Movie Dictionary – Film Terms, Definitions, and Glossary

Friday, April 13, 2012 at 9:51 am
By Shane Rivers

Welcome to OGM’s movie dictionary, a mammoth glossary of film terms and definitions. If you’ve ever wondered what the “gaffer” or “best boy” does on a set, then you’ve come to the right place. In addition to the various jobs within the filmmaking industry, we also cover such diverse topics as camera shots, professional organizations, and the various Hollywood jargon known only to industry insiders and hardcore film geeks.

While I encourage you to read this entire movie dictionary, I understand that many visitors may only be interested in a single definition. Given the sheer size of the article, I thought it best to include a handy way to jump to each letter of the alphabet. You’ll find these links below, and clicking on the desired letter will immediately take you to a specific location within the body of the text.

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It’s also my intention to add to this list of film terms as time goes by, so be sure to let me know if you notice any definitions that are absent. As always, you can reach me by email at onlygoodmovies[at]gmail[dot]com.

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1.33:1 – The screen ratio for a television set.

1.37:1 – The screen ratio for sound films until 1953.

1.85:1 – The standard ratio for modern film projection.

3-D – A film that uses special glasses to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional depth on the screen. The first 3-D boom was in the 1950s, but it experienced a comeback in the latter part of the 2000s with films such as Avatar.

24 Frames Per Second – The standard number of frames shown per second during projection of a film. Also known as 24 fps.

180 Degree Rule – In order to adhere to the 180 Degree Rule, an imaginary line is drawn between two actors in a scene, and the camera isn’t allowed to cross the line. Breaking this rule results in a distracting discontinuity in the on-screen image.


Abby Singer – During a film’s production, the next-to-last shot of the day. Named in honor of Abby Singer, a production manager known to call “last shot of the day,” only to have the director ask for additional shots.

Above-the-Line Expenses – The expenses of a film prior to production. This includes the salary of the cast and crew, travel, story and production fees. Later costs are considered below-the-line.

Academy Award – Also known as an Oscar, the Academy Award is presented yearly and recognizes achievements in American cinema.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – Also known as The Academy or AMPAS. Made up of over 6,000 industry professionals, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is headquartered in Beverly Hills and holds the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards – Yearly awards also known as Oscars or Academy Awards.

Action – This term is announced to indicate the beginning of a take during filming. The opposite of “Action” is “Cut.”

Actor – A performer who portrays one of a film’s characters. The modern usage of the word can refer to either gender, while it was once associated only with men.

Actress – A female performer who plays a role in a motion picture.

Adaptation – When a work of art is adapted from one form into another. For example, Gone with the Wind was a film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel.

Additional Camera – An additional camera operator who may be required during stunt or action sequences. Also known as a “B camera.”

Additional Photography – Also known as “Pickups” or “Reshoots,” additional photography often occurs when the studio or a focus group reacts negatively to a part of a movie. Extra scenes must then be filmed to fix the problem.

Ad Lib – During filming, an ad lib occurs when an actor improvises their own dialogue.

Advance – An amount of money paid before services are rendered. With a composite print, an advance refers to the distance from a point on the soundtrack and the corresponding image.

Aerial Shot – A variation of the crane shot, the aerial shot is filmed from high above the subject, often from a plane or helicopter. Also known as a bird’s eye view.

Agent – A person who helps find projects and negotiate payment for actors and directors. Agents often receive a percentage of their client’s salary.

Alan Smithee – A pseudonym once used by directors who wanted their names removed from a project due to issues over quality or control. The Director’s Guild of America stopped using the name in 1997 after An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn revealed the significance of the alias to the public. Now, project-specific aliases are used when a director no longer wishes to be associated with a project.

A-List – An actor who commands top billing and a large salary. A-list is another term for the biggest stars in the film industry.

Alternate Ending – If a film’s ending tests poorly before release, it may be reshot. The version not used is known as the alternate ending, and these can sometimes be found as part of the extras on a DVD release.

Ambient Light – The natural light surrounding a subject during filming.

American Cinema Editors – Founded by (among others) Jack Ogilvie and Warren Low in 1950, the ACE is an honorary society of film editors.

American Society of Cinematographers – International organization founded in 1919 and dedicated to the advancement of cinematography. Members of the society are noted in film credits by the abbreviation ASC. The magazine American Cinematographer is also published by the organization.

Anamorphic – An optical system that features different magnifications in regard to the horizontal and vertical dimensions of a film. The most famous example are films shot in Cinemascope.

Anamorphic Widescreen – A process used during DVD mastering to vertically stretch a film with an original aspect ratio of more than 4:3. This results in a sharper image.

Ancillary Rights – When filmmakers receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of action figures, t-shirts, and other merchandise.

Animation – Instead of traditional techniques of capturing images at a regular frame rate, animation creates individual frames that suggest the illusion of movement. Examples include time lapse, computer generated animation, and claymation.

Animator – An individual responsible for creating frames during the animation process.

Anime – Animated films that are influenced by the comic book industry of Japan. The nature of these films can vary widely, although fantasy and science-fiction are consistently popular. Examples of anime include Akira, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Answer Print – The first print of a film to combine picture and sound. After this version receives approval, additional copies of the movie are made.

Antagonist – The person or thing in a film that opposes the main character. Often, this takes the form of a movie villain (also known as a “heavy”).

Anthology Film – A film made up of several shorter stories. Examples of anthology films include Creepshow and Tales from the Hood.

Anthropomorphism – When an animal in a film is given a human appearance or characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphism include Charlotte’s Web and Babe.

Anti-Climax – Something that occurs after the film’s high point and is often deemed unsatisfactory.

Anti-Hero – While they’re still the hero of the film, an anti-hero often displays certain behavior not in keeping with acceptable laws and social behavior. Many action movie characters fall into the anti-hero category.

Aperture – A measure that indicates the width of the opening allowing light to enter a film camera. A small aperture allows less light, but the depth of field is greater. Larger apertures allow more light into the camera, thus allowing for darker scenes to be shot. Also known as a F-stop and a F/Number.

Archetype – An archetype often refers to a type of film character that appears over and over again. Borders on being a stereotype. Examples include the hooker with a heart of gold and the noble hitman. The term can also be applied to places and things.

Arc Shot – A shot where the camera circles around the subject.

Armorer – An individual who provides weapons and proper training in the use of those weapons on a film set.

Art Department – Responsible for the overall appearance of a film, the art department works under the art director or the production designer. Positions include: leadman, swing gang, property assistant, property master, set decorator, set dresser, art director, assistant art director, production designer, production buyer, draftsman, and special effects supervisor.

Art Director – An individual who oversees the building of sets for a motion picture.

Arthouse – A theatre that specializes in foreign and independent films.

Art-House Film – These are films that normally do not appeal to the largest segment of moviegoers. Art-house films include documentaries, shorts, foreign films, and indie films.

Artifact – A defect in a visual image caused as a result of insufficient or faulty imaging equipment.

Articulation Artist – In a computer animated production, this individual takes the designs of the artist and constructs them so that they can be integrated into the film.

Aside – When a character breaks the “fourth wall” and directly addresses the audience. An example of this occurs in Goodfellas when Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) comes down from the witness box in the courtroom and speaks to the crowd.

Aspect Ratio – A measurement that indicates the vertical and horizontal aspects of a film image. The “Academy Ratio,” for example, is 1.33:1.

Assembly – During the initial stage of editing, when all shots are arranged in the order that they appear in the script.

Assistant Art Director – An individual who assists the art director during the production of a film.

Assistant Camera – A person who assists the camera operator by maintaining the camera. They may also serve as a focus puller or clapper-loader (especially in smaller film productions). Job titles include 1st Assistant Cameraman, Assistant Camera Operator, Assistant Cameraman, and Camera Assistant.

Assistant Director – This individual assists the director by keeping track of the production schedule and minute-by-minute progress of the production. They prepare the script breakdown and shooting schedule, and they also ensure that location agreements and labor contracts are adhered to. The Second Assistant Director records the hours put in by the cast and crew, prepares call sheets and production reports, distributes information, and notifies the cast of important changes.

Assistant Film Editor – A member of the crew who provides assistance to the editor during production and post-production. Other job titles might include Assistant Editor, First Assistant Editor, Assistant Picture Editor, Assistant Sound Editor, Apprentice Editor, and Second Assistant Editor.

Assistant Production Manager – Also known as an Assistant Production Coordinator, this individual serves as an assistant to a film’s production coordinator.

Associate Producer – An individual who works under the supervision of a film’s producer.

Association Internationale du Film d’Animation – Founded in France in 1960, the ASIFA (or the International Animation Association) is devoted to recognizing film animation as an important art form.

Association of Film Commissioners International – The AFCI was founded in 1975 to assist on-location television, film and commercial productions.

Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers – An international organization dedicated to serving indie filmmakers, from documentary films to more traditional narrative works.

Association of Motion Picture Sound – The AMPS promotes and protects the art of motion picture sound reproduction and recording.

Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers – Known as the AMPTP, this organization is for those who serve as producers in film and/or television.

Asynchronous Sound – Also known as non-synchronized sound, these are sounds that are out of synch with the images on the film.

Audience – The collective group of people who go to see a film.

Audio – The sound component of a motion picture.

Audio Bridge – A sound that occurs in one scene and carries over into the next. This effect is used a number of times in the film Citizen Kane.

Audition – The process by which an actor tries to obtain a part in a film.

Australian Screen Editors – Also known as the ASE, this Australian-based organization is dedicated to promoting and improving the role of the editor in film and television.

Australian Screen Directors Association – Also called the ASDA, this organization represents directors throughout the nation of Australia.

Australian Society of Cinematographers – Also known as the ACS, this organization is for Australian cinematographers.

Auteur – A filmmaker who is involved in all aspects of his pictures, from writing and directing to producing and editing. The term was created in 1954 by Francois Truffaut, and it was originally designed to categorize directors whose overall body of work presented their personal worldview.

Automated Dialogue Replacement – Also known as ADR, Looping, or Dialogue Looping. This occurs during post-production and involves either adding new dialogue to the film or replacing a line of dialogue containing poor sound quality.

Automated Dialogue Replacement Editing – Also known as ADR Editing, this process consists of sound editing during the Automatic Dialogue Replacement phase.

Automated Dialogue Replacement Editor – The ADR Editor performs editing during the automated dialogue replacement phase.

Automated Dialogue Replacement Mixer – Also known as an ADR Mixer, this individual mixes the sound during the phase known as automated dialogue replacement.

Available Light – The natural light available in a location. Available light is sometimes used to enhance the realism of a motion picture.

Avant-Garde – An experimental film that often emphasizes style and technique over substance. Andy Warhol made a number of avant-garde films.

AVID – A non-linear editing system that’s popular within the industry. Other editing systems include Apple’s FinalCut Pro and Lightworks.

Axis of Action – An imaginary line that can be drawn between the main actors in a scene. A basic rule is that the camera isn’t supposed to cross this line during a cut. Also known as the “180 degree line.”


B-Movie – Low-budget movies, often shown second in the days of the double feature. Featuring lesser-known stars, these films were cheaper for studios to produce and less expensive for theaters to show.

Backdrop – Large paintings or photographs placed in the background of a scene to create the illusion of a specific setting. This practice has largely been replaced with the rise of bluescreen technology.

Back Projection – Also known as Rear Projection, this technique features live action in the foreground and projected action in the background. Commonly used in older films to display action outside the windows of a moving vehicle.

Background Artist – The person who designs and constructs the background art for a movie set. Also referred to as a Scenic Artist.

Background Music – The music that plays in the background during a scene to heighten the mood.

Backlighting – The lighting is positioned behind a subject, casting them in semi-darkness. This was used to great effect during the shower scene in Psycho.

Backlot – Large area on a studio lot used for outdoor sets or nature scenes.

Backstory – Events that happened prior to the beginning of the film. Backstory is often revealed as a film progresses, and actors find it helpful in developing their characters.

Balance – The composition of a shot within a motion picture.

Banned – If a film is banned in a particular country, that means it cannot be seen at local theaters and/or home video. Bootleg copies may still be obtained, however.

Barn Doors – Folding black metal doors present on the lights used on a film set. The doors can be adjusted, thus controlling where the light shines.

Barney – A term for the blanket that’s sometimes placed over a movie camera to muffle the sound of its moving parts.

Beat – Usually about one second, or the length of a heartbeat, the term “beat” refers to how long an actor waits before doing something.

Behind the Scenes – What goes on off-camera during the production of a film. This might include a power struggle between the director and a star, a romance between the two leads, or a number of other events that help fuel celebrity tabloids.

Below-the-Line Expenses – Any expenses not considered above-the-line (expenses prior to production). These include music rights, cost of materials, movie trailers, and publicity.

Best Boy – The top assistant to either the key grip or the gaffer. The term “Best Boy” applies to crew members of either gender.

Beta – Originally known as Betamax, Beta is 1/2 inch videotape.

Billing – An actor whose name is shown first in the credits or at the top of promotional material is said to have “top billing.” Billing is important to actors and actresses, and many have billing requirements written into their contracts.

Biographic Picture – Also known as a Biopic, the biographic picture tells the story of a real-life person. Examples include Milk, Malcolm X, and Silkwood.

Bit Part – A small, unimportant role in a film, usually no more than one scene in length.

Black and White – Denotes a film that is shot without color. This was the standard in the days before color film, but modern B&W movies are still made due to either artistic or budgetary considerations.

Black Comedy – A comedy film that derives humor from serious subjects such as war, death, or murder. A few examples include Heathers and Dr. Strangelove.

Blackface – The technique of taking a white actor and making them appear to be African American by applying black make-up. Most famously used in 1927’s The Jazz Singer, such a technique is now considered to be racially offensive.

Blacklisting – The practice of barring an actor or director from work due to their religious, social, personal, or political beliefs. The most famous example of blacklisting came during the Communist witchhunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

Blockbuster – A film that makes more than $100 million at the U.S. box office.

Blocking – The actors and director decide on where the performers will move during a scene, thus allowing the camera and lightning to be set in the appropriate position.

Blooper – A mistake made by a member of the cast or crew, usually involving one of the actors flubbing a line. Bloopers can often be humorous, and many DVD releases include a blooper reel (also known as out-takes). The Cannonball Run was famous for showing bloopers during the end credits.

Bluescreen – Actors perform in front of a blue (or green) screen, and computer-generated backgrounds are added in during post-production with a technique known as chromakeying.

Body Double – During scenes with nudity or featuring close-ups of the body, an actor or actress may be replaced with a stand-in. This is a common practice when an actress has a no-nudity clause in her contract.

Body Makeup – This type of makeup is applied above the wrists and below the neck. One example of body makeup allows a performer’s tattoos to be covered up.

Bomb – A movie which fails miserably at the box-office is known as a “bomb.” In the UK, however, the phrase “went down a bomb” indicates that a film was a financial success.

Boom Microphone – Also known as a Giraffe, Fishpole, Boom, and Boom Mic. The Boom Microphone is a long pole with a microphone on the end. It is held near the actors (and out of the shot) by the boom operator. In some films with poor production quality, the boom mic can sometimes be found creeping into the shot.

Boom Operator – A member of the sound crew who holds the boom microphone near the actors to pick up their dialogue.

Bootleg – An illegal copy of a film, usually available on DVD. Bootleg copies are especially popular in countries where movie censorship is common, although the copy may be less than perfect.

Bounce Board – A large white card made of posterboard or foam, the Bounce Board is used to reflect soft light during a scene. It may also be used for the fill or soft key.

Box-Office – Also known as the Gross or BO, the Box-Office is a measure of how much money a film made during its theatrical run.

Bracketing – In order to get a certain effect, a scene may be shot several times with varying F-stops. This is known as bracketing.

Breakdown Script – A detailed account of all the people, props, equipment and items required for each day of the shoot. The breakdown script assists in continuity and allows a production to function at maximum efficiency.

Bridging Shot – A technique used to cover a passage of time in a motion picture. This can be accomplished by showing the pages of a calendar falling away, the wheels of a train turning, the seasons changing, etc.

British Academy of Film and Television Arts – A UK charity that hosts an annual awards show to recognize the best in film, television, animation and video games. Also known as BAFTA, the organization was founded in 1947 as the British Film Academy. Separate award ceremonies are held in Scotland and Wales.

British Film Commission – Founded in 1991, this government-funded group assists in the making of films throughout the United Kingdom. Also referred to as the BFC.

British Film Institute – The BFI is dedicated to promoting an appreciation and understanding of film throughout the United Kingdom. This charitable organization also keeps the world’s largest film archive, with over 50,000 fiction films, 100,000 non-fiction films, and over 625,000 television programs. Founded in 1933.

British Society of Cinematographers – Founded in 1949, this organization is dedicated to the promotion of the highest standards of cinematography. Abbreviated as BSC.

Buck – A slang word for a single U.S. dollar. A film that makes $100 million bucks at the North American box-office is said to be a blockbuster.

Buddy Film – A movie sub-genre where two often mismatched individuals are thrown together in extraordinary circumstances. While they may clash at first, the duo usually end of as best friends by the end of the film. ‘Lethal Weapon’ is an example of the action buddy film.

Bumper – The segment of the film that contains the studio logo. The MGM Lions of the DreamWorks kid fishing are examples of a bumper.

Bundesverband Kamera – Abbreviated as BVK, this German society is dedicated to promoting high standards of cinematography throughout their country. Also known as the German Society of Cinematographers.

Buzz – The level of excitement generated by a film or filmmaker.

Buzz Track – Natural sound recorded on location and later added back in to create a greater sense of realism for a scene.


Call Sheet – Often created by assistant directors, call sheets detail which performers will be required for a scene and when the particular scene will be shot.

Cameo – A special, yet small, appearance in a film by a well-known actor or actress. The term was originally used by Around the World in 80 Days director Michael Anderson to entice stars to make small appearances in his film.

Camera – A device used for capturing images during the production of a film. Parts include the lens, viewfinder, magazine, and aperture. Also referred to as a “movie camera.”

Camera Angle – The point of view from which a camera films a subject. Various camera angles include eye-level, low, side, behind, left, and right.

Camera Crew – The members of a film crew who are involved with the operation and maintenance of the camera. Various job titles include: dolly grip, grip, key grip, director of photography, camera operator, clapper-loader, and assistant cameraman.

Camera Loader – Also known as a Clapper Loader, this individual is responsible for the clapper board at the beginning of each shot (which helps synch the video and audio). The position also requires the individual to load film stock into the film magazines.

Camera Operator – The individual responsible for operating the camera during a film shoot, often following the instructions of the director of photography. In some cases, the director or the director of photography may assume this duty.

Camp – A type of comedic film where events are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness.

Can – A round metal container that holds reels of film for transport. A completed film is also known as being “in the can.”

Canadian Society of Cinematographers – A Canadian society dedicated to the advancement of the art of cinematography. Membership is denoted in film credits by the abbreviation CSC.

Capsule Review – A short movie review.

Caption – Printed text that appears on the scene to inform the audience of the time and/or place where the scene is occurring. An example of a caption would be “London, 1937.”

Cash Cow – A film that’s guaranteed to make lots of money at the box office. Examples of a cash cow include Indiana Jones and the Star Wars franchise.

Cast – Refers to all the performers appearing in a particular film.

Casting – The process by which actors are hired to perform in a film. Casting is normally done by a casting director, but the studio, director, and producer may have input in the process.

Casting Couch – The act of an actress (or actor) granting sexual favors to a director or producer in exchange for a role in a film. Popularized during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, these trysts were said to take place on the couch in the director or producer’s office.

Casting Director – The individual responsible for putting together the cast for a film. A casting director also acts as a liaison between the director and the agents for each performer, and they often negotiate the contracts.

Casting Society of America – Also known as the CSA, this professional organization contains Casting Directors from film, television and theatre. The Casting Society of America isn’t a union or a guild, so not every casting director is a member.

Cast of Thousands – Often used to describe older epic films where thousands of extras were used for crowd scenes.

Caterer – The company or individual who provides meals for the cast and crew of a film during production.

Cel – A single hand-drawn animation frame, usually rendered on a surface such as mylar or cellulose. These clear surfaces often allow for several cels to be overlapped.

Cel Animation – A type of animation where pictures drawn by hand are placed on clear sheets and then layered to create the illusion of depth. Each cel is photographed to become part of the overall film. Up until the rise of computer generated animation, this was the most common form of animated film.

Censorship – When changes in a film are dictated by someone other than the filmmaker or studio.

Certificates – Also known as ratings, a certificate is an indication that a film has been screened and rated by a film classification board. The themes found most objectionable by film classification boards are sexuality and violence. In the United States, certificates include G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, and XXX.

CGI – Also known as “Computer Generated Imagery,” this is the art of using computer graphics to enhance a film’s special effects or to create entire landscapes and/or characters.

Change Pages – Pages that are distributed to cast and crew during production to indicate changes in the script. Change Pages are usually printed on different colored paper than the original script.

Change-Over Marks – In the day when theaters showed movies on more than one reel, these marks appeared in the corner of a frame to let the projectionist know that a reel change was approaching. Also known as “Reel Change Marks” or “Cigarette Burns,” these are becoming less common due to many theaters adopting a system that allows an entire film to be spliced together and shown on a large platter (known as the “platter system”).

Character Actor – An actor or actress who specializes in playing a particular type of character. These roles might be humorous or villainous, and many film fans recognize character actors but can’t remember their names. Examples of character actors include J.T. Walsh, James Rebhorn, and John C. McGinley.

Cheater Cut – In the days of the movie serial, this footage was shown at the beginning of an episode to tell what happened at the end of the previous episode.

Chemistry – Actors who have good chemistry together seem especially believable together. Examples of this include Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Poor chemistry between actors can make for a disastrous film.

Chiaroscuro – The contrasting use of light and shadows in a film. First used in the film of German Expressionism, the technique often employs a spotlight and is known as Rembrandt lighting or high-contrast lighting. Commonly used in the film noir genre.

Chick Flick – Movies aimed at a female audience, the term “chick flick” can also be used in a derogatory way to describe such films.

Children’s Film and Television Foundation – A UK program where schoolchildren are educated in various aspects of filmmaking. Formerly known as the Children’s Film Foundation.

Choreographer – An individual who plans and coordinates dance sequences in a motion picture. Famous choreographers include Busby Berkeley and Bob Fosse.

Chromakeying – Employing either a bluescreen or greenscreen, this technique allows for specific color elements (also known as “chroma”) to be replaced by computer generated images.

Chute Cowboys – Parachutists who either perform stunts involving parachutes or assist actors in preparing for such stunts.

Chyron – Technology that allows text to be added to the bottom of the screen. These text graphics are used to name a person on the screen, or describe a time or place.

Cinch Marks – Also known as “scratches,” these marks appear parallel to the edge of a strip of film. The most frequent cause of cinch marks is improper winding of the reel, which causes one coil of a print to slide against the other.

Cineaste – A devoted fan of cinema, Cineaste is also the name for a film magazine.

Cinema – The place where people go to watch films. Also known as a movie theatre.

Cinema Audio Society – Abbreviated CAS, the Cinema Audio Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing information among sound professionals. Formed in 1964, the Cinema Audio Society denotes a member in film credits by placing CAS after their name.

CinemaScope – A widescreen process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Early titles were 2.66:1 and 2.55:1.

Cinema Verite – Translates into “Cinema Truth.” A style of documentary filmmaking where no directorial control is present.

Cinematographer – The member of a film crew who excels at capturing images using various lenses and lighting techniques. The director of photography acts as the chief cinematographer for a film. The art of cinematography is considered invaluable to establishing a film’s distinctive look.

Cinerama – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.6:1 to 2.8:1.

Clapboard – A small board containing the working title of a film, the name of the director, the name of the director of photography, date, time, scene, and take number. Filmed at the beginning of each take, the clapboard also has a hinged stick that is clapped together to allow synchronization of audio and video components.

Clapper-Loader – Also known as a camera loader, this individual is responsible for loading film into the camera and operating the clapboard prior to each take.

Classification and Ratings Administration – Also known as CARA, this is the section of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that gives out ratings (aka “certificates”) for films.

Claymation – Models that are constructed from plasticine or clay and used for a particular type of animated film. The models are moved slightly, photographed, and then altered again to present the illusion of movement.

Clean Speech – If a take is performed without any errors in dialogue, it is said to be a clean speech.

Cliffhanger – A popular technique in serial films, where the action ends with the hero or heroine in mortal danger. In many examples, the characters were literally left hanging from a cliff, hence the nickname.

Close Captioned – Deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers can utilize this system that displays the spoken dialogue on the screen via text.

Close-up – Abbreviated as CU, this type of shot presents its subject in great detail. In most cases, an actor shot in close-up will be seen from the shoulders up or neck up.

The Coast – A slang term referring to either Hollywood or Los Angeles.

Coda – The last section of a film that provides closure to the audience. A coda can be wordless, or it can be accompanied by dialogue.

Coin – A slang term that can either apply to money or to the financing of a film.

Cold Open – Popular in modern television shows, a cold open occurs before the show’s opening credits and plunges viewers straight into the action.

Colorist – During the post-production phase, the colorist goes through each frame of the film and uses computer programs to ensure the quality of color and light continuity. They may also alter the film to achieve a particular artistic look.

Colorization – A digital process that allows black and white films to be converted to color. Ted Turner received a great deal of criticism when he colorized several classic movies in the 1980s.

Comic Relief – A character or situation designed to offset the otherwise dramatic events in a film.

Coming-of-age – A genre of film where a young man or woman enters puberty and begins to become an adult. The coming-of-age genre is often associated with John Hughes’ comedies of the 1980s, but many can also be quite serious in tone.

Compositing – Achieved primarily through digital image manipulation in modern times, compositing is the art of combining a number of visual elements from multiple sources in order to achieve a single image. This can include bluescreen or greenscreen work and CGI techniques.

Compositor – An individual who works to achieve compositing during the filmmaking process.

Co-Producer – While the co-producer has less responsibility than a producer, they do work on various managerial and creative producing functions. Multiple producers on a film does not necessarily indicate the presence of co-producers.

Color Consultant – An individual who provides color timers and cinematographers with advice on film developing and film stock for a production. Considered a technical advisor.

Color Temperature – A term used to describe the color of various sources of light. High color temperatures indicate light in a bluer shade, while low color temperatures are more yellow. Daylight, for example, has a color temperature of 5500k.

Color Timer – The person responsible for making sure that each frame of a film displays consistent colors during post-production. To correct any mistakes, the color timer may adjust the exposure time of a shot.

Color Timing – Also known as Color Correction, this process is used in post-production to ensure that the colors in each shot match. This is done by an individual known as a color timer.

Colorization – The controversial process of taking a black and white film and converting it into color.

Command Performance – A great performance delivered by an actor, often a short time before his or her death.

Commentary – A feature often available on DVD and Blu-ray releases, the commentary features the thoughts of either the actors, writers, or directors. As the movie plays, the commentary track is heard over the standard audio track.

Compilation Film – A movie made up of scenes and shots from other films. Examples include Terror in the Aisles and 100 Years at the Movies.

Complication – During the plot of a film, a complication is something that causes additional tension or an added challenge for the main characters.

Composer – An individual whose musical composition appears in the score of a film.

Composite Print – The composite print combines both sound and image on the same strip of film, with the sound component being achieved via optical soundtrack or magnetic soundtrack. Also known as a synchronized print.

Conductor – An individual responsible for leading the orchestra during the performance of a film’s score. In many cases, the conductor (also known as the “musical conductor” or “orchestra conductor”) may also be the composer of the score.

Confederation Internationale des Cinemas d’Art et Essai – Also known as CICEA or the International Verband der Filmkunsttheater.

Construction Coordinator – Also known as a construction manager or construction foreman, this individual constructs sets based on the drawings of the art director and production designer. Job titles may also include construction manager and construction foreman.

Continuity – When elements of a film are consistent from one shot to another (such as clothing or the length of a burning cigarette), a movie is demonstrating strong continuity. In most productions, a person is responsible keeping track of continuity.

Continuity Report – Also known as a continuity script, this is a list of events that took place before a particular scene. This allows the filmmakers to review all possible variations and avoid mistakes and costly reshoots.

Contract Player – A performer who is under contract to star in the films of a particular studio. This can refer to a major star or a bit player.

Contrast – In a film image, the amount of contrast refers to the difference between the maximum and minimum amounts of light.

Conventions – The expected elements of a certain type of film. The conventions of a horror movie, for example, would involve scary moments, people dying, etc. The conventions of a documentary would include interviews and factual information.

Coogan’s Law – Legislation in the 1930s that required a percentage of earnings by child actors to be placed in a trust fund for their future use. Named after child actor Jackie Coogan, whose fortune was squandered by his parents.

Costume – The clothing worn by performers during filming. These can be elaborate or simple, depending on the genre of film and the time period in which the film is set.

Costume Supervisor – The individual in charge of preparing costumes for a film. They must also train, supervise and schedule the members of the costume staff.

Costumer – Someone who assists with costumes during production. Also known as a wardrobe assistant, wardrobe, or assistant wardrobe.

Costumes – This department (or sometimes an individual) is responsible for getting the various wardrobe items called for by the costume designer. These may be rented from outside companies or obtained from the studio’s supply of costumes.

Courtroom Drama – This genre of film usually features a lawyer as the main character, with much of the action (especially the climax) taking place in a courtroom during a trial.

Coverage – In addition to the master shot of a scene, a director can achieve coverage by filming close-ups, reverse angles, and other shots. This is especially helpful when it comes time to edit.

Cowboy Shot – A shot commonly used in westerns, it captures the subject from mid-thigh up.

Craft Service – Also referred to as crafts service, these individuals perform tasks such as getting snacks for the cast and crew, cleaning the set, and running a variety of errands.

Crane Shot – Showing the action from above, the crane shot is achieved by mounting a camera on a crane. While some are operated by remote control, most allow room for both the camera and the camera operator.

Creative Consultant – An individual who helps with various creative elements during the production of a film. They often work with the film’s director, and they may make suggestions in regard to music, script, special effects, etc. Often, they are not listed in the film’s credits.

Creator – The major creative force behind a group of characters, movie, or series.

Credits – Appearing at the beginning or end of a film (often both), the credits are a list of the cast and crew involved with the production of a motion picture.

Crewmembers – Also known as the crew, these individuals include anyone involved with the production of a film who doesn’t appear in front of the camera. In many cases, however, it refers to the lower-ranking members of the productions (while filmmaker refers to the director, producer, etc.).

Crisis – The point in a film just before the climax. This is when tension is at its highest.

Critic – A person who publishes entertaining or artistic reviews of a film. Examples of critics include Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin.

Crosscut – When two or more scenes are weaved together to show actions occurring simultaneously.

Cross-over Appeal – A film that is made to appeal to one type of audience but ends up drawing in other types, as well. Barbershop and Bend It like Beckham are a few examples.

Crowd Shot – A shot of a large crowd of people. While this type of scene was normally done with extras in the past, modern films often use CGI to save money.

Cue – A signal that indicates an actor should begin their performance or deliver a line of dialogue.

Cue Cards – Large cards with the film’s dialogue written on them. Designed to help an actor remember their dialogue. Often referred to as idiot sheets or idiot cards.

Cult Film – A non-mainstream film that attracts a larger audience than expected. Cult films tend to be from the sci-fi or horror genres.

Cut – This is called out during the filming of a scene to let everyone know that the current take has ended. This can also refer to the complete edited version of a film, or a change in the camera angle, time or location of a scene.

Cutaway Shot – A shot that is briefly inserted to break up the action, act as a transitional shot, or provide extra information. A reaction shot is a form of a cutaway shot.

CyberpunkBlade Runner is perhaps the most famous example of cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction. Elements of cyberpunk include urban decay and violence, the presence of sophisticated computers or robots, powerful and corrupt corporations, and a futuristic setting.

Cyclorama – When outdoor scenes are shot inside a studio, this curved backdrop is used to represent the sky.


Dailies – Also known as “rushes,” dailies are the first prints produced from the negatives photographed the day before. These are often used by the director and the actors to gauge the progress of the film.

Dark Horse – An unknown or low-budget movie that ends up being nominated for prestigious film awards. The Accidental Tourist is an example of a dark horse movie.

Day-for-Night – A daytime shoot that’s meant to simulate night. Underexposure and various filters can be used to achieve this effect.

Decoupage – This is a French term referring to the overall design of a film, especially the arrangement of its shots.

Deep-focus Shot – A shot in which both the background and foreground are in focus. Citizen Kane was famous for employing the deep-focus shot.

Deleted Scene – A scene in a movie that ends up being cut from the final product. A scene can be deleted for a number of reasons, including securing a different rating, shortening the run time, or because the scene was poorly done. Deleted scenes are often included as extras on the DVD or Blu-ray release of a film.

Denouement – The “wrapping up” point in a film, where the ultimate fate of the characters are revealed and the story is finished.

Depth of Field – Abbreviated DOF, this is the range for which objects will be in focus for the movie camera.

Depth of Focus – A technical adjustment made during filming to ensure that deep focus is maintained in all planes of the shot (foreground, background, and middle ground).

Designer – A member of a film production who designs or otherwise prepares various visual elements.

Deus Ex Machina – Latin for “god from the machine,” the term deus ex machina refers to an event in a film where the character’s problems are solved in a contrived fashion or one which comes out of nowhere. The cavalry showing up in Westerns is an example, as well as someone suddenly receiving a large inheritance.

Development – In order for a script to get greenlighted, it often must be fleshed out. This process is known as development.

Dialect Coach – When an actor is playing a character with a different accent, a dialect coach can assist them in getting things just right.

Dialogue – Lines spoken by the characters in a film.

Dialogue Editor – Skilled as a sound editor, this individual specializes in editing dialogue during the post-production phase. Can also be spelled “Dialog Editor.”

Diegetic Sound – Also known as “actual sound,” this is a sound created by someone or something visible to the audience or implied to be present by events on the screen.

Diffusion – Softening the intensity of a light by using materials such as a translucent sheet or diffuser.

Digital Compositing – Digital editing is used to take separately filmed components and put them together.

Digital Compositor – An individual who uses a computer to perform compositing.

Digital Editing – Frames are altered digitally and then either combined with other digitized images or altered electronically. After being modified by these methods, the frame is then printed.

Digital Imaging Technician – This person used digital production techniques to assist the cinematographer during the production of a film. This may include elements such as color correction, production continuity, and image manipulation.

Digital Theatre Systems – Also known as DTS, this company specializes in digital soundtracks. Their competition includes SDDS and Dolby Digital.

Digital Versatile Disc – More commonly known as a DVD, it offers the ability to store a full-length film with digital sound and a high-quality picture. In most cases, DVDs are offered with extras such as commentary from the cast and crew, deleted scenes, alternate endings, and “making of” featurettes.

Directing Animator – The key frames or key poses of an animation are the responsibility of this individual.

Directing the Eye – A term used by cinematographers to indicate the act of directing the audiences eye on the screen through the use of light and shadow.

Director – Also known on occasion as the “helmer,” the director of a film decides how each scene should play out, and they’re often involved in elements such as editing, casting, and shot composition. An editor may have limited or complete artistic control, depending on their deal with the studio or producer.

Director of Photography – Also known as the DP, this individual is a cinematographer who ensures that each scene is shot the way the director wants it. Their duties are wide-ranging and can include placement of lighting, selecting film stock, film printing and film developing.

Director’s Cut – As it is popularly known, the director’s cut is a finished film that the director had complete artistic control over. Such terms are often used for marketing when it’s time for the DVD or Blu-ray version to be released. In more traditional terms, it’s the end result of the director’s vision of the film, although it’s not necessarily what makes it to theaters. Due to contracts with the Hollywood Director’s Guild, the director has six weeks to put together a cut of the film without the studio interfering.

Director’s Guild of America – A labor union dedicated to protecting the interests of both film and television directors. Founded in 1936, the group adopted their current name in 1960 (after previously being known as the Screen Directors Guild).

Directors Guild-Producer Training Plan – The Director’s Guild of America has numerous training programs whereby individuals can be placed with film and television productions to gain training and experience. Participants are known as a DGA Trainee or Director’s Guild of America Trainee.

Disney-fication – The art of taking a popular play or book and removing all the adult content to make it more family-friendly. Normally used as a derogatory term.

Dissolve – Also known as the Lap Dissolve, it’s an editing technique that allows the image of one shot to be slowly replaced by another.

Distributor – The company responsible for getting a film out to theaters. They also oversee DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Documentary – Sometimes abbreviated “Docu,” a documentary contains no professional actors and often serves as a journalistic-style narrative about a particular person or event.

Dogme 95 – Created in 1995 by such Danish filmmakers as Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier, this movement called for filmmakers to abandon such elements as special effects, props, non-natural lighting, superficial plot elements, etc. Also known as the Dogme Brethren or Dogme 95 Collective.

Dolby Noise Reduction – Sound enhancement and noise reduction techniques developed by Dolby Labs. Competing techniques include SDDS and DTS. Also known as Dolby Stereo, Dolby SR, Dolby Digital, Dolby, and Dolby 70mm.

Dolly – The act of moving the camera towards or away from the subject. To move towards is to “dolly in” or “dolly up,” while moving away is to “dolly,” “dolly back,” or “pull back.” This differs from a zoom shot, as the size and position of objects in a dolly shot will change throughout the shot, while zoom shots remain the same. A dolly is also a small truck that moves along tracks and is used to achieve dolly shots.

Dolly Grip – The grip responsible for moving the dolly.

Dolly Tracks – The tracks that allow a dolly to be moved.

Dope Sheet – This list can either contain the contents of an exposed roll of film stock or a list of scenes that have already been filmed. The assistant cameraman is responsible for putting together the dope sheet, and it may also be known as the “camera report.”

Double – An individual who stands in for another performer during a certain scene. These scenes may involve nudity, stunts, or some element of danger.

Double Bill – Two films shown back-to-back and often offered at a discounted price. Double bills are currently non-existent, but they were once quite common.

Double Exposure – Exposing a single frame of film twice to create an overlapping image in the final product.

Draftsman – The individual who comes up with the plans for the construction of the set.

Dresser – This individual is a wardrobe assistant who helps performers with their costumes.

Drive-in – A type of movie venue especially popular in the ’50 through the ’70s where customers watched films on a massive outdoor screen while sitting inside their car. Sound was heard by either tuning into a specific radio channel or placing a speaker onto your window. Drive-in theaters still exist around the globe, but their numbers are rather small. Also known as a passion pit, since many patrons had a fondness for making out during the movie.

Driver – This individual transports equipment between the studio, sets, and shooting locations. The head driver is known as the Transportation Captain.

Dubbing – This term can either apply to replacing the film’s original language with a new one, or the combining of multiple sound components into one.

Dunning – When background footage shot outside of a studio is combined with footage shot in a studio.

Dutch Tilt – A shot in which the horizon is not parallel with the bottom frame of the film. Orson Welles was known to be fond of this technique.

Dyaliscope – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Used in France.


Edge Numbers – These numbers are placed on the edge of a film print to allow for the easy identification of individual frames.

Editing – The process of taking events from a film and placing them in a coherent, and visually appealing, order. Also known as Film Editing and Visual Editing.

Editor – The individual who performs editing during post-production. In many cases, they will discuss the process with the director as they go.

Effects Stock – Rated several stops lower than normal stock and having a finer film grain, effects stock is traditionally used by the second unit of a production to generate computerized composites.

Electrical Department – In charge of any and all electrical matters during the production of a film. This primarily relates to lighting.

Electrician – The individual who’s in charge of electrical equipment on a film set.

Enfant Terrible – Front the French meaning “terrible baby,” enfant terrible refers to a young director who’s passionate, innovative, and egotistical.

Ensemble – A film featuring a large cast and lacking a true lead. Robert Altman and Christopher Guest are examples of directors who favored an ensemble cast.

Epic – Refers either to a film immense in scope or requiring a massive production. Examples include The Ten Commandments and Lawrence of Arabia.

Epilogue – A short scene at the end of a film where character’s look back on the events that have come before.

Establishing Shot – When a new scene begins, an establishing shot is often used to introduce the viewer to the space in which the action will occur.

Equity – In the UK, an actor must belong to this trade union before they can perform in any substantial film or theatrical production. Also known as Actors Equity, BAEA, or British Actors Equity Association.

Executive Producer – Responsible for the overall film, the executive producer isn’t involve with any technical aspects of production. In many cases, they handle the legal and business end of the filmmaking process.

Exhibitor – An organization which represents cinema chains in negotiations with distributors.

Experimental Film – A movie that presents camera angles, editing, narrative storytelling, etc. in new and unusual ways. Not designed to make a profit.

Exploitation Film – Often low-budget films filled with violence and sex, exploitation films are designed to make a profit by appealing to the baser instincts of their audience.

Exposition – A term for background information which helps advance the story and add depth to either the plot or characters.

Exterior – If the scene takes place outside, the abbreviation EXT will appear in the slug line.

Extra – These individuals often comprise crowd shots. They have no speaking roles and exist to give the film the illusion of taking place in a real world with real people.

Extreme Close-up – Offering more detail than a close-up, the ECU presents a subject which is much larger than what the frame can contain.

Eyeline Match – When a person or creature is to be inserted later in post-production, it’s important that real-life actors appear to be looking directly at them. To accomplish this, a grip will often hold a target on a pole, thereby cueing the performer where to direct their gaze.


Fade – A film technique where the screen either fades to black (“fade to black,” “fade out”) or begins black and fades in to an image (“fade in”).

Fake Shemp – Someone who appears on screen but whose face isn’t seen and doesn’t have lines. The term was first used by Sam Raimi in reference to a stand-in who was rumored to have replaced Shemp in Three Stooges films after the original actor had died.

Fast Motion – Also known as a skip frame, Fast Motion refers to a shot in which time appears to pass faster than normal. This effect can be achieved by undercranking or removing select frames (which are known as “skip frames”).

Feature Film – A movie that lasts for a length of at least 40 to 45 minutes. Made for theatrical release, this type of film is also known as a “feature.”

Feature Presentation – The main film on a double bill, or the movie that’s being screened by a theatre.

Featured Background – Actors who are placed in the background of a scene in prominent positions.

Feel Good Movie – An upbeat film with a happy ending. The term can sometimes be used in a negative fashion.

Femme Fatale – Female film characters who are often surrounded by death and mystery. The phrase translates to “deadly lady.”

Festival – An event where movies are screened. Festivals are often used to make a film eligible for upcoming awards ceremonies, sell the rights to distributors, and compete for prizes specific to the festival itself.

Film Buyer – An individual who works on behalf of an exhibitor to purchase films from a distributor.

Film Developing – This process allows film stock images to be transferred to a negative print.

Film Grain – Film stock is covered with small particles of light-sensitive material that allow images to be recorded. The finer the grain, the better the image quality will be. Course grains, on the other hand, allow for faster shutter speeds.

Film Magazines – A reel of film stock that’s placed in the camera for shooting. The loading of the film magazine is the responsibility of the clapper-loader.

Film Noir – Means “Black Film” in French. Film noir is a genre that often includes dangerous women, the criminal underworld, police corruption, and brooding lead characters. Especially popular in the 1950s. Examples of film noir include The Big Heat and In a Lonely Place.

Filmography – A complete list of the works by a director, screenwriter, or performer.

Film Printing – When images on a negative film print are transferred to a standard film print.

Film Stock – The actual film that images for a motion picture are recorded onto.

Filmmakers – This term is usually reserved for those who have a degree of creative control over a motion picture. This can include editors, producers, screenwriters, and the director.

First Assistant Camera – Also known by the term “1st AC,” this individual is responsible for keeping the camera in focus during filming. They may also be known as a focus puller. This is an especially challenging job, as the First Assistant Camera does not look through the lens while performing this task. Instead, they rely on their instincts. The 1st AC is also responsible for equipment such as filters and lenses.

Fish-eye – A wide-angle lense that distorts the image by giving it an extremely short focal point. Creates a sense of curvature.

Fish Out of Water Tale – A film plot in which the main character is taken out of their natural environment and placed in another. Crocodile Dundee is an example of a fish out of water tale.

Flashback – When the film’s narrative is interrupted by an event (or series of events) that happened in the past. In some cases, a film may occur almost entirely in flashback (Sunset Blvd., for example).

Flashforward – A scene that jumps forward in time, showing events that are yet to occur.

Flood Light – A light that provides diffused illumination on the set of a film.

Flop – A term for a movie that fails miserably at the box office. Ishtar is an example of a flop.

Foam Technician – Once a makeup artist has created a sculpture, these individuals are responsible for using it to create prosthetic appliances made from foam latex. Also known as a “foam runner.”

Focus – If an image is sharp, then it is said to be “in focus.” On a movie set, this is usually the responsibility of the First Assistant Camera.

Focus Group – Before a film is released for the public, it is screened for a focus group. This group is normally comprised of people with the film’s target audience and made up of 10 to 12 individuals. After the film ends, the focus group is asked a series of questions to determine their satisfaction with the film. Based on their responses, the film may undergo additional shooting or editing. In some cases, a character who initially survived may have their fate changed (as in the case of Deep Blue Sea).

Focus Puller – Another name for the First Assistant Camera. Responsible for keeping the shot in focus during filming (without looking through the camera’s lense).

Foley – The act of creating sound effects to mirror the events on screen. Named for Jack Foley, an early master of the art. This may be as simple as footsteps, or it can include necks being snapped, windows being broken, and various other incidental sound effects. Often, unusual items may be used to achieve the desired sound.

Foley Artist – Named after Jack Foley, the foley artist creates incidental sound effects for a film. Also known as a Foley Operator.

Foley Editor – After the foley artist has created the required sound effects, this individual is responsible for editing them.

Foley Mixer – This sound mixing position works in conjunction with the foley artist to create the incidental sound effects for a film.

Forced Perspective – This technique creates a sense that a space is bigger than it actually is. This is achieved by placing objects of different size at varying distances to create the illusion of a greater area.

Foreshadowing – The act of hinting at things that will happen later in the movie. Music can also be used to create foreshadowing.

For Your Consideration – A phrase that appears in advertisements in trade periodicals trying to convince voters to vote for a specific TV show or film during awards season.

Fourth Wall – The invisible wall through which the audience views the events of a film. “Breaking the Fourth Wall” occurs when characters acknowledge this invisible wall and directly speak to or otherwise interact with the audience.

Frame – A single picture image. A film’s print is made up of many frames.

Frame Rate – The number of frames projected per second or recorded per second. Humans can perceive around 20 images per second, so a frame rate of 24 images per second is typically used to simulate the illusion of normal motion. Also known as FPS or Frames Per Second.

Freeze Frame – In this optical technique, a single frame of film is repeated over and over to give the illusion that all motion has been halted.

F-stop – The numerical measurements that determine the opening of a camera’s iris during filming. F-stop numbers include 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22. The smaller the number is, the more light that’s allowed into the camera.

Fullscreen – Used for the home video market, this term describes the ratio necessary for the picture to fill the entire screen of a television set. The standard fullscreen ratio is 4:3, while a widescreen ratio is 16:9. Movies shown in the fullscreen format are often trimmed with the “pan and scan” method to throw away unnecessary parts of the image and focus on the central action (which often infuriates the director of the film). The fullscreen format is slowly dying out with the popularity of widescreen television sets, and many films are now released for the home video market in only widescreen format.

Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique – Also known as the International Federation of Film Critics, this organization was founded in Paris, France in June of 1930. Dedicated to “the promotion and development of film culture,” they have members in over 50 countries. Also known as Internationaler Verband der Filmkritiker and Federación Internacional de la Prensa Cinematográfica.

Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Film – Also known as the International Federation of Film Producers Association, this organization is based in Paris and was founded in 1933. Dedicated to helping producers formulate and coordinate political policies. Other names include Internationaler Verband der Filmproduzenten and Federazione internazionale associazioni produttori di film.


G – An MPAA rating that indicates a film is suitable for audience members of all ages.

Gaffer – Also known as the Chief Lighting Technician, the gaffer is in charge of the electrical department and responsible for the film’s lighting plan (from the design phase to the execution phase). The term gaffer referred the head of any group of laborers in the 16th century, and the early days of filmmaking often saw unemployed sailors manipulating tent cloths with poles to capture natural lighting (a gaff also happens to refer to the boom on a ship).

Gel – If you need to change the color of a light, you can place one of these thin, plastic sheets over it. When a novice crew member participates in a motion picture shoot, they may be asked to “clean the gels” as a form of practical joke.

Gender-bending Role – A role in which a character dresses up as a member of the opposite sex.

Generator – Often used during location shoots, a generator (aka Genny) is an engine that uses diesel to provide electrical power. This comes in handy when there are no other power sources nearby to plug into. The person who takes care of the generator is often referred to as the Genny Operator.

Genre – Films which share many of the same qualities are said to be in the same genre. For example, films in the horror genre often feature terrifying moments, the supernatural, deranged killers, gore, teenagers getting killed, etc. Genres include horror, romance, drama, crime, musicals, thrillers, science-fiction, etc.

Giraffe – The giraffe is a boom microphone that can be manipulated and extended by its user.

Goof – A goof is a film take that’s deleted from the final cut due to a mistake made by either the cast or crew (flubbed line, boom mic visible, etc.). They can also be referred to as bloopers or out-takes.

Go Motion – While Go Motion does have similarities to stop motion, it differs in that motion blur is induced by robotic models that are moved during the exposure of each frame. Invented by Industrial Light and Magic for Dragonslayer, this gives a greater sense of realism to an animated sequence.

Grandeur – A 70 mm process with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

Greenlight – When a film receives a greenlight, it is receiving the go-ahead to begin production.

Greenscreen – Also known as chromakeying, greenscreen involves shooting actors in front of a green screen and then filling in the green space with other imagery. The greenscreen technique has been proven over time to work better than bluescreen techniques.

Greensman – If you’re the member of the film crew who’s responsible for obtaining, placing, and caring for vegetation, then you’re known as the Greensman.

Grindhouse – The term Grindhouse was first used in the 1950s, and it describes a theater that screened or “grinded out” as many B movies as they could fit into their schedule. The term is also used to apply to the films shown in these theaters, as they were often packed with sex and violence.

Grip – In the United Kingdom, a Grip is responsible for the equipment that the camera is mounted on. In the United States, however, the Grip is tasked with maintaining, adjusting, and setting up any production equipment present on the set.

Gross – The entire profit made by a film, or the entire amount made at the box-office (not factoring in sales and rentals).

Guerrilla Filmmaking – A film shot without professional actors or location permits. This type of filmmaking is often practiced by students.


Hairstylist – Also known as a hairdresser, the hairstylist is responsible for maintaining the hair of the actors during a film shoot.

Hammerscope – An English process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Hardtop – A slang term that indicates an indoor theater (because a hard roof is located over the audience).

Hays Production Code – Introduced in 1934 by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, the Hays Production Code was a response to the public’s concerns over the so-called sex and violence in the movies. Headed by Postmaster General Will H. Hays, the code set down specific guidelines for what could be depicted on the big screen (a criminal, for example, could not be shown to profit from a crime). A Supreme Court ruling in the 1950s deemed the Hays Production Code to not be legally enforceable, and it was scrapped in 1967 as part of Jack Valenti’s efforts to overhaul the system. It would be replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the modern-day rating system.

Head-on Shot – When the action of the screen appears to come straight at the audience. Head-on shot are often used in 3D movies.

Helm – To “helm a film” means the same thing as to direct a film.

High Concept – Designed to attract a large audience and generate strong business at the box office, a high concept film often includes top stars or plenty of action and special effects.

HOD – Short for “head of department.” In the United States, the abbreviation HOD is sometimes substituted for the word “coordinators.”

Hold – A term used on a film’s continuity report. “Hold” indicates that a specific take should be kept but not developed.

Hold Over – An extra who is used for an extra day. The term is traditionally used by directors.

Homage – When a film pays tribute to a scene from another film, it’s said to be an homage. This occurs frequently in Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog.

Honeywagon – When shooting on location, the honeywagon is a truck or trailer that serves as the mobile dressing room for the actors in a film production.

Hoofer – A dancer who appears in a musical film. This applies especially to dancers in Busby Berkeley musicals.

Horse Opera – An older slang term that refers to a Western.

Hot Set – A set in which filming is taking place and all the props and furniture have been included. This term is used to let people know that items on the set should not be disturbed.

Hype – A large amount of excitment or praise that surrounds certain films. While movies such as Avatar have lived up to their hype in terms of box office performance, movies such as Snakes on a Plane have done just the opposite.


IMAX – A film format ten times larger than the normal 35mm format. IMAX screen are often as large as eight stories tall.

In-camera Editing – Shooting a film in the order it will take place on screen, this eliminating the need for editing.

Independent Film – To be considered an independent film, a motion picture must receive less than half of its financing from a major studio. Many people view the only true independent films as those where the filmmaker raised the money on their own, often by incurring massive credit card debt (El Mariachi, Hollywood Shuffle, Clerks). The term “indie film” is also commonly used.

Ingenue – The term ingenue can either apply to a young, fresh-faced actress or a role requiring a young and seemingly naive character.

Ink – When used as a noun, “ink” refers to the press coverage received by a performer or Hollywood production. When used as a verb, it refers to the act of signing an industry contract (“George Clooney just inked a four-picture deal.”).

Inning – Much like in baseball, the term “inning” is used to refer to a specific period of time.

Insert – Usually filmed by the second unit, an insert is a close-up of an object such as a gun or letter that will be inserted into the film during the editing process.

Intended Ratio – Refers to the aspect ratio that a film was originally intended to be shown in. Also known as the “original aspect ratio.”

Interior – Indicating that a scene will be shot outdoors, the term “interior” will appear on the slug line. Also known as INT for short.

Intermission – An older term for the break in the middle of films over three hours in length. Intermissions rarely occur in modern feature-length movies.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts – An organization designed to protect the rights of its members, all of whom are associated with the entertainment industry. Also known as the IATSE.

International Centre of Films for Children and Young People – An international organization based in France and dedicated to promoting quality films and television for children. Also known as the CIFEJ.

Intertitles – Frequently used in the era of silent film, intertitles were edited into a scene to provide a substitute for dialogue. The first example of subtitles.


Jib – The arm of a mechanical crane used during the production phase of a motion picture.

Judder – When motion picture images captured at one frame rate are converted to a different frame rate, a noticeable instability occurs. This is most obvious when slow or fast motion is achieved by deleting or repeating frames.

Jump Cut – A shot where the captured image closely resembles that of the previous image, although it results in an interruption of continuity.

Juxtaposition – When two characters, objects, or images are placed next to once another for comparison and/or contrast. Scenes can also be juxtaposed, such as the sequence assassinations and a baptism in The Godfather.


Key – When something is especially important, it’s said to be “key.” The term can also refer to the key grip (see the following entry).

Key Grip – Responsible for cutting the lights and diffusing them, the key grip works with the director of photography and the gaffer, and they’re also in charge of any camera movement that might take place (crane shots, dolly shots, etc.).

Key Light – During filming, the key light is the primary lighting placed on a subject.

Kickoff – A term used to denote the beginning of a film’s principal photography.

Klieg Light – Powerful lights used during filming and also used to light up the sky during movie premieres.

Kudocast – A slang term for awards shows such as the Oscars.


Lavalier – A tiny microphone that can be pinned or taped to a performer to capture sound.

Layouts – Before filming begins, the person in charge of Layouts determines where characters will be positioned in each scene and what camera angles will be used. Also known as “blocking.”

Layout Artist – The individual on a movie set who plots out the action sequences and determines how each shot will be staged.

Lead Character Technical Director – Responsible for a whole team of character technical directors during the making of an animated film or video game. Their primary concern is making sure that a certain technical and aesthetic quality is adhered to.

Lead Role – The primary character in a film. The term can also be broken up by gender, such as male lead or female lead.

Leadman – In charge of the swing gangs and/or set dressers on a motion picture set. A Leadman is always a member of the art department, and they report to the set decorator.

Legs – When a movie brings in strong box-office numbers for an extended period of time, it’s said to have “legs.”

Legal Services – A law firm or attorney responsible for negotiating contracts, distribution agreements, intellectual property rights, and numerous other matters. The term “legal counsel” may also be used.

Lens – Attached to a camera, the lens allows the camera to capture an image and then transfer it to film stock.

Letterboxing – By placing black bars at the top and bottom of a television screen, the process known as “letterboxing” allows a film to be displayed fully. Otherwise, parts of the image have to be cut off using the “pan and scan” method. The only drawback is that the entire image must be shrunk, which can make viewing difficult for owners of smaller television sets. Also known as the “widescreen” version of a film.

Lighting – The artificial lighting used on a movie set. Coordinated by the director and director of photography.

Lighting Crew – Also known as lighting technicians, these individuals maintain, operate, and install the lights on a film set.

Lighting Department – During filming, this division of the production crew is responsible for electrical issues and lighting. They are comprised of the following positions: Riggers, Rigging Gaffer, Genny Operator, Lamp Operator, Best Boy, Lighting Board Operator, and Gaffer.

Lighting Board Operator – By using a lever, this member of the electrical department can increase or decrease the intensity of the lights on a film set. It’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Lighting Technician – Operates the lighting equipment and lights on a film set. A member of the electrical department.

Line Producer – During filmmaking, a line producer is responsible for overseeing every matter and every person involved in the production.

Lined Script – Put together by the script supervisor, the lined script noted what coverage has been shot. Different types of shots are also noted, and whether dialogue is on-camera or off. Often used by editors to quickly get an idea of what camera angles are at their disposal for each scene.

Live Area – The live area is the section of a camera’s viewfinder that will capture an image onto film. The remaining area in the viewfinder is known as a “safe area,” and the boom microphone may often be placed here. These areas are marked off inside the camera’s viewfinder.

Location Filming – Indicates filming that doesn’t take place on a constructed set. Shooting outdoors or at a historical location would qualify as shooting on location.

Location Manager – Before a movie is shot on location, the location manager gets permission from local authorities and takes care of any other matters that arise. Usually represented on the film set by the Assistant Location Manager.

Location Mixer – Sounds recorded on location are mixed by the Location Mixer.

Location Scout – Before a film is shot on location, a Location Scout visits numerous places and searches for the perfect building, town, or other setting.

Lock It Down – The first meaning is to secure a location for filming. The second definition comes into play when the assistant director calls either “Lock It Down” or “Lock It Up.” This means to be quiet, get out of the frame, and make sure that nobody interrupts the scene being filmed.

Long Shot – Shot from far away, the long shot makes characters look very small on the screen in comparison to things around them.

Look Development Lead – Often referred to as a “lookdev,” the Look Development Lead works for the Digital/CG department and comes up with the final visual design used on props, special effects, sets, and characters.

Looping – Another term for Automatic Dialogue Replacement.

Lyricist – The lyricist is the person responsible for writing the lyrics to songs used in the film.

Lyrics – The words of a song used in a movie.


Macguffin – Alfred Hitchcock popularized this term. It refers to a piece of information, an item, or an event that characters in a film assign a great amount of importance to. The audience, however, often never finds out the specifics. A perfect example of a Macguffin is the briefcase with the golden glow inside from Pulp Fiction.

Magic Hour – Around sunset and sunrise, magic hour allows film crews to work with stunning natural lighting. Shot around sunset, a scene will be infused with a distinctive orange glow, while those shot just prior to sunset will have a blue hue that simulates darkness.

Magnetic Soundtrack – Not used much anymore due to the high cost, a magnetic soundtrack is a composite print on which the soundtrack is recorded to an attached magnetic tape strip.

Maintenance Engineer – During production, a person who’s responsible for general repairs on and around the set.

Majors – Refers to the largest and most powerful movie studios. They are: Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, MGM/UA, Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount Pictures, and Disney. The next tier of studios are often known as the Major-Minors.

Makeup – The material placed on the face, hair, or body of a film actor. This can be for basic touch-ups, or it can be used for special effects such as indicating advanced age. The people responsible are known as Makeup Artists, and they answer to the Makeup Supervisor.

Mark – Something that is placed on the ground or stage to indicate to a performer where they should stand.

Martial-Arts – A film genre that emphasizes hand-to-hand combat and often includes Asian styles of fighting. Also known as a Kung Fu movie and the less positive Chop-socky movie.

Martini Shot – A term used to indicate the last shot of a day’s filming, meaning that the next shot will be in a Martini glass.

Mask – To darken part of the screen. This is often done in film to indicate that the character is looking through a viewfinder or a pair of binoculars.

Master Shot – A long shot that sets up the entire scene. Most scenes are filmed with a master shot, and then broken down into a series of medium shots and close-ups during editing.

Match Cut – A linking device between two shots, whether visual, aural, or metaphorical.

Matte Artist – An artist who creates background work for a motion picture, which is often featured during a matte shot. They are also known by the colorful nickname “mattematician.”

Matte Shot – Artwork painted on a glass surface (by a matte artist) is combined with live action to produce a realistic effect.

Megascope – An English process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Method Acting – An acting style that requires performers to draw from their own lives in order to portray the emotions required by their characters. Brought to fame by Konstantin Stanislavsky.

Medium Shot – Filmed from a medium distance, a medium shot usually shows a character from the waist up.

Megaplex – A megaplex is a theatre with 16 or more screens.

MGM Camera 65 – A 70mm process with an aspect ratio of 2.75:1. The same as Ultra Panavision.

Microphone – Also known as a mic or mike, the microphone is a device that takes sound and converts it into electrical impulses for the purpose of amplification or recording.

Mini-Majors – Examples of the mini majors would include Gramercy or Embassy. These studios are not as large as the majors, but they still possess a degree of power within Hollywood.

Mini-Series – Refers to television shows with a limited number of episodes that tell a complete story. The 1980s were the pinnacle of the TV miniseries, and actor Richard Chamberlain (Thorn Birds, Shogun, etc.) was most associated with them.

Miscast – When an actor or actress is cast in a role that’s completely wrong for them.

Mise-en-scene – Every factor that impacts the look and feel of a scene or shot. Translated as “what’s put into the scene,” it can include the set decoration, shot selection, shutter speed, or anything else relating to the on-screen image.

Mockumentary – Shot as though it were a documentary, these films often take the form of parodies and poke fun of the subject being dealt with.

Modeler – A modeler is someone who uses computer software to create a 3D image. Highly important in the era of computer animated movies.

Mogul – Now known as a studio chief, the head of a film studio during the Golden Age of Hollywood was often known as a mogul.

Money Shot – A payoff moment in a film that makes the price of a ticket worthwhile. The money shot in The Empire Strikes Back, for example, comes when Vader chops off Luke’s hand and reveals that he’s his father. In the adult film industry, the money shot is when the male actor ejaculates.

Monologue – When a movie character gives a long speech without being interrupted by another character.

Montage – An effect where a film’s character is shown doing a number of things in rapid order. A prime example of a montage would be the training sequences from the Rocky films. While the character of Rocky may have trained months for a fight, a quick montage of different scenes gets the point across quickly.

Moppet – A child or pre-teen actor.

MOS – Standing for “mit out sound,” MOS is a take where sound isn’t recorded at the same time. The name supposedly comes from the fact that German-born director Erich Von Stroheim tried to say “without sound,” but his accent instead produced “mit out sound.”

Motion Artifact – The interference patterns that manifest visually between a shot’s frame rate and a filmed object’s periodic change or motion. If a shot is recorded with a frame rate R, any images of periodic events of a frequency greater than R/2 (known as the “Nyquist Limit”) will be misrepresented when viewed. A commonly-occurring example is the illusion of spoked wheels (or any kind of car wheels) appearing to turn in the wrong direction or at the wrong rate.

Motion Blur – This term can apply to the blurring effect produced by either a slow shutter speed or an object quickly coming into the frame of the camera. This happens because the object is occupying multiple positions during a single exposure of film.

Motion Capture – The movement of real people or objects are recorded via computer and turned into animated images. This is also a popular technique in video games like the Madden series.

Motion Control – The camera’s motion is recorded during the shot, enabling visual effects to later be synchronized with the scene being filmed.

Motion Picture – The finished product of a film production, motion picture can also be known by the terms flick, film, movie, or picture.

Motion Picture Association – Serves as an advocate for the motion picture industry both domestically and abroad. The international version is known as the MPA, although it was called the Motion Picture Export Association of America prior to 1994. The domestic branch, known as the MPAA (or Motion Picture Association of America), also delivers the ratings for all theatrical releases.

Motion Picture Association of America – Also known as the MPAA, this organization issues certificates (aka ratings) to all films being released domestically in the United States. They also aggressively fight against piracy of copyrighted materials.

Motion Picture Editors Guild – A union created to protect the rights of sound and picture editors, but it also extends to include such diverse positions as engineers, story analysts, projectionists, and boom mic operators.

Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America – Also known as the MPPDA, this is a non-profit organization designed to help the business interests of the film studios.

Motion Picture Sound Editors – An honorary association of sound editors founded in 1953. Not an industry union.

Motion Picture Stills Photographers Association – Also known as the MPSPA, it’s an association dedicated to the advancement of still photographers within the motion picture industry.

Mouse House – A slang term for Walt Disney Studios.

Movematch – This technique utilizes a computer program to combine CGI effects and real footage into a seamless product. The person responsible is known as an “integration artist,” matchmover,” camera tracking artist,” or “matchmove artist.”

MTV Style Editing – A style of editing popularized by music videos on MTV in the 1980s. This style includes fast edits, multiple camera angles, jump cuts, fast action, and rapidly-cut shots.

Multiplex – A movie theatre with between 2 and 16 screens.

Music Arranger – The individual known as a music arranger take a piece of music and adapts it for different instruments or voices.

Music Editor – Edits the live vocals, score, songs, and source music in conjunction with the composer and music supervisor.

Music Preparation – After the composer has written the score for a film, this person in charge of music preparation makes copies and distributes them to the musicians prior to the recording session.

Music Supervisor – While this can refer to the person who locates and obtains the rights to songs for use in a film, it most commonly refers to the person who oversees the sound mixers, editor, and composer. Also known as the music director or musical director.

Musical – A motion picture that includes periods where the characters spontaneously break out into song and dance.


National Film Theatre – A movie theatre located in London, England that often serves as a showcase for new releases. Sometimes known as NFT.

National Association of Theatre Owners – Also known as NATO, this exhibition trade organization works to influence government policy and protect the rights of distributors. Their membership includes the largest theatre chains in the world.

Natural Vision – A 63.5 mm process with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

Naturama – A Republic Studios process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

NC-17 – A rating or certificate issued by the MPAA that prohibits anyone under the age of 17 from seeing a film (even if accompanied by a guardian). It was formerly known as an X rating, but this was changed in 1990 due to public confusion with the XXX industry. Most theatre chains will not show a film rated NC-17, so filmmakers are often forced to make numerous cuts to receive an R-rating.

Negative Cost – To determine a film’s negative cost, add up all the expenses prior to paying for prints, distribution, and advertising.

Negative Cutter – The negative cutter takes the negative of a film and matches it to the final version determined by the filmmakers. Prints are then made from this negative.

Negative Pickup – While a distributor can often be involved during the production phase, Negative Pickup refers to the times when a distributor comes in after production and acquires a completed negative.

Negative Print – Also known as a Neg or Negative, this refers to a reverse light image capture. The opposite is a positive print.

NG – An abbreviated form of the phrase “no good.” This can be used to describe anything that’s gone wrong with a motion picture, such as an “ng take” or “ng shot.”

Negative Ratio – During the production of a motion picture, the phrase “negative ratio” refers to the aspect ratio of the negative used for shooting.

New Deal – Used to indicate a change during shooting, whether it’s a new scene or another camera position.

New Wave – A film movement started in France in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Started by filmmakers such as Godard, Rohmer, and Truffaut, the New Wave was characterized by hand-held cameras, minimal direction, jump cuts, and non-linear storytelling.

Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema – An organization devoted to promoting Asian cinema throughout the world. Also known as NETPAC.

Non-linear Editing – With the help of computers, a film can be edited without first having to assemble it in a linear sequence.

NTSC – Determined by the National Television Standards Committee, this designation denotes 525 lines of resolution at 60 half-frames per second for television and video displays in the United States and Canada. SECAM and PAL are similar designations used in other parts of the world.

Nut – Operating expenses from a film production that need to be recovered. These can often be recouped thanks to the standard agreement made between exhibitors and distributors.


Off book – This refers to when an actor has completely memorized their cues and lines. Since they no longer need to rely on a script, they are said to be “off book.”

Off-line – Before editing is done on-line, this preliminary process allows editing to be done at a facility with a lower cost.

Off-line Editor – This individual often works at a lower-cost editing facility and performs initial editing to assist the on-line editor.

One-reeler – A film that lasts from 10 to 12 minutes long.

One-sheet – The typical size of a movie poster.

On-line – The final editing stage prior to film distribution. The on-line editor often refers to a list created by the off-line editor.

On-line Editor – The individual who performs on-line editing prior to a film’s distribution. They often use notes created by the off-line editor.

Opaquer – When individual cells of an animated film must be colored in, the opaquer is the person who does it.

Open – The open date is when a film is released in theaters.

Opening Weekend – The first weekend when a film is released in theaters. Opening weekend numbers often give a good idea of how a film will perform at the box office.

Optical Printer – A machine used in a laboratory to combine images from multiple reels of film. Also known as optical printing.

Optical Soundtrack – On a composite print, the optical soundtrack runs beside the frames on a print and allows sound to be recorded.

Option – Also known as optioning a script, this process allows someone to secure the rights to a script for a particular time. After the time elapses, the scriptwriter is free to share his work with other parties.

Orchestral Arrangements – Also known as orchestration and arrangements, this is when the score for a film is adapted for all orchestral instruments.

Orchestrator – The individual who writes orchestral arrangements for a motion picture.

Oscar – Also known as an Academy Award, the Oscar is the highest award given by the Hollywood film industry. Presented and voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Out-Take – A take that doesn’t make it into the movie, usually due to a humorous flub. In some cases, outtakes will be shown of the end credits. Cannonball Run was one of the first films to popularize this, and Jackie Chan often presents stunts gone wrong in his end credits.

Overcranking – By speeding up the frame rate of a camera and then playing the captured images back normally, the action on the screen appears to be moving in slow motion. This term originates from the days when cameras were operated by turning a crank on its side.

Over the Shoulder Shot – Open used during conversations in a film, the over the shoulder shot looks over the shoulder of one character and shows another character or object in front of them.

Overture – The music played before or during the opening credits to set the mood of a film.

Ozoner – An ozoner is a slang term for a drive-in theatre, since it’s outdoors. The opposite of “hardtop,” which is a theatre with a roof.


P&A – This is short for “prints and advertising.” When is comes to distributing a film, these two elements are the most expensive.

PAL – Features 625 lines of resolution at 50 half-frames per second. This is standard on televisions in Australia and Europe.

Pan – When a camera is rotated about its vertical axis, it’s known as a pan. In critical terms, the word “pan” can be used to indicate a negative appraisal of a film.

Pan and Scan – When a film is shown on television in a full-screen format, part of the image must be cropped. This is done through “pan and scan,” a method where only the most vital part of the film’s image is shown. Many film purists and directors despise this method, and Blake Edwards was especially known to compose shots that made it difficult for pan and scan operators.

Panavision – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Since 1971, the aspect ratio has been 2.4:1.

Payoff– The scene in a film that delivers a dramatic payoff for the audience.

Pen – Another name for writing, especially in regard to “penning” a script.

PG – Short for “Parental Guidance Suggested, the PG rating is handed down by the MPAA and indicates a film suitable for children without a parent or guardian.

PG-13 – First issued by the MPAA in 1983, the PG-13 rating is given by the MPAA to films containing more adult content than those rated PG. May contain questionable content for those under 13.

Pickups – When one studio makes a film and then another acquires it. It can also be used to indicate footage that’s shot after production wraps on a motion picture (also known as additional photography).

Picture Car – Any vehicle shown in a motion picture.

Pipeline – This term refers to the schedule of films currently in production.

Pitch – A verbal or written idea that sums of the premise of the film for studio executives. A pitch can be a few pages or only a sentence.

Pixelation – When video is played from a digital medium such as Digibeta or miniDV, pixelation takes the form of tiny squares that appear on the screen and interrupt the quality of the playback. It also refers to stop-motion animation where actors are shot instead of objects.

Point of View – Often abbreviated POV (used frequently in the slug line), the point of view indicates that a particular camera shot shows events from the perspective of a specific character.

Pornographic Film – Also known as a porno or XXX film, a pornographic film contains frequent depictions of graphic sex.

Positive Print – The opposite of a negative print, a positive print is when an original light image is captured on film.

Post-credits Sequence – A scene that occurs after the end credits have rolled. In some cases, these may occur halfway through the end credits.

Post-Production – The work done of a movie after principal photography is complete. This usually refers to inserting visual effects and performing editing. Also known as “post.”

Post-Production Coordinator – An individual who handles many elements of the post-production process, especially those related to organization and paperwork.

Post-Production Supervisor – Oversees every element of the post-production phase, from reshoots and CGI to scoring and video mastering. They report directly to the studio or the producer.

Pre-Production – Also known as “Pre,” these are the various parts of a movie that are taken care of before filming begins. Examples include location scouting and set construction.

Premiere – Also known as a “bow” or “debut,” a premiere marks the first public screening of a film. A great deal of pageantry is often associated with a premiere, with all the stars attending and walking down a red carpet.

Premise – The main idea of a movie. The premise of a film can be summed up in only a few sentences.

Prequel – A film that takes place before the events featured in other installments of the franchise.

Pre-screen – To watch a film before it’s released to the general public.

Presenter – A person who introduces a film via voice-over or on-screen appearance. If a film lists “presented by” or “____ presents” during the opening credits, then it means the person listed was the executive producer.

Previsualization Artist – These individuals use models or computer software to design sequences featuring animation or special effects. The objective is to generate date that will help the production process move more smoothly.

Principals – The main characters in a motion picture.

Principal Photography – Also known as “principal filming,” this is the part of shooting that involves the actors.

Print – Made up of one or more reels, this is the end product of a film that can projected at movie theaters. Print can also mean that a particular take of a film should be developed.

Producer – The producer of a film hires personnel, raises funds, and ensures distribution. They are charge of all matters with the exception of the creative aspect, which is the domain of the director.

Producer’s Guild of America – A professional guild dedicated to representing producers in the film industry. Also known by its initials, PGA.

Product Placement – When a film shows a company’s logo or product in exchange for financial compensation.

Production – The phase of a film where principal photography occurs. It can also be used to refer to the entire film, such as “that was a quality production.”

Production Accountant – The individual who tracks and manages the finances during production.

Production Assistant – Also known as a PA, gopher, or personal assistant, the Production Assistant run errands and performs a number of odd jobs on the set of a film.

Production Buyer – During the production of a film, the production buyer acquires equipment, supplies, and property as needed.

Production Code – Also referred to as the Hays Production Code, this antiquated code determined what could and couldn’t be included in a film. For example, criminals always had to be punished by the end of a movie.

Production Company – A company that is involved with the production of a film.

Production Coordinator – The individual who gets hotel rooms for cast and crew, orders equipment, and takes care of other such practicalities.

Production Designer – The artist who’s responsible for the overall look of a film. The art of doing so is known as production design.

Production Illustrator – Also known as an illustrator or storyboard artist, the production illustrator draws storyboards during production.

Production Manager – During the production of a film, this individual oversees the departments and makes sure things are moving on schedule (and according to budget). They report to the producer.

Production Report – A report written daily that documents the actual progress of the film versus the planned progress.

Production Schedule – Used mainly by the production manager, the production schedule includes detailed reports on how long each facet of filmmaking should take. This is helpful in determining whether or not a film is progressing on time.

Production Secretary – An individual who acts as a secretary to the production manager.

Production Sound Mixer – During filming, the production sound mixer is in charge of the sound department. They direct the boom operator, select and operate the microphones, record room tone and ambient sound for each scene, and perform many other responsibilities.

Production Value – The overall quality of a film, based on acting, directing, costumes, script, etc.

Projectionist – The person at a movie theater who operates the projector.

Projector – The machine at a movie theater that projects the film onto the screen.

Prologue – A short scene that precedes the main action of a film. Used to set the mood and introduce the main character.

Prompter – If an actor forgets their lines during filming, it’s the responsibility of the prompter to remind them of the correct dialogue. The action of doing this is known as a “prompt.”

Prop – If an actor touches or uses something during filming, it’s considered a prop. This also includes food and animals.

Property Assistant – The property assistant is in charge of all the props on the set of a film.

Property Master – Before filming begins, the property master is responsible for buying or renting all needed objects or property for the production. During filming, they maintain all the props and oversee the property assistants.

Prosthetic Appliances – Also known as prosthetics, these are special appliances glued to the face of performers to alter their appearance.

Protagonist – The lead character in a film. The protagonist is also the hero of the film, even if their actions aren’t always heroic.

Publicity Assistant – The individual who assists the publicity director.

Publicity Department – During the production of a film, the individuals in this department are responsible for helping to promote the movie. Positions include still photographer, unit publicist, and publicity assistant.

Publicity Director – Also known as a publicity executive, this person oversees the publicity campaign for a motion picture. They often supervise the unit publicist.

Puppeteer – A member of the crew who operates puppets via radio controls, cable operation, or just by sticking their hand inside them.

Pyrotechnician – A crew member with experience in the use of explosions and fire.


Q Rating – A rating used by research firms to determine how recognizable (and likable) an actor is.

Quarter – A three month period that marks one-quarter of a year. This is often used by the publicity department and production accountant to manage various financial issues for a production.

Quota Quickies – Refers to films made in the United Kingdom during the 1930s. Usually short and cheaply made, they were created in response to The Cinematographic Films Bill of 1927, which required all UK theaters to show a certain percentage of films made in Britain.


R – Short for “restricted,” the R rating is handed down by the MPAA to films with adult content not appropriate for children. An individual under the age of 17 can still attend an R-rated film, but they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Railroad Coordinator – If a film project involves railroads, this is the person in charge of making sure everything railroad related looks right and is taken care of. The term “railroad consultant” can also be applied.

Rating System – Conducted by the MPAA in the United States, a rating system determines what age group a film is appropriate for.

Reaction Shot – A brief shot that shows a character’s reaction to an event or another character.

Realife – A 70mm process with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

Real Time – When the events in a film take place at the same pace they would in real life. Examples of film shot in real time include High Noon and Nick of Time.

Redface – Similar to blackface, the term redface refers to an older film practice of making white men up to look like Native Americans (often with rather unrealistic results).

Red Herring – Elements of a film introduced in order to mislead the audience as to the final outcome.

Re-recording Mixer – The individual on the sound crew who mixes the final sound elements (including sound effects, foley, and dialogue).

Reel – A metal wheel with a strip of film wound around it. Most reels hold around 15 to 25 minutes of film.

Release – The act of a distributor releasing a film to the exhibitors and making it available for public viewing.

Regalscope – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Re-release – When a studio, broadcaster, or distributor once again releases one of its films. This is frequently done by Walt Disney.

Reshoot Contingency – The funds set aside by a producer in case re-shoots have to be done on a film.

Retrospective – A look back, usually through film clips, at the career of an actor or director. The term can also refer to a film that’s primarily told by looking back at events that have already happened.

Reverse Shot – Also known as a reverse angle or Hollywood reverse, the reverse shot is taken at a 120 to 180 degree angle from the previous shot. Often used in dialogue scenes with the over-the-shoulder shot.

Rigger – The individuals responsible for the construction of scaffolding and the setting up of lighting.

RKO-Scope – The same as Super-Scope 235, this process has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Roman a Clef – A film that looks at a real-life individual but disguises their identity as that of a fictional character. Citizen Kane is the most famous example.

Room Tone – Since all rooms have differing audio characteristics, a sound recordist will record room tone (silence) in each location where filming takes place. This can be especially useful when it comes time for editing.

Rotoscoping – Live-action images are traced in this animation technique. This can either be done automatically or manually.

Rough Cut – An early cut of the film with everything assembled in order but lacking sophisticated editing techniques.

Running Time – The length of a film.

Rushes – Also known as dailies, rushes are the raw, unedited footage shot during a day’s filming. Also referred to as daily rushes in the UK.


Sabre Artist – A production crew member who creates special effects utilizing various software programs.

Safe Area – The area of camera viewfinder where anything inside will not end up on film. This is etched on the viewfinder, and it’s often where the boom microphone is placed.

Scene – A film is made up of a series of scenes. A change in scene is usually marked by a change in location or time. If two characters are talking in a house and we switch to a boy in the woods, then we’ve just changed scenes.

Scene Chewing – Also known as chewing the scenery, this indicates an actors whose performance is over-the-top.

Scene-Stealing – A performance that overshadows all other in a film.

Scenic Artist – Crew members responsible for constructing and painting signs, aging costumes, plastering surfaces, applying surface and wall coverings, etc.

Science Fiction – A film genre often recognized for taking place in outer space or in a futuristic setting. Also abbreviated as SF or Sci-Fi.

Score – The parts of a movie soundtrack that are just instrumentals. The average film will have a number of scores.

Screen Actors Guild – Also known as SAG, the Screen Actors Guild is an industry union that safeguards the rights of its membership. Founded in 1933, it represents over 200,000 film and television performers.

Screener – A DVD copy of a film sent to critics prior to the film’s release to the general public.

Screen Extras Guild – A guild representing movie extras from 1946 to 1992. It was then disbanded and re-incorporated into the Screen Actors Guild.

Screen Test – An actor performs a role in front of a camera, which serves as a kind of audition. Actors will sometimes undergo a screen test to see if they have the looks or talent to be cast in films. Steven Seagal, for example, underwent a screen test before the go-ahead was given for Above the Law.

Screening – When a film is shown at a movie theatre.

Screenplay – A written script that is ready to be turned into a feature film. In many cases, a screenplay may be purchased for a certain amount with a guarantee of more money if it gets made into a film. This terminology looks something like this: “$100,000 against $250,000.” This means that the screenwriter gets $100,000 up front and another $150,000 if the project makes it to the screen.

Screenwriter – The individual responsible for writing a screenplay.

Script – While a number of different scripts exist (lined script, continuity script, shooting script, etc.), the most common script is a screenplay.

Script Department – Made up of script editors, writers, and prompters, this production department is responsible for a film’s script.

Script Editing – When an existing script is changed with input from the director or producer. Individuals who specialize in script editing are known as “script doctors.”

Script Supervisor – A member of a film’s production crew who keeps track of which parts of the film have been shot and how they differed from the script. Also responsible for making continuity notes.

Seamstress – An individual who makes costumes for a film production.

SECAM – With 625 lines of resolution at 50 half-frames per second, this is the standard for televisions in some African nations, France, parts of Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Second Assistant Camera – The assistant of the assistant cameraman.

Second Assistant Director – The assistant of the assistant director. In charge of call sheets.

Second Second Assistant Director – Acts as an assistant to the second assistant director and directs the extras. Also known as the Third Assistant Director.

Second Unit – A small unit that films items such as scenery, crowds, and inserts.

Second Unit Director – The individual in charge of the second unit.

Sell-through – When DVDs are priced low enough to encourage buying instead of renting.

Sequel – A film that serves as a continuation of a story or characters from previous films.

Serial – Popular in the early days of cinema, the serial would play before the feature film and almost always end with a cliffhanger. Within several weeks, the next installment would be played and end with yet another cliffhanger.

Series – A group of films that have recurring characters and themes. Examples include Harry Potter, James Bond, and Star Trek. Also referred to as a franchise.

Set – An artificially constructed area used for filming a motion picture. Filming on a set is the opposite of filming on location.

Set Decorator – With authority over the leadman, the set decorator has the ultimate say over where everything goes on the set, including plants, furniture, and drapery.

Set Designer – This individual takes the notes and drawings of the set designer and translates them into an actual set. The set designer works under the art director.

Set Dresser – Besides ensuring continuity on the set, the set dresser moves and places items on the set according to the wishes of the set decorator.

Set Medic – A physician, nurse, or medical technician on the set to provide treatment to cast and crew.

Set-Piece – An elaborate sequence in a film that stands on its own. Examples of a set-piece include the helicopter attack from Apocalypse Now and the massive sword battle between The Bride and The Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Volume One.

Shooting Script – Usually including technical notes and numbered scenes, the shooting script is the one used to make the actual film.

Shooting Ratio – The amount of film purchased versus the amount remaining in the final print.

Shop steward – An individual chosen by the crew to represent them in dealings with production management.

Short Subject – Also known as a “short,” this is a film with a run time less than 45 minutes.

Shot – A shot is defined as a continuous block of footage from one point of view.

Shot Composition – How key elements of a film are arranged within the frame by the director.

Shot List – A list of the scenes being shot for the day and in what sequence they will take place. May include other notes such as the actors who’ll be involved, length of each scene, and location of the scene.

Shot Selection – A term that indicates where the camera is positioned and what the viewer can see within the shot. The same as shot composition.

Shot/Reverse Shot – A sequence of shots that first shows a person’s face, then shows what the person is looking at, and then finally the reaction on the person’s face.

Shutter Speed – The measure of time that indicates how long a single frame of film is exposed.

Sight Gag – A visual element that conveys humor through an image instead of verbally.

SIGNIS – Also known as the World Catholic Association for Communication, SIGNIS is a non-profit organization for Catholics working in various areas of communication media. It was started in 2001 with the merger of International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual (OCIC) and International Catholic Association for Radio and Television (Unda).

Sign writer – Usually part of a set designer’s team, these individuals are responsible for designing and making any signs seen in a motion picture (with the exception of pre-existing signs found on location shoots).

Silent Film – A film lacking spoken dialogue and a synchronized soundtrack. The only form of cinema available until the latter part of the 1920s.

Silk – Translucent white cloth used to soften and filter a light source.

Singer – Usually refers to the person who performs the theme song of a film.

Singing Voice – A vocal actor whose singing is substituted for one of the stars of a film.

Sketch – A scene usually lasting less than 15 minutes and often involving comedic situations. Most often encountered in sketch comedy shows on television such as Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Slapstick Comedy – Comedy often involving physical humor and non-lethal violence. The Three Stooges, for example, were masters of slapstick comedy.

Slate – Normally done with a clapboard, the slate is the recorded identification of a scene and take number. Slates are usually marked at the beginning of a take, although a “tail slate” is just the opposite. A slate can also be used during an actor’s audition.

Sleeper – A movie with little promotion that defies expectations and becomes a major hit. An example of a sleeper film would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Slow Motion – When a sequence in a film appears to move slower than normal speed. This can be achieved by overcranking or by simply repeating frames during the editing process. Also known as slo-mo.

Slug Line – Before each scene or shot in a script, a header (known as a slug line) appears to tell the date, time, and location of the action.

Smash Cut – Designed to surprise the audience, the smash cut is an unexpected change in scenes, often used during murders and nightmares.

Sneak Preview – Prior to a film’s premiere, an unannounced screening may take place to gauge audience reaction. If the reaction is poor, elements of the film may be changed during final editing.

Snub – When a film is passed over for award nominations, it’s said to be snubbed.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers – Also known as SMPTE, this is a technical society devoted to the advancement and promotion of motion-imaging technology.

Society of Operating Cameramen – Abbreviated SOC, this is a society for those who operate cameras in the film industry. In film credits, the abbreviation will appear after a name to denote membership.

Sony Dynamic Digital Sound – A sound enhancement and noise reduction system introduced by Sony. DTS and Dolby Digital have also released competing products.

Sound Crew – The members of the production crew responsible for creating a film’s soundtrack. This includes people like the sound editor, boom operator, music supervisor, foley artist, etc.

Sound Designer – The member of the sound crew who designs and creates the audio for a film.

Sound Editor – An individual who belongs to the sound crew and edits the soundtrack.

Sound Effects – The sound crew adds in these sounds during the post-production phase.

Sound Effects Editor – This member of the sound crew specializes in editing sound effects into a film.

Sound Mix – During filming, this is the act of recording in production sound.

Sound Mixer – This individual on a film set works with the boom operator to record sound.

Soundstage – Located inside a studio, the soundstage is a massive area where sets can be constructed and filming can take place. Perfect for controlling lighting and security on a production.

Soundtrack – There are two definitions for soundtrack. First, it refers to the songs heard during a film. Second, it refers to the audio component of a motion picture.

Source Music – Music in a film that comes from a noticeable source, such as a radio or a band. Source music is also known as “foreground music.”

Sovscope/Sovscope 70 – A process from the Soviet Union with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Spaghetti Western – Westerns filmed in Italy, often with a cast comprised of American actors. Sergio Leone was the most famous of the Spaghetti Western directors, and they helped turn Clint Eastwood into a star.

Speaking Role – A role in a film where the character speaks dialogue from the script. Speaking roles traditionally pay far more than non-speaking parts.

Spec Script – Prior to any negotiations being entered into, a spec script (aka speculation or “spec”) is written in the hopes of selling it to the highest bidder.

Special Effects – While visual effects are created in post-production, special effects are created during the production phase.

Special Effects Supervisor – Responsible for heading up the special effects crew, the special effects supervisor is also known as the special effects coordinator.

Special Makeup Effects – An artist who combines expertise in foam latex, silicone, gelatine, makeup, and hairwork to create special effects during production.

Speed – After “lock it down” has been called, either the camera operator or the director of photography will call “speed” to let the director know that the camera is running at the correct speed. Once this occurs, the director will then call “action” to begin filming.

Spherical – In this vertical system, the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the picture are the same. Also known as a spherical print.

Split-Screen – Two separate action that occur side-by-side on the screen.

Spoiler – Information about the ending or important plot points of a film. While some people seek out spoilers, many despise them.

Spoof– A film that pokes fun of a specific type of genre. Notable spoofs include The Life of Brian, Airplane, and Blazing Saddles.

Sprockets – Tiny, square holes found on both sides of a film strip. Sprockets are used to pull the film through the projector.

Squib – A miniature explosive device. When worn by an actor, it’s paired with a small container (sometimes a condom) filled with fake blood. The device is detonated by remote control, the container bursts, and a gunshot wound is simulated. Squibs can also be used to simulate small explosions and bullet hits on inanimate objects.

Stand-In – Before a scene begins, someone with the same overall size and shape as an actor will stand in their place. This allows the production crew to test lighting and get everything else ready, while the real actor learns lines, drinks coffee, or flirts with interns. When the scene is ready to be shot, the actor replaces the stand-in on the set.

Standby Painter – If last minute changes are required to the scenic art of a motion picture, the individual known as the standby painter is available to do the job.

Star – Another name for an actor who’s risen to the upper levels of fame and fortune in the filmmaking industry.

Star Vehicle – A film made with the intention of showing off the talents of its star.

Steadicam – A mechanical harness attaches this camera to an operator, allowing them to move freely during filming without any jerkiness or unsteadiness visible in the shot. Many of the scenes in The Shining were shot with a stedicam.

Steadicam Operator – The individual who operates the stedicam.

Steadicam Operators Association – Also known as SOA, the Stedicam Operators Association represents and provides job referrals for stedicam operators around the globe.

Stealing a Scene – When a supporting actor takes the spotlight away from the lead due to a superior performance or better lines.

Stereotyping – Presenting a certain ethnic or religious group in oversimplified (and usually offensive) terms during a film.

Still – A single image taken from a film. Often used for promoting the film.

Still Photographer – During filming, the still photographer takes photo of the cast (and possibly crew) to be used in publicizing the film.

Stock Character – A type of character who appears in many films and behaves in basically the same way in all of them. The sweet and innocent virgin is an example of the stock character.

Stock Footage – Previously shot footage from a film library that’s inserted into a movie.

Stock Music – Also known as production music or library music, this is music that’s often owned by the production company and available to be used on any film.

Stop Motion – In this style of animation, objects are filmed one frame at a time and altered slightly between shots. When played at normal speed, this simulates movement.

Storyboard – Often created by the production illustrator (although some directors do their own), the storyboard tells the events of the film and the camera angles via illustrated panels.

Studio – A company devoted to making motion pictures, the larger studios are known as either “majors” or “major-minors.”

Stunt – Usually performed by a stuntman, a stunt usually takes place during an action scene and would involve a great amount of danger for an untrained individual. Even so, a number of stuntmen have died over the years during the filming of motion pictures (including the legendary Dar Robinson).

Stunt Coordinator – The individual in charge of planning stunts for a motion picture.

Stunt Double – A stuntman who bears as close a resemblance with an actor as possible and fills in for him during sequences that require stunts to be performed (this may also include fight scenes).

Stunt Performer – Also known as a stuntman or stunt player, this is someone who performs stunts during filming.

Subtitles – Words that appear on the screen (usually at the bottom) to help viewers understand what’s being said on the screen. These are normally used when the language used for the film differs from the native language of the viewer.

Sundance Film Festival – A festival held annually in Utah to celebrate independent films.

Superama – The same as Super 35, Superama has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Super Cinescope – An Italian process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Super Panavision 70 – A process with an aspect ratio of either 2.1:1 (70mm) or 2.35:1 (35mm).

Superscope – A process with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

Super Scope 235 – The origin of Super 35, this process has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Supervising Sound Editor – Another name for the chief sound editor on a production.

Supporting Feature – In a double bill, this is the film that appears prior to the feature presentation.

Surround Sound – Through speaker placement, a surround sound system creates the illusion of multi-dimensional sound.

Super Technirama 70 – A 70mm process with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1.

Super Totalscope – An Italian process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Swing Gang – Individuals who dress and strike a set during filming. Dressing a set means to prepare it, while striking a set means to clear it away.

Sword and Sandal Epic – Usually applied to films taking place in fantasy or biblical settings, due to the use of swords and sandals by the main characters. The 10 Commandments would be an example of a sword and sandal epic.

Sword and Sorcery – A film genre that traditionally includes magic and sword fighting. Generally set in a fantasy world.

Synopsis – A page or two that describes all the major characters and plot points of a script.


Tag Line – A simple phrase or sentence used to promote a film. Examples include “The night He came home!” (Halloween) and “40 stories of sheer adventure!” (Die Hard).

Take – A continuous performance of a scene. If a take contains no glaring errors, the director will ask for it to be printed, and it may be chosen for inclusion in the final cut of the film. Each take is documented in the continuity report.

Talent – A term used informally for the actors participating in a motion picture.

Talkie – An early term for films that included spoken dialogue.

Talking Heads – An insulting term used to describe an uninteresting medium shot of two people talking.

Tape Recorder Operator – Also known as a sound recordist, the tape recorder operator uses the audio recording equipment during filming.

Tearjerker – A sentimental film filled with emotion and (often) tragedy. Also referred to as “chick flicks” or “melodramas.”

Teaser Trailer – Much shorter than normal trailers, a teaser trailer is released before the regular film trailers to build anticipation among the audience. Few details about the plot of the film are revealed in the teaser trailer.

Technical Advisor – A person who possesses expertise in a certain area and provides information during filming. An example is Dale Dye, who often provides consultation for films about the military (and frequently appears in the movies, as well).

Technicolor – The best-known color film process, first used by Disney in 1932.

Technirama – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Tech-noir – Film noir movies set in the future. Examples include Blade Runner and Dark City.

Telecine – This can either apply to the equipment or facility used to transfer moving images from film to a video signal, or the actual act of doing it.

Teleplay – A script written with the intention of being produced for the small screen.

Television Movie – A motion picture made to be shown on television. Also known as a telepic or a TV movie.

Television Spot – A commercial or ad shown during commercial breaks on television.

Telewriter – An individual who writes teleplays for production on television.

Tentpole – A slang term used for a film that’s expected to be the primary earner for a studio in the coming year. Spider-Man and Shrek would be examples of tentpole films.

Terra-Flite – Used to steady images of galloping horses or cars navigating over gravel, the terra-flite is a combination of a steadicam and a louma crane.

Three-shot – A medium shot that includes three characters instead of the standard two.

THX – Dedicated to improving sound systems for both movie and home theaters. A subdivision of Lucasfilm, Ltd.

Tie-in – A commercial venture connected to the release of a film. Special cups from McDonalds or the novelization of a film would be examples of a tie-in.

Tilt – To rotate a camera either up or down.

Time Lapse Photography – In order to show the stars in motion or a flower blooming, a large number of single frames are filmed at intervals and then projected together. Time lapse photography is useful for showing something happening quickly that would normally take a long time.

Timecode – Before editing and synchronization is performed, this electronic track is added as a guide. This can be done for film, audio material, or video.

Title Design – Also known as the title sequence, this refers to the act of the titleist deciding how the film’s title will be displayed on the screen.

Titleist – The individual who designs the title of a film (more specifically, how it appears on the screen). Also known as the lead titleist, title designer, or film titleist.

Todd-AO – A 70mm process with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1.

Tohoscope – A Japanese process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Topline – A performer whose name is listed above the title on promotional material and the film’s credits. Can also refer to someone with a starring role in a motion picture.

Totalscope – Used in Italy and France, this process has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Tour de Force – A masterful performance from an actor in a leading role. Some who gives a tour de force performance will likely find themselves nominated for an Oscar.

Track – On a film’s soundtrack, a track refers to a single channel or component.

Tracking Shot – Also known as trucking, this is when the camera is moved parallel to what’s being filmed.

Trades – Professional magazines or newspapers that report on the business in Hollywood. Examples include Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

Trailer – An advertisement for a film that introduces the basic elements of the plot and shows some of the stars involved. Trailers are shown prior to a feature film, and they are also readily available on the Internet. Their name comes from the fact that they were once attached to the end of supporting features (on a double-bill) or a newsreel.

Trainer – A person who works with animals and trains them to perform certain actions on cue.

Transition – The method of moving from one scene to the next. A transition can be performed with a cut, fade, wipe, dissolve, etc.

Transportation Captain – Coordinates the team of drivers and manages the vehicles for a production. The transportation captain doesn’t do any driving.

Transportation Coordinator – Also known as a transportation manager, this individual oversees the drivers and makes sure that cast, crew, and equipment are delivered to the appropriate location.

Traveling Matte Shot – The action in the foreground is superimposed onto a background that’s been filmed separately. This is done by digital compositing or optical printing, and it’s also known as a traveling matte or bluescreen.

Travelogue – A film that shows a number of exotic, foreign locales.

Treatment – Longer than a synopsis but shorter than a script, a treatment provides a summary of major scenes, describes major characters, and may also include sample dialogue. A treatment normally runs around 10 pages.

Trilogy – Three films that are connected by a common plot or characters. An example includes the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Godfather trilogy.

Triple Threat – A performer who’s skilled at singing, dancing, and acting. It can also refer to someone skilled at acting, directing, and writing screenplays.

Turnaround – After a studio decides to drop a movie, it goes into turnaround. During this time, the producers of a film have the opportunity to line up different stars or another studio. This can also refer to the time between when someone leaves work and starts again the following day (in union contracts).

Twist Ending – A film that features an unexpected ending. Movies such as Psycho, The Sixth Sense, and The Usual Suspects all featured twist endings.

Two-fer – Coupons that allow a customer to get two tickets for the price of one.

Two-Hander – A two-hander is a film with only two characters.

Two-Reeler – A term used frequently in the silent film era to indicate a movie lasting just over 20 minutes.

Two-Shot – Traditionally shot from the chest up, a two-shot captures two characters in a medium close-up.

Type-Casting – When an actor becomes popular for playing a specific type of role, they may find that all future film offers are for variations of that same role. John Wayne was often type-cast as a cowboy.


Uncredited Role – When a well-known actor appears unbilled in a film. Often meant as a surprise for the audience, Kevin Spacey’s appearance in Seven is an example of an uncredited role (at least during the opening credits).

Underacting – When a performer delivers a very subtle or downplayed performance.

Undercranking – By slowing down the frame rate of a camera, action can be made to appear in fast motion when played back at normal speed. The name originates in the days when cameras were operated by turning a crank. The opposite of overcranking.

Underexposed – A dimly-lit film caused by shooting without enough light.

Unit Production Manager – Also known as the UPM or the Unit Manager, the Unit Production Manager answers to the senior producer during the production of a film.

Unit Publicist – Part of the publicity department, the unit publicist works on location during filming and helps prepare information that will be used in the press kits, works with local residents, and sets up visits from the press. They only work with a production during principal photography, moving to another film set as soon as it’s complete.

Unspool – A slang term that means to show a film.

Utility Person – A person who performs any task asked of them by their crew. This might include running a variety of errands or performing manual tasks.


V – An abbreviation for video, to indicate that something was shown on video.

Vamp – A female movie character known to have a bad reputation or be a schemer and/or seducer. The term “vamp” was first used in 1914 to describe Theda Bara’s character in A Fool There Was.

Variety – A periodical that covers all aspects of the entertainment industry. One of the trades, Variety is well-known for their unique abbreviations and eye-catching headlines.

VG – An abbreviation for video game.

Vertigo Effect – Created by Alfred Hitchcock while filming Vertigo, the Vertigo Effect is achieved by zooming in while tracking backwards. This creates the illusion that the person at the center of the image remains still while everything around them is altered.

Video – The aspect of a film that can be seen instead of heard. Literally means “to see.”

Video Assist – A system included in motion picture cameras that allows a quick review of the previous scene shot via a video camera. This allows the performance of the actors to be checked, as well as the framing and focus of the shot. The term video assist also applies to the person who operates this system.

Video Cassette Recorder – Also known as a VCR, this device was the most common way of playing movies at home prior to the rise of DVDs.

Videographer – While cinematographers use a film camera to record images, the videographer uses a camcorder or video camera.

Video Home System – The most popular format for VCRs, especially in the United States. Also known as VHS.

Vignette – A scene in a film that can stand on its own. An example of a vignette would be the deli orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally.

Vista Vision – This process has an aspect ratio ranging from 1.66:1 to 2:1.

Visual Effects – During the post-production process, the alteration of a film’s image.

Visual Effects Rigger – During a visual effects shot, the individual charged with preparing the puppets, miniatures, or whatever else is required to complete the effect.

Visual Effects Supervisor – The head of a visual effects crew for a production, they’re also known as the visual effects director.

Vitascope – A 65 mm process with an aspect ratio of 2:1.

Voice-Over – Abbreviated as VO, the voice-over is dialogue heard on the soundtrack without showing the speaker.

Voice-Over Artist – The individual responsible for creating a voice-over.

Vorkapich – Named after Serbian-American director/editor Slavko Vorkapich, this term indicates a montage sequence. A popular term included in screenplays from the 1930s and 1940s.


Walk-On – A film role that normally doesn’t include speaking lines and lasts for a short duration of time.

Walk-Through – A rehearsal on the film set to position cameras and lighting. An actor’s stand-in is often used during the walk-through.

Walla Walla – The noise made by extras when crowd background noise is required during filming. In the past, they would be instructed to mumble “rhubarb” or “walla walla” to create murmuring or the sounds of crowd unrest.

Wardrobe – The costumes used in a film or the name of the costume department.

Wardrobe Department – The division of the production crew that maintains the costumes for a specific film. This includes the costumer, costume designer, and costume supervisor.

Wardrobe Supervisor – This individual is in charge of the wardrobe department.

Warner Scope – A process with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Weenie – An object that provides motivation for the characters in a film. This could include hidden plans or a mysterious suitcase. Also known as a Macguffin.

Western – A film genre that takes place in the latter stages of the 19th century in the United States. Also referred to as an “Oater” or “Oat Opera.” Westerns were once very popular, although interest has faded over the years.

Whip Pan – A pan that occurs so fast that the picture is slightly blurred.

White Balance – The act of setting the white balance on a movie camera, since lighting can often change the appearance of true white.

Whodunit – A mystery or detective film in which the main character tries to solve a murder. “Who done it?” means who committed the murder, and these films offer up a number of suspects and red herrings.

Whoop-Whoops – Sound effects that are added to a scene to make it more compelling. Whoop-whoops can range from an explosion to a simple bell or whistle.

Widescreen – When projected, a widescreen film has a greater aspect ratio than the academy ratio. The opposite of fullscreen.

Wild Sound – Scenes that are filmed without sound being captured at the same time. In such scenes, dialogue and other sound effects are added in later. Also known as Mit Out Sound, MOS, Wild Track, and Wild Sound.

Wilhelm Scream – A distinctive stock scream first recorded for the 1951 film Distant Drums by voice performer Sheb Wooley. After its creation, it was placed in the sound effects library of Warner Bros and has since been used in everything from Toy Story and Raiders of the Lost Ark to Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Wipe – An editing technique that allows the transition from one scene to another by using a border that “wipes” across the frame. Popularly used by director/editor Akira Kurosawa.

Word-of-Mouth – After people see a film, they’ll share their opinions with friends and either give positive word-of-mouth or negative word-of-mouth.

Working Title – While a movie is being made, this is the title of the film. This title is often changed prior to the film being released in theaters.

Wrangler – Also known as an animal wrangler or vehicle wrangler, this individual is responsible for the care of any film performer who lacks the ability to speak (this includes animals and vehicles).

Wrap – The act of finishing shooting for the day, or for the entire production. Also known as Windup, Wind, and Wind Roll and Print.

Writer – An individual who creates written work for film or television. Often a member of the Writers Guild of America.

Writers Guild of America – Also known as the WGA, the Writers Guild of America represents the rights of writers for film, television, cable, and interactive new media.


X – A former rating given by the MPAA, an X-rated film was supposed to feature content and themes inappropriate for non-adult audiences. Midnight Cowboy is a famous example of a film that received an X rating. Later replaced by the NC-17 rating.

X-dissolve – Sometimes used as an abbreviation for “cross dissolve.”


Yarn – Another name for a tall tale or apocryphal story.

Yawner – A slang term that describes a boring film.

Yellowface – The practice of using makeup to allow a white person to play the role of an Asian (often in an exaggerated fashion). While considered humorous in past eras of filmmaking, it is now considered to be racially offensive.


Zip Pan – Also known as a “swish pan,” this technique involves a quick pan of the camera from one point to another. Often used for the sake of a dramatic transition, it results in a blurred image on the screen.

Z-Movie – A low-budget, non-union film that’s regarded as lower in quality than a B-movie. In many cases, actors and directors gain their first experience by working on a Z-movie.

Zoom Shot – The magnification of an object is either decreased (zoom out or zoom back) or increased (zoom in) by the movement of the camera lense. A dolly shot differs, as the position and size of objects changes as the camera moves.

Zoopraxis – Developed by Eadweard Muybridge in the 1870’s, this process involved a disc rotated in front of a light source. When this occurred, the serial pictures on the disc appeared to be in motion. Also known as Zoopraxis-scope.

Zoptic Special Effects – Invented by cameraman Zorian Perisic, this 3-D process was notable used in the Superman movies. It incorporates a projector with synchronized zoom lenses and a camera system, allowing a projected background scene to remain constant while a foreground subject is zoomed in on.

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So there you have it: our massive and ever-expanding movie dictionary. While far from complete, I hope it will help raise your film terms IQ and improve your overall moviegoing experience. If nothing else, it may be worth a few bucks in bar bets, especially if you frequent an establishment that caters to aspiring filmmakers.