In filmmaking, there is a lot of industry jargon and technical words thrown around. This is why we have created this dictionary of filmmaking terms to help you get a hold of what you need to know. While you probably won’t read the whole thing in one sitting, we strongly recommend that you bookmark this page so that you can go back to it when you need to.
Production & Shooting Terms A-Z
2D refers to an image in two dimensions – length and width.
An image in the three-dimensional plane – with width, height, and depth (length).
4k resolution refers to 3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels. 4k is quickly becoming a standard in video production because of its clear and incredibly detailed image.
Also known as ultra high resolution, it is an image of 8,000 horizontal and 4,000 vertical pixels.
In video production, A-Roll refers to the video footage used to tell the story’s central message.
Abby singer shot
Refers to the second-to-last shot of the day. It is named after the professional Abby Singer, who would put much importance into that penultimate shot of the day.
Above the line
“Above the Line” refers to major creative talent like the director, producer, writers, and actors. They often get a cut of the film’s profits.
A very basic animation of a scene used similarly to a storyboard.
Apple boxes are wooden crates of varying sizes with handles or holes on each end that can help in a variety of things on film sets,
A very rough draft of the finished video where the shots are first put together.
An asset is any media file like video, audio, effects, or even physical film.
A reading of a portion of the dialogue in the script to aid the production in deciding whether an actor is right for the role.
In video production, B-roll footage supports or supplements A-Roll footage. B-roll is used to add more depth and complexity to A-Roll footage.
A section of the film studio’s property where outside film shoots take place.
Refers to the placement of actor credits in movies and posters.
A small acting role. Unlike an extra, a bit part usually has some lines of dialogue.
A body double takes the place of an actor to perform something the main actor might not be willing or comfortable to do. This could be anything from love scenes to physically demanding tasks.
A C-stand is a stand used in video production/photography to hold equipment like reflectors, studio lights, or softboxes. Usually, a C-stand comes with an extended arm.
A call sheet is a document that outlines what all cast and crew need to know about a film shoot: outlining the schedule, informing of parking regulations, and more helpful info.
Subtitles or supporting text for a video.
A clamp is used in video production/photography to mount or hang something. There are different types of clamps, the most common ones being a-clamps, mafers, and c-clamps.
Stop-motion animation with characters made out of clay.
Refers to an outstanding performance by an actor.
To have “proper coverage” means making sure to capture all shots needed for editing later. Coverage includes any type of shot, from extreme close-ups to master shots.
A text on the screen that moves in a direction, often moving vertically.
The text before and after a film featuring all of the cast and creative talent behind the picture.
For actors, a cue is a signal for them to start their performance. A cue can come from the director or within the script itself.
A cue card is a big board with printed dialogue to help an actor remember his / her lines.
Dalies are a copy of the footage captured so far. It is crucial to review dallies to check for proper sound, coverage and that everything is going according to plan.
A strong tape used on film sets for all kinds of things.
A green background used for chroma key (replacing a studio background in a video). It can also be called a “bluescreen,” depending on the color.
Refers to when a project has the go-ahead to go into production.
Refers to low-budget filmmaking by making use of what you have. It often means not acquiring expensive film permits and working with non-union actors.
HD stands for High Definition video. It refers to 1920 x 1080 resolution for a video. Most video content on the Internet is currently in HD.
HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. It is an interface form in which video and audio are transmitted between HDMI-compliant devices. It is a standard for most consumer-level devices.
Hitting a mark
Refers to the actors or performers moving their positions before filming.
Refers to edit how the film will look inside the camera rather than in post. This is often used in very low-budget films by students or indie filmmakers.
Where the film shoot takes place. Usually, a film location is categorized as interior or exterior and by the time of day.
The “mark” or “marker” is the exact position an actor should stand at.
Method Acting is a well-known acting technique where the actors try to put themselves in the character’s shoes.
A film in the “pipeline” is another expression of being “in the works.” In other words, it refers to a movie in the process of being made.
Any digital image is made up of pixels. A pixel is the smallest controllable element of an image on a screen.
In video production, post-production happens when all the footage and audio are collected and need to be edited together. In post-production, the footage is also color graded while music, effects, and titles are added.
The planning and preparation stage of shooting a vlog or other piece of content. Writing a script, finding locations, and planning a shoot is all part of the pre-production stage. Once production begins, the pre-production ends.
A showing of a film before it is released to the public.
The phase of film production in which the bulk of the scenes are filmed with the key actors.
The production design of a movie describes the visual style and look of the project. It is usually represented by a production design department.
Refers to the quality of a film. The higher the production value, generally the more well made a film appears to be.
Funds reserved from the overall film budget in case reshoots are needed.
A screen test is a test shoot before actual filming to test how props, wardrobe, sets, and actors look.
The script or screenplay is the document containing all the action and dialogue for the project. It is a document that guides the actors, director, and all other people involved in the project.
Standard definition resolution – less than 720p
SD stands for Secure Digital Memory Card. It is a very popular storage flash memory card to use with camera devices. An SD’s storage capacity ranges from a few GB up to 500GB in some cards.
Second unit photography
Unlike principal photography, the second unit photography refers to less important shots without key actors and performances.
Refers to the positioning of the camera and lighting for a shot.
A shot list is a document that outlines what needs to be filmed. The exact number of shots, locations, and other important details are listed here.
A big soundproof room where sets can be constructed for filming.
In video production, a still refers to a single image without any motion.
Also known as archive footage, it is pre-recorded film or video that can be reused on a new project.
Stop motion is an animation technique where you put pictures together to create the illusion of an object moving.
In addition to the script, a storyboard can also be used to communicate the idea for the scene or shot visually. Think of it as a draft to better understand the direction. A storyboard could therefore be drawings, pictures, or even animations.
A take is a single shot recorded continuously at one time.
A rehearsal with the actors on the film set allows the director to figure out where to position the camera, props, lighting, etc.
Refers to the clothing and dress pieces actors wear. The wardrobe is managed by the costume department.
A wrap is when shooting is done for the day or for the whole project.
Cinematography & Lighting Terms A-Z
Also called the “Action Axis.” The 180-degree rule is an imaginary line between two subjects that the camera “should” not pass to avoid confusion in the scene.
Shooting video from the sky using drones, helicopters, and planes.
This refers to light coming naturally from the environment like the sun, moon, or reflections from the water.
How the camera is positioned in relation to the subject in a shot.
The aperture measures the size of the lens opening in a camera, which controls how much light reaches the sensor. Aperture is measured through an f-number. A lower number means more light gets through, while a higher number means less light reaches the sensor.
Captures the subject while the camera moves around in a half or full circle.
Aspect ratio is a number that encompasses the width and height of a video or image. The number is expressed in a formula of width to height.
Experimental or abstract camera movements and techniques in filmmaking
A light that provides illumination from behind on the subject, adding depth to the image.
A colossal painting or image that acts as the background for the scene. It was more common back in the days instead of using a green screen.
Refers to how the directors decide to place actors, studio lights and how the camera is to be positioned within the scene.
A shot where the camera is attached to a crane or jib.
A lightweight board that reflects light in a film shoot. Light from a bounce board is usually soft and used in addition to other lights.
A light that bounces off a reflective surface onto the subject. Bounce lights are used to create a softer light on a subject.
Bracketing is when you shoot the same shot several times using different F-stop values.
Refers to how the camera is moved within a scene..
A technique for replacing a studio background in a video or image.
Light can appear cooler or warmer on camera, depending on the temperature of the light.
Refers to how different elements are arranged within the frame of the scene like sets, actors, props, and lighting.
A shot captured by a camera on a big crane, dolly, or similar device. Crane shots are often used when the camera needs to be or move high up in the sky.
These are shots with a large number of extras, such as a shot of Time Square in New York, for example.
A device for casting shadows or silhouettes. A Cocoloris can be used to create the look of tree branches, window frames, etc.
Refers to when a day shot is made to look like it takes place in the night through clever lighting techniques and filters.
A shot of an actor or performer with no emotion or an expressionless face. It is used as a form of comedic device as a contrast to the previous shot.
A technique in cinematography that uses a large depth of field.
Depth of field
The depth of field is the range of distance between the closest and farthest objects that are reasonably sharp.
Depth of focus
Depth of focus goes hand in hand with Depth of Field. It refers to adjustments made to keep acceptable sharpness on the subject.
When light is diffused, it has been spread from a single light source evenly to reduce hard shadows. A softbox or reflector is commonly used to achieve diffused light.
Directing the eye
In cinematography, “directing the eye” means to visually convey the most important part of the image by using camera movement, focus, blocking, and lighting.
A camera dolly is used to create smooth horizontal camera movements in video production. A camera dolly can come in many forms, from a small, lightweight device with plastic tracks to heavy carts with rails.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. A DSLR is a type of camera that uses a single-lens reflex (SLR) mechanism while combining it with a digital imaging sensor. They are widely used by indie filmmakers and Youtubers.
Refers to a shot where the camera is tilted in the camera’s roll axis to create a feeling of unease for the viewer.
A shot that establishes the setting of the scene. An establishing shot is often a master shot.
Measures the total amount of light reaching the digital sensor. It is primarily determined by the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
Measures the aperture opening in the lens. The F-stop is represented by a number defined by dividing the focal length of the lens by the aperture diameter.
A filter is a device, often made of plastic or glass, that is attached to the lens. A filter is often used to create a particular look for the image.
A lens that creates a super-wide image with a very short focal point.
In video production, a “Flag” is a black cloth used to block out light from different areas. A flag is often made out of duvetine, a material great at absorbing other kinds of light.
Refers to the sharpness of the image.
The opposite of the background. Refers to the objects and subjects closest to the camera.
A single image in series that creates the illusion of motion. Typically, a film is shot at twenty-four frames per second.
Frame Rate is the number of images that appear every second to create the illusion of a moving picture. Framerate is expressed in FPS or “frames per second.” The most common frame rate used in cinema and video is 24fps, but for slow-motion video, a higher frame rate is needed.
A transparent colored sheet of plastic is used in videography to color light.
In video production, a gimbal refers to a piece of equipment that eliminates any vibration or shake from the person holding the camera. This creates a smooth video that does not appear to be handheld. Gimbals range in price from relatively cheap to very expensive.
A time of day shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the lighting is soft and warm, creating a great cinematic look.
Video footage filmed by hand is called handheld video. This technique is defined by shakiness and imperfections. In filmmaking and video production, it can be used to convey a certain mood.
Refers to when the action takes place directly in front of the camera.
High angle shot
A shot where the subject is filmed from above. Making the objects and subjects look small.
The use of icons or symbols to communicate a particular message or theme to the audience.
ISO measures the camera’s sensitivity to light and is represented by a number. A lower number (ex. 100 – 400) means the camera is less sensitive to light, while a higher number (ex. 800 -) is more sensitive to light, making the image appear brighter.
A Klieg light is a very intense carbon light that is used primarily in filmmaking.
A camera shot on the subject from very far away.
Low angle shot
The opposite of a “high angle shot” where the subject is filmed from below, making him/her appear larger and dominant.
In a video, a lower third is a graphic overlay placed in the lower area of the screen without taking up the entire area.
A lens with the ability to capture extraordinary detail by focusing very close to the subject.
A long, continuous shot is used to establish the setting of the scene.
A typical shot that captures the actor from the waist up.
A scaled-down model that is shot in a certain way to give the illusion that it is in real-world size.
A French phrase referring to the arrangement of the scene, props, actors and blocking within a frame of a film.
A camera rig or crane where the motion is pre-programmed to execute the same camera movement each time.
A typical lens that is generally 50gmm in size. It captures an image with a perspective close to the human eye.
A typical camera shot that captures the action or dialogue behind the actor’s shoulder. It is commonly used in dialogue scenes.
Overcranking is when shooting at a higher frame rate than 24fps. This makes the image appear in slow motion and is a technique used when shooting miniatures.
An overexposed shot has captured more light than optimal levels, making the image appear to be washed out and very bright.
Pan refers to horizontal movement of a camera.
P.O.V. stands for Point of View shot. It is a camera shot captured from the perspective of the character’s eyes.
Camera lenses with a fixed focal length.
A shot where the camera moves away from the subject.
A shot where the camera moves towards the subject.
Also referred to as “selective focusing”, it is a technique where the cinematographer blurs certain focal planes in a shot, forcing the viewer’s eye to “travel” to the sharp parts of the image.
A shot of the actor/s reacting to an event, dialogue or action.
Reverse angle shot
A camera shot taken from an angle roughly 180 degrees opposite of the previous shot. It is commonly used in dialogue scenes.
Refers to the direction that the characters and objects move within a scene.
A camera sensor collects light information that passes through the lens to create a digital image. The size of the camera sensor is the most critical factor in determining image quality and resolution.
Shutter speed is the amount of time the camera’s shutter remains open for each frame. This feature lets you adjust motion blur; how blurry an object in motion appears. Shutter speed also affects the exposure of an image.
Split-screen refers to showing two different videos within the same frame.
A shot where the camera is stationary on a tripod.
A camera rig that eliminates or minimizes shakiness from the camera operator.
A telephoto lens is designed to shoot very distant subjects like wildlife and sporting events.
This is the standard lighting setup used in films, interviews, vlogs, and other media. This setup uses three lights called the key light, fill light and backlight.
A tilt-shift is a special-effect lens that allows the cinematographer to alter the perspective of the image.
A preview window on a camera that is used to frame and focus when shooting a video. Many modern cameras today have two viewfinders: an optical viewfinder and a digital viewfinder.
In cameras, White Balance is the process of adjusting the color balance so that white objects appear “white.” Without color balance, the image might get a colored hue to it.
Wide angle shot
A camera shot with a wide horizontal plane and greater depth of field.
A wide-angle lens features a wider field of view than a normal lens.
Any lens with a variable focal length. You can zoom in and out by rotating the barrel of the lens.
A zoom shot allows the cinematographer to change the lens’s focal length, changing the apparent size of the subject without moving the camera.
Sound Production Terms A-Z
In video production, a boom is a supporting arm holding a microphone. They are used to capture the sound of a subject while staying out of view from the camera.
A device used to help synchronize the picture and sound. It is usually a black-and-white slate with a hinged top. The clapperboard also contains information about the shot, like which take number it is, the director’s name, etc.
Audio clipping is a form of waveform distortion. It appears as a distortion or breaks up in the sound. The simplest way to avoid clipping is to reduce the signal level of the audio.
Condenser microphones are known for their superior audio quality. The sound produced by a condenser mic can be described as crisp and clear. They require power to run, either through a battery or a cable.
DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. Simply put, a DAW is an audio editing software or application.
Sound that logically exists within the scenes and that the characters would hear. On the other hand, non-diegetic sounds are musical scores and narration.
A stereo audio format by Dolby Laboratories. It is generally considered superior in quality.
When you add a new sound to the video in pre-production, it often refers to adding dialogue in post, matching the lip movements of the picture, but dubbing can also mean adding music or sound effects.
Dynamic Mics do not require a power source to run and are relatively inexpensive. This makes them attractive if you are on the go.
In digital audio, dynamic range refers to the range of the lowest and highest volume levels of an audio track.
Equalization or EQ for short refers to reducing or boosting a specific frequency in an audio signal. Equalization is used to minimize or clean up unwanted sounds in a piece of audio.
A filter in audio mixing refers to filtering out a specific range of frequencies. It is usually done to “clean up” the audio.
A person in charge of creating and finding sounds needed in post-production. These could be sounds like footsteps, gunshots, or animals.
In audio mixing, a high-pass filter blocks low frequencies and passes high frequencies. The most commonly used filter to clean up audio. This filter removes sounds like wind noise or a microphone popping.
A tiny microphone that is clipped to an actor to capture dialogue. It is often hidden in the actors’ clothes.
The process of synchronizing the sound of words to the movement of the lips.
Another word for dubbing a film in post-production. Often refers to when the actor re-records dialogue.
In audio mixing, a low-pass filter blocks high frequencies and passes low frequencies.
Mixing is the equivalent of video editing in audio production. It is the post-production of a podcast.
Mono audio describes a system where all the audio signals are mixed and routed through a single audio channel. The sound is perceived as coming from one single position.
Mp3 is a prevalent type of audio file. When podcasts are distributed and downloaded, they are usually in the Mp3 format. This file does not take up as much space and has a low bandwidth when uploaded. This makes them ideal for distribution, but it comes with a loss of quality.
Any audio recording equipment produces some static low-frequency sounds in the background. This static gets picked up in the recording and is called noise floor.
The polar pattern of a microphone is the sensitivity to sound waves coming in from different directions. The most common types of polar patterns are Omnidirectional, Cardioid, and Supercardioid. It is crucial to consider the polar pattern of a microphone for different situations.
Officially called a preamplifier, this device gives you more control over the audio that goes into your recording interface.
When recording audio, room tone means the subtle, low-volume sounds present in every location or room, even when no dialogue is spoken, and everything appears to be silent.
Refers to a section of a movie’s soundtrack. A score is created by the composer.
Stereophonic sound or, more commonly, stereo has two independent audio signal channels. When played back, stereo audio creates an illusion of a multi-directional sound that usually is more realistic.
A recording of a voice that comes off-screen. A voiceover could be used as narration, convey a character’s thoughts, etc.
WAV stands for Waveform Audio File Format and is a high-quality audio file. It captures audio precisely as it was recorded. Since WAV files allow for so much quality, they are used in audio mixing. Then they are usually compressed into a format like mp3 when the content is uploaded.
A waveform is a representation (usually in the form of a graph) showing the audio signal.
Crew Terms A-Z
A person in charge of the “feel,” look, and design of the sets, props, and costumes in a film.
A person who supports a key member in the crew and can help with audio, camera or logistics.
The member of the crew that operates the camera and is responsible for capturing the footage.
A casting director is responsible for selecting suitable actors for the different roles in a film.
A musician who created the score for a movie.
The person responsible for all clothing and costume pieces worn by the actors. Costume Designers design, plan and manage all of the wardrobe that will be used in the film.
In video production, the crew is the group of creatives and workers who shoot the film.
The person in charge of the artistic direction of the film. The director is responsible for decisions made during filming and influences the actors, editors, sound, and cinematography.
DIT stands for Digital Image Technician and refers to the crew member who is responsible for storing the footage captured from the cameras and keeping it safe on hard drives and backups.
A member of the crew in charge of operating camera dollies on a film set.
Stands for Director of Photography. This person works alongside the director to set up all the lighting, sets, and cameras for the shoot.
An editor assembles and cuts the footage to create a video or film.
The executive producer is in charge of the project.
A film loader is responsible for safely loading and unloading film from the camera safely on set.
Works closely with the DP to set up and move lighting equipment on a film set.
A person tasked with creating the graphic elements of a shot or scene.
Similar to a gaffer, a Grip is a technician on set who helps out with rigs, lighting, and other equipment.
A person styling and maintaining the look of the actor’s hair.
Lawyers who specialize in the entertainment industry, negotiating contracts, managing licensing rights, and other paperwork needed during the production.
Unlike the executive producer who is in charge of the financing and hiring major creative talent, the line producer deals more with the day-to-day tasks on the location of the shoot.
A person in charge of finding and obtaining permits for locations used for filming in a production.
A location scout researches and documents possible locations for filming.
The make-up artist or artists apply and remove the make-up on the actors for the film.
Manages the money, worker payroll, and keeps records of every expense during the production.
As the name suggests, the production coordinator works closely with the production manager to schedule the shoot, manage equipment rentals and logistics.
Handles the logistics, aka. The non-creative aspects of the production such as food, transportation, technology, and budget.
A member of the crew tasked with making props for the film.
The person responsible for managing and acquiring all props needed for the film.
Are workers on set who set up lighting equipment. In addition, the rigger also constructs the scaffolding.
A crew member who keeps track of what parts of the script have been shot and makes sure continuity errors are avoided. A script supervisor takes notes of every shot to make sure everything matches later in post-production, such as time of day, blocking, and props.
A person in charge of decorating a set with furnishing and other relevant props to the scene.
A person skilled in designing and building sets. A set designer is often an architect or someone specialized in construction working closely with the film’s art director.
The set dresser is responsible for applying and removing the “dressing” on set, like furniture, carpets, and props.
Is the communication link between the production and the media. In bigger productions, the social publicist is in charge of the press for the movie before it is released.
A sound mixer is the head of the sound department in a production and is responsible for capturing audio on film sets.
A member of the crew who is skilled and certified in operating a Steadicam.
A person in the crew who manages and operates the production computer networks.
Visual effects producer
The visual effects producer works closely with other key creatives to plan and manage the special effects used in a film.
Film Industry Terms A-Z
A-List refers to top-tier actors, directors, or other vital creatives who are reputable within an industry and usually get huge paychecks.
A film based upon a previous work in another medium such as books, comics, or video games.
A very niche film that is not considered mainstream. Often small-budget films, foreign films, and indie films fall into this category.
A movie considered to be of lower production value. Often defined by mediocre acting, low budgets, and unconvincing effects.
A biographical film on a real-life person.
A movie that has achieved significant commercial success.
A short clip of a mistake, or unusable take from filming.
Refers to a shot section in the opening of a film featuring the production company logo or trademark.
A French term that means “truthful cinema.” It is a style of documentary filmmaking where realism is emphasized.
Refers to anamorphic film presentation technique with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1.
A film that comes from “nowhere” to become a massive hit.
A version of a movie without any studio interference, where the director has all of the say in how the film ends up.
A widespread distribution of a movie shown in theaters.
A genre refers to what kind of film you are making. It originates from the french word meaning “type” or “kind.”
In some cases, a film can have more than one genre. In that case, it is referred to as a hybrid.
A film format that is roughly 10 times larger than the traditional format of 35mm.
A break in the middle of a movie giving the audience a chance to visit the restroom and get snacks. It was more common back in the days.
An overture is the opening credits in a film that is often accompanied by a score.
A collection of short videos that showcase a person’s previous work.