The greater part of this glossary was kindly supplied by Karen Stapleton of the AIS.
The main light source comes from behind the character.
An extendable arm used for holding a microphone above the
actors and outside the frame.
The position of the camera in relation to the subject being
shown. The angle from which the camera takes the shot has
an important effect on what the viewers see and on the effect
of the shot. The camera angle, or where the camera is placed,
is important as it indicates point of view, i.e. from whose
perspective we are seeing the action, such as the character,
audience or director. The five basic angles are overhead,
high angle, eye level, low angle and undershot.
As the camera moves, the way things appear changes, so different
meanings are created; thus camera movement is important
in defining and creating meaning in shots. The main camera
movements are zooming, tracking, panning and tilting.
The speed of the camera’s movement can be used to create
special effects and enhance meaning, such as slow or fast
motion, and the use of freeze-frames (a still image created
by stopping the film in the middle of the action).
The control and design of the camera work: the operation of
the camera and the control of the shot and characters.
A shot of a person’s head from above the head to the
top of the upper chest which fills the whole screen. It can
also be used to frame an object at close range.
The composition of film shots is the control of all the elements
in a single frame of film; the arrangements and relationship
of the visual elements within a frame. Consider how the camera
seems to place a frame around the view it has in front of
it. The way the elements are placed within this frame is the
composition of the shot. The composition of this isolated
view or frame is dependent upon the choice of lens, and the
placement of items within the frame. The composition also
includes the camera angle and movement.
The person in charge of making sure that all the relevant
details from each scene match each other so as not to disrupt
the narrative flow.
A cut has both utilitarian and aesthetic value in film editing
and is the most direct and immediate editing device for introducing
new screen information.. A cut allows the use of different
types of shots without disrupting the action. The direct cut
is the most immediate editing device for introducing new screen
information. One shot is followed immediately by a cut to
another shot. A cut is the splicing together of two pieces
of film to:
- maintain continuity (continuous action)
- change scenes (transition)
- insert other relevant material into the film flow
The use of cuts as transitions, rather than the use of dissolves,
fades and wipes, can affect the pace of the film.
A gradual transition, or overlap, in which one scene fades
out as the other fades in. Both the end of the outgoing shot
and the beginning of the incoming shot are briefly seen on
the screen simultaneously. In traditional film making the dissolve
came to be the accepted technique for indicating substantial
geographic leaps, passage of time, a flashback or a dream,
or to show what the character is thinking. Dissolves are used
to suggest a special relationship between the scenes that
dissolve into one another; a relationship closer than one
that would be suggested by a fade or cut.
The camera moves along with the actors or the acting. The
camera is usually on wheels.
The process of joining shots and sequences of film and using
special effects to create a single continuous film. It is
the arrangement of time, parallel movements and cuts to scenes,
transitions of shots. Common transitional devices are fade,
dissolve, washout and wipe.
In popular or ‘dominant’ cinema, the opening sequence
is traditionally regarded as an ‘establishing’
shot: a long, wide angle view of an area or open space is
given before the camera goes in closer to establish/identify
the more specific location of a film story or scene. Later
in the film establishing shots may be used to establish the
settings for the action to come.
Extreme Long Shot
This shows the landscape of the film or a barely visible character
in the distance of a background.
This shot occurs when the camera is level with the object
or figure; like a normal eye-view of the scene, and suggests
A transition device for moving from one scene or sequence
to another in a film. Fades can suggest a passage of time,
or a journey, or a new location. The scenes each side of a
fade have a special relationship that would not be conveyed
by a simple cut. A fade-out occurs when the image on the screen
fades to black to end the scene. The scene that follows may
suddenly appear, termed a fade-out or cut in transition, giving
the feeling of finality and separation to the scene just ending
and introducing the new action in a dynamic, attention-getting
way. Alternatively, it may gradually fade-in from black, termed
a fade-out/ fade-in transition giving a slower, more contemplative
A single picture in a strip of film.
A still image created by stopping the film in the middle of
the action so that it appears like a photographic still.
The final edited version of the film.
The main source of lighting in a film. This is usually combined
with fill lighting and backlighting.
This shot is taken when the camera is above and looking down
on the scene or object but not directly overhead. The main
effect is to make the object or character look small and lacking
How the shot is lit for filming. High-key and low-key lighting
are terms used for describing the quality of illumination
and the intensity of the lighting in the frame. Usually high-key
lighting is used to highlight the central subject. High-key
lighting has bright, intense illumination. Low-key lighting
has the opposite quality. It is more diffuse and shadowy.
There is less general illumination in the shot, heavier shadows
and a more atmospheric quality. Other effects can be created
through use of back lighting where the light source is placed
behind the subject to create a darkened effect on the subject,
fill lighting where the lights are used to create or remove
shadows, spot or pencil lighting which focuses on the subject
or side lighting where only half the character’s face
or object is lit and the other half is in shadow.
A film shot which includes the whole human figure and part
of the surrounding environment.
This shot is taken when the camera is below or looking up
at the object or character; suggesting power or dominance.
It can also be used for caricature.
A film shot which includes half the body and a small part
of the background.
Every visible element in the frame, how these elements are
related to each other and how you see these elements, i.e. how
they are filmed. This term refers to all that appears before
the camera, including performers, setting, lighting and décor;
also includes camera movement and action. The term means “placed
in the scene” or “put in the scene” and
refers to what is put into the frame, the modification of
space. The term encompasses the overall “design”
of the film and the mise-en-scene can help the viewer identify
a film’s genre and context. When analysing mise-en-scene
consider elements such as:
- Setting/the set
- Costumes, make up and hairstyles
- Coding of colours
- Actors, body language and position in frame (viewer ‘reads’
left to right across the screen)
A French word meaning ‘mounting’ used generally
to describe the assemblage of a film through editing or the
changing of one image to another. More specifically it is
a number of shots edited quickly together in order to form
a brief impression of a character, time or place. The term
is used to describe a particular method of editing in which
images, objects and figures are linked or overlaid in a variety
of creative or unexpected ways in order to generate certain
affects or ideas. Such a montage sequence in a film summarises
a topic or compresses a passage of time into brief symbolic
or typical images. Frequently dissolves, fades, superimpositions
and wipes are used to link the images.
This shot is achieved when the camera is overhead or directly
above the object or scene; shot is taken with the camera facing
down. A number of effects can be created: objects or characters
looking small, vulnerable, moving scenes look mechanical/predictable;
city looks like a maze or ants’ nest and character can
appear lost; can follow character or object at different speed/pace.
A shot in which the camera follows the action from one side
of the screen to the other; the camera moves from side to
side on its tripod; gives a sense of a wider perspective or
shot, the sense of our eyes ‘panning’ across a
large scene (hence ‘panorama’).
Point of view
In film, the position from which an action or subject is seen.
A space within which a narrative action takes place; it is
composed of one or more shots.
A series of scenes or shots unified by a shared action or
motif; the putting together of a series of shots to form a
continuous scene or piece of action. A series of shots can
create a particular sequence of the narrative in film. The
sequence, or order and presentation of shots, can be used
for added effect for meaning, especially the use of flashback,
dream sequences, time variations as well as juxtaposition
A continuously exposed and unedited image of any length. The
shot is all that is recorded on film from the point at which
the camera begins (“action”) until it stops rolling
(“cut”). The choice of lens fitted to the camera
determines the shot size or the amount of the scene which
is included in the frame. A shot can be filmed from a variety
of camera angles, and single frames can be selected and sequenced
to create the most meaning.
The main light source comes from one side of the screen.
The soundtrack is basically what we hear in the film. This
is an element that cannot be neglected when studying film
as it is an audio-visual medium. Sound effects are commonly
used to set a scene or support a visual image. The following
audio elements are part of the soundtrack of a film:
- silence/no dialogue or sounds
- voices – volume, pitch, pace
- sound cues - how sound can take you over the cut into
the next scene (drags shot into the next)
- sound effects
- diegetic or synchronous sound (what we can see/hear that
characters can also; sound whose source is identified by
the film image)
- non-diegetic or asynchronous sound (sound the characters
cannot hear/put in for the audience only; sound that does
not have its source in the film image)
A series of framed sketches which are used to outline a sequence.
A tool used in planning film production, consisting of comic-strip-like
drawings of individual shots or sequences, with descriptions
written for each drawing or frame.
The camera moves up or down to follow moving objects to reveal
a scene or object which is too big to fit in one frame.
The main light source comes from above the character.
The camera moves forward or backward through space, or parallel
to the action. This is often done by placing the camera on
tracks (“dolly tracks”). The camera seems to flow
with the action, has similar movement, or gets ahead or behind
The main light source comes from below the character
This shot is taken when the camera is directly beneath the
object or figure; suggesting extreme power or danger (e.g. undershot
of stampeding cattle, undershot of a train, etc).
An optical transition similar to the fade; but unlike the
fade-in, which the image fades to black, in a washout the
image suddenly starts to bleach out or to colour, until the
screen becomes a frame of white or coloured light. A new scene
A transitional device that occurs when one shot moves across
the screen from left to right or from right to left and appears
to wipe away the preceding shot; usually used to effect a
change of scene without a slowing of dramatic pace. A wipe
that is achieved by using objects or characters to wipe out
a shot or scene is known as a natural wipe.
The camera is moved towards or away from a particular object;
a means of making objects appear closer or further away by
use of a lens which enlarges objects. A zoom can sometimes
be used for similar effect to a tracking shot.