of the image seem stationary while their surroundings change.

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

Zoom Shot
A shot in which the magnification of the objects by the camera's lenses is increased (zooming in) or decreased (zooming out/back).

Roles and Responsibilities in Filmmaking

Background Artist
This is the person responsible for designing art that appears in the rear of the set.

Best Boy
There are two kinds of best boy: best boy electric and best boy grip. They are assistants to their department heads, the gaffer and the key grip, respectively.

A person with expertise in the art of capturing motion-picture images either electronically or on film stock through the application of visual recording devices and the selection and arrangement of lighting.

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

Director of Photography
The chief cinematographer for a movie is called the director of photography or DP. 

Executive Producer
Person in charge of production. Not involved in technical aspects, but oversees all the production in as a whole and is usually involved in the business elements of filmmaking.

The chief lighting technician, who is responsible for executing and, sometimes, designing and creating the lighting plan.

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

Line Producer
Person responsible for managing daily operations while the film is being shot.

Key Grip
The key grip is the head of the grip department and chief rigging technician on the set.

A producer is responsible for raising funds, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors.

This person is responsible for setting up lighting and scaffolding on film sets.

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




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