Camera, Lighting, Color, and Editing Glossary


Here is a glossary of terms you’ll come across working with camera, lighting, and editing for moving image production. This document is in perpetual beta, your comments and suggestions are welcome. 

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24p. A format of progressive video, 24 per second.

3:2 Pulldown. A technique used to convert 24 frames per second film to 30 frames per second 60i video. Every other film frame is converted to 3 video fields resulting in a sequence of 3 fields, 2 fields, 3 fields, 2 fields, etc. See Progressive Scan.

30p. A format of progressive video, 30 frames per second.

360-degree pan. A panning shot which turns around a full circle. See Pan.

4K. Video with a resolution of 4,096 horizontal pixels in the strict technical sense, however, most often used to refer to UHD video (3840 x 2160) which has twice the resolution of HD (1920 x 1080) video.

4:2:2. The sampling ratio in digital video signals. For every 4 samples of luminance there are 2 samples each of R-Y (Red minus Luminance) and B-Y (Blue minus luminance).

4:4:4. The sampling ratio that has equal amounts of the luminance and both chrominance channels. High end digital video cameras used this format, especially good for doing special effects shots using green screen and compositing since the higher the sampling of the color channel, the cleaner the matte will be.

4×3. The aspect ratio of standard television, as opposed to the 16×9 aspect ratio of high definition television, a.k.a.1.33: 1.

16×9. The aspect ratio of wide screen television (may be either standard or high definition) as opposed to the 4×3 aspect ratio of standard television. Sometimes referred to as 1.77: 1 or 1.78:1.

60i. Interlaced video with 60 fields per second (30 frames per second). A longtime broadcast and consumer standard which is finally starting to lose its dominance as progressive formats like 30p, and 60p take its place. See Interlace Scan.

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AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). A lossy audio compression file format that’s higher quality than MP3.

Above the line. Refers to the creative elements of a feature motion picture production such as the writer, producer, director and actors. Literally, these are the elements which appeared above a bold line which divided standard production budget sheets. See Below the line.

AC. 1. Alternating Current, an electric current with periodically changing polarity (e.g. 60 Hz power in the United States); 2. Abbreviation for Assistant Cameraperson.

Accent. A light source used specifically to illuminate an individual object (often to make it pop out from the rest of the background are often called accent lights. The term “special” is also used for lights that are focused on a specific object. You may also hear this referred to as a spotlight, though spotlight is usually reserved for the types of very bright spots used in theatre and performance lighting.

Access. The key ingredient for a good documentary: access to the subject and their social milieu.

Accessory shoe. Used to mount a light, microphone mount, wireless receiver, or other gear on the camera (a.k.a cold-shoe).

Additive color. Given that our color receptors have peak sensitivities in the blue, green and red range, any color that the human eye can detect can be created with a mix of pure blue, green, and red light. Video and digital imaging systems are modeled after this. These colors form the additive color primaries. If we mix the right amount of red, green, and blue light, we’ll see white. All colors that are combinations of two primaries are known as secondary (or complimentary) colors:  Red + Green = Yellow; Blue + Green = Cyan; and Red + Blue = Magenta. Mixing the secondary colors gets you back to the primaries: Yellow + Magenta = Red; Cyan + Yellow = Green; and Magenta + Cyan = Blue. Furthermore, mixing a primary with its corresponding secondary gets you back to white: Red + Cyan = White; Green + Magenta = White; and Blue + Yellow = White. See subtractive color, gel, color correcting gel.

Aerial shot. An overhead shot, usually taken from a helicopter or airplane or some clever contraption involving wires. Can also refer to any high angle view of a subject taken from a crane or any high stationary position.

Aliasing. Defects in the picture caused by too low of a sampling frequency or poor filtering. Usually seen as jaggies or stair steps in diagonal lines. Aliasing also can occur in the temporal domain, for example, as wagon wheels moving backward or slower than the wagon is moving, due to the frame rate of the camera vs. the speed of the wheel. Any undesirable distortion of image or sound that is a result of less than perfect digital encoding can be considered aliasing.    

Ambient light. Any source of light that naturally exists in the scene before lighting instruments are added. This may come from a window or overhead fixtures.

Analog. A signal that varies continuously in relation to some reference. In contrast, a digital signal varies in discreet steps.

Anamorphic lens. A lens that allows a wide image to be photographed on a standard-sized frame. The anamorphic lens essentially takes a wide aspect-ratio image and squeezes it into a frame that’s not as wide as the image. This is how the motion picture industry implemented wide-screen movies in the 1950s without changing the film format. Just as an anamorphic lens is used with a camera, a lens is required during projection to return the image back to its wide screen format. In video terms this is often called “squeezed” or anamorphic video.

Angle. See Camera angle.

Angle of light. The horizontal and vertical relationships between camera/subject and light/subject affects modeling (visual) and mood (emotion). For example, the key light can be anywhere from 0˚ (for flat lighting) to 90˚(for side lighting) from the camera/subject axis in the horizontal plane. On the set the terminology is usually along the lines of top, side, front, 3/4-back, etc.

Angle of view. The angle of acceptance of a lens which depends on the focal length of the lens and the camera aperture (related to the size of the imaging device or film frame). Wide-angle lenses have a wide-angle of view (and a short focal length), telephoto lenses have a narrow angle of view (and a long focal length). See normal lens, wide-angle lens, telephoto lens.

Animation. 1. A film or video in which inanimate objects or individual drawings are photographed frame by frame in order to create an illusion of movement on the screen when the film or video is played back at the standard speed. By manipulating the objects or drawings for each frame, the filmmaker can make objects or characters appear to move, thus the term animated; 2. A moving image sequence in which objects are rendered frame by frame by computer software in order to create an illusion of movement on the screen.

Anti-aliasing. The process of removing aliasing artifacts. For example, adding vertical blur to an interlaced video image, which assures that any fine detail straddle more than one line, prevents “line jitter” on an interlaced display.

Aperture. An adjustable opening (iris) in a camera lens that controls the amount of light passing through a lens, often expressed as an f-number (a ratio of the opening and the focal length of the lens). The aperture has an effect on depth of field. Wide openings (e.g. f/2.8) result in shallow depth of field, smaller openings (e.g. f/11) result in greater depth of field. Thus the aperture affects both the exposure and the depth of field.

Apple box. A wood box used to raise things on the set or in the studio, e.g. a piece of furniture or a person (i.e. make a short person taller). Apple boxes are available in several sizes: full (8-in. high), half (4-in. high), quarter (2-in.. high) and eighth (1-in. high, a.k.a. pancake).

Appropriation. Taking media elements or stylistic techniques and using them for one’s own ends, particularly when one is remixing them for the purpose of critique or reinterpretation.

Archival footage (a.k.a. stock footage). Film or video footage that can be used in other films (also described as library footage or file footage). The footage may be outtakes or previously used footage from other productions or shot specifically for sale as stock footage.

Area lighting. Lighting that illuminates specific areas of a set rather than the entire set.

Art. A signification system in which an audience, viewer, or participant is expected to evaluate and respond to a work according to a formal set of criteria determined within a prescribed system either expressed or implied. This signification system (a.k.a. aesthetics) is circumscribed within and interdependent on culture and language, however, at the same time contains its own logic which expands and/or challenges the cultural context in which the work is being experienced. Any observer and/or participant—not just an artist, curator, scholar, or critic—may choose to evaluate or respond to the work in the form of an aesthetic response. See video art, experimental video.

Artifact (British: artefact). 1. Any object made by human beings with an intention for subsequent use; 2. any feature that is not naturally present but is a product of an extrinsic agent, e.g. unwanted noise in the soundtrack or an effect in the image caused by an error or limitation in the image capture, storage, or reproduction system, or a combination of them.

Assembly edit. The process of organizing and joining shots of video into a rough sequence as they might appear in the finished project.

Associate producer. Someone who performs specific producing functions under the supervision of a producer. The term may also refer someone in an executive producer role, but working in a capacity subordinate to another producer on the project. On documentaries and independent productions it it may refer to someone who made significant contributions to the project, e.g. a generous Kickstarter donor. There is no single universal definition.

Associational editing. The juxtaposition of shots in order to present contrast, comparisons, or ideas.

Atmosphere. Extras who are staged to portray normal human traffic needed to add natural detail in a scene.

Aspect ratio. The ratio of the horizontal dimension to the vertical dimension of a frame. 35mm films are typically shot with an aspect ratio of 1.85: 1 or 2.35:1 (cinemascope), widescreen video is 1.78:1 (16×9), standard video and 16mm film is 1.33:1 (4×3).

Auteur theory. A theory popularized by French film critics in the 1950s and 1960s which argued that the director is the “author” of a film, with the power and artistic control to provide the work with their personal vision.

Automatic white balance. A circuit in a video camera that attempts to adjust the white balance automatically. See White Balance.

AutoPole. Adjustable lighting poles that can be mounted floor to ceiling (vertical) or wall to wall (horizontal) in order to support lighting and grip equipment.

Available light (a.k.a. existing light). Shooting under the lighting conditions that exist in nature or in a location. If you study lighting technique, you will be in a better position to make the best of available light, which can be beautiful. Often changing the angle or position of the subject relative to existing light sources can make the difference between ugly light and beautiful light. Windows make for wonderful soft lights, albeit unreliable due to the movement of the sun and clouds. When we talk of available light photography or videography, we’re talking about shooting without the introduction of artificial lights.

Avant-garde film. See experimental film.

Avant-garde video. See experimental video.

AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding, HD). An inter-frame video codec widely used among HD consumer cameras that shoot to some variation of tapeless media (flash card, hard drive, etc). In most cases it has to be transcoded to an intermediate format for editing (e.g. Apple Intermediate Codec or ProRes 422) since it’s very difficult to edit directly. See H.264, Codec, Compression, Inter-frame compression.

Avid. The Avid Media Composer was the first commercially viable non-linear editing system and became the industry-standard among Hollywood, broadcast, and public television editors. For a long time it was the only show in town, especially if you were doing film match-back for feature films. Avid offers a family of products designed for a wide range of applications ranging from independent producers to large-scale facilities. Once upon a time it owned the non-linear editing marketplace, and while it remains a dominant player, it shares the marketplace with competitors like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro which are widely used among independent artists, video makers, and filmmakers.

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B-roll. Shots in a documentary that are used to illustrate what an interviewee is talking about or to cover breaks in an interview. Often used to refer to the footage that is shot for the purpose of using later as cut-away shots. See Cut-away shot.

Baby. 1. Nickname for a 1K fresnel lighting instrument. 2. Used to describe any light which is smaller than a standard size unit of comparable intensity (i.e. baby 1K, baby 2K, baby 5K, etc.). See baby pin.

Baby legs. A short tripod.

Baby pin. Refers to the small 5/8-in. pins found on smaller lights and mounting hardware designed to fit into a standard 5/8-in. receiver. This is the pin you’ll find on the end of smaller light stands. In order to mount a small light on a gobo arm, you can attach a baby pin to the grip head. The pin gets it’s name from “Baby,” the slang for a 1K Fresnel instrument, a widely used fixture in studio lighting before the advent of LED and fluorescent technology.

Baby plate. Used f or mounting smaller light fixtures that have a Baby (5/8-in.) receiver to a flat surface. They can be screwed into a surface or clamped in place with a C-clamp, or gaffer taped if the fixture being used is lightweight.

Background. 1. Term used to describe the activities in a scene that take place behind the principal characters in a scene.

Backlight. A light source that comes from behind the subject. If it comes from directly overheard, it is often called a toplight. It can add dimensionality, however, at the same time, unless it is motivated, it can look artificial. Often you’ll use more than one backlight, for example, one might be focused on the subject’s hair, while another provides a rim around a shoulder, see kicker.

Backlighting. A situation in which the primary source of light is coming from behind the subject, silhouetting it, and directed toward the camera.

Bandwidth. The amount of information that can be passed through a system at a given time. Typically, the greater the bandwidth the better the image or audio quality, however, the compression techniques (if any) used also influence this, since some compression formats allow for a reduction of bandwidth while maintaining very similar image quality, for example, H.264 vs. MPEG-2.

Barn doors. Folding doors mounted on the front of lighting instruments used to control illumination. They work best on Fresnel instruments.

Bayer pattern (a.k.a. Bayer mosaic). A color filter array for arranging RGB color filters on a square grid of CMOS or CCD photo sensors used in most single-chip digital image sensors in digital still and video cameras. The filter pattern is 50% green, 25% red and 25% blue and is sometimes referred to as GRGB or RGGB.

Beat. 1. A beat is an event, decision, or discovery in a narrative that alters the way the protagonist pursues their goal. 2. In the context of a screenplay, it usually represents a pause in dialogue. 

Below the line. Refers to the technical components of the production staff. Literally, these are the budget elements that appeared below a bold line on a standard production budget form. See Above the line.

Best boy/gal. On a traditional film set there are two kinds of best boy/gals, each functions as the foreperson of their department. The best boy/gal electric is the assistant to the gaffer and best boy/gal grip is the assistant to the key grip.

Bin. 1. In the film editing room of days gone by, a bin was a storage container lined with a cloth bag, into which cut film or sound stock could be arranged and hung. 2. In a digital non-linear editor like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro, bins refer to folders which contain video clips, image files, sequences, and effects which can be selected for use during editing.

Bird’s eye view. See Overhead shot.    

Bit. 1. A single element (1 or 0) of digital representation of information. 2. A minor role in which an actor may speak only a few lines of dialog. Also known as a bit part.    

Bit rate. The amount of data transported in a given amount of time, usually defined in Mega (Million) bits per second (Mbps). Bit rate is one way to define the amount of compression used on a video signal. Uncompressed standard definition video has a bit rate of 270 Mbps. The DV and HDV video standards have a bit rate to 25 Mbps.

Bit stream. A continuous series of bits.

Black balance. In order for a video camera to reproduce blacks accurately, black balancing adjusts the zero level of all three primary colors (RGB). If the black balance is not adjusted properly, shadow details will be reproduced with a color cast. It is not normally necessary to adjust the black balance, however, you should adjust it when:  a) you use the camera for the first time.; b) you use the camera after not using it for a long time; c) the ambient temperature changes greatly; d) you change the shutter speed of the camera; or e) you switch between the progressive and interlaced video modes (this may not apply to all cameras, refer to your camera owner’s manual for specific details).

Black box. A piece of equipment dedicated to a specific function.

Black paper tape. Typically 1-in. or 2-in. wide is used for a variety of tasks especially those in which the tape might come in contact with hot metal parts close to quartz and HMI lights since the adhesive will not make a mess the way gaffer tape will.

Black wrap. Aluminum foil painted with black paint used to reduce light spill from lighting instruments or creating custom cookies, dots, fingers, snoots, etc. and ideal for use close to hot lights.

Blocking. 1. The grouping or arrangement of subjects or actors in a particular shot; 2. The patterns of movement in a shot or scene.

Blue screen. See Chroma key.

Bobbinet. Black mesh cloth used primarily for making nets. It also is available in rolls for darkening windows. See net.

Bottom chop. A flag used to keep light off of the floor or the lower part of a scene. See flag, cutter.

Box rental. A fee paid to a crew member for providing their own equipment or other specialized gear for use in a production.

Branch holder. A pipe-like unit with a locking nut which is used to hold branches, wooden poles, or other items.

Branchaloris. Slang for branches which are placed in front of a lighting instrument acting like a cucoloris to provide a shadow pattern. See cucoloris.

Bridging shot. A shot used to cover a jump in time or place or some other form of discontinuity. Examples are the hands of a clock moving quickly, falling calendar pages, newspaper headlines, time-lapse, seasonal changes, etc.

Breakaway cable. See ENG Snake.

Breakdown.  Refers to a preproduction function where elements of a script are isolated and noted. Also called a script breakdown.

Broad. A rectangular open-faced light used for general fill or for illuminating a cyc.

Broadcast quality. An nebulous term used by marketing people to describe video products in a manner that’s more appealing.

Burned in time code. Time code numbers that are superimposed on the image, a video file with burned-in time code is also known as a  window dub. In the days of analog tape dubs with burned in time code would be made for logging, today some stock footage houses still use this technique to prevent video clips from being incorporated into a program prior to proper licensing. See window dub.

Butterfly frame. A large aluminum frames designed to hold various fabrics for controlling light, usually used outdoors.

Butterfly kit. Consists of ssorted nets, silks, solids, and grifflon which are used for light control; usually with a 5’ x 5’, or 6’ x 6’ frame. Note that 12’ x 12’ or 20’ x 20’ kits are more properly called overhead kits, but are sometimes referred to as butterfly kits.

Byte. 8 bits. A common unit of digital information. The combination of 8 bits into 1 byte allows each byte to represent 256 possible values. (see Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte).

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C-47 (a.k.a. clothes pin). A small clip made of hardwood used on the set to attach gels to barn doors and other similar tasks. Also known as a #1 wood clamp. The origin of the name is tied to several colorful stories.

C-Stand. A versatile stand used to support equipment on the set . Usually outfitted with a grip head and a gobo arm. In addition to holding grip and lighting equipment like flags and nets, they can also be used for hanging sound blankets or holding a Boom Baby (accessory for holding a boom pole that connects to a grip head mounted on a C-Stand or light stand). The grip head found on the stand and at the end of the gobo arm is designed to hold three different pin sizes.  Their unique leg design allows for nesting several stands within a very small space.  See grip head, gobo arm.

California scrim set. A scrim (net) set with two doubles. See net.

Call sheet. A form which lists all of the scenes to be filmed, all of the personnel, and all of the equipment needed for shooting on a particular day.

Camera angle. The position of the camera in relation to the subject during filming. It may be straight (eye-level shot), tilted up at the subject (low-angle shot), tilted down at the subject (high-angle shot), or tilted off the vertical axis to either side (Dutch-angle shot).

Camera movement. Any movement of the camera during a shot, such as panning, tilting, dollying, tracking, etc.

Camera log. A sheet used to keep track of information about scenes or shots on a particular tape or memory card.

Camera speed. The rate at which film is run through a motion picture camera in frames per second (fps). The normal speed for sound film recording is 24 fps. Video cameras that simulate film shooting at 24 fps use the same terms as film cameras to describe the camera speed. See also Overcrank and Undercrank.

Camera tape. A term for 1-in. wide gaffer tape, since it has commonly been used for taping film cans. See gaffer tape.

Candela. A unit of light intensity, a standard candle.

Canted frame. See Dutch angle.

Capture. The act of transferring digital video material from a camera into a non-linear editing system. When tapeless cameras are used, the term ingest, transfer, or import are often used to describe this process.

CBR (Constant Bit Rate). A compression technique used in both audio and video applications where the amount of compression does not change. For example, H.264 video files can be encoded either as Constant Bit Rate or as Variable Bit Rate files.

CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). A semiconductor sensor that produces an electrical charge in response to photons of light energy falling on the surface that is widely used in the design of video and still cameras. See also CMOS.

Cel. Transparent plastic sheets on which traditional animators draw images to be photographed frame by frame for an animated film or to be superimposed over live action. Animation done from such drawings is called cel animation.

Celo. A type of cucoloris which is made from wire mesh coated with plastic. See cucoloris.

Chiaroscuro. Lighting that emphasizes light/dark contrast (fast falloff, with light coming from a specific direction). Has the effect of personalizing and emphasizing the subject. Commonly thought of as dramatic lighting, see contrast ratio, flat lighting.

Chinese lantern. A paper-covered wire frame globe into which a socket and bulb may be placed for soft lighting (a.k.a. china ball). Chimera makes a professional version out of heat-resistant material called the Chimera lantern.

Chroma key (a.k.a. color keying and colloquially referred to as blue screen or green screen). A production technique used to place a foreground subject shot against an even colored background in front of a different background. The colored portion of the foreground image becomes transparent when composited with the background image through the use of a key (a.k.a. matte). The key is created by a keyer. The process may be performed in real-time (e.g. using a video switcher or similar device) or in post-production (e.g. using the Keylight chroma keyer in After Effects). Blue and green are the colors most often used for chroma key, a major reason for this is that red is the dominant primary color in human skin tones, while blue and green are much less dominant. Green is currently favored over blue for two reasons, 1. most video encoders compress the blue channel more than the green channel, thus a matte based on green will be sharper than one based on blue, and 2. green requires less lighting since it’s inherently brighter that blue. See keyer.

Chrominance (a.k.a. chroma). The color component of a video signal. See luminance.

Cinéma vérité. In French, literally, “cinema truth.” A style of documentary filmmaking in which the filmmaker captures real people in real situations with spontaneous use of hand-held camera, naturalistic sound recording, and with participation on the part of the filmmaker, for example, Chronicle of a Summer (1961, Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin, French title: Chronique d’un été). Also called direct cinema, however, direct cinema sometimes refers to a different style that was dominant in the United States in the 1960s and differs in terms much less filmmaker involvement, for example, Salesman (1968, Albert & David Maysles).

Cinematographer. The person responsible for the camera work and lighting in a film. Sometimes the term is used even though the medium in use is video. Also called a lighting cameraman or director of photography.

Clapper board. See Slate.

Close-up (CU). A close view of a person or object which features details isolated from their surroundings. A close-up of a person typically only shows their head. Close-ups can be used in juxtaposition with other close-up shots to guide the viewer through a process of inductive interpretation in comparison to the more deductive strategies employed from wider frames. Close-ups can convey intimacy and are often used to emphasize the importance of a particular character at a particular moment. How and where close-ups occur in a sequence reveal not only the importance of characters and/or objects but the flow of the narrative.  Close-ups are often used on parts of the body to designate imminent action (e.g. a hand pulling a gun out of a holster) to enhance the suspense. Close-ups are also used to emphasize objects with an important role in the development of the narrative.

Clothes pin. See C-47.

CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor). A technology used for making video and still camera image sensors that consume less power and are less expensive compared to CCDs. See CCD.

Codec. The particular image processing technology used to compress video into a compact format suitable for storage on a digital medium (and also to decompress it prior to playback) is called a codecs (for compressor / decompressor). In a nutshell there are two major flavors of codecs, intra-frame and inter-frame. See also compression, intra-frame, inter-frame.

Coded. A process in which a set of meanings may be inscribed within a shot, sequence, or video, though such meanings may not be obvious or visible at first.

Color keying. Another term for chroma key. See: Chroma key.

Color correction gel. Gels used to match or correct light sources. The most commonly used color correcting gels include CTB (Color Temperature Blue) used to convert tungsten sources (3,200K) to daylight (5,500K) and CTO (Color Temperature Orange) used to convert daylight (5,500K) to tungsten (3,200K). CTO and CTB are available in eighth, quarter, half, full, and double intensities. See diffusion, gel.

Color Rendering Index (CRI). A quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source, in other words, the smoothness of the spectral response curve as illustrated below. When you purchase lamps or lighting instruments with built-in light sources, you’ll often come across a CRI number . Sources with CRIs in the 60s and 70s don’t render colors accurately, while those with CRIs in the 80s are just barely acceptable for color reproduction. Good color rendering results with a CRI of 90 or better. Typical LEDs are around 80 and most fluorescents way below that, however, you’ll find high-end LED and fluorescent sources with a CRI of 90 or better, matching that of conventional quartz-halogen lamps.

Color temperature. A standard for measuring the characteristics of light sources that emit light in the yellow-orange to blue-white range. It is measured in degrees Kelvin based on the color given off by a theoretical black body radiator (a fancy term for a theoretical version of the filament in an incandescent bulb). As this theoretical filament glows hotter and hotter, the color given off goes from red to orange to yellow to blue (see the chart below for the color temperature of various natural and artificial light sources).  Some light sources are rich in the blue end of the spectrum, but deficient in the reds (sky light), while others are rich in the red end, but deficient in the blue (incandescent household lamps). While our eyes can compensate for these differences, video cameras can’t. Therefore, without adjustment, cameras will reproduce daylight as too blue and indoor lights as too orange. When we white balance a camera (by pointing the camera at a white card and “setting white balance”), we are telling the camera that the particular balance of red, green, and blue light falling on the white card should be considered its reference point for white. This white card may have light falling on it in the range of 1800K if we’re shooting by candle light, 3200K if we’re shooting with halogen lamps, or 5800K if we’re shooting outdoors at noon. We usually write color temperature without the degree symbol followed by K for degrees Kelvin.

Combo stand. A heavy duty junior stand without wheels. Called a combo because it can be used for either reflectors or lights.

Compilation film. A film composed largely of archival footage or clips from other films, for example, Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971, Emile de Antonio), see archival footage.

Compositing. The process of assembling multiple video elements into a single video clip or sequence. The process is used to create special effects shots combining several elements that are parts of the same scene but have been shot at different times. A matte is used to hold back the background and allows the foreground picture to appear as if it was in the original picture. Often a green screen is used behind an object or person to make it easy to create a matte for compositing from the areas of the image that are green.  Often these elements are a mix of live-action and computer-generated images. Compositing can be done in real-time, for example, placing a weather reporter in front of a computer generated weather map during a television broadcast or to place an new anchor into a virtual set.

Compression. 1. Video: The process of reducing the amount of digital information required to represent an image. This is usually accomplished by throwing out redundant information, or doing sophisticated calculations to represent portions of the image in a manner that they can be reconstructed with minimal amounts of data. Compression techniques using DCT techniques simply throw out redundant information, other techniques like MPEG-2 and H.264 use more sophisticated analysis, modeling, and reconstruction techniques. See also Codec, inter-frame, intra-frame. 2. Audio, analog: The reduction of a span of the greater amplitudes in an audio signal for the purpose of limiting the reproduction of those particular amplitudes with the effect of reducing the difference between peak amplitudes and average amplitudes, making the overall signal sound louder when some gain is added (since peaks will no longer over modulate). 

Compression ratio. The ratio of the amount of data in the original video compared to the amount of data in the compressed video. The higher the ratio the greater the compression.

Contingency. A designated amount of a budget which is added in anticipation of possible overruns in the budget. Typically 5 to 10 percent.

Continuity. 1. Editing: The predominant style of editing in mainstream narrative cinema (often referred to as continuity editing). Editing for continuity means to cut smoothly and unobtrusively between shots with smooth transition of time and space which emphasizes logical and psychological coherence, guiding the viewer seamlessly and logically from one sequence or scene to another without calling attention to technical craft. Continuity editing is based on the idea that when we cut from one angle to another, the basic information between the two shots will remain constant and thus we will focus on what is happening rather than that the angle has changed. Because motion pictures are often shot with just one camera at a time (in order to provide the director with more possible camera angles while allowing the cinematographer to optimize the lighting for each setup) this further complicates the problem, as over the course of the several hours that it takes to shoot a single scene many things might normally change. Thus, keeping all factors constant is the first challenge of continuity editing, see also: 180° rule, 30° rule, cutting on action, match cut, and screen direction; 2: The work performed by the continuity supervisor (a.k.a. script supervisor) who is responsible for maintaining the internal continuity of the production and for recording daily progress in shooting the script. Essentially, the script supervisor is the editor’s and writer’s representative on set, as well as being an assistant to the director and the cinematographer.

Contrast ratio. The difference (in terms of intensity) between the brightest (white) and the darkest (black) portions of the image is called the contrast ratio. A low contrast scene has a low key light intensity to fill light intensity ratio, a high contrast scene has a high key light intensity to fill light intensity ratio. For example: A 1:1 contrast ratio would be described as flat lighting, without any definition. A contrast ration of 2:1 is pretty standard for television studio lighting for news and talk shows. while 3:1 or 4:1 provides nice dimensionality to a scene, and 5:1 or 6:1 starts to become seriously dramatic (e.g. film noir).

Cookie. 1. A term commonly used to refer to a cucoloris; 2. A delicious snack often found at the craft services table.

Cover set. A location that serves as an alternate shooting site in case the chosen shooting site is unusable or weather prevents shooting in the planned location.

Coverage. Additional and more detailed shots which are intended to be intercut with a master shot or scene. Typically involves shots and their respective reverse-shots in a dialog scene, along with inserts and possibly a two-shot, and any additional shots that will help the editor construct the scene. See continuity.

Crane shot. A shot taken from a crane or large mechanical arm that moves the camera and its operator smoothly and noiselessly in any direction. See also Jib arm.

Cribbing. Short pieces of lumber which are used for various grip purposes, along with wedges, especially useful for leveling track.

Cross-cutting. Cutting between different realms of action that may be occurring simultaneously or at different times. Cross-cutting is used to build suspense or to show the relationship between the different realms of action. Cross-cutting is often used somewhat incorrectly to refer to parallel editing.

Crossfade. The gradual mix of an incoming and outgoing sound. Typically a software effect that simulates the simultaneous manipulation of two or more mix console faders or a simple transition effect in an editing system.

CRT. Cathode Ray Tube. The name for a glass video picture tube. LCD flat panel displays have replaced them, and manufacturers have stopped making them for environmental and cost reasons. Contemporary professional LCD and OLED monitors allow for accurate color grading with weight, cost, and environmental advantages over old glass CRTs. 

Cube tap. An electrical adapter with one male Edison plug and three Edison receptacles, making it easy to run power to multiple lights from one extension cord (though be careful not to exceed the current rating of the primary extension cord and the circuit it is plugged into). Some are actually shaped like a cube, thus the name, though the name is used for a wide variety of devices all doing the same thing.

Cucoloris (a.k.a. cookie). Term used  to describe any of a variety of contraptions used to create shadow patterns. Standard models are made from plywood or poster board with random shapes cut out. A soft cookie is made from plastic. The best cookies are custom made from a wide variety of objects including tree branches (among my favorite). Practically anything you place between a hard light light and a subject or background can be used as a cookie or gobo (something that goes between the light and a surface).

Cultural production. The concept that a work of art is a product of a particular culture, at a particular time, in a particular context, and is influenced by a wide range of factors such as price, market, curatorial policies, review policies, display environment, audience expectations, etc.

Cup blocks. Wooden blocks with an indentation in the center which are used to keep the wheels of light stands from moving.

Curtain. Placing a conventional 4:3 video image within a wide screen image (typically 16×9) in a frame by placing black bands at the left and right of t he screen. See Letterbox.

Cut. The juxtaposition of two shots. A cut may transport the viewer from one action and time to another, giving the impression of rapid action or of disorientation if it cuts within the same scene and not matched. Depending on the nature of the cut and the images themselves, a cut will have different meanings.

Cutter. A large or odd shaped flags used to “cut” the light from a particular areas of the set. Flags larger than 30-in. x 36-in. as well as odd shaped flags e.g. 12-in. x 42 -in. or 18 -in. x 48 -in. are usually called cutters instead of flags, but terminological variations exist. See flag.

Cutaway. A shot of an image or action in a film which is not part of the main action, sometimes used to cover breaks in a scene’s continuity. In documentary often called “B-roll.”

Cutout. See matte.

Cutting. Another term for editing. See editing.

Cutting on action. Editing two shots at a point where the movement in the first one is not yet completed and where the movement in the second one has already begun. Along with an angle change can be a very seamless edit providing the viewer with the impression that the action is continuous and uninterrupted. It is the actual action within the shot that not only connects the two cuts but also distracts our eye from the fact that we are cutting to another angle. When screen direction is maintained, our eye is able to track the motion continuously so we don’t focus on the new surroundings but instead we follow the action. You can’t, however, just cut on any action, every edit creates anticipation on the part of the viewer for new information or a dramatic insight, every cut counts. See continuity.

Cyc (Cyclorama). A background built in a studio which has a curved surface at the floor line in order to facilitate the creation of a shadowless backdrop. Often used for green screen work.

Cyc lights. Special row lights with a reflector designed to provide even illumination of a cyc or other background.

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Dailies. In film production the first positive prints or video transfer made by the laboratory from the negative shot on the previous day. Also known as rushes. It can also mean on a video production the video shot the same day when it’s watched at the end of the day.

Dance floor. A floor built using 3/4 inch plywood and often covered with masonite to provide a smooth surface for free-form dollying.

Day out of days. A document listing the workdays for various cast or crew members of a given production.

DCT. Discrete Cosine Transform. A widely used method of video compression. The technique is employed in virtually lossless formats. DCT requires more space than formats like H.264, however, it exhibits significantly fewer artifacts.

Deal memo. A document listing the details of salary, guaranteed conditions, and other essentials of a work agreement negotiated between a production company and a member of the cast or crew.

Decoder. A device or software component that reads an analog signal or digital bitstream and turns it into some form of usable information. For example, an MP3 decoder takes audio that was compressed with an MP3 encoder and converts it to sound data that can be played back on a computer or another device. The same goes for H.264 video.

Deep-focus. A cinematographic technique which keeps objects in a shot clearly focused from close-up range to infinity. Involves the use of wide lenses and small apertures. Gregg Toland’s work in Citizen Kane contains some wonderful examples of deep focus cinematography (see below).

Decoder. A device or software component that reads a signal and turns it into some form of usable information. For example, an MP3 decoder takes audio that was compressed with an MP  3 encoder and converts it to sound data that can be played back on a computer or iPod. The same goes for H.264 video.

Depth of field. In a nutshell, the range in front of the camera lens within which objects appear in sharp focus. The size of the sensor used in the camera affects the depth-of-field. Smaller format cameras like the 1/3-in. HVX170 produce images with a lot of depth-of-field. On the other hand, D-SLRs and digital cinema cameras, due to their large sensor size, make it easier to produce images with shallow depth of field. In other words, to produce shallow depth of field shots with the HPX170, you’ll have to set the zoom lens to a long telephoto setting and back up a great distance. On the other hand, with a large sensor camera you can shoot at a normal distance from your subject and achieve shallower depth of field.

Deuce. Nickname for a 2K fresnel lighting instrument.

Diagonal. A shot where the camera pivots both horizontally and vertically.

Diegesis. The denotative material of a moving image narrative. According to Christian Metz it includes not only the narration itself, but also the fictional space and time dimension implied by the narrative. Typically refers to the internal world of the story (the diegesis) that the characters themselves experience and encounter including those not actually shown on the screen but referred to in some way within the story. Thus, film elements can be “diegetic” or “non-diegetic.” The term is most often used in reference to sound, but can apply to other element in a film. For example, titles, subtitles, background music, and voice-over narration (with exceptions) are non-diegetic elements.

Diffusion. A material available in various densities providing different amounts of beam spread. For example, Opal Frost provides a small amount of beam spread. quarter diffusion provides more, half diffusion provides even more, and full diffusion (a.k.a. 216) turns any hard light into a much softer source.

Digital. A representation format in which data is translated into a series of ones and zeros. Numerical data (base 10) is translated into binary numbers (base 2). Symbolic data is translated according to codes (for example, the ASCII code system assigns binary numbers to characters so they can be encoded digitally). Audio and images are sampled. See also sample, sampling rate.

Digital Image Stabilization. See Electronic Image Stabilization.

Digital recording. A method of recording video (or audio) in which samples of the original analog signal are encoded on tape or a file as binary information for storage and retrieval. Unlike analog recordings, digital video (or audio) can be copied repeatedly without degradation.

Digitizing. The act of taking analog video and converting it to digital form. The term is often used synonymously with ingest or capture, which is the process of transferring a digital video format into a non-linear editing system (it’s already digital, so you are simply capturing or ingesting, you’re not actually digitizing).

Dimmer. A device using to reduce the voltage in order to dim incandescent lamps which causes electromagnetic interference, often with the effect of annoying the sound recordist. See filament buzz. 2. A function of some HMI, fluorescent, and LED lighting systems that allow them to be dimmed (they can’t be dimmed with a standard dimmer).

Direct cinema. See Cinéma vérité.

Dissolve (a.k.a. lap-dissolve). A transition between two cuts in which the first image gradually dissolves or fades out and is replaced by another which fades in over it. A dissolve is a soft transition (in comparison to a cut) that is often used to suggests a longer passage of time.

Documentary. A non-fiction film, usually photographed using actual people in real locations rather than with actors and a scripted stories. Defined by John Grierson as “the creative treatment of actuality,” a definition that allows for a wide range of films to fall under the definition, which has always been a source of debate among filmmakers, viewers, and theoreticians.

Dogme 95. An avant-garde filmmaking movement started in 1995 by directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg with the signing of the Dogme 95 Manifesto and the “Vow of Chastity.” The goal of the Dogme collective was to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, postproduction modifications and other gimmicks. More information may be found on the official Dogme 95 web site at:

Dolly. A mobile platform on wheels upon which a camera can be mounted to give it mobility.

Dollying. 1. A tracking shot that follows the subject as it moves. 2. The process of moving the dolly on the set. See tracking shot.

Dolly shot. A shot made from a moving dolly. See tracking shot.

Doorway dolly . A versatile plywood dolly with four soft tires which is narrow enough to fit through a standard doorway. On big features it is used to transport equipment and cables, on smaller productions it is used as a camera dolly with the camera placed on a tripod which in turn sits on the plywood platform. The four soft tires can be replaced with track wheels allowing the doorway dolly to operate on standard track. Panther has developed a version of the doorway dolly called the briefcase dolly that folds up into a smaller unit for easier transport.

Dots. Small nets and flags used to control light. See net, flag.

Double exposure. The superimposition of two or more images. Also called multiple exposure. With film it is achieved with multiple exposures.

Drop frame time code. A system of time code generation that adjusts the generated data every minute by skipping frames as it counts up (not dropping video frames, only the time code numbers) in order to compensate for the spread of the NTSC television system running at 29.97 frames per second. Otherwise, the running time code would not match real time. Non-Drop Frame (NDF) time code refers to time code that does not drop numbers and therefore does not align with real-time.

Drop out. Loss of a portion of an audio or video signal, usually caused by an imperfection in the tape’s coating or dirt covering a portion of the tape. Old consumer formats like HDV, due to its long GOP format is particularly susceptible to dropouts because a dropout is likely to affect multiple frames. Hi8 was a format notorious for dropouts. While an artifact that may still occur with memory card cameras for other reasons, it’s become a very rare artifact when recording on solid-state media.

Dutch-angle. A tilted camera angle obliquely slanted to the frame’s vertical axis so that the horizontal frame line is not parallel to the horizon. Also called an oblique angle shot or a canted frame.        

Duvetyne. Black, flame-retardant, cotton fabric used to make Flags, Cutters, and Butterflies. It can also be used “off the roll” as needed to mask off windows, objects, or reduce light reflecting off objects.        

DVE (Digital Video Effects). A black box which digitally manipulates the video to create special effects. Common DVE effects include inverting the picture, shrinking it, moving it around within the frame of another picture, spinning it, and a great many more. While this used to be a piece of hardware, today all non-linear editing systems include DVE effects (and more) in software. Most of these effects are quite tacky, so be careful using them.

Dynamic montage. Editing intended to evoke strong emotional reactions. See Russian montage.

Dynamic range. The difference in decibels between the loudest and quietest portions of audio that a system is capable of processing.

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Edison. Slang for extension cords with Edison connectors on both ends.

Edison plug. An ordinary household plug with two flat blades and a ground pin.

Edison socket. An ordinary household socket that accepts a plug with two flat blades and a ground pin.

Editing (a.k.a. montage or cutting). The process of assembling sequences of shots to make up a film or video. The editing process is unique to cinema. Other elements of cinematic language originated in a different medium (photography, art direction, writing, sound recording) but editing, a.k.a., montage, springs from cinema. The grammar of video borrows from traditional cinema and expands on it. The editor assembles the video using shot selection, rhythm, pace, sequencing, and effects to craft a compelling experience.  Editing may be accomplished in wide range of styles and while traditionally editing has been focused primarily in the temporal domain, it can also be done in the spatial domain using multiple images, composites, or superimposition. See continuity, intellectual montage.

Edit master. The tape or digital file containing the master copy of a finished (edited) program.

Edit points. Also known as “in” and “out.” The beginning and end points of an edit during the process of video or sound editing.

EDL (Edit Decision List). A list of edit decisions made during and edit session and usually saved to a file or printed out. Allows an edit to be redone or changed at a later time without having to start all over again. Thus used to be a big deal in the off-line, on-line, edit days, when you would transfer the results of your off-line, edit (which you did on inexpensive equipment) to the on-line edit (which was done in an expensive suite) via the EDL. Still useful when moving media from one edit system to another, but today, there are better formats like Avid OMF and Final Cut Pro XML format which include much more information than a standard EDL.

Electronic Image Stabilization. A technique in which the video image is shifted frame to frame, enough to compensate for the motion due to camera shake. It uses pixels outside the border of the visible frame to provide a buffer for the motion. The quality is not as good as Optical techniques. See also Optical Image Stabilization.

Ellipsis. A term referring to periods of time left out of the narrative. The ellipsis is marked by an editing transition which, while it leaves out a section of the action, nonetheless signifies that something has been elided. In classic cinema language fades or dissolves are used to indicate a passage of time.

Ellipsoidal. Lighting instruments with a lens and shutter system that produces a very crisp beam (with the edges controlled by the built-in shutters) and accept slide-in gobos in order to project patterns (e.g. ETC Source IV). You will find ellipsoidal units at work in most theatrical lighting setups because of their long reach and controllability.

Emulsion. The coating on film stock which contains light-sensitive particles of silver-halides.

ENG (Electronic News Gathering). Designates equipment designed for portable field use, typically for the purpose of broadcast video journalism.

ENG snake. A cable designed to connect the output of a  field mixer to a video camera. It usually includes two channels of balanced audio, a headphone return, and a quick release connector on the camera end (thus it’s also know as a breakaway cable) in order to allow the camera to move independent of the cable when needed.

Epic. A film genre characterized by sweeping historical themes, heroic action, spectacular settings, period costumes, and a large cast of characters.

Equalization. The modification of specific ranges of sound frequencies for a specific purpose, e.g. to improving the clarity of speech or removing a frequency range with unwanted noise.

Establishing shot. A camera shot, usually a long shot, which identifies, or establishes, the location of a scene.

Ethnographic film. An anthropological film that records and perhaps comments on a group of people and their culture of which the filmmaker is not a part of.

Existing light. See available light.

Expendables. Refers to the consumable items you can expect to purchase for every shoot (e.g. batteries, gaffer tape, spike tape, gels, C-47s, showcard, foam core, etc.).

Experimental film. Works made in a style different from, and often in opposition to, mainstream narrative and documentary filmmaking. Often connected with one of the avant-garde movements, however, it’s possible to make experimental films outside of a specific cultural or artistic movement. Most often made independently and placing emphasis on phenomenological experience and/or the intrinsic qualities of the medium. The use of actual silver-halide film technology is essential for the work to be classified as avant-garde or experimental film.  The approach and concerns overlap with those of video artists, however, issues of material specificity prevail over any common ground between the two artistic practices. See experimental video, video art.

Experimental video. Video works that emphasize the artist’s self-expression, or explore the material characteristics of the medium, or present a radical cultural critique, rather than commercial success. The use of analog or digital video technology is crucial for the work to be classified as artist’s video, video art, or experimental video. The approach and concerns overlap with experimental film, however, issues of material specificity, historical context, and artistic practice prevail over any common ground between the two practices. See video art, experimental film.

Exposé. An investigative documentary that reveals or discredits, often in shocking ways, information, people, or events.

Exposure index (E.I.). Film sensitivity denoted as a number, for example, EI 100 is relatively slow film, EI 800 is relatively fast film. often used to express sensitivity of a video camera but the comparison in tenuous. Also referred to as ISO, the initials of the International Organization for Standardization that sets standards for photographic and digital cameras.

Expressionism. A style of media making which distorts physical reality in some way in order to “express” strong feelings about it. Typical expressionistic techniques include the use of distorting lenses, extreme camera angles, bizarre lighting and sound effects, and fragmented editing. See Realism.

Extreme close-up (XCU). A very close view of a person or object which features specific details. An extreme close-up of a person typically shows only their eyes or mouth (see below). The closer up the shot, the more the spectator’s eye is directed by the camera to the specified reading and the process of interpreting the image along the the surrounding shots takes on a more directed, inductive approach on the part of the viewer.

Extreme long shot (XLS). A panoramic view of a scene, photographed from a great distance which could be as far as a quarter-mile away. Often used as an establishing or transition shot. As the camera moves further away from the subject the visual field lends itself to more complex, deductive reading, there is more information for the viewer to decode.

Eye light (a.k.a. Obie light). A small lighting instrument close to the camera shining on the face of a subject, often used to fill deep-set eye sockets.  The term “Obie” light originating with Merle Oberon who always insisted on the perfect eye light. An eye light may be any small lighting instrument attached to the camera directly over the lens. On camera lights can be good fills, but when they become the key it can make the overall image feel flat.

Eye line match. Editing shots that are aligned, or matched to suggest that two characters in separate shots are looking at each other.  In classic cinema language, when a character looks into off-screen space the viewer expects to see what the character is looking at. Thus there will be a cut to show what is being looked at: object, view, another character, etc. Eyeline then refers to the trajectory of the looking eye. The eyeline match creates order and meaning in cinematic space. Another use of the eyeline match which is in the context of shot/reverse shots, also known as the reverse angle shots, which are widely used in dialogue scenes. The camera adopts the eyeline trajectory of the actor looking at the other actor as they speak, switching when needed to the other person’s position in the same manner as the first.

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Fade in. A cinematic punctuation or ellipse. The screen is black at the start, then gradually the image appears, brightening to full strength. See also fade out, dissolve, cut.

Fade out. A cinematic punctuation or ellipse. The image brightness gradually loses strength until the image disappears and the the frame is black. See fade in, dissolve, cut.

FAY. A 650 watt PAR light with a daylight balance dichroic filter.

Fast motion. Shots photographed slower than the standard speed of 24 fps so that the action on the screen appears faster than normal when projected at standard speed. See Slow motion, Under-cranked, Over-cranked.

Feather. The process of moving a flag closer to or further away from a light source will feather (move it closer to the light to soften; move it farther from the light to harden) the shadow on the surface that the light is falling on. See flag.

Feature film. A full-length motion picture produced for commercial distribution.

Feminist criticism. Analysis and criticism from a feminist perspective, concerned primarily with the social and political implications of how women are depicted in film.

Fetishize. To create a sense that an idea, person, institution, material object, or work of art may have extraordinary  or even magical powers.

Fiction film. Any film that employs invented plot or characters; often called narrative film.

Field. One half of a complete interlaced video image (frame), containing all the odd or even scanning lines of the image. See also interlace, frame.ixer.

Filament buzz. Some incandescent lamps will buzz when the voltage is lowered using a dimmer. A great annoyance to sound recordists. See Dimmer.

Fill light. The light falling on a subject filling in the shadows caused by the key light. Effectively softens the shadows caused by the key light, changing the lighting ratio of the scene. Fill. The fill light need not be a lighting instrument, sometimes it is provided by the existing light in a scene or you can use a reflector, e.g. Flex-Fill. See key light, lighting ratio.

Film criticism. The analysis and evaluation of films, often according to specific aesthetic or philosophical theories.

Film noir. In French, literally, “black film.” A type of film, mainly produced in Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s, which depicts dark themes, like crime and corruption in urban settings, in a visual style that features night scenes and dramatic, low-key lighting.

Filter. A piece of glass fitted in front of a camera lens to control the color or quality of light entering the camera. Sometimes the filter is built-in to the camera, which is common for ND filters.

Final cut. The final, edited version of a film as it will be released for exhibition. See Rough cut.

Finger. A small flag used to control light. See flag.

First-person shot. See point-of-view shot.

Fisheye lens. An extreme wide-angle lens that distorts the image so that straight lines appear rounded at the edges of the frame.

Fiver. See Senior spot.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). An open-course lossless audio format with 2:1 compression. Files in this format are given a .flac extension. See WAV, Broadcast Wave Format, AIFF.

Flag (a.k.a. solid). A rectangular metal frames with a mounting pin covered with Duvetyne used to block light and casting shadows on the set. Flags come in a wide rage of sizes and attach to a grip head. Small flags are referred to as Dots (round) or Fingers (rectangles). See silk, net.

Flashback. A scene or sequence (sometime an entire motion picture), that is inserted into a sequence in present time and deals with the past. The flashback is the closest motion pictures come to a past tense.

Flashforward. A scene or sequence (sometime an entire motion picture), that is inserted into a sequence in present time and deals with the future. The flashforward is the closest motion pictures come to a future tense.

Flat. 1. Usually an agreement to perform work or provide a service for a fixed fee or wage (flat-rate) which will not be affected by overtime restrictions of unexpected costs. 2. Set construction elements used in most cases to create walls.

Flat lighting. Lighting that deemphasizes light/dark contrast. Lack of shadows and little or no fall off (low contrast between the illuminated and shadow sides of a subject). Has the effect of depersonalizing or deemphasizing the subject. See chiaroscuro, contrast ratio.

Flicker. The alternation of light and dark which can be visually perceived.

Flex arm . An extension arms with several lockable ball joints for mounting Dots, Fingers, Scrims, and very small lights. The joints enable precise adjustment and placement. Often attached to a mafer clamp. Also refers to flexible arms without joints that are one continuous flexible arm.

Flex-fill. A flexible reflector that folds up into a small disk for transport and unfolds into a larger disk for use. Different surfaces are available.  Matte white on one side and matte silver on the reverse side is a versatile combination, giving you a choice of how intense the reflected light will be. Flex fills are very handy for creating fill light when shooting outdoors on a sunny day to reduce the contrast ratio on a person’s face. They can be used hand-held or mounted on a stand with a flex-fill holder that attaches to a baby pin. If you are traveling light and only want to carry one piece of lighting gear, this should be it.

Flicker. The alternation of light and dark which can be visually perceived.

Flood. The widest beam spread setting on a Fresnel lighting instrument.

Floodlight. A studio lamp that illuminates a relatively wide area by “flooding” it with light. Also called a flood. See spotlight.

Fluorescent. Lighting technology utilizing a gas-discharge lamp and ballast that is more efficient than tungsten lighting but more complicated due to their requirement for a ballast. Fluorescent units can be fitted with either tungsten or daylight balanced tubes providing soft light and very little heat. The Diva-Lite pictured here from Kino Flo is a widely-used fluorescent unit for lighting interviews and dramatic scenes. As the cost of large LED units drop, fluorescents become less attractive.

Flux. A quantity of light present as measured in lumens.

Foam core. A sandwich of two pieces of cardboard (usually white) with a foam middle often used as a reflective surface in order to turn a hard light source into a soft source.

Focus.  1. The sharpness or definition of an image.  2. A range of distances from the camera will be acceptably sharp. It’s possible to produce images with deep focus or shallow focus. See also deep focus, depth of field.

Focus in, focus out. A change in focus in which the image gradually comes into, or goes out of, focus, or the focus shifts from one object to another object.

Focus pull. The process of refocusing a lens during a shot in order to keep a subject in focus or to change the subject of attention. On a major motion picture production this is the responsibility of the 1st Assistant Camera person.

Focal length. The distance from the center of the lens to the point on the film plane where light rays meet in sharp focus. A wide-angle lens has a short focal length; a telephoto lens has a long focal length.

Following shot. A shot in which the camera pans or travels to keep a moving figure or object within the frame.

Footage. 1. Exposed film stock. 2. Recorded video.

Format. The video codec, resolution, bit-rate, and frame rate used for production, H.264, UHD, 100Mb/sec, 24p.

Formalism. An approach to filmmaking or film criticism which emphasizes form over content, arguing that meaning emerges from the way content is presented.

Formula. A familiar plot or pattern of dramatic action which is often repeated or imitated in films, for example, in genres like gangster films and westerns.

Frame. 1. Film: An individual photograph recorded on motion picture film. The outside edges of a film image on the screen. 2. Video: One complete video image, or two video fields. There are 30 frames in one second of NTSC video. Also a single video or film image. See also Interlace, Field. 3. Lighting: A device, also called a gel frame, used to hold a large gel with a stud that can be mounted in a grip head.

Frame line. The line that designates the top of the frame. When using a boom microphone, the boom operator communicates with the camera operator to understand where the frame line is in order to avoid getting the boom in the shot.

Frame rate. The number of individual frames per second (fps), for example, traditional film is shot at 24fps while video is typically 30fps. A lower frame rate would not provide smooth motion. These standard frame-rates are an attempt to balance the need for smother motion (the higher the frame rate, the better) with storage efficiency (the lower the frame rate, the better).

Framing. The visual composition of a shot within the frame with the intention to elicit a specific readings. Size, volume, contrast, etc. within the frame speak as much as dialogue or music. So too do camera angles. For example, a high-angle extreme long shot of two characters may points to the vulnerability of the characters, while on the other hand a angle shots in medium close-up on a characters can emphasize their power.

Freeze-frame. A shot in which one frame is repeated in order to look like a still photograph when projected. Also called a freeze shot.

Fresnel . A lighting instrument with a special glass lens with circular scalloped ridges on its outer surface that produces a focused beam of light with the quality of sunlight. Fresnel instruments have a control knob on the back that allows you to adjust the beam of light from flood to spot. Fresnels provide the most even bean and crispest cuts when set to flood. Barn doors on Fresnel instruments are much more effective than barn doors on open face instruments because the beam is focused.

Frequency. The number of times a signal vibrates per second. Expressed in Hertz (Hz), which is the number of cycles per second. The frequency of AC power in the US is 60 Hz.

Full shot. A long shot that includes the human body “in full” within the frame.

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Gain. 1. A video camera circuit that amplifies the video signal in order to make it possible to shoot in very low light situations. The side-effect of video gain is that the image will exhibit considerably more noise, therefore, you only want to shoot at high gain settings when it’s absolutely necessary. In hybrid cameras, the equivalent setting is ISO Sensitivity.

Gaffer. A term for the chief lighting technician on the set responsible for electrical distribution and lighting instruments.

Gaffer tape. A strong cloth-based tape (usually 2-in. wide) with a special adhesive that does not leave behind any residue when carefully “peeled” off surfaces. Not to be confused with duct tape which leaves a sticky mess behind. Professional grade gaffer tape is recommended. For use around hot lights, use black paper tape instead, as the adhesive of gaffer tape becomes a mess when heated.

Garbage matte. A specific type of matte (or mask) used to assure that objects appearing in the foreground image are excluded from the final composite. See Matte, Chroma key.

Gel . A heat-resistant material placed in the path of a light source to change its color or diffusing source. They are available in 21-in. x24-in. sheets or  4-ft. x 25-ft. rolls in a wide range of colors and types of diffusion used to spread the beam (and thus soften) lights. Gels used for color balancing are often called color correcting gels, while gels used to stylize a scene or create a particular mood are often called theatricals. Large gels are usually held in place with a frame, with smaller lights they are usually attached to the barn doors using C-47s. See also diffusion, color correction gels.

Gel pack (a.k.a. jelly roll) is a storage device used for keeping and organizing sheets of gels and diffusion. They roll up and are fastened with a velcro strap for compact storage.

Gamma. The gamma curve is a correction to the contrast of a video image designed to correct for the fact that the intensity displayed on different devices is not related in a linear fashion to the relationship between illumination and the corresponding voltage in a video image. Some video cameras provide a choice between video gamma and cine gamma. With cine gamma the camera favors more shadow details at the expense of highlight details, providing an image that more closely resembles film. Visually the image feels lower in contrast with the shadows opened up quite a bit.

Gaze. A term referring to the exchange of looks that takes place in cinema as a result of applying psychoanalysis to cinema in an attempt to understand the spectator/screen relationship as well as the textual relationships within the film. Drawing on Freud’s theory of libido drives and Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage, various film scholars have explained how cinema works at the level of the unconscious. The spectator sits in a darkened room, desiring to look at the screen and deriving visual pleasure from what they see. Part of that pleasure is also derived from the narcissistic identification they feel with the person on the screen.

Genre. A type of motion picture, such as westerns or science-fiction films, which employs similar plots, narrative conventions, character types, and formulas.

Genre criticism. A type of film criticism that examines genre films to determine how they reflect or comment on social values.

German Expressionism. A film movement in Germany from 1919 through the mid-1920s characterized by the use of dramatic decor, lighting, and camera techniques to express strong feelings and inner experiences.

Gigabyte. 1 Billion bytes.

Glamor lighting (a.k.a. Hollywood lighting), A style characterized by a subtle, symmetrical, butterfly-shaped shadow beneath the subject’s nose. This is accomplished by placing both the key and fill lights high above the camera, with the fill below the key. It flatters people with high cheek bones, however, it tends to hollows out cheeks and eye sockets in some people. See also Rembrandt lighting, loop lighting, split lighting, and profile lighting.

Green screen. See Chroma key.

Grip arm. See Gobo arm.

Grip clip. A spring-load ed metal clip that comes in a variety of sizes and used for attaching things on the set (e.g. sound blankets to C-Stands, attaching two flags together, etc.)

Gobo. Anything that is placed between a lighting instrument and the subject with the goal of creating some kind of shadow or visual texture.

Gobo arm . A grip head mounted on the end of a ⅝” diameter, 30” long arm used as a device for holding sound blankets and other equipment. Consists of an arm with a grip head attached to the end and a second grip head that is used to attach the arm to any support device with a a baby pin. Gobo arms are usually found attached to a c-stand, however, they can be used in many other configurations. See grip head, c-stand.

Grip head (a.k.a. gobo head). A fully rotatable, adjustable clamp usually mounted on the top of a C-Stand and used to support a Gobo arm , equipment, or a sound blanket. Its core component is a gobo head, which accepts the pin on a flag or a ⅝-in. gobo arm. If you mount a baby pin in a grip head, you can then mount a small light on the end of a gobo arm. The grip head found on the end of a gobo arm is attached to the arm without a knob as pictured here. See gobo arm, c-stand.

Gray Card. A gray- colored card that reflects a known and uniform amount of the light (18%). Used as a reference to set exposure and calibrate light meters. In typical usage, 18% grey corresponds to 50% (or 50 IRE) in terms of video luminance. Good exposure is often defined as the exposure required to reproduce an 18% gray card in the scene as 50 to 55 IREs in the video signal. When placed at the head of a shot, they can be later used as a neutral reference when color grading, particularly valuable when very accurate color reproduction is required. See Macbeth color chart.

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H.264 (a.k.a. AVC (Advanced Video Coding), MPEG-4 Part 10) is a high quality and efficient (yet computer intensive) form of video compression used in Blu-ray Disc and web video services like YouTube and the iTunes Store. Due to its efficiency, it is being used by a growing number of tapeless cameras for storage of HD videos on P2 cards.

Halogen (a.k.a. Quartz Halogen or Quartz). Specialized  incandescent bulbs made with a quartz glass envelope filled with an inert gas mixed with a small amount of halogen (e.g. iodine or bromine). The halogen prevents darkening of the bulb by redepositing tungsten from the inside of the bulb back onto the filament. The filament burns at a higher temperature than a standard bulb which gives the light of a higher color temperature of 3200K compared to conventional incandescent devices. Another advantage is their smaller size, which makes it easier to design lighting instruments. Wait for halogen units to cool before moving them, when the filaments are hot they are very fragile. If you do need to move the light while it is on, use extreme care to move it slowly and gently. While LEDs may be rapidly replacing  halogen instruments, the are still a lot of halogen instruments in widespread use. See fresnel, open face.

Hand-held camera. A shot where a camera operator, rather than a tripod or a mechanical device, supports and moves the camera during filming.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface). An audio/video interface for transferring uncompressed video data and compressed or uncompressed digital audio data between HDMI-compliant devices, such as cameras, computers, monitors, video projectors, or video switchers. 

HDTV. High Definition Television. A television format with a aspect ratio of 16×9 (as opposed to the classic 4×3) and higher resolution. Rather than a single HDTV standard the FCC approved several different standards, allowing broadcasters to choose which to use. This means that HDTV television have to support all of them. All of the systems are broadcast as component digital. The New HDTV/SDTV standards include: HDTV 1920 x 1080 @ 30i or 30p or 24p frame rate with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio; HDTV 1280 x 720 @ 60p, 30p, 24p frame rate with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio; SDTV 720 x 483 @ 60p, 30p, 24p frame rate with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio; SDTV 640 x 480 @ 30i with a 4 x 3 aspect ratio (i = interlaced, p = progressive, scan).

Hertz (Hz). A unit for specifying the frequency of a signal, formerly called cycles per second (cps).

High-angle shot (H/A). A shot where the camera is tilted down at the subject.

High key. In high key lighting, the key light provides all or most of the light in the scene. See also key light, fill light.

Highboy. A heavy-duty rolling stand, usually with a combo head, that has a junior receiver and a large grip head. Also called overhead stands.

High-contrast lighting. A style of lighting which creates a stark contrast between bright light and heavy shadows. See also high-key lighting and low-key lighting.

High-key lighting. A style of lighting which creates bright, even illumination and relatively few shadows. See also high-contrast lighting and low-key lighting.

HMI. A high-technology daylight-balanced lighting instrument that requires the use of a special ballast, which makes them bulkier, however, they are very bright and efficient, yet quite expensive. Small HMI units (e.g. Kobold 575W HMI) using powerful batteries are often called “sun guns” and are used when daylight-balanced key or fill light is needed when shooting outdoors.

Hollywood. 1. A term used to describe the mainstream film industry of the United States. 2. The act of holding a gobo with your hands instead of using a C-Stand.

Hollywood montage. An editing device, often used in Hollywood films, condenses time or summarizes events in a rapid collection of shots.

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Import. The process of transferring digital audio files from the storage media used by a recording device into a non-linear editing system. See also Capture.

Incandescent. Light sources made with a filament of coiled tungsten wire in a glass bulb (filled with nitrogen or argon gas). When electric current passes through the filament, it glows (becoming incandescent, thus the name), emitting heat and light. The color temperature of incandescent bulbs is between 2700K to 2800K. The disadvantage of incandescent bulbs is they produce a lot of heat and are not energy efficient, on the other hand, you can easily dim them with a dimmer and they are inexpensive to purchase. See halogen.

Intensity. A term used to describe the brightness of a light source, often described in relation to other source as the contrast ratio. We often say things like, “the fill is two stops below the key,” which means that the fill has an intensity 25% of the key. Each “stop” is a halving or doubling of the intensity of the light.

Inverse square law. 1. Light: The intensity light from a point source falls off inversely to the square of the distance. Or, put another way, if you double the light source to subject distance, you end up with only a 1/4th of the original light intensity; 

In-camera editing. Editing done within the camera itself by selectively starting and stopping the camera for each shot.

Independent film. Any motion picture produced outside of a commercial film studio. The term applies generally to avant-garde, experimental, or underground, narrative, and documentary films made outside of the Hollywood establishment. Often the term implies independent vision as well as independent financing.

Insert. A shot of a detail edited into the main action of a scene. Also called an insert shot. See cut-away.

Intellectual montage. Editing intended to convey an abstract or intellectual concept by juxtaposing concrete images which suggest it. A good example of this can be found in Sergei Eisenstein’s October, in which the director juxtaposes Christian symbols with pagan idols in order to criticize the church. Eisenstein suggested that montage was the “explosion” which drives the film forward. In his writings, he used language like “film must plough the psyche of the viewer” and believed that artists were “the engineers of the soul.” This idea of the combination of ideas is absolutely essential to editing as we know it today, as more and more we see incredibly tight shots of objects and characters that require our minds to link together and create a meaning between the various shots. See Kuleshov effect.

Intercutting. See cross-cutting.

Intra-frame compression. Also called I-frame, with this compression technique each frame (the individual pictures that make up a movie) is compressed separately. In other words, the video is stored as a series of discrete pictures, and the compressor deals with each frame independently of the others around it. Intra-frame techniques are usually preferable to inter-frame for editing, since it is easier for the computer to decompress frames while editing, but it also produces bigger file sizes and thus may require a more hard drive storage to work with. An example of a codec using intra-frame compression is ProRes 422. See also Compression, Codec.

Inter-frame compression. When a codec uses an inter-frame compression technique the frames are not only compressed individually, but each frame relies on the frames around it in order to determine the most efficient way to encode the video. The codec typically looks at one frame, then looks at the next to see what’s changed, and records only the changes instead of the whole frame. Inter-frame is often used by cameras to fit more footage onto the recording media (a tape, card, or hard disk), but is more difficult to edit with, as the computer has to work harder at decoding the frames. While less storage is required, more computational power is required, and therefore when editing inter-frame codecs newer, faster computers are required. An example of a codec using intra-frame compression is H.264 codec, currently used in many cameras See also Codec, Compression.

Interlaced (interlaced scan video). A process in which the picture is split into two fields by sending all the odd numbered lines to field one and all the even numbered lines to field two. Field one is then displayed first, followed by field 2. This process was necessary in the early days of television broadcast when there was not enough bandwidth within a single television channel to send a complete frame fast enough to create a non-flickering image. Interlace introduces a problem called interline twitter in which areas with fine vertical detail will have a “twittering” motion. Another artifact is “stair-stepping” on diagonals. These artifacts are among the reasons professionals prefer to shoot progressive video formats. See also Field, Frame, Progressive scan video.

Interior monologue. See monologue.

Internegative (IN). A color or black and white negative duplicate made from a positive. Internegatives were used for optical effects as well as during 35mm release printing in order to protect the original negative from damage.

Interpositive (IP). A positive duplicate of film which is used for further printing, often used as an intermediate when creating optical effects.

Inkie. Nickname for a small (250 watt) Fresnel lighting instrument.

invisible editing. Editing made unobtrusive by carefully cutting on action or matching action between shots. Also called invisible cutting.

Italian Neo-realism. See Neo-realism.

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J-cut. See L-cut.

Jelly roll. See gel pack.

Jet. 1. An type of aircraft that sometimes flies over the set. 2. To leave the set quickly after the shoot.

Jib arm. A mechanical arm that is supported on a tripod, dolly, or another device, which is counterweighted to hold a camera for an increased range of motion.

JPEG. Joint Photographic Experts Group. A lossy standard for compressing still images. JPEG-2000 provides lossless compression. See PNG.

Juicer: Slang for an electrician on the set.

Jump cut. The opposite of a match cut, an abrupt transition between shots which disrupts (often deliberately) the continuity of time or space within a scene. When cuts are made between shots that don’t have at least a 30˚ angle change, they appear more as jumps rather than seamless cuts. Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless introduced a whole new way of thinking about jump cuts, which mark a transition in time and space but it jars the viewer’s sensibilities.  

Junior. A 2K fresnel lighting instrument. See junior pin.

Junior pin. Refers to 1-1/8-in. pins used for mounting larger lights designed to fit into standard 1-1/8-in. receivers. The pin gets its name from “Junior,” the slang for a 2K Fresnel instrument, a widely used fixture in studio lighting before the advent of LED and fluorescent technology. You will encounter junior pins in the studio, but all of the lights you’ll encounter in portable lighting kits are designed to mount on baby pins.

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Kelvin (K). The unit of measurement used for absolute temperatures and color temperatures.

Key. 1. Lighting: Short for key light. See:  Key light, Three-point lighting. 2. Post: In digital compositing, a key (a.k.a.  matte or mask) is a greyscale image in which black pixels representing transparency, white pixels representing full opacity, and grey pixels representing varying levels of opacity. See: Chroma key.

Keyer. Software (used in post-production special effects) or a hardware device (used for real-time processing, e.g. weather broadcasts) used to insert data into the video stream based upon a key in order to overlay video, titles, or logos over another video stream. They key itself may be generated by the keyer or an external software process or hardware device. See Key, Chroma key.

Keying. Refers to the process of compositing two images together using a key.  The key determines which pixels in the final image should be taken from the foreground image and which pixels should be taken from the background image. See: Matte, Key, Chroma key.

Key grip. The chief grip who works directly with the gaffer in creating shadow effects for set lighting and who supervises dollies, cranes, and other platforms and supporting structures in response to the requests of the director of photography.

Key light. The primary light source illuminating a subject. Often placed at a 45 degree angle to the camera-subject axis, the key is the source providing shape and definition to the subject. The key need not come from in front of the subject. We often talk about a side key or a side-back key. In a moving shot, the subject may move in and out of multiple key lights. See also high key and low key.

Key numbers. Numbers and barcodes placed on the edge of the film stock by the manufacturer in order to provide a unique identification every 16 frames in 35mm and every 20 frames in 16mm. These numbers can be read by a telecine to facilitate synchronization with audio elements and are also used to facilitate match-back with a digital non-linear editing system.

Kick. An object with a shine or reflection on it from another object.

Kicker. A light source that strikes a subject from the side and back (often called a three-quarter backlight). The term may also used for any light A kicker is different from a backlight in that it bounces off the side of the subject. See backlight.

Kilobyte. One thousand bytes. Actually 1,024 bytes because computer storage is measured using base 2 (binary) number system with each digit’s value based on a power of 2 (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1,024) rather than base 10 based on powers of 10 (1, 10, 100, 1,000) which is our everyday number system.

Kiss. A light that gently brushes a subject.

Kuleshov effect. An effect named for Lev Kuleshov, who ran a school that Sergei Eisenstein attended. Kuleshov conducted a famous experiment in which he took footage of actor Ivan Mosjoukine making a neutral face and cut it together with various other images. For example, the clip opened with the actor making a neutral face, cut to a baby crying, and then cut back to the actor. When audiences were asked about the actor’s performance, they raved that he had shown such subtle emotion—that you could see the feeling in his face. A separate audience was shown the same clip, only with the baby replaced by a bowl of soup, and the audience claimed that the actor was clearly hungry. The Kuleshov effect forms the foundation of intellectual montage which according to Eisenstein is the highest form of montage, based on the idea that two images, when presented in juxtaposition, created a third and entirely new idea. Editor Ralph Rosenblum writes that Eisenstein “illustrated his point with Oriental hieroglyphic writing, in which two symbols were joined to make an entirely new idea. Such was the case, for instance, when the symbols for eye and water were combined to yield ‘crying’” (Rosenblum, 1979, p. 48).

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L-Cut. An edit in which the in (or out) points of the video and audio are different. This is often done to have audio lead the video, in other words, you hear some one start to talk before you see them. In a J-cut, the sound of the next shot precedes the picture, and in an L-cut, the image changes but the audio continues. The names come from these patterns: when the audio cut comes first, it forms a J shape in the timeline and when the audio cut follows the picture cut, it forms an L shape in the timeline. Some old timers may use the term video or picture advance and audio advance to describe these edits.

Latitude. The range between overexposure and underexposure in which a film will still produce usable images. See dynamic range.

LCD. A solid state technology used for image display, short for Liquid Crystal Display. See CRT.

Leader. 1. A length of non-image film which is used for threading, identification, cueing, or fill-in purposes; 2. a length of non-image video used for identification, fill-in, or cueing purposes.

Leatherman. The brand-name of a popular multi-purpose tool that’s handy to have with you on the set in the event you need access to a screwdriver, knife, pliers, file, etc., thus saving you a trip to the tool box, another popular brand is Gerber.

LED (Light Emitting Diode). Semiconductor devices that are are very efficient at converting electricity into light, with very little heat dissipation when compared to incandescent and quartz halogen and HMI units. Their cost has dropped rapidly and LED units can be found in a wide range of configurations including daylight or tungsten balanced grids, color-changing units, and fresnels. Their high-intensity output relative to their low energy requirement makes them easy to run with batteries. The Lowel Blender (pictured here) is an example of small LED lights you can be easily power from batteries and allows you dial in how much daylight or tungsten light you want, making it easy to match with other light sources with the twist of a dial. The combination of small size, relative high intensity, and the option of using battery power makes LEDs ideal for on-the-go documentary work.

Lens. An assembly of several pieces of precision ground glass through which light rays are focused to create an image on film or imaging device. See normal lens, telephoto lens, wide-angle lens, zoom lens.

Lens aperture. See Aperture.

Lexan. An optically clear, hard plastic sheeting material, available in varying widths, used to protect camera crew from splashes, debris from explosions, etc.

Letterbox. Placing a widescreen image (e.g. 16×9, 1.85:1, or cinemascope) within a 4×3 frame by placing black bands at the top and bottom of the screen. Also refers to the process of placing wide images in a 16×9 frame. See Curtain.

Level.  The intensity of the luminance level of a video signal,.

Light. Electromagnetic radiation in the range of wavelengths visible to the human eye (about 400–700 nm). We shape, cut, color, and modify light in order to enhance the emotional power of our work, to draw attention to particular aspects of the scene, evoke a specific time period and/or location, and so much more. Light from the sun is actually a mix of colors. When sunlight light passes through a prism, the various wavelengths are bent by different amounts, and thus a rainbow is formed showing the range of spectral colors visible to the human eye. See additive color, subtractive color.

Lighting cameraman (sic). Another term for cinematographer.

Limbo lighting. A style of film lighting which eliminates background light and isolates the subject against a completely dark (or neutral) field. A classic example of limbo lighting is George Lucas’ THX-1138.

Live action. Film action with living people and real things, rather than creating action by animation.

Location shooting. Filming in an actual setting with all sorts of noise problems, either outdoors or indoors, rather than in a quiet, controlled motion picture studio.

Long shot (LS). A shot that shows a fairly wide view of a subject within its setting. A long shot of a person typically includes his entire body and much of his surroundings.

Long take. A take (shot) of lengthy duration.

Loop. Film footage spliced tail to head in order to run continuously. Also called film loop. 

Loop lighting. A variation of glamor lighting in which the key light is lowered and moved farther to the side of the subject so that the shadow under the nose forms a loop on the shadow side of the face. See also glamor lighting, Rembrandt lighting, split lighting, and profile lighting.

Low-angle shot (L/A). A shot in which the camera is tilted up at the subject.

Low contrast original (low con). An original reversal film designed to produce prints having good projection contrast.

Lowboy. A heavy duty rolling stand, usually fitted with a combo head, but not as tall as a highboy.

Low key lighting. In low key lighting, the key light provides much less of the total illumination. See also key light, fill light.

Luminance. 1. A measure of brightness. 2. The portion of a video signal that encodes brightness information (not color). See Chrominance.

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Macbeth color chart (or simply, Macbeth chart).  A standard color reference for testing and calibration and a handy tool for experimenting with both exposure and color reproduction. The chart consists of color chips and a a six chip gray scale that is specially formulated to provide an accurate and repeatable color reference.  See grey card.

Machine leader. Leader threaded through a film processing machine which is used to pull film through the machine during its operation.

Mafer clamp (a.k.a. photo clamp). A clamp combining one flat and one v-notched grip in their padded jaw. Used to attach fixtures and equipment to pipes and a variety of irregular objects. They accept a baby pin from which you can attach a small light or other piece of equipment.

Masking. 1. Blocking out part of an image, usually at the edges of the frame, thus altering the size or the shape of the frame projected on the screen. See Curtains, Letterbox;

Master (print master). A positive film print made for the purpose of duplication.

Master shot. A single shot, usually a long shot or a full shot, which provides an overview of the action in a scene. This shots provides the editor something to fall back on when the other coverage is not working, thus it’s also called the cover shot.

Match cut. The opposite of a jump cut within a scene. Match cuts make sure that there is a spatial-visual logic between the different camera positions within a scene so that where the camera moves to, and the angle of the camera, makes visual sense to the viewer. Eyeline matching is integral to match cuts, the first shot shows a character looking at something off-screen, the second shot shows what is being looked at. See matching action, eyeline match.

Match dissolve. A dissolve linking images which have similar content.

Match-image cut. A cut from one shot to another shot having an image with the same general configuration or location of a specific object as the prior shot.

Matching (impedance matching). With audio equipment, arranging for the impedances presented by a load to be equal to the internal impedance of the generator. This is essential to avoid loss of power. In microphones, the loss results in an increase in the signal-to-noise ratio (added noise). Matching is accomplished by using a transformer.

Matching action. Cutting together different shots of an action on a common gesture or movement in order to make the action appear continuous on the screen. See continuity editing, match cut.

Matte. Refers to an image mask used specifically to control which parts of the image an effect will be applied to. A black & white high contrast image that suppresses or cuts a hole in the background picture to allow the picture the matte was made from to seamlessly fit in the hole. The term originated during the era of optical printing of film. See Chroma key.

Matte shot. A type of special effects shot in which part of a scene is masked so that other action or background/foreground images, photographed separately, can be added later in a compositing program or non-linear editing system. Often the mask is created from the background which is an evenly lit blue or green background. The shot with a person or object shot against blue or green screen is referred to as the beauty, in contrast to the background image it will be composited with. See Traveling matte.

Maxi-brute. A 9 light unit with 1K Watt PAR 64 lights designed for lighting large areas. A choice of bulbs is available with either 3200K or 5000K color temperature. Bulb options  include wide flood (WFL), medium flood (MFL), narrow spot (NSP) and very narrow spot (VNSP), a.k.a. a Molepar (Mole-Richardson trade name).

Meat axe. A grip arm accessory with a gobo head at the end of the arm designed to clamp onto the hand rail of a studio catwalk or another suitable object.

Medium shot (MS). A relatively close shot that shows part of a person or object in some detail. A medium shot of a person typically frames a character from the waist, hips or knees up (or down). The camera is distanced such that the character is seen in relation to their surroundings (e.g. in a dining room). In comparison to close-ups, it’s a more open shot in terms of readability, showing considerably more of the surroundings in relation to the character or characters in the frame. Typically, characters will occupy half to two-thirds of the frame and the shot is commonly used in indoor sequences allowing for a reading of the relationship between characters. Compared to close-ups, the characters can be seen in relation to different planes (background, middle ground, and foreground) which serves to produce more information from which the viewer can derive meaning from the shot.

Megabyte (MB). Put simply, 10002 bytes. The unit prefix mega is a multiplier of 1,000,000 (106), thus, 1MB = 1,048,576 bytes (1,0242 bytes). Why is this different than base 10? Computers work with binary (base 2) numerals, thus bytes (8 binary digits) are multiplied by powers of 2.

Melodrama. A play or film based on a romantic plot and developed sensationally, with little regard for convincing motivation and with strong appeal to the emotions of the audience.

Method acting. A naturalistic style of acting taught by the Russian actor-director, Konstantin Stanislavsky, where the actor identifies closely with the character to be portrayed. Also called the Stanislavsky Method.

Mickey. Slang for an open face 1K lighting instrument. The name comes from the Mickey-Mole, a trade name for a unit manufactured by Mole-Richardson. See redhead.

Montage. 1. The assembly of a sequence of shots that portray an action or ides through the use of many short shots in rapid succession, see Hollywood montage; 2. Another term used to describe editing; 3. Eisenstein’s idea that adjacent shots should relate to each other in such a way that A and B combine to produce a new meaning meaning, C, which is not actually recorded on the film, it is through the collision of shots that new meaning is created in editing.

MOS. Shooting image without recording sound.See the Sound glossary for more on MOS.

Motif. A recurrent thematic element in an artistic object.

Motivated lighting. A lighting style in which the light sources imitate sources such as practical lamps, windows, the moon, or other sources of illumination that exist in the story world.

Moviola. A trade name for an old-style upright film editing machine.

Mise en scène. A French term for “putting-in-the-scene,” refers to what is colloquially known as “the set,” however, more generally mise en scène refer to everything that is presented before the camera to produce intended effects, as opposed to editing.

MPEG.  Moving Picture Experts Group. A standard for compressing  moving pictures. MPEG-1 uses a data rate of 1.2 Mbps (Mega Bits per Second), the speed of CD-ROM. MPEG-2 supports much higher quality with a data rate (a.k.a. bit rate) from 2 to 10 Mpbs. MPEG-2 is the format specified in the DVD standard and is also used as a camera recording format (e.g. HDV). MPEG-4 is a lower data rate version used for web video and mobile devices. For web video, the H.264 codec within a MPEG-4 wrapper is widely used.

Multiple exposure. See double exposure.

Multiple-image shot. A shot that includes two or more separately photographed images within the frame.

Multi-screen projection. Projecting motion picture or video images simultaneously on more than one screen. Sometimes called multi channel projection.

Musical. A film genre that incorporates song and dance routines into the film story. Also called musical film.

Music and effects track. See ME track.

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Narration. 1. Production: Information or commentary spoken directly to the audience rather than indirectly through dialogue, often by an anonymous “voice of god” off-screen voice. See voice-over.  2. Narratology: The process through which a story is told, as opposed to the story itself.

Narrative montage. Editing that constructs a story with images by arranging shots in a carefully sequenced order. See montage.

Naturalism. A style of filmmaking which is starkly realistic and which avoids any semblance of artifice.

Negative image. A photographic image in which dark and light tones are reversed, with dark areas appearing light on the screen and light areas appearing dark.

Neo-realism. An Italian film movement after World War II characterized by starkly realistic, humanistic stories and documentary-like camera style. Neo-realistic films were generally shot on location, using available lighting and non-professional actors. Also called Italian Neo-realism.

Newsreel. A type of short film that presents a compilation of timely news stories.

Net. Used for reducing the intensity of light. They consist of a 3-sided metal frame holding fabric scrim material. Available in single (green edge) and double (red edge) variations, cutting light by 1/2 stop and 1 stop respectively.  Nets come in a wide rage of sizes (in the same options as flags) and attach to a grip head. See silk, flag.

Neutral Density (ND). A colorless filter that reduces the intensity of the light entering the camera. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera. Many video cameras have built-in ND filters, usually in the increments of 1/4 (2 stops or ND2), 1/16 (4 stops or ND4); 1/64 (6 stops or ND6).

NLE (Non-Linear Editor). A video editing system characterized by digital storage and random access. Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Sony Vegas are examples of contemporary non-linear editors. Today we take it for granted, but at the dawn of the digital age the term came into use to differentiate digital editing from videotape machine-based editing systems in which the assembly process was linear in nature (edits were performed using two tape machines, one a source deck, and the other a record deck, and edit masters were assembled in a linear fashion, since you could not ripple edits once laid down on tape.

Noise. Unwanted artifacts introduced into a video system, e.g. increasing the ISO sensitivity of. video camera will increase the visibility of noise.

Non-fiction film. Any film that does not employ an invented plot or characters. Often used to describe films that are different from a documentary. See documentary.

Normal lens. A camera lens that shows a subject without significantly exaggerating or reducing depth of field in a shot. Neither wide nor telephoto, typically has around a 45 degree angle of view. The perspective of a normal lens approximates that of the human eye. The actual focal length of a normal lens is determined by the size of the imaging sensor. In 35mm still photography the 50mm lens is considered normal, and many lenses specify their “35mm equivalence” in their descriptions because 35mm still photography is the most widely understood standard in terms of relating perspective and angle of view to focal length.

NTSC. National Television Standards Committee. The analog broadcast television and video standard in use in the United States. NTSC broadcast is scheduled to be turned off in 2009. Consists of 525 horizontal lines at a field rate of 60 fields per second. (Two fields equals one complete Frame). Only 487 of these lines are used for picture. The rest are used for sync or extra information such as VITC and Closed Captioning.

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Obie light. Another term for eye light. See eye light.

Oblique angle. See Dutch angle.

Octave. The interval between two sounds having a basic frequency ratio of 2:1.

Off-line editing. Working with a low resolution version of your video on an inexpensive editing system. This allows you to make creative decisions at lower cost and with greater flexibility in comparison to working with an expensive, full-featured,  high-performance editing system. Even though today we can edit full-quality video on a laptop, the distinction of off-line and on-line editing is sometimes used to differentiate editing from the final grading and mastering process. See on-line.

On-line editing. An editing system used to create a final video master. In the “old days” this involved access to an expensive suite that contained a special editing computer, video monitors, a video switcher, an audio mixer, a digital video effects (DVE) device, a character generator (for making titles), and several expensive video tape machines. Today you can online on a laptop and a good reference monitor, though on higher-budget projects the distinction between off-line and on-line is still made, since the final color grading, special effects work, and mastering might be done on higher-end computers.

On location. Also called shooting on location. See location shooting.

Open face. Refers to lighting instruments consisting of a halogen bulb and a reflector. Sometimes these units will includes a flood/spot adjustment other times not. These units (e.g. Lowel Omni and Lowel Tota) are quite harsh when used alone, however, they make a good key or fill when fitted with some diffusion or bounced off a reflective surface like an umbrella. They are also good as a general broad background light. They are being slowly replaced by LED units as the cost drop and the brightness rise. See fresnel, halogen, LED.

Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). A technique for eliminating some of the shake from hand-held shooting by compensating for the angular pan and tilt movement of the camera. In most implementations, it works by using a special lens element that moves orthogonally to the optical axis of the lens using electromagnets. Camera vibration is detected by piezoelectric gyroscopic sensors, one detects horizontal movement and the other to detects vertical movement. Various vendors use a trade name for OIS, for example, Sony calls it Super Steady Shot. See also Electronic Image Stabilization.

Off-screen space. Space beyond the camera’s field of view which nevertheless the audience is aware of.

Out-take. Any footage deleted from a film during editing; more specifically, a shot or scene that is removed from a film before the final cut.

Overcrank. To run film stock through the camera faster than the standard speed of 24 fps, producing slow motion on the screen when the film is projected at standard speed.  Also used to describe the analogous effect in a video camera. See Undercrank.

Overhead shot. A shot photographed from directly overhead, a.k.a. bird’s eye view.

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Packaging. The process of putting together the key elements of a major motion picture including the script, director, actors, and often some of the financing before the project is taken to a major studio. Agencies receive a fee from the studio for putting together packages.

PAL. Phase Alternating Line. The standard definition television and video standard in most of Europe. Consists of 625 horizontal lines at a field rate of 50 fields per second. (Two fields equals one complete Frame). Only 576 of these lines are used for picture. The rest are used for sync or extra information such as VITC and Closed Captioning.

Pan. Short for “panorama.” 1. A shot where the camera pivots horizontally, turning from left to right or from right to left, a.k.a. panning shot. A panning shot is sometimes confused with a tracking shot. 2. Moving the camera from left to right or right to left around the imaginary vertical axis that runs through the camera.

Parallel action. See cross-cutting.

Parallel editing. See cross-cutting.

Petabyte. 10005 bytes. Today multiple-Terabyte drives are common, tomorrow the petabyte?

Pixel. Picture Element. The basic unit from which a digital image is made. Essentially a dot with a given color and brightness value. For example, high definition (HD) video images are usually 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Pixilation. A type of film animation in which real objects or people are photographed frame by frame in order to make them appear to move abruptly or magically when the film is projected. See also stop motion.

Photo clamp. See mafer clamp.

Point-of-view shot (POV). A shot taken from the vantage point of a character or object. Also called a first-person shot or subjective camera shot.

Porta Pak. The Sony CV 2400 Porta Pak ensemble first became available in 1968. It consisted of a lightweight portable video camera and a recorder you could carry on your shoulder. Video sequences up to 20 minutes could recorded on a single magnetic tape. It was possible to play the video after connecting the recorder to a television set. The Porta Pak was widely used by video artists through the 1970s.

Post-production. The phase in a project that takes place after the production phase, or “after the production.” Included in post-production is picture editing, sound editing, scoring, sound effects editing, sound design, motion graphics, titles, color grading, sound mix, mastering, etc.

Practical. An ordinary household lighting unit that appear in the frame.

Process shot. A shot in which “live” foreground action is photographed against a background image projected on a translucent screen.

Production value. A nebulous term used to describe the visual quality or professional look of a movie. A significant yet invisible component of production value is the quality of the sound.

Production still. A photograph taken of a scene for promotional purposes, not to be confused with a frame enlargement reproduced from actual film or video footage.

Profile Lighting (a.k.a. rim lighting). Used for dramatic effect. The back of the subject’s head is in shadow while the illumination from the key and fill lights come from the side. See also glamor lighting, Rembrandt lighting, loop lighting, and split lighting.   

Progressive scan video. An image scanning system where each line is displayed progressively (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 …) in contrast to interlaced scanning, consisting of two fields: the first field (lines 1, 3, 5, 7 … ) and then a second field (lines 2, 4, 6, 8, …). Computer monitors use progressive scan. The HDTV standard includes several progressive scan options. Video has historically been 60i (60 interlaced fields per second, 30 frames per second). The Panasonic DVX100 was the first prosumer camera to provide 24p and 30p progressive scan. Today, many video cameras offer a progressive scan option. Progressive scan offers an image that is well suited for web video and for display on computer monitors and flat-screen displays. The Panasonic can be used to shoot true 24p progressive using 24pA (24p advanced) mode in which the  progressive frames are recorded onto interlaced video using a 2:3:3:2 cadence which is then unravelled back into 24p by the editing software. This can be tricky. Unless you’re working with legacy footage or want to shoot with a legacy camera, it’s best to avoid 24pA.

Prop. Any movable item used on a theater or film set. Short for property.

Pull back. 1. A tracking shot that moves away from the subject to reveal additional context. 2. To reduce the intensity of a filter or effect on a shot, e.g. “pull back on the blur.”

Pull focus. To change the focus of a lens during a shot in order to follow a specific object or person. See rack focus.

Puppet film. An animated film in which inanimate objects or figures are manipulated and photographed frame by frame in order to make them appear to move when the film is projected.

Pure cinema. A type of experimental film that explores the purely visual possibilities of cinema rather than narrative possibilities. Also called pure film.

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Q – R

Quality. A term used to describe the characteristics of a light source primarily as hard, semi-hard, or soft. The quality of the source depends on the size of the source relative to the subject. Direct sun behaves like a point source, this it is very hard, casting crisp shadows, with very little wrap around a face. On the other hand, a large window facing the northern sky without direct sunlight is a very large soft source, casting soft shadows and wrapping gently around a face. We can also think of quality in broader terms beyond hard/soft, direct/indirect, sourcy/ambient, chiaroscuro/flat, strong/gentle, crisp/wrapping, focused/general, etc. The quality of light along with the contrast ratio are highly influential in setting the mood and atmosphere of a scene.

Rack focus (a.k.a. shift focus or focus pull). To change the focus of a lens during a shot in order to call attention to a specific object or person, the technique involves shallow depth of field to direct the attention of the viewer from one subject to another. Focus is “pulled,” or changed, to shift the focus plane, sometimes rapidly.

RAW. An image format that consists of the raw image data collected from an image sensor with little or no additional processing. Requires processing in post production for use as an image with proper color rendition and tonal response. Cinema cameras typically offer a RAW mode, and the Red digital cinema camera provides the equivalent of RAW images, unlike standard video cameras that record raw data off the image sensor but then throw away a substantial amount of image information in the conversion to a standard video format.

Reaction shot. A shot that shows a character’s reaction to what has occurred in the previous shot.

Realism. A style of filmmaking which endeavors to depict physical reality much as it appears in the everyday world. Typical realistic techniques include the prominent use of long shots, eye-level camera angles, lengthy takes, naturalistic lighting and sound effects, and unobtrusive editing. See expressionism.

Rembrandt lighting. Characterized by a triangular shaped highlight on the cheek of the shadow-side of the subject’s face with the key coming practically from the side of the subject. See also glamor lighting, loop lighting, split lighting, and profile lighting.

Resolution. The amount of detail in an image. Higher resolution equals more detail. Also used to describe the size of an image, usually in pixels, e.g. a full high definition video frame consists of 1920 x 1080 pixels, but may also be 1280×720. Standard definition is 720 x 480.

Resolution independent. A term to describe equipment or software that can work in more than resolution. Some equipment and software work with only certain video resolutions, but newer equipment and software are resolution independent (e.g. Adobe Premiere Pro CC, DaVinci Resolve, and Final Cut Pro X are able to work at various resolutions including standard definition video, high definition video, 4K, and beyond.).

Reverse angle (R/A). A shot where the camera is placed opposite its position in the previous shot, “reversing” its view of the scene. In a dialogue scene, a shot of the second actor.

Reverse motion. Action that moves backward on the screen, achieved by reversing film footage during editing or printing in reverse with an optical printer, or as an effect in a non-linear editing system.

RGB. Red, Green, Blue. The additive primary colors of light. Computers, video cameras, scanners, and similar devices typically process images using separate red, green, and blue color channels. For example, a three CCD cameras has a CCD sensors for each primary. Single chip cameras have microscopic red, green, and blue filters on the pixels arranged in a Bayer pattern.

Rim. A light source from the back and to the side that helps create definition. Often a rim is called a kicker if it is on a person’s face, and rim is used to describe the effect on an object. But the terms are imprecise at best and are often intermixed.

Room tone. See Ambient noise.

Rough cut. An early version of a film in which shots and sequences are roughly assembled but not yet finely edited together for the final cut.

Run and gun. A style of video and audio production that is fast, unpredictable, and often involves covering action in multiple locations in a short amount of time. A great deal of documentary and broadcast journalism is done in this manner.

Running time. The duration of a finished film.

Russian montage (a.k.a. soviet montage). A style of editing, typical of prominent Soviet filmmakers in the 1920s including Sergei Eisenstein which employs dynamic cutting techniques to evoke strong emotional, and even physical, reactions to film images.

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Sand bags (a.k.a. beach) are used to stabilize light stand or C-stands by making it a lot harder to tip them over. An important safety consideration, especially when using larger lighting instruments. Sa nd bags have a handle and a built-in fold which makes it easier to get them to drape over the legs of stands. When using a sand bag with a C-stand, put the bag on the leg that is highest from the ground and opposite the weight on the gobo arm. Sandbags are available in various weights, typically 25 or 35 lbs. Smaller bags with lead shot instead of sand are referred to as shot bags.

Scene. A complete unit of cinematic narration. A series of shots (or a single shot) that takes place in a single location encompassing a single action. Sometimes scene used interchangeably with sequence. See also shot.

Score. Original music composed specifically for a film and usually recorded after the film has been edited.

Screen direction. An extension of the 180º rule. When a character is moving left to right in one shot, we expect them to continue to move left to right in the next shot because this is how we perceive day-to-day life. All action should be matched between shots in order to be more convincing and to provide the editor with the greatest flexibility in cutting. Just as with the 180º rule, though, this can be changed if a character changes direction while within the frame, and breaking the rule can increase dramatic tension if done skillfully. See continuity.

Screenplay. A written document describing the action, dialogue, setting, and critical components of the camerawork, lighting, sound effects, and music of a motion picture.  A screenplay always refers to a script written for a screen (movie, television, web, etc.) while a script may also apply to a theatre play, video game, radio program, etc.

Screen time. The time covered by the story in a film, as opposed to its running time.

Script. See screenplay.

SD (Standard Definition). A legacy video resolution (usually 525/60i) that has all but been replaced by high definition (HD) video.

Selective focus. See rack focus.

Semiology. A theory of film criticism which views cinema as a language or linguistic system that conveys meaning via signs or symbolic codes. Also called semiotics.

Senior spot. A spotlight with 5,000 Watts of illuminating power; also called a fiver.

Sequence. A unit of film composed of interrelated shots or scenes, usually leading up to a dramatic climax.

Set-up. The positioning of the camera and lights for a specific shot. Each repositioning of the camera is a new set-ups. We often talk about having completed a certainly number of set-ups per day..

Setting. The location for a film or a scene in a film.

Shaky cam. A shooting technique that follows a subject giving the audience a frantic or documentary feel using one or more of the following approaches: a hand-held camera, a  camera attached to ropes, or a camera attached to a piece of lumber held on each side by a camera operator or some other similar configuration. Great examples of effective shaky-cam footage can be found in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and the Cohen Brother’s Blood Simple.

Shift focus. See rack focus.

Shooting ratio. The amount of video footage shot compared to the length of the film’s final cut.

Shot. 1. A single, continuous run of the camera. The images recorded by the camera from the time the camera starts until the time it stops with a particular framing in relation to the subject. 2. A particular framing of a subject vis-à-vis the distance between the camera and the subject, commonly divided into seven categories: extreme close-up (XCU or ECU), close-up (CU), medium close-up (MCU), medium shot (MS),  medium long shot (MLS), long shot (LS), extreme long shot (XLS or ELS). Shots can be subjective or objective: the closer the shot, the more subjective, the more the meaning is inscribed from within the shot. Conversely, the longer the distance of the shot the more objective it is, the greater the participation of the spectator or reader in deriving the meaning of the shot, as it suggests openness and the presence of someone looking. 3. The relative angle between the subject and camera, e.g. high-angle or low angle, each will evoke a different reading: from a low angle a subject may appear more menacing, while from a high-angle it may appear more vulnerable.  4. The terms one-, two-, and three-shots are used to describe shots with one, two, or three actors or subjects in the frame, usually of the  medium close-up or medium shot variety.

Shooting ratio. The amount of film or video footage shot compared to the final running time of the work.

Shooting script. The script that the director, cinematographer, actors, etc. use during the actual filming.

Shot. A single, continuous run of the camera. The images recorded by the camera from the time the camera starts until the time it stops.

Shot analysis. Close and thorough study of the separate shots that make up a scene, sequence, or film. Also called shot-by-shot analysis.

Show card. Sheets of cardboard available in a range of surfaces (including white, gray, black, matte silver, shiny silver, matte gold shiny gold) used as a reflective surface or to block light.

Shutter. 1. The mechanical device on a motion picture camera that shields the film from light at the aperture during filming. Some shutters have a variable angle adjustment allowing the camera operator to vary the exposure time. The smaller the shutter angle, the crisper the image and the more “strobe like” its appearance. Used to good effect in Saving Private Ryan.  Lowering the frame rate of a film camera and step printing provides an effect very similar to show shutter on a video camera, in which the image update happens less often than 24 times per second and each frame exhibits motion blur. 2. On a video camera an electronic device that varies the effective shutter speed of the camera. Fast shutter provides crisp frames and the more “strobe like” its appearance. Slow shutter increases motion blur providing an effect very similar to lowering the frame rate and step printing, in other words, a single image is translated to multiple frames, with the appearance of motion blur when the camera moves. You have to experiment with the slow shutter of your video camera and see the effect for yourself.

Sider. A flag placed on the side of a lighting instrument in order to block the light. See flag.

Signal. 1. Video: The variation over time of a wave whereby information is conveyed in a form by which luminance and color information is represented as electronic voltage changes over time, this signal is often viewed using a waveform monitor for exposure evaluation; 

Signal to noise ratio (S/N). The ratio of the desired signal to unwanted noise in a video recording system.

Sight gag. A visual joke; a piece of non-verbal comic business in a film.

Silk. Uses the same metal frame as a net, however, they are made with diffusion material and do a nice job of turning a hard light source into a soft light source. Silks come in a wide rage of sizes and attach to a grip head. See flag, net.

Single channel. 1. In video art, a work that requires only a single monitor or projector to present the work, see multichannel; 2. To record only one channel of audio, see mono.

Slapstick comedy. Broad comedy that is characterized by violent physical action. It is both a genre (popular during the era of silent cinema), and an element found in comedies that persists to this day. The name originated from the Italian batacchio, a club-like object consisting of two wooden slats used in commedia dell’arte (mid-15th to mid-17th century), from which the genre evolved. When struck, the battacchio produces a loud smacking noise, though little force transfers from the object to the person being struck, allowing actors to hit each other with little or no physical damage but a strong aural effect. Examples include: One A.M. (1916), The Gold Rush (1925), There’s Something About Mary (1998), and Stuck on You (2003).

Slate. 1. Production: A device used to place an identifier in front of the camera at the beginning of a take. When shooting double system sound in the days of film, the clapping motion and the clapping sound was used to synchronize the audio to the picture in post production; 2. Architecture: A good roofing material that can last well over a hundred years and will never become part of the landfill problem.

Slow motion. Shots photographed faster than the standard recording speed so that the action on the screen appears to move slower than normal when shown at standard speed. See fast motion.

Smash cut. A jarring transition between two actions occurring at different times or places. Also called a shock cut. 

Smash zoom. A fast jarring zoom into a specific detail or object in a scene.

SMPTE count down. Film leader with visual calibrations in one-second intervals used to lead into the film proper. Also called film leader. The classic number countdown you’ve probably seen many times is known as the “SMPTE count down” after the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the standards organization which developed the count down leader.

Snake. 1. A multi-channel audio cable intended for use with microphone and/or line level signals. See ENG snake; 2. A producer who does not treat their crew honestly and with respect.

Soft box (a.k.a. Chimera Lightbank, or simply Chimera, a brand name). A device you attach to a lighting instrument turning a hard light source into a source of soft, controlled light. When taken apart they are very compact, and very large when assembled. The larger the soft box, the softer the light they produce.

Soft focus. Blurring the sharpness of a film image with a special lens or a gauze over the lens in order to diffuse or “soften” hard edges; used especially for close-ups to make the human face look more sensual or glamorous.

Special effects (FX). Shots which are unobtainable by straightforward filming techniques and may require special models, compositing, computer modeling, etc. The term also applies to most pyrotechnic and ballistic effects in a film.

Spike tape. 1/2-in. gaffer tape usually used for spiking positions on the set (thus the name). See gaffer tape.

Split Lighting. When the key light illuminates only half of the subject’s face, with the effect of narrowing a wide nose and when used with a weak fill it can hide facial imperfections. See also glamor lighting, Rembrandt lighting, loop lighting, and profile lighting.

Split-screen. Division of the frame into two or more separate areas for images, typically done as a special effect in post-production.

Spotlight. A bright light source used to emphasize a performer in theatre or performance lighting situations.

Spotting. In scoring and sound effects editing the process of spotting is used to identify the specific scenes or points where music cues or effects cues take place.

Stanislavsky Method. See method acting.

Star system. A system developed in the early days of Hollywood to market movies based on the appeal of popular actors and actresses, “movie stars,” who were under contract with motion picture studios to play leading roles in their productions.

Steadicam. A camera stabilization device invented by Garret Brown which brings together the qualities of moving hand-held camerawork and the smoothness of a supported camera. The camera is mounted on a sled that lowers the center-of-gravity of the camera. The sled connects to a spring-loaded mechanical arm that replicates the function of a human arm. The arm, in turn, connects to a vest that redistributes the weight of the camera to the hips of the camera operator. A video monitor on the sled allows the cam era operator to frame the shot. The steadicam insulates the camera from the operator’s movements, for example, the camera can glide smoothly even though the operator is doing something like walking up and down stairs. The steadicam shot is a standard staple in major motion pictures (appearing for the first time in Rocky), however, Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark takes the cake: it’s a single 90 minute steadicam shot!

Still. See Production still.

Stock footage. See archival footage.

Stop-motion photography. Filming real objects or live action by starting and stopping the camera, rather than by running the camera continuously, in order to create pixilation, trick-film effects, or time-lapse photography. Also called stop-action photography.

Storyboard. A series of drawings and captions (often resembling comics) that shows the shots and camera movements planned for a scene or scenes.

Straight cut. Two shots edited together without any effects.

Structuralism, structuralist. Cinematic theories focusing on how certain codes or signs are structured to convey meaning in a film, a genre, or the works of a filmmaker. See semiology.

Studio crane. See crane shot.

Subjective camera. 1. The camera used as to suggest the point of view of a particular character. See point-of-view shot. 2. Idiosyncratic camerawork that follows the maker’s unique set of cinematic language rules.

Subtext. Implicit meaning in a film or video which lies beneath the “language” of the text.

Subtractive color. When we look at color mixing from the perspective of starting with white light and subtracting colors (using gels or filters) we’re working with subtractive color and the complimentary colors are known as the subtractive primaries. Illustrated is what you would see if we placed various colored gels on a white light table. Thus: Yellow (Red + Green) = White – Blue; Cyan (Green + Blue) = White – Red; Magenta (Red + Blue) = White – Green. And note that: Cyan + Red = neutral density; Magenta + Green = neutral density; and Yellow + Blue = neutral density. Thus, if a light source is too blue, we can take some blue out using a yellow gel. If a fluorescent light fixture appears too green, we can use some magenta gel around the tube. Gels are available in a wide range of colors for controlling the color of lights. See additive color, gels, color correcting gels.

Subtitle. A caption superimposed over picture, usually at the bottom of the frame. Most often used to identify a scene or to translate foreign language dialogue.

Superimposition. 1. To place one image over another. 2. To expose more than one image on film at the same time.

Surrealism. An avant-garde movement in the arts during the 1920s which attempted to represent unconscious experience using dreamlike images. Surrealistic films rejected traditional notions of story and causality, for example, Un Chien Andalou (1929, Luis Buñuel) and Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid).

Sweetening. Enhancing the sound of a recording or particular sound effect with equalization or other signal processing techniques.

Swish pan. A shot in which the camera pans rapidly causing motion blur. Also called a whip pan or zip pan. It can be used as a very effective transition between shots and imply a fast pace of action. Also known as: swish pan, flick pan and zip pan.

Symbol. An object or image in a film that has significance beyond its literal meaning.

Synchronization. A precise match between image and sound. Also called sync.

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Take.  A shot resulting from one continuous run of the camera. Filmmakers generally shoot several “takes” of the same scene and then selects the best one during the editing phase. Rarely done in documentary.

Tally lamp. A indicator light on a video camera that is illuminated when the camera is recording. On some cameras a blinking tally lamp indicates low battery or end of tape or the storage card is almost full.

Telecine. A device that converts film to either video or data files. See scanner.

Telephoto lens, a.k.a. long lens. A camera lens with a long focal length that magnifies the size of distant objects. See also wide angle lens, normal lens.

Teleplay. A script written to be produced for television. See screenplay.

Terabyte. One trillion bytes. Equivalent to a heaping amount of video or an insane amount of audio. A two hour high-definition movie at a resolution of 1920 x 1280 would take about one terabyte to store in an uncompressed format. Acquisition formats like DVCPRO HD, XDCAM HD, and HDV involve significant levels of compression in order to reduce the data required to store video.

Three-point lighting. A lighting configuration with the key and fill lights typically on opposite sides of the camera and to the front and side of the subject along with the backlight opposite the camera and behind the subject. Changing the position of the key light has a significant effect on the look and feel of the lighting. We may use more than a total of three lighting instruments, however, the basic configuration is still called three point lighting, referring to the primary light source roles of the key, fill, and back lights. To this we may add kickers, accents, and top lights.

Three-shot. A medium shot with three actors or subjects.

Tilt. A shot in which the camera pivots vertically, from top to bottom or from bottom to top.

Time code. A time reference recorded with video to identify each frame, typically written or displayed as “02:23:43:02” designating hours : minutes : seconds : frames. A semi-colon between the seconds and frames typically indicates drop-frame time code. See drop frame time code.

Time-lapse. A type of cinematography or photography in which the camera photographs at time intervals the same scene over an extended period of time in order to speed up on the screen a lengthy process or action, for example, the growth of a field of corn, traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, the construction of a building, etc.

Tracking shot. A shot in which the camera (mounted on a vehicle, dolly, or other moving support device) moves while shooting. Some people differentiate tracking shots as those following a subject as they move. Thus the method of support and characteristic of the movement determines the actual term used, for example, we call it a dolly shot when a dolly is used, we call it a tracking shot when tracks are laid down for a dolly to roll on, though not always true, for the most part, dolly, tracking, traveling, and trucking shots are synonymous. Depending on the speed, this shot has different connotations, if very slow it can have a serene or dream-like quality, on the other hand, if fast, it can be exciting, disorienting or frightening, depending on the context. A tracking shot can signify a character in motion and implicate the viewer into the narrative in that they identify with the character’s point of view.

Traveling shot. See tracking shot.

Treatment. 1. A written description of a narrative film which may later be developed into a script. Also called film treatment. 2. A written description of a documentary film which outlines the story including the interviews and visuals that will be used.

Trick line. #4 cotton rope used in video production as safety cables on lights, cable ties, ties for sound blankets, butterflies, overheads, and silks, as well as many other uses.

Tripod socket. Most cameras have a standard 1/4-20 (1/4-inch diameter, 20 threads per inch) socket on the bottom of the camera for attachment to a tripod or other support device. This may also be used to attach the camera to custom made mounts. You’ll find compatible bolts at most any hardware store. Make sure that any bolt you get is not too long, you don’t want the bolt to bottom out in the threaded socket and risk damaging the socket or camera.

Trucking shot. See Tracking shot.

Two shot. A medium shot featuring two actors or subjects.

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U – V

Under-crank. To run film stock through the camera slower than the standard speed of 24 fps, producing fast motion on the screen when the film is projected at standard speed. Also used to describe the analogous effect in a video camera. See Over-crank.

Underscore. Music that provides atmospheric or emotional background to the primary narration or dialog.

Underground film. See experimental film.

Underground video. See experimental video.

USB (Universal Serial Bus). An interconnect standard used to connect computers, hard drives, cameras, scanners, printers, etc. USB (a.k.a. USB 1.0) is very slow not at all usable with video, USB 2.0 (a.k.a. fast USB) is widely used for connecting cameras and external hard drives to a computer. USB 3.0 is a newer standard for connecting external hard drives that is much faster than USB 2.0. Until recently, FireWire 800 has been favored by video editors for connecting computers to external hard drives due to better performance than USB 2.0, however, with the USB 3.0 standard widely supported on new equipment and the increasing availability of Thunderbolt interface, FireWire has become yet another legacy interface. When purchasing a hard drive for video editing, make sure it supports USB 3.0 and/or Thunderbolt.

VBR. Variable Bit Rate. A video compression method in which the amount of compression is varied to allow for minimum degradation of image quality in scenes that are more difficult to compress. For example, the MPEG-2 video compression used for making DVDs is typically done using VBR and a lot of streaming formats based on AAC/H.264 are also variable bit rate. VBR allows a higher data rate (and therefore requires more storage space) to be allocated to the more complex segments of the video while less space is allocated to less complicated segments. The average rate can be calculated to produce an average bitrate for the file.

Video art. A category of art and artistic practice based on on moving images and comprised of video and/or audio. It is distinct from television production, mainstream motion picture entertainment, experimental film, and digital art. Video art came into existence during the early 1960s and early 1970s as new technology became available outside of the broadcasting industry.  It has given rise to many variations of form and technique including video installations. Video art may be: viewed in galleries or other venues; distributed as video tapes, DVDs, or digital video files; displayed on the web either alone or in conjunction with other media elements; as an installation incorporating one or more video devices displaying live or recorded images and sound; and performances in which video representations are included. The term video art is named after the use of analog video tape formats, which was common during the early years of the form. With the emergence of digital technology analog tape has been superseded but the electronic video signal remains the carrier of moving image work. Despite many parallels, relationships, and overlapping moving image codes and conventions, video art is not the same as experimental film. Video art often has no discernible narrative nor adherence to mainstream codes and conventions that generally define motion picture entertainment. The intentions of video artists are quite varied, and may include exploring the boundaries of the medium itself; rigorously attacking the viewer’s expectations of video as shaped by conventional cinema; bringing to the surface the embedded ideology of media artifacts; etc. See experimental film, documentary, art.

Video synthesizer. A device that creates a video signal electronically without a camera through the use of internal video pattern generators and video processors. It can accept a video signal as input and clean-up, enhance, or distort the imagery. The signal created by the synthesizer can be viewed on conventional video equipment and computer displays. Video synthesizers are still in use by video performance artists (VJs) and video artists. Image: Stephen Beck’s Direct Video Synthesizer, circa 1970.

Visqueen (often misspelled as visquine). Polyethylene plastic sheeting (commonly referred to by its brand name) usually with a thickness between 4 to 10 mils (0.1 to 0.25 mm) and available as clear, opaque, or black. It has many uses on the set including protecting gear from rain, protecting floors from the crew and equipment, and more.

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Waveform monitor. A  type of oscilloscope used in video production to measure and display the level, or voltage, of a video signal with respect to time. The level of a video signal usually corresponds to the luminance (brightness) of the part of the image being drawn onto a video screen at the same point in time. While primarily used for evaluating exposure, it may also be used to visualize and observe the synchronization signals (e.g. vertical blanking interval) of a video signal. Originally, waveform monitors were analog devices, however, with contemporary digital video cameras, the waveform monitor is based on a rasterizer, hardware that simulates the behavior of a CRT vector display, generating a raster signal.

Whip pan. See Swish pan.

Window dub. A video file with burned In timecode. Often used for preview, review, or transcription purposes, where the burn-in timecode window on the image makes it easy to visually identify particular frames of the video. Even with digital video files, the timecode may be different that the running time, so this allows for accurate communication about a specific frame in a videotape or file. Also used for previews when you don’t want people to broadcast or share the material further, often used by stock footage houses to prevent the use of their materials without licensing, but allowing you to place it in your program for editorial purposes. See Burned In Timecode. 

White balance. The overall adjustment of the relative intensities of the additive primaries (red, green, and blue) with the goal of rendering colors (especially neutral colors and skin tones) correctly. White balance changes the overall mixture of colors in an image. Our eyes and brain are very good at determining what is white under different lighting conditions, however, video cameras are not, even with auto white balance (AWB) set. Incorrect white balance usually leads to excessively blue images outdoors or excessively orange or green images indoor. Video cameras are usually white balanced by pointing the camera to a white surface under the current illumination and “setting” the white balance. Cameras also have presets for daylight (5500K) or tungsten (3200K) color temperatures. Images shot under extreme conditions are difficult to color grade properly, therefore attention to white balance in production is key.  See also black balance, color temperature.

Wide-angle lens. A short focal length lens that enables the camera to photograph a wider area than a normal lens. For 35mm films a wide-angle lens is 30mm or less. Also called a short lens.

Wipe. An effect in which an image appears to “wipe-off” or push aside the preceding image. It was common in the 1930s, seriously out of fashion today.

Work print. A duplicate of film footage, used during the traditional film editing process in order to preserve the original negative until the final cut.

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X – Y – Z

Zebra (a.k.a. Zebra Stripes). A  feature found on many video cameras used to determine exposure levels. Diagonal lines appear in the viewfinder or LCD display over any areas that are over-exposure. Better cameras allow you to choose between different zebra settings, typically 75%, 95%, or over 100%. These refer to the IRE video levels where 100 IRE corresponds to pure white, 75 IRE is a very bright area of the frame with textural detail, and 50 IRE is around middle gray (or 18% grey in still photography terms).

Zoom shot. A shot made with a zoom lens, which makes the image appear closer (zoom in) or farther away (zoom out) by varying the focal length of the lens. Offers a very different quality than a tracking shot. See Tracking Shot.

Zip pan. See Swish pan.

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Ascher, Steven & Edward Pincus. The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age, 4th ed., Plume, 2012.

Block, Bruce. The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media, 2nd ed., Focal Press, 2007.

Box, Harry. Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook: Film Lighting Equipment, Practice, and Electrical Distribution Paperback, 4th ed., Focal Press, 2010.

Dreher, Thomas. History of Computer Art, “Video Synthesizers” (Chapter IV.1.2), IASLonline NetArt: Theory,

Irving, David K., and Peter W. Rea. Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video, Focal Press, 2006.

Kalow, Nancy. Visual Storytelling, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, 2011,

Lowell, Ross. Matters of Light and Depth, Lower Light Management, 1999.

Mascelli, Joseph V. The Five C’s of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques, Silman-James Press, 1998.

Rosenblum, Ralph, and Robert Karen. When the Shooting Stops: A Film Editor’s Story, The Viking Press, 1979.

Sonnenschein David. Sound Design: The expressive power of music, voice, and sound effects in cinema, Michael Wiese Productions, 2001.

Van Sijll, Jennifer. Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know, Michael Wiese Productions, 2005.

Various contributors, DVinfo, discussion community,

Zettl, Herbert. Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, 5th ed., Wadsworth Publishing, 2007.

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This glossary contains information compiled from personal experience along with a range of sources including Wikipedia,, a variety of books published by Focal Press, and notes and sources gathered over the years that are too numerous to properly document individually; “Shaky Cam” from “The Low Budget Camera Tech of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead” by David Konow, “3:2 Pulldown” illustration courtesy of Adam Wilt, used with permission; grip equipment images including “Doorway Dolly,” © Matthews Studio Equipment; Image of the incandescent lamp from U.S. Department of Energy; Prism and Spectral Response diagrams are based, in part, on Light and Color by By R. Daniel Overheim and David L. Wagner (Wiley, 1982).; “Woman with Sony CV 2400 Porta Pak,” © Sony; Merle Oberon in Affectionately Yours (1941), public domain; Exposure scene with Macbeth chart courtesy of; Product images are from their respective manufacturers, which may be protected by copyright and are used herein for educational and informational purposes under the terms of fair use guidelines of U.S. copyright law.

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This glossary was last updated on September 23, 2021.