Film Studies

Abstract film
A type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to one another through repetition and variation of such visual qualities as shape, color, rhythm, and direction of movement.
Academy ratio
The standardized shape of the film frame established by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Aerial perspective
A cue for suggesting depth in the image by presenting objects in the distance less distinctly than those in the foreground.
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 the image onto a wide theatre screen.
Angle of framing
The position of the frame in relation to the subject it shows: above it. looking down (a high angle); horizontal, on the same level (a straight-on angle); looking up (a low angle). Also called camera angle.
Any process whereby artificial movement is created by photographing a series of drawings, objects, or computer images one by one. Small changes in position, recorded frame by frame, create the illusion of movement.
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 temporally with the movements occurring in the image, as when dialogue is out of synchronization with lip movements.
The presumed or actual author of a film, usually identified as the director.
Axis of action
In the continuity editing system, the imaginary line that passes from side to side through the main actors, defining the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left. The camera is not supposed to cross the axis at a cut and thus reverse those spatial relations. Also called the 180 degree line.
Illumination cast onto the figures in the scene from the side opposite the camera, usually creating a thin outline of high-lighting on those figures.
A pole upon which a microphone can be suspended above the scene being filmed and that is used to change the microphone's position as the action shifts.
Canted framing
A view in which the frame is not level; either the right of the left side is lower than the other, causing objects in the scene to appear slanted out of an upright position.
Categorical film
A type of filmic organization in which the parts treat distinct subsets of a topic. For example, a film about the United States might be organized into 50 parts, each devoted to a state.
cel animation
Animation that uses a series of drawings on pieces of celluloid, called cels for short. Slight changes between the drawings combine to create an illusion of movement.
Computer- generated imagery: using digital software systems to create figures, settings, or other material in the frame.
Cheat cut
In the continuity editing system, a cut that presents continuous time from shot to shot but that mismatches the positions of figures or objects.
A general term for all the manipulations of the film strip by the camera in the shooting phase and by the laboratory in the developing 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 casual events and resolves all lines of action.
Continuity editing
A system of cutting to maintain continuous and clear narrative action. Continuity editing relies on matching screen direction, position, and temporal relations from shot to shot.
In cinematography the differences between the brightest and darkest areas within the frame.
Crane shot
A shot with a change in framing accomplished by placing the camera above the subject and moving through the air in any direction.
Editing that alternates shots of two or more lines of action occurring in different places, usually simultaneously.
1. In filmmaking, the joining 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 a distant framing to a closer view of some portion of the same place.
Deep focus
A use of the camera lens and lighting that keeps objects in both close and distant planes in sharp focus.
Deep space
An arrangement of mise-en-scene elements so that there is a considerable distance between the plane closest to the camera and the one farthest away.
Depth of field
The measurements of the closest and farthest planes in front of the camera lens between which everything will be in sharp focus. A depth of field from 5 to 16 feet, for example, would mean everything closer than 5 feet and farther than 16 feet would be out of focus.
Dialogue overlap
In editing a scene, arranging the cut so that a bit of dialogue coming from Shot A is heard under a shot that shows another character or another element in the scene.
In a narrative film, the world of the film's story. The diegesis 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 film's world.
Direct sound
Music, noise, and speech recorded from the event at the moment of filming.
Discontinuity editing
Any alternative system of joining shots together using techniques unacceptable within continuity editing principles. Possibilities would include mismatching of temporal and spatial relations, violations of the axis of action, and concentration on graphic relationships.
A transition between two shots during which the first image gradually disappears while the second image 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.
One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of marketing the film and supplying copies to exhibition venues.
A camera support with wheels, used in making tracking shots.
The process of replacing part or all of the voices on the sound track in order to correct mistakes or rerecord dialogue.
In the narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the time span presented in the plot and assumed to operate in the story.
1. In filmmaking, the task of selecting and joining camera takes. 2. In the finished film, the set of techniques that governs the relations among shots.
In a narrative film, the shortening of plot duration achieved by omitting some story duration.
Elliptical editing
Shot transitions that omit parts of an event, causing an ellipsis in plot duration.
Establishing shot
A shot, usually involving a distant framing, that shows the spatial relations among the important figures, objects, and setting in a scene.
One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of showing the finished film to audience.
The adjustment of the camera mechanism in order to control how much light strikes each frame of film passing through the aperture.
External diegetic sound
Sound represented as coming from a physical source within the story space that we assume characters in the scene also hear.
Extreme close-up
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body.
Extreme long shot
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a building, landscape, or crowd of people will fill the screen.
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 second 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 disappears as the screen darkens. Occasionally, fade-outs brighten to pure white or to a color.
Fill light
Illumination from a source less bright than the key light, used to soften deep shadows in a scene.
Film noir
"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 somber mood.
Film stock
The strip of material upon which a series of still photography is registered; it consists of a clear base coated on one wide with a light- sensitive emulsion.
A piece of glass or gelatin placed in front of the camera or printer lens to alter the quality or quantity of light striking the film in the aperture.
An alteration of story order in which the plot moves back to show events that have taken place earlier than ones already shown.
An alteration of story order in which the plot presentation moves forward to future events and then returns to the present.
Focal length
The distance from the center of the 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.
Following shot
A shot with framing that shifts to keep a moving figure onscreen.
The overall system of relationships among the parts of a film.
A single image on the strip of film. When a series of frames is projected onto a screen in quick succession, an illusion of movement is created.
The use of edges of the film frame to select and to compose what will be visible onscreen.
In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the number of times any story event is shown in the plot.
Front projection
Composite process whereby footage meant to appear as the background of a shot is projected from the front onto a screen; figures in the foreground are filmed in front of the screen as well. This is the opposite of rear projection.
Frontal lighting
Illumination directed into the scene from a position near the camera.
In staging, the positioning of figures so that they face the viewer.
The role or effect of any element within the film's form.
The width of the film strop, measured in millimeters.
Various types of films that audiences and filmmakers recognize by their familiar narrative conventions. Common genres are musical, gangster, and science fiction films.
Graphic match
Two successive shots joined so as to create a strong similarity of compositional elements (e.g. color, shape)
Hand-held camera
The use of the camera operator's body as a camera support, either holding it by hand or using a harness.
Hard lighting
Illumination that creates sharp-edged shadows.
Height of framing
The distance of the camera above the ground, regardless of the angle of framing.
High-key lighting
Illumination that creates comparatively little contrast between the light and dark areas of the shot. Shadows are fairly transparent and brightened by fill light.
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 one image.
Internal diegetic sound
Sound represented as coming from the mind of a character within the story space. Although we and the character can hear it, we assume that the other characters cannot.
The viewer's activity of analyzing the implicit and symptomatic meanings suggested in a film.
A round, moving mask that can close down to end a scene or emphasize a detail, or that can open to begin a scene or to reveal more space around a detail.
Jump cut
An elliptical cut that appears to be an interruption of a single 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 illumination coming into the scene.
A shaped piece of transparent material (usually glass) with either or both sides curved to gather and focus light rays. Most camera and projector lenses place a series of lenses within a metal tube to form a compound lens.
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 show.
Low-key lighting
Illumination that 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 the photographed image, leaving part of the frame a solid color. As seen on the screen, most masks are black, although they can be white or colored.
In exhibition, stretches of black fabric that frame the theatre scene. Masking can be adjusted according to the aspect ratio of the film to be projected.
Match on action
A continuity cut that splices two different views of the same action together at the same moment in the movement, making it seem to continue uninterrupted.
Matte shot
A type of process shot in which different areas of the image are photographed separately and combined in laboratory work.
Referential meaning
Allusion to particular items of knowledge outside the film that the viewer is expected to recognize.
Explicit meaning
Significance presented overtly, usually in language and often near the film's beginning or end.
Implicit meaning
Significance left tacit, for the viewer to discover upon analysis or reflection.
Symptomatic meaning
Significance that 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 would fill most of the screen.
Medium long-shot
A framing at a distance that makes an object about four or five feet high appear to film most of the screen vertically.
Medium shot
A framing in which the scale of the object shown is of moderate size; a human figure seen from the waist up would fill most of the screen.
All of the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed: the settings and props, lighting, costumes, and makeup, and figure behavior.
Combining two or more sound tracks by recording them onto a single one.
Mobile frame
The effect on the screen of the moving camera, a zoom lens, or certain special effects; the framing shifts in relation to the scene being photographed.
Monochromatic color design
Color designs that emphasizes a narrow set of shades of a single color.
1. A synonym to 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 shot by itself.
An element in a film that is repeated in a significant way.
Motion control
A computerized method of planning and repeated camera movements on miniatures, models and process work.
The justification given in the film for the presence of an element. This may be an appeal to the viewer's knowledge of the real world, to genre conventions, to narrative causality, or to a stylistic pattern within the film.
The process through which the plot conveys or withholds story information. The narration can be more or less restricted to character knowledge and more or less deep in presenting character's mental perceptions and thoughts.
Narrative form
A type of filmic organization in which the parts relate to one another through a series of causally related events taking place in time and space.
Nondiegetic insert
A shot or series of shots cut into a sequence, showing objects that are represented as being outside the world of the narrative.
Nondiegetic sound
Sound, such as mood music or a narrator's commentary, represented as coming from a source outside the space of the narrative.
Nonsimultaneous sound
Diegetic sound that comes from a source in time either earlier or later than the images it accompanies.
Normal lens
A lens that shows objects without severely exaggerating or reducing the depth of the scene's planes.
Offscreen sound
Simultaneous sound from a source assumed to be in the space of the scene but 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 each side and above and below the frame, behind the set, and behind the camera.
180 degree system
The continuity approach to editing dictates that the camera should stay on one side of the action to ensure consistent left- right spatial relations between elements from shot-to-shot.
In a narrative film, the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the sequence in which the chronological events of the story are arranged in the plot.
A cue for suggesting represented depth in the ilm image by placing 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.
A camera movement with the camera body turning to the right or left. One the screen, it produces a mobile framing that scans the space horizontally.
A form of single- frame animation in which three- dimensional objects, often people, are made to move in staccato bursts through the use of stop-action cinematography.
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 most of the screen. This is sometimes 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.
In a narrative film, all the events that are directly presented to us, including their causal relations, chronological order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations. Opposed to story, which is the viewer's imaginary construction of al the events in the narrative.
Point of view shot (POV shot)
A shot taken with the camera placed apprx. where the character's eyes would be, showing what the character would see; 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. This can include dubbing of voices, as well as inserting diegetic music or sound effects. It is the opposite of direct sound.
Process Shot
Any shot involving rephotography to combine two or more images into one or to create special effect; also called composite shot.
One of the three branches of the film industry; the process of creating the film.
Racking focus
Shifting the area of sharp focus from one plane to another during a show; the effect on the screen is called rack- focus.
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 the same, the speed of the action will appear normal, whereas a disparity will create slow or fast motion. The standard rate in sound cinema is 24 frames per second for both shooting and projection.
Rear projection
A technique for combining a foreground action with a background action filmed earlier. The foreground is filmed in a studio, against a screen; the background imagery is projected from behind the screen. The opposite of front projection.
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 include beat, accent, and tempo.
A machine that projects live-action motion picture 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 movements in an animated film.
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 relationships 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 characters' eyelines. Continuity editing will attempt to keep screen directions consistent between shots.
The process of dividing a film into parts for analysis.
Term commonly used for a moderately large segment of film, involving one complete stretch of action. In a narrative film, often equivalent to a scene.
Shallow focus
A restricted depth of field, which keeps only one place in sharp focus; the opposite of deep focus.
Shallow space
Staging the action in relatively few places in depth; the opposite of deep space.
1. In shooting, one interrupted run of the camera to expose a series of frames. Also called a take. 2. In the finished film, one uninterrupted image.
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.
Side lighting
Lighting coming from one side of a person or an 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.
Simultaneous sound
Diegetic sound that is represented as occurring 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 farther away as smaller than foreground objects.
Soft lighting
Illumination that avoids harsh bright and dark areas, creating a gradual transition from highlights to shadows.
Sound bridge
1. At the beginning of one scene, the sound from the previous scene carries over briefly before the sound from the new scene begins. 2. At the end of one scene. the sound from the next scene is heard, leading into that scene.
Sound over
Any sound that is not represented as coming from the space and time of the images on the screen. This includes both nondiegetic sounds and nonsimultaneous diegetic sound.
Sound perspective
The sense of a sound's position in space, yielded by volume, timbre, pitch, and in stereophonic reproduction systems, binaural information.
Most minimally, any film displays a two- dimensional graphic space, the flat composition of the image. In films, that depict recognizable objects, figures, and locales, a three dimensional space is represented as well. At any moment, three- dimensional space may be directly depicted, as onscreen space, or suggested, as offscreen space. In narrative film, we can also distinguish among story space, the locale of the totality of the action and plot space, the locales visibly and audibly represented in the scene.
Special effects
A general term for various photographic manipulations that create fictitious spatial relations in the shot, such as superimposition, matte shots, and rear projections.
In a narrative film, all the events that we see and hear, plus all those that we infer or assume to have occurred, arranged in their presumed causal relations, chronological order, duration, frequency, and spatial locations. Opposed to plot, which is the film's actual presentation of events in the story.
A tool used in planning film production, consisting of comic- strip like drawings of individual shots with descriptions written below each drawing.
The repeated and salient uses of film techniques characteristic of a single film or a group of films.
The exposure of more than one image on the same film strip or in the same shot.
Synchronous sound
Sound that is matched temporally with the movements occurring in the images, as when dialogue corresponds to lip movements.
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 planes and making them seem close to the foreground planes.
Three-point lighting
A common arrangement using three directions of lights on a scene; from behind the subjects (backlight), from one bright source (key light), and from a less bright source balancing the key light (fill light).
A camera movement with the camera body 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 an 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.
A performance or technique of Soviet Montage cinema. The actor's appearance and behavior are presented as typical of a social class or other group.
Illumination 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 included.
In film form, the return of an element with notable changes.
Viewing time
The length of time it takes to watch a film when it is projected at the appropriate speed.
Whip pan
An extremely fast movement of the camera from side to side, which briefly causes the image to blur into a set of indistinct horizontal streaks. Often an imperceptible cut will join two whip pans to create a trick transition between scenes.
Wide-angle lens
A lens of short focal length that affects a scene's perspective by distorting straight lines near the edges of the frame and by exaggerating the distance between foreground and background planes.
A transition between shots in which a line passes across the screen, eliminating one 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 image and flattens its plans together, giving an impression of magnifying the scene's space, while a shift toward the wide-angle range does the opposite.