NOTE: The terms and their definitions are largely drawn from Bordwell/Thompson's Film Art or Monaco's How to Read a Film

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absolute film
a film that is nonrepresentational, using form and design to produce its effect and often describable as visual music.
abstract film
a film that presents recognizable images in such a way that the aim is more poetic than narrative.
abstract form
a type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to each other through repetition and variation of such visual qualities as shape, color, rhythm, and direction of movement. See associational form
Academy ratio
a term for standardized shape of film frame established by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences. In the original ratio, the frame was 1 1/3 times as wide as it was high (1.33:1); later the width was normalized at 1.85 times the height(1.85:1)
an old term for documentaries
aerial perspective
a cue for suggesting represented depth in the image by presenting objects in the distance less distinctly than those in the foreground
affective fallacy
a term used in literary criticism to suggest that it is an error to judge a work of art on the basis of its results, especially its emotional effect
affective theory
theory that deals with the effect of a work of art rather than its creation.
aleatory technique
an artistic technique that utilizes chance conditions and probability. In aleatory film, images and sounds are not planned in advance.
ambient light
the natural light surrounding the subject, usually understood to be soft.
anamorphic lens
a lens for making widescreen films using regular Academy ratio frame size. The camera lens takes in a wide field of view and squeezes it onto the frame, and a similar projector lens unsqueezes in onto a wide theater screen. CinemaScope and Panavision are examples of anamorphic widescreeen processes.
angle of framing
See camera angle
any process whereby artificial movement is created by photographing a series of drawings or computer images one by one.
artisanal production
a production in contrast to the mass production of studio production. A filmmaker, producer, and crew devote their energy to making a single film.
aspect ratio
the relationship of the frame's width to its height.
associational form
a type of organization in which the film's parts are juxtaposed to suggest similarities, contrasts, concepts, emotions, and expressive qualities.
asynchronous sound
sound that is not matched with image, as when dialogue is out of sync with lip movements
Eisenstein's theory of film analyzes the image as a series or collection of attractions, each in a dialectical relationship with the others. In this theory, attractions are thus basic elements of film form.
an "author" of a film, usually identified as the director, especially a director with a recognizable style and whose personal vision dominates the film or filmmaking process, as opposed to just a metteur en scene whose direction is considered more like craftsmanship.
auteur policy
politique des auteurs, first stated by Francois Truffaut in his article "Une certaine tendance du cinema francais" in Cahiers du cinema in 1954, postulates that one person, usually director, has the artisitc responsibility for a film and reveals a personal worldview through the tensions among style, theme, and the conditions of production. It argues that films can be studied like novels and paintings as a product of an individual artist.
avant garde
artists who are more intellectually or aesthetically advanced than are their contemporaries (if we assume that art is progressing). Avant garde films are generally nonnarrative in structure.
axis of action
In the continuity editing system, the imaginary line that passes from side to side through a main actors, defining the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or the left. It is also called the 180-degree line. When the camera crosses this axis at a cut, those spatial relations are reversed thereby confusing the audience. It is one of cardinal rules of continuity editing not to cross this axis during a sequence.
lighting cast onto the figures from the side opposite the camera. It creates a thin outline of light on the figures' edge.
a pole upon which a microphone can be suspended above the scene is being filmed and which is used to change the microphone's position as the action shifts.
bridging shot
a shot used to cover a jump in time or place or other discontinuity. Falling calendar pages, newspaper headlines, railroad wheels, seasonal changes are some of examples.
cahiers du cinema
a seminal film journal founded by Andre Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and Lo Duca in 1951. Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette, and others who later became New Wave directors wrote for it and postulated the auteur policy.
camera angle
the position of the frame in relation to the subject it shows. A high angle is when camera is looking down, low angle when looking up.
camera movement
onscreen impression that the framing is changing with respect to the scene being photographed. This is usually achieved by actual movement of camera but also by a zoom lens or special effects.
meaning "camera-pen", a phrase used by Alexandre Astruc to suggest that the art of film is equal in flexibility and range to older arts, such as novel and the essay.
canted framing
a view in which the frame is not level. Either right or left side is lower, causing objects in the scene to appear tipped.
categorical form
a type of filmic organization in which the parts treat distinct parts of some subject. For example, a film about U.S. might be organized into fifty parts, each devoted to a single state.
cel animation
animation that uses a series of drawings on pieces of celluloid (called "cel" for short). Slight changes between the drawings combine to create an illusion of movement.
change-over cue
small dot or other mark in the top right-hand corner of the frame, often in series, that signals the projectionist to switch from one projector to another(recently popularized as "cigarette burn" in the movie Fight Club)
cheat cut
in the continuity editing systyem, a cut which presents continuous time from shot to shot but which mis-matches the position of figures or objects
cinema verite
a cinema that utilized lightweight equipment, two-person crews (camera and sound), and interview techniques. It is also now often used loosely to refer to any kind of documentary technique. See direct cinema.
a general term for all the manipulations of the film strip by the camera in the shooting phase and by the laboratory in the develoopment phase.
a framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large, most commonly a person's head seen from the neck up, or an object of a comparable size that fills most of the screen.
the degree to which the ending of a narrative film reveals the effects of all the causaal events and resolves all lines of action.
continuity editing
a system of cutting to maintain continuous and narrative action. It relies upon matching screen direction, position, and temporal relations from shot to shot to give spatial and temporal unity between shots.
in the cinematography, the difference between the brightest and the darkest areas within the frame.
crane shot
a shot with a change in framing accomplished by having the camera on the crane and moving through the air in any direction.
editing that alternates shots of two or more lines of action occuring in different places, usually simultaneous.
  1. in filmmaking, the joning of two strips of film together with a splice.
  2. in the finished film, an instantaneous change from one framing to another.
an instantaneous shift from a distant framing to a closer view of some portion of the same space.
the design of the film, arrangement of its shots. "Decoupage classique" is the French term for the old Hollywood style of seamless narration.
deep focus
a use of the camera lens and lighting that keeps both the close and distant planes being photographed in sharp focus.
deep space
an arrangement of mise-en-scene element so that there is a considerable distance between the plane closest to the camera and the one farthest away. Any or all of these planes may be in focus.
depth of field
the measurements of the closest and farthest planes in front of camera lens between which everything will be in sharp focus. For example,a depth of field from 5 to 16 feet would mean everything closer than 5 feet and farther than 16 ft would be out of focus.
the system of thought that focuses on contradictions between opposing concepts; in the Marxian sense of the term, historical change occurs through the opposition of conflicting forces and ideas. It is related to Eisenstein's idea that studied juxtaposition of images, often of opposite nature (thesis and antithesis), creates a new meaning in synthesis, which was not present in either image. See montage.
dialogue overlap
in editing a scene, arranging the cut so that a bit of dialogue or noise coming from shot A is heard under a shot of a character B or of another elemnt in the scene.
in a narrative film, the world of the film's story. It includes events that are presumed to have occurred and actions and spaces not shown onscreen.
diegetic sound
any voice, musical passage, or sound effect presented as originating from a source within the fllm's world. See nondiegetic sound.
direct cinema
the dominant style of documentary in the U.S. since the early 60's. Like cinema verite, it depends on lightweight, mobile equipment, but unlike it, it does not permit the filmmaker to become involved in the action, and, in fact, is noted for its avoidance of narration.
direct sound
music, noise, and speech recorded from the event at the moment of filming; opposite of postsynchronization.
discontinuity editing
any alternative system of joing shots together using techniques unacceptable within continuity editing principles. Possibilities include mismatching of temporal and spatial relations, violations of the axis of action, and concentration on graphic relationships. See elliptical editing, intellectual montage, nondiegetic insert.
a transition between two shots during which the image of first shot gradually disappears while the image of the second shot gradually appears; for a moment the two images blend in superimposition.
distance of framing
the apparent distance of the frame from the mise-en-scene elements. Also called "camera distance" and "shot scale". Close-up and medium long shot are examples of terms referring to distance of framing.
a camera support with wheels, used in making tracking shots.
  1. in filmmaking, the task of selecting and joining camera takes.
  2. in the finished film, the set of techniques that governs the relationship among shots.
the shortening of plot duration achieved by omitting intervals of story duration.
elliptical editing
shot transitions that omit parts of an event, causing ellipsis in plot and story duration.
epic theater
in Brecht's theory, theater that appeals more to the audience's reason than to his feeling. See estrangement effect and theater of cruelty.
establishing shot
a shot, usually involving a distant framing, that shows the spatial relations among the important figures, objects, and setting in a scene.
estrangement effect
In Brecht's theory, the desirable effect which keeps both audience and actors intellectually separate from the action of the drama. It provides intellectual distance.
exploitation film
a film designed to serve a particular need or desire of the audience. Examples include blaxploitation, sexploitation, etc.
a measure of the amount of light striking the surface of the film. Overexposed film gives a very light, washed out, dreamy quality to the print image while underexposed makes the image darker, muddy, and foreboding.
an approach that makes liberal use of technical devices and artstic distortion and in which the personality of the director is always paramount and obvious. See German expressionism and formalism.
external diegetic sound
sound represented as coming from a physical source within the story space and which we assume characters in the scene also hear. See internal diegetic sound.
extreme close-up
a framing in which the scale of object is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body. Also called detail shot
extreme long shot
a framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a panoramic view of an exterior location photographed from a considerable distance, often as far as a quarter-mile away.
eyeline match
a cut obeying the axis of action principle, in which the first shot shows a person looking off in one direction and the following shot shows a nearby space containing what he or she sees. If the person looks left, the following shot should imply that the looker is offscreen right.
  1. fade-in: a dark screen that gradually brightens as a shot appears.
  2. fade-out: a shot gradually darkens as the screen goes black (or brightens to pure white or to a color
fast motion
The film is shot at less than 24 frames per second so that when it is projected at normal speed, action appears to move much faster. (A slow motion is achieved when film is shot faster than 24 frames and projected at normal speed.) Also called accelerated motion.
fill light
lighting from a source less bright than the key light, used to soften deep shadows and illuminate areas not covered by key light. Also called filler light. See three-point lighting.
film noir
French for "dark film", a term applied by French critics to a type of American film, usually in the detective or thriller genres, with low-key lighting and a sombre - often fatallistic - mood, especially common in the late 40's and early 50's.
film stock
or simply film, the strip of material upon which a series of still photographs is registered; it consists of a clear base coated on one side with light-sensitive emulsion.
a piece of glass or geltain placed in front of camera or printer lens to alter the quality(color) or quantity of light strking the film in aperture.
flash cutting
editing the film into shots of very brief duration that succeed each other rapidly.
flash frame
a shot of only a few frames duration, which can just barely perceived by the audience.
an alteration of story order in which the plot moves back in time to show events that have taken place earlier than the one already shown.
an alteration of story order in which the plot moves forward to future events, then returns to the present.
focal length
the distance from the center of lens to the point at which the light rays meet in sharp focus. The focal length determines the perspective relations of the space represented on the flat screen.
the degree to which light rays coming from the same part of an object through different parts of the lens reconverge at the same point on the film frame, creating sharp outlines and distinct textures.
focus in, out
a punctuation device in which the image gradually comes into focus or goes out of the focus.
following shot
a shot with framing that shifts to keep a moving figure onscreen; that is, a shot that follows a moving figure.
the linear distortion caused by wide-angle lens; the perception of depth is exaggerated.
the distortion caused by a telephoto lens; the illusion of depth is compressed.
the general system of relationships among the parts of a film
  1. the theory that meaning exists primarily in the form or language of discourse rather than in the content or subject.
  2. the Soviet movement of the 1920's that developed these ideas.
formative theory
theory that deals with form rather than function or subject.
forms, open and closed
in closed form, the frame drastically limits the space of the scene, suggest that the limits of the frame are the limits of artistic reality. In open form, mise-en-scene and design elements of the frame conspire to make the audience aware of the continuous space beyond the limits of the frame suggesting that reality continues outside the frame.
  1. a single image on the strip of film. When a series of frames are projected onto a screen in quick succession (currently 24 frames per second), an illusion of movement is created.
  2. the size and shape of the image on the screen when projected.
  3. the compositional unit fo film design.
the use of edges of the film to select and to compose what will be visible onscreen.
freeze frame
a freeze shot, which is achieved by printing a single frame many times in succession to give the illusion of a still photograph when projected.
in a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the number of times any story event is shown in the plot.
frontal lighting
lighting directed into the scene from a position near the camera.
frontal projection
a method of combining images. Live action is filmed against a highly reflective screen on which an image from a slide or movie projector is projected by means of mirrors along the axis of the taking lens so that there are no visible shadow cast by the actors. When the screen is exceptionally reflective and the live actors are well lit, no image from the projector should be visible on the actors or props in front of the screen.
in staging, the positioning of figures so that they face the viewer.
full shot
a shot of a subject that includes the entire body and not much else.
the role or effect of any element within the film's form.
The width of the film strip, measured in millimeters. 35mm is most commonly used filmstock, 65mm and 70mm are used for major epic productions.
LThe film in the camera when the shot is taken is "first generation". A print of this negative will be "second generation". An internegative made from this positive will be "third generation" and so on. Each generation marks a progressive deterioration in the quality of the image.
generative theory
a theory that deals with the phenomenon of the production of a film rather than the consumption of it. See affective theory.
various types of films which audiences and filmmakers recognize by their familiar narrative conventions. Common genres are musical, gangster, and Western films.
German expressionism
a style of film common in Germany in the twenties, characterized by dramatic lighting, distorted sets, and symbolic action and character.
graphic match
two successive shots joined so as to create a strong similarity of compositional elements (ex. color, shape)
hard lighting
lighting that creates sharp-edged shadows.
hard-key lighting
lighting that creates comparatively little contrast between the light and dark areas of the shot. Shadows are fairly transparent and brightened by fill light.
height of framing
the height of the camera above the ground, regardless of camera angle
a relatively coherent system of values, beliefs, or ideas shared by some social group and often taken for granted as natural or inherently true.
intellectual montage
the juxtaposition of a series of images to create an abstract idea not present in any image. See montage.
internal diegetic sound
sound represented as coming from the mind of character within the story space. Although we and the character can hear it, we assume that the other characters cannot. See external diegetic sound.
the viewer's activity of analyzing the implicit and symptomatic meanings suggested in a film.
a round, moving mask that contracts to close down to end an scene (iris-out) or emphasize a detail, or opens to begin a scene (iris-in) or to reveal more space around a detail.
jump cut
an elliptical cut that appears to be an interruption of a single shot. It occurs within a scene rather than between scenes, to condense the shot. Either the figures seem to change instantly against a constant background, or the background changes instantly while the figures remain constant.
key light
in the three-point lighting system, the brightest light coming into the scene. See also backlighting and fill light
in semiotics, cinema is considered a language because it is a means of communication, but it is not necessarily a language system because it does not follow the rules of written or spoken language.
in a narrative, the clear motivation of a series of causes and effects that progress without significant digressions, delays, or irrelevant actions.
long shot
a framing in which the scale of the object shown is small; a standing human figure would appear nearly the height of the screen.
long take
a shot that continues for an unusually lengthy time before the transition to the next shot.
low-key lighting
lighting tht creates strong contrast between light and dark areas of the shot, with deep shadows and little fill light
an opaque screen placed in the camera or printer that blocks part of the frame off and changes the shape of photographed image, leaving part of the frame a solid color. As seen on the screen, most masks are black, although they could be white or colored.
match cut
a cut in which two shots joined are linked by visual, aural, or metaphorical parallelism. For example, at the end of North by Northwest, Cary Grant pulls Eva Marie Saint up the cliff of Mt. Rushmore; then match cut to Grant pulling her up to a bunk in the train.
materialist cinema
  1. a contemporary movement, mainly in avant-garde cinema, which celebrates the physical fact of film, camera, light, projector, and in which the materials of art are in fact its main subject matter.
  2. the cinema of filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Roberto Rossellini, which combines some of the qualities of definition 1. with a strong conception of political change as dialectically materialistic, that is, as rooted in the basic conflicts of concrete economic realities.
matte shot
a type of process shot in which different areas of the image (usually actors and setting) are photographed separately and combined in laboratory work.
Alfred Hitchcock's term for the device or plot element that catches the viewer's attention or drives the logic of the plot, but often turns out to be insignificant or is to be ignored after it has served its purpose. Examples are mistaken identity at the beginning of North by Northwest and the entire Janet Leigh subplot of Psycho.
  1. Referential meaning: allusion to particular pieces of shared prior knowledge outside the film which the viewer is expected to recognize.
  2. Explicit meaning: meaning expressed overtly, usually in language and often near the film's beginning or end.
  3. Implicit meaning: meaning left tacit, for the viewer to discover upon analysis or reflection.
  4. Symptomatic meaning: meaning which the film divulges, often "against its will", by virtue of its historical or social context.
medium close-up
a framing in which the scale of the object shown is fairly large; a human figure seen from the chest up fill most of the screen.
medium long shot
a framing at a distance which makes an object about 4 or 5 feet high appear to fill most of the screen vertically. See plan americain, the special term for a medium long shot depicting human figures.
medium shot
a framing in which the sclae of the object is of moderate size; a human figure seen from the waist up would fill most of the screen.
originally, simply a drama with music; more precisely, the type of 19th century drama that centered on the simplistic conflict between heroes and villains.
metteur en scene
a modest - sometimes derogatory - term for "director". See auteur.
a Greek word for "imitation", a term important in the Realist school.
minimal cinema
a kind of extreme, simplified realism, best examplified by films of Carl Dreyer, Robert Bresson, and early Andy Warhol; minimal dependence on the technical power of the medium.
all the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed, that is, part of the cinematic process that take place on the set, as opposed to montage, which takes place afterward. It includes the settings and props, lighting, costumes and make-up, and figure behavior. Mise-en-scene tends to be very important to realists, montage to expressionists.
the design of an entire shot, in time as well as space.
combining two or more sound tracks by recording them onto a single one.
mobile frame
the effect on the screen of moving camera, a zoom lens, or special effects shifting the frame in relation to the scene being photographed.
monochromatic color design
color design which emphasizes a narrow set of shades of a single color.
  1. a synonym for editing.
  2. an approach to editing developed by the Soviet filmmakers of the 1920's; it emphasizes dynamic, often discontinuous, relationships between shots and the juxtaposition of images to create ideas not present in either one by itself.Also called montage of attraction
  3. dynamic cutting - a highly stylized form of editing, often with the purpose of providing a lot of information in a short period of time.
montage sequence
a segment of film that summarizes a topic or compresses a passage of time into brief symbolic or typical image. Frequently, dissolves, fades, superimpositions, and wipes are used to link the images in a montage sequence.
an recurrent thematic element in a film that is repeated in a significant way.
the justification given in film for the presence of an element
multiple exposure
a number of images printed over each other.
multiple image
a number of images printed beside each other within the same frame, often showing different camera angles of same action, or separate actions. Also called split screen
the process through which the plot conveys or withholds story information. It can be more or less restricted to character knowledge and more or less deep in presenting chracters' mental perceptions and thoughts.
narrative form
a type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to each other through a series of causally related events taking place in a specific time and space.
narrative film
a film that tells a story, as opposed to poetic film.
a theory of literature and film which supposes a scientific determinism such that the actions of character are predetermined by biological, sociological, economic, or psychological laws. Not to be confused with realism.
a style of filmmaking identified with Italian directors such as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, and Luchino Visconti in the mid- and late 1940's and characterized by the use of nonprofessional actors, location shooting, and some hand-held camerawork, and political messages.
New Wave
  1. the group of filmmakers (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette, etc) who began as critics on Cahiers du cinema in the 1950's and who were influenced by Andre Bazin. Also called Nouvelle Vague.
  2. more loosely, the young French filmmakers of the 1960's, or any new group of filmmakers.
the earliest film theaters, the term steming from the admission price of five cents.
nondiegetic insert
a shot or series of shots cut into a sequence, showing objects represented as being outside the space of the narrative.
nondiegetic sound
sound represented as coming from outside the space of the narrative, such as mood music or a narrator's commentary.
nonsimultaneous sound
diegetic sound that comes either earlier or later than the the accompaning image of the source.
a film of ten to twelve minutes in duration.
offscreen sound
simultaneous sound from a source assumed to be in the space of the scene but in an area outside what is visible onscreen.
offscreen space
the six areas blocked from being visible on the screen but still part of the space of the scene: to four sides of the frame, behind the set, and the behind the camera.
180-degree system
the continuity approach to editing which dictates that the camera should stay on one side of the action to ensure consistent spatial relations between objects to the right and left of the frame. The 180-degree line is also called axis of action.
in a narrative film, temporal manipulation of the sequence in which the chronological events of the story are arranged in the plot.
a cue for suggesting depth in the film image by placing closer objects partly in front of more distant ones.
overlapping editing
cuts that repeat part or all of an action, thus expanding its viewing time and plot duration.
movement of camera from left to right or vice versa on a stationary tripod. On the screen, it produces a mobile framing which scans the space horizontally. Not to be confused with tracking shot.
the system of rating directors in hierarchical categories common to the auteur policy. Pantheon directors are the highest rated.
from the Latin for "mask", a chracter in a literary, cinematic, or dramatic work. More precisely, the psychological image of the character that is created, especially in the relationship to the other levels of reality.
a form of single-frame animation in which three-dimentional objects, often people, are made to move in staccato bursts through the use of stop-action cinematography thereby breaking the illlusion of the continuous movement.
plan americain
a framing in which the scale of the object shown is moderately small; the human figure seen from the shins to the head would fill the most of screen; so named by the French critics who found this the most frequent framing in American movies. This is also referred to as a medium long shot, especially when human figures are not shown.
French term for a scene handled in a single shot, usually a long take; often referring to complex shot including complicated camera movements and actions. Also called sequence shot.
in a narrative film, all the events that are directly presented in the film, including their causal relations, chronological order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations; as opposed to story, which is the viewer's imaginary construction of all the events in the narrative.
poetic film
non-narrative film, often experimental. Jonas Mekas' phrase to distinguish New American Cinema from commercial, narrative film.
poinit-of-view(POV) shot
a shot taken with the camera placed approximately where the character's eyes would be, representing what the character sees; usually cut in before or after a shot of the character looking.
the process of adding sound to images after they have been shot and assembled; includes dubbing of voices, inserting diegetic music or sound effects. It is opposite of direct sound
process shot
any shot involving rephotography to combine two or more images into one, or to create a special effedts; also called composite shot.
pull-back shot
a tracking shot or zoom that moves back from the subject to reveal the context of the scene.
a type of wipe in which the succeeding image appears to push the preceding one off the screen.
rack focus
shifts the area of sharp focus from one plane to another during a shot thereby directing the attention of the viewer forcibly from one subject to another.
rapports de production
In Marxian thought, the relationships in the productive system between producer, distributer, and consumer.
in shooting, the number of frames exposed per second; in projection, the number of frames thrown on the screen per second. If the two are same, the speed of action appears normal while a disparity will create slow or fast motion. The standard rate in sound cinema is 24 frames per second for both shooting and projection (for silent film, it used to be between 16 and 18 frames per second.)
reaction shot
a shot that cuts away from the main scene or speaker in order to show a character's reaction to it.
in film, attitude opposed to expressionism that emphasizes the subject as opposed to the director's view of the subject; usually concerns topics of a socially conscious nature, and uses a minimal amount of technique.
rear projection
a process in which a foreground action is combined with a background action filmed earlier to give impression that actors are in the location of background scene, for instance. The foreground is filmed in studio, against a screen; the background imagery is projected from behind the screen. largely superseded at present by front projection and matte technique.
reestablishing shot
a return to a view of an entire space after a series of closer shots following the establishing shot.
short panning or tilting movements to adjust for the figures' movements, keeping them onscreen or centered.
rhetorical form
a type of filmic organization in which the parts create and support an argument.
the perceived rate and regularity of sounds, series of shots, and movements within the shots. Rhythmic factors inclue beat (or pulse), accent (or stress), and tempo (or pace).
the rotation of camera around the the axis that runs from the lens to the subject. This is not common because its effect usually disorients the viwer.
a machine that projects live-action motion picture film frames one by one onto a drawing pad so that an animator can trace the figures in each frame. The aim is to achieve more realistic movement in an animated cartoon.
prints of takes that are made immediately after a day's shooting so that they can be examined before the next day's shooting begins.
a segment in a narrative film that takes place in one time and space (or that uses crosscutting to show two or more simultaneous actions).
screen direction
the right-left relationship in a scene, set up in an establishing shot and determined by the position of characters and objects in the frame, by the directions of movement, and by the character's eyelines. Continuity editiong will attempt to keep screen direction consistent between shots. See axis of action, eyeline match, 180-degree system.
screwball comedy
a type of comedy prevalent in 1930's and typified by frenetic action, wisecracks, and sexual relationships as an important plot element; usually about upper-class characters and therefore often involving opulelnt sets and costumes a visual elements; highly verbal as opposed to its predecessor, the slapstick comedy. Examples include It Happened One Night and Brining Up Baby
the process of dividing a film into parts for analysis.
semiology, semiotics
theory of criticism pioneered by Roland Barthes in literature and Christian Metz, Umberto Eco, and Peter Wollen in film. It uses the theories of modern linguistics, especially Ferdinand de Saussure's concept of signification, as a model for the description of the operation of various cultural languages, such as film, television, body language, and written and spoken languages.
a term commonly used for moderately large segment of a film, involving one comeplete stretch of action and consisting of one or more scenes.
shallow focus
a restricted depth of field, whic keeps only those planes close to the camera in sharp focus; the opposite of deep focus.
shallow space
staging the action in relatively few planes of depth; the opposite of deep space.
a film usually less than 30 minutes in length.
  1. in shooting, one uninterrupted run of the camera to expose a series of frames. Also called a take.
  2. In the finished film, one uninterrupted image with a single (static or mobile) framing.
shot/reverse shot
two or more shots edited together that alternate characters, typically in a conversation situation. In continuity editing, characters in one framing usually look left, in the other framing, right. Over-the-shoulder framings are common in shot/reverse-shot editing.
side lighting
lighting coming from one side of a person or a object, usually in order to create a sense of volume, to bring out surface tensions, or to fill in areas left shadowed by light from another source.
in semiology, the basic unit of signification composed of signifier (which carries the meaning) and signified (which is the concept or thing signified). In written language, for example, the word "tree" is the signifier, the idea of the tree the signified; the whole sign is comprised of both elements. In cinema, the signified, the idea of tree, remains the same, but the signifier, the image (or even the sound) of the tree is much more complex. See semiology.
simulatenous sound
diegetic sound that is represented as occuring at the same time in the story as the image it accompanies.
size diminution
a cue for suggesting represented depth in the image by showing objects that are further away as smaller than foreground objects.
a type of comedy, widely prevalent during the silent film era, which depends on broad physical action and pantomime for its effect rather than verbal wit.
soft lighting
lighting that avoids harsh bright and dark areas, creating a gradual transition from highlights to shadows.
sound bridge
at the beginning of a scene, the sound from the previous scene carries over briefly before the sound from the new scene begins. Or conversly, at the end of a scene, the sound from the next scene is heard, leading into that scene.
sound over
any sound that is not represented as being directly audible within the space and time of the images on the screen. This includes both nonsimultaenous diegetic sounds and nondiegetic sounds.
sound perspective
the sense of a sound's position in space, yielded by volume, timbre, pitch, and, in stereophonic reproduction systems, binaural information.
At minimum, any film displays a two-dimensional graphic space, the flat composition of the image. In films which depict recognizable objects, a three-dimensional space is represented as well, which may be directly depicted as onscreen space, or suggested as offscreen space. In narrative film, one can also distinguish between story space, the locale of the totality of the action (whether shown or not) and plot space, the locales visibly and audibly represented in the scenes.
special effects
a general term for various photographic manipulations that create fictitious spatial relations in the shot, such as superimposition, matte shots, and rear projection.
a movement in painting and film during the 1920's best represented by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel; also a film style reminiscent of that movement, either fantastic or psychologically distortive.
synchronous sound
sound that is matched temporally with movements occuring in the images, as when dialogue corresponds to lip movements.
a version of a shot; in filmmaking, the shot produced by one uninterrupted run of the camera. One "shot" in the final film may be chosen from among several "takes" of the same action.
any aspect of the film medium that can be chosen and manipulated in making a film
telephoto lens
a lens of long focal length that affects a scene's perspective by enlarging distant places and making them seem closer to the foreground planes. In 35mm filming, a lens of 75mm length or more. Normal lens for 35mm filming would be a lens of 35mm to 50mm.
theater of cruelty
Antonin Artaud's thoery of theater that emphasizes the stage as a concrete physical space requiring its own physical language. By "cruelty" Artaud meant a theater was difficult in that it insisted on the involvement of the spectator in the theatrical process; it sought to be free from "subjugation to the text," and return to basic, mystical, cathartic qualities.
three-point lighting
a common arrangement using three directions of light on a scene: from behind the subject(backlighting), from one bright source(key light), and from a less bright source balancing the key light (fill light).
a camera movement by swiveling upward or downward on a stationary support. It produces a mobile framing that scans the space vertically.
top lighting
lighting coming from above a person or object, usually in order to outline the upper areas of the figure or to separate it more clearly from the background.
tracking shot
a mobile framing that travels through space forward, backward, or laterally. It could move on tracks or dolly, or hand-held. Also called "traveling shot."
a performance technique of Soviet Montage cinema whereby an actor seeks to represent or characterize a social class or other group.
lighting from a point below the figures in the scene.
the degree to which a film's parts relate systematically to each other and provide motivations for all the elements used.
in the film form, the return of an element with notable changes.
the quality of appearing to be true or real.
viewing time
the length of time it takes to watch a fillm when it is projected at the appropriate speed.
whip pan
an extremely fast movement of camera from side to side, which causes the image to blur into a set of indistinct horizontal lines briefly. Often imperceptible cut joins two whip pans to creat a trick transition between scenes.
wide-angle lens
a lens of short focal length that affects the scene's perspective by distorting straight lines near the edges of the frame and by exaggerating the distance between foreground and background planes. In 35mm filming, a wide-angle lens is 30mm or less. Produces the opposite effect of telephoto lens.
a transition between shots in which a line passes across the screen, eliminating the first shot as it goes and replacing it with the next one.
zoom lens
a lens with a focal length that can be changed during a shot. A shift toward the telephoto range enlarges the images and flattens its planes together, giving an impression of moving into the scene's space, while a shift toward wide-angle range does the opposite.
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