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Glossary of Film Techniques

angle: The position of the camera in relation to the subject being filmed. If the camera is above the subject, it is at a high angle; if beneath, it is at a low angle. auteur: The director as the primary creator of film as art who is involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process, including screenwriting and cinematography, thus giving each work his/her distinctive style. backlighting: Lighting which emanates from behind the actors, thus putting them into heavy shadow or even silhouette in the foreground. blocking: The planning and directing of the actors movements and positions prior to filming. boom: a microphone attached the end of a long pole; the boom is held aloft above the action, out of sight of the camera lens in order to record the actors dialogue. boom operator: the person in charge of holding the boom, and moving it according to the flow of action. chiaroscuro: a lighting technique which is characterised by a bold contrast between light and dark. cinematographer: The individual who plans a scene (usually with the director) and then films it. close-up shot: A shot of a particular thing which fills the screen; a character's face, a teacup, a leaf. composite shot: a frame which is made up of two shots which are filmed at different times and combined together to create a special effect. Also known as a process shot or a matte shot. composition: The arrangement of the actors, three dimensional objects (manufactured and natural), and other visual components that form the image within a frame. continuity editing: the process of putting together the different shots of a film so that the narrative action is continuous; the time is the same from shot to shot, as are the positions of the various actors and props on set, their costumes, the lighting and so on. crane shot: A shot taken from high above the characters and the action by using a mechanical crane.

crosscutting: a process of editing which splices together two different sites of action which are occurring simultaneously. cut: An abrupt change (break) from one shot to another. deep-focus: A shot with the visual field in sharp focus: foreground, background, and everything in between. discontinuity editing: the process of putting together the different shots of a film so that the narrative action is purposefully mismatched; temporal and spatial considerations are ignored to create a fragmented set of images where instead the graphic content is favoured. diegesis: things which are natural to the world of a film; the characters, the locations, the sounds, colouring, everything. diegetic sound: any sounds or music which would be naturally occuring in the world of a film; footsteps, people talking, birds chattering, car tyres screeching, music on a radio. Things that both the characters and the audience would hear. dissolve: A slow fading out of one shot followed by the slow fading in of another, where the images are superimposed at midpoint. Often used to represent a different action which is occurring at the same or similar time to the action which is dissolved away from. dolly: a support for the camera which is affixed to wheels and enables a tracking shot to be filmed. dubbing: the process of rerecording part or all of the sounds previously recorded by the boom operator in order to correct mistakes in dialogue or to modify or remove background noise. editing: The act of putting together (splicing) images of film that have not been shot sequentially. empty shot: a camera shot which is apparently devoid of significance or meaning to the world of the film. Does not reveal character or push forward action. Usually captures mundane, everyday actions such as watching laundry flutter on a washing line, or seeing a flock of birds fly across a sky, watching a car drive along a hillside in real time, seeing a flag flap on top of a pole. Relates specifically to filmmakers such as Ozu and Kiarostami. establishing shot: the first shot of the film, wherein important characters, objects or locations are introduced spatially and temporally to the audience. exposure: an adjustment of the camera which regulates how much light is allowed into each recorded film frame.

extreme close-up shot: A shot where only a particular feature is highlighted; a character's eyes, for example, or the handle on a teacup, a vein in a leaf. extreme long shot: where a character or an object is shown at an extreme distance; an entire building, a person at the other end of the street, a crowd of people. filter: a glass lens which is placed in front of the normal camera lens in order to change the quality or quantity of light in a shot. fade: A transitional effect (also called fade-out/fade-in) where the last image from the previous scene fades to black then gradually, as the light increases, becomes the first image of the next scene. Often used to represent the passing of time. flashback: a narrative device where the normal temporality is interrupted in order to record events from an earlier moment in time; this is often accompanied by a change in mise-en-scene, in colour or in camera lens to mark the time difference. flashforward: a narrative device where the normal temporality is interrupted in order to record events from a later moment in time; this is often accompanied by a change in mise-en-scene to mark the time difference. frame: Similar to composition in its concern with the elements within a shot; however, here the emphasis is with the borders of that shot. freeze frame: The reprinting of the same frame a number of times giving the effect of freezing the action into a still photograph on the screen. frontal lighting: placing a light near the camera so the lighting is directly on the subject or object being filmed. full shot: A medium long shot that shows a complete person from head to foot. genre: A category of motion picture, such as the western, the comedy, the melodrama, the action epic. hand-held shot: A shot that follows a character movingusually through a crowdusing a handheld camera and characterized by a jumpiness not present in a mounted camera. hard lighting: a way of lighting a shot which sharply contrasts the lit areas with the shadowed areas; relates to chiaroscuro. jump cut: a cut between two shots that either keeps the frame the same and changes the figures within that frame, or that changes the frame and keeps the figures the same. This was often used in earlier films to denote someone suddenly disappearing.

lens: a curved piece of glass through which a camera records; the curvature focuses rays of light in particular areas of the frame and thus gives different effects. long shot: A shot filmed at a considerable distance from the subject; a human figure would fill the screen. medium close up: A shot filmed at a relatively close distance; a figure from the chest up would fill the screen. medium long shot: A shot filmed at some distance from the subject; a human figure would almost fill the screen. medium shot: A shot filmed at a medium distance from the subject; a person from the waist up would fill the screen. mise-en-scne: All the theatrical elements necessary in composing a scene to be filmed: props, sets, lighting, sound effects, costumes, make-up, actors placement (blocking). montage: A series of abruptly juxtaposed shots using short, edited sequences, often interrelated by theme and/or events, usually denoting the passage of time. motif: An image, object, or idea repeated throughout a film usually to lend a thematic or symbolic effect. narrative: The storyline or sequential plot of a film. non-diegetic sound: any sounds or music which are not naturally occuring in the world of a film; film scores especially. These are things the audience would hear, but the characters wouldn't. pan: A shot filmed from a mounted camera moving horizontally on a fixed axis. period piece: A film that does not use a contemporary setting but rather that of an earlier historical era. point of view: Either a subjective (first-person) or objective vantage from which everything is observed and interpreted. The subjective viewpoint would be from the perspective of one of the characters. The objective viewpoint would be more neutral and not from any one characters perspective. prop: A three-dimensional object used by an actor, or an object present on a set.

racking focus: the adjustment of the camera during a shot to change focus between two different planes. reaction shot: A shot of a characters reaction to what has been said or done in the previous shot. rear projection: filming an action, then projecting it onto a screen which serves as a background to further filming which is located in the foreground of the projected screen; often used in Film Noir as passing scenery when the characters are filmed in cars. re-establishing shot: a shot which follows a series of close ups and re-establishes the important locations, subjects and so on. scenarist: The person who adapts a literary source for a movie by writing the screenplay, or who writes a script directly for a film; a screenwriter. scene: A series of shots unified in action or established location and time (setting). score: Musiceither originally composed for the film or notused in a motion picture. sequence: A series of interrelated scenes that establish a certain prolonged effect with a decided beginning, middle, and ending. set: A soundstage decorated for shooting or any other site prepared for filming to occur. shallow focus: a shot where only the planes closest to the camera are in focus; the opposite of deep focus. shooting script: The movie storyline broken down to its individual shots, often with technical instructions. shot: The basic unit of filming, which is the unedited, continuously exposed image of any duration made up of any number of frames. sound bridge: the overlap of sound between two shots with different locations; if the first shot is of a kitchen and the second shot is of a roadway, the sound bridge would be the faint kitchen noises present in the second shot, or the pre-emptive road noises occurring in the first shot. sound effects: Soundsneither musical nor dialoguethat are made to realistically approximate a desired noise. The people who create sound effects are foley artists. special effects: Various photographic, artistic, animated, or computerized effects that are filmed to approximate reality or produce a sense of the surreal.

star: An actor, actress, or celebrity having great popular appeal. star system: Filmmaking that capitalizes on the mass commercial appeal of certain performers to insure maximum box-office appeal. star vehicle: A film produced in order to promote or demonstrate the talents or appeal of a specific star, often with maximum publicity. storyboard: the layout of a film drawn shot by shot and detailing the techniques required; resembles a comic strip. superimposition: the exposure of two different shots on the same piece of film. symbol: As with literature, a device in which an object or event means more than its narrow literal meaning. take: a shot which is created after uninterrupted filming. Shots will have multiple takes and the best take will be retained for the final cinematic production. three point lighting: a system of lighting a shot which involves three different locations for light sources; light coming from behind the subjects (backlighting), a strong, focused light (key light, or spotlight) and a light opposite the key light to remove shadows caused by it (fill light). tilt shot: A shot taken from a mounted camera moving vertically on a fixed axis. top lighting: a light situated directly above a subject, usually to distinguish it from the background more sharply. tracking shot: A shot of a subject filmed by a camera mounted on a moving support (see dolly). underlighting: a light situated below the subjects being filmed. voice-over: Narration off screen while a series of shots unfold onscreen. whip pan: an extremely fast pan which blurs the scene as it spins. Often used as a subtle cut between shots or scenes. wipe: a transition between two shots where a visible line wipes across the screen, erasing the first shot and establishing the next shot. zoom shot: An ongoing shot through a stationary camera where the continuous action of the camera lens rapidly converts a long shot to a close-up; this is a zoom in. A close-up reverting to a long shot is a zoom out. 1