Some film terms explained

The following is a brief guide to some of the key terminology used in the film industry.

Firstly the term Promotional Film as used on this site. Throughout this website we use the term Promotional Film to represent any work that covers:

  • how something is done
  • how a business or organisation works
  • the promotion of a business, group, network, programme, funded project, funding stream, public sector initiative or technical service
  • The general publishing of any activity whishing to grow its audience


The three main stages of production are:

1.Pre-production: Planning, scripting & storyboarding and so on

2.Production:The actual shooting/recording of the film

3.Post-production:Everything between production and creating the final master copy including editing, adding music, graphics and text.



Camera work includes terms such as Framing - the ability to show an action or scene in a visual and relatable way. Framing includes a range of filming styles and shooting angles such as:

Long shot - shows background, establishes where you are.

Mid shot shows torso and some background.

Close-up head and shoulders, usually used to show emotion. Draws our attention to face or object.

Point-of-view shot - helps us to see the action from a character's viewpoint and thus empathise or relate to them.

High angle shot - camera looks down on person/object, making them look vulnerable or give a prospective on the scene.

Low angle shot - camera looks up at someone/thing, making them appear powerful or show an angle on activity not normally seen.


The way cameras move

In the same way that framing can be used to enhance our involvement in the action, the way in which a camera is moved can be used to direct our attention to a particular viewpoint. Camera movements include:

Panning shot where the camera moves slowly across from side to side from a fixed axis

Tilt shot, where the camera moves up and down from a fixed axis

Crane shot where the camera, mounted on a crane, moves around at a distance above ground level.

Tracking shot where the camera follows the action

Hand held this technique is often used to suggest a greater sense of authenticity, for example it could be used to be used to provide 'eye witness' accounts of situations, linked to the point of view of a particular character or characters. This gives a sense of reality and provides a more connective work.


Other terms we may use include

Amplitude: volume or loudness of a sound

Aspect Ratio: the aspect ratio is the proportions of the screen image that the viewer can see. It is more often now 16:9 widescreen

Assembly: the initial splicing together of the shots to create the first story, rather than the jumbled up footage that results after all footage has been shot.

Backlight: the backlight serves not to illuminate but to define the edges of its subject. It is placed on the other side of the subject from the camera and helps to define the subject's outline.

Background Light: background light as opposed to backlight, illuminates not the subject, but the background so that the character does not appear out of darkness.

Blocking: in any scene where there is movement it is first necessary to block out or choreograph all movement and then rehearse it so that the camera and microphone can stay with the performer and also so that no unwanted images (such as background lights) get caught on tape).

Boom: piece of equipment that the boom microphone is attached to and is aimed at the mouths of the performers to pick up clear dialogue. This also refers to the operator of the boom.

Bounce Card: a sheet of reflective plastic or other material used to soften light by reflecting it from the light onto the subject, rather than shining the light directly on the subject. The umbrellas around the lights you always saw at your school pictures act like a bounce card.

Contrast: the difference in intensity between dark areas on the screen and light areas.

Cut: the point at which a shot begins. In other words, the place where shot number 11 ends and shot number 12 begins.

Cutaway Shot: a shot that is seemingly not related to the action at hand but reveals some information that is significant to the audience or disrupts continuity so that a new 180 degree line can be established.

Depth of Field: the area of the shot that is in focus

Documentary: a style of film in which one tries to record an aspect of real life as truthfully as possible.

Frame: one single image on strip of film, or the edges of the shot as defined by the viewfinder

Master Shot: a single shot of the entire action usually taken with a wide angle lens to provide both an establishing shot and also a blueprint for continuity while editing.

Non-linear editing: non-linear editing refers to the process of editing in which the source footage is placed into a digital machine and can be moved around and manipulated much more easily that when handling the film itself. Put another way, non-linear editing is to linear editing as word processor is typewriter.

Pan: a camera movement in which is rotated along a horizontal axis.

Rough Cut: the rough cut refers to the first cut made by the editor, following the script notes exactly as they appear and thus creating the movie that holds truest to it. This cut is then altered and tinkered with by the director, producer, and editor.

Running Time: the actual time that a film occupies the screen in a movie theater

Shooting Plan: a list that groups together shots using a similar camera angle and light set-up so they can all be filmed together at once and thus film more economically.

Shooting Script: the director's script, this script does not contain story elements so much as it contains the technical elements such as shots and lighting that the director feels will be appropriate for each shot.

Static Shot: a shot in which the camera does not move

Take: when filming a take is a single effort to film a scene or action and is often repeated until satisfactory results are achieved.

Tilt: a camera motion in which the camera moves up or down.

Tracking Shot: a dolly movement in which the camera moves with the subject keeping it in focus.

Last Modified: 7 May 2012