A to Z Glossary of Cinematography Terms

A to Z Glossary of Cinematography Terms

Also known as the art and process of capturing visual moving images on camera for filmmaking, cinematography involves the use of several terms which might not be easy to understand for a beginner. Entertainism gives you an A-Z glossary of cinematography terms in this article.
Entertainism Staff
Quick Fact:
Cinematographer is also known as the Director of Photography on a movie set.
Defined by Webster's dictionary as the art or science of motion-picture photography, cinematography makes use of a lot of technical elements, such as a lens, camera, lighting, movement, sound, etc. Cinematography is popularly assumed to be a slightly evolved version of photography, and is one of the most important and irreplaceable aspects of filmmaking.
For beginners and film enthusiasts, the terms used in the world of filmmaking might be a little confusing to understand, simply because they are very different from the terms we are generally used to coming across. However, it is vital that those aspiring to work in the filmmaking genre are familiar with at least a majority of the terms, if not all. For that very reason, we have explained some cinematographic terminology in this article. If we've missed any significant cinematography term, do feel free to let us know in the comments section below!
A
A & B Rolls
The negative of an edited film that is cut to correspond to picture, and is built into two rolls (A and B).

Accompaniment
Accompaniment is the effects and/or music that is an accessory to the projection of a silent film.

Action Sketch
A rough sketch/drawing that implies the series or sequence of an action, mainly utilized during animated productions.

Actuality
The recording of actual events without using actors or any other external effects.

Actual Sound
Using the sound of actual events or actions that are displayed on screen.

A.D.R
The technical term for 'dubbing', which is an addition or substitute to the existing location sound. A.D.R stands for Automated Dialog Recording.

Aerial View Shot
Taken from a "bird's-eye view", meaning from an airplane or helicopter, or from the top of a building. Commonly used to show a town or city on screen.

Amplifier
Equipment utilized to largely boost the power of electric signals from a small sound apparatus, like a tape recorder so that it can be played on a higher sound apparatus, like a loudspeaker.

Animated Viewer
Equipment that offers a larger moving picture that a normal projector, which enables easier examination of a film while editing.

Animation
Making a film using drawings, computer graphics, or pictures of objects which when shown quickly one after the other, give the illusion of movement.

Animation Board
A board used to display photographs or drawings quickly one after the other when making an animation film.

Answer Print
Corrected print made from the A & B Rolls that contains both picture and sound together.

Aperture
A small opening in the camera lens which controls the amount of light that passes through.

Apple Box
A thick wooden box used to set up extra-large camera equipment or for the camera-person to stand up on.

Aspect Ratio
The proportions of the frame used to shoot a particular scene.
B
Backlight
When the main source of light is behind the subject of focus, highlighting the subject. Backlights are often also used to create silhouettes.

Backward Take
Shooting a scene with the camera held upside down, or the camera recording in reverse to display normal motion as reversed.

Backwind
Rewinding the film in the camera itself.

Barndoors
Equipment used to control light from going anywhere else apart from the desired place.

Barney
A kind of blanket used to cover up the camera in order to avoid or reduce noise made by the camera.

Big Close-Up
Zooming in on the subject very close in order to bring attention to the very little details.

Blimp
A fiberglass case for holding a camera.

Blind Shot
Shot of sound effects taken in a manner that excludes portraying the source of those sounds.

Blow Up
Optical enlargement of a movie depending upon the instrument of measurement.

Bounce Card
Card used to bounce light off it in order to put more subtle light on the subject or object in focus.

Bracketing
Taking one shot from several angles for the desired effect.

Bridging Shot
A shot that covers discontinuity between successive scenes.

Bump In/Out
The immediate appearance and disappearance of a subject or an object in a film, for special effect.
C
Call
Calling sequence used by the director of a film before beginning with the filming of a particular scene. Generally, the Call is somewhat like "Roll Sound!" "Rolling!" "Roll Camera!" "Rolling!" "ACTION!" with the director ordering each department to begin their work, and they answering in the affirmative.

Camera Angle
The angle at which the camera is held/set up for a take.

Camera Roll
Rolls used while filming. These are usually numbered according to scene to avoid confusion.

Cast
Excess color in a picture.

Cel
A transparent sheet made from a special kind of plastic for drawing and painting characters in animated films.

Close Up
A shot that shows a small detail of the subject clearly, such as the face, in order to bring attention to the lightest and mildest of expressions.

Color Temperature
Measuring the color of light in order to make it sensitive enough, and appropriate for the film.

Commentary
Words accompanying a scene that does not require/contain dialogs.

Cookie
A board with sporadic holes used for creating various shadow effects when placed in front of a source of light.

Crane Shot
Shot taken from a mechanical crane that carries the camera-person and the camera wherever needed.

Credit Titles
Written information about the entire cast and crew of the film that appears mostly at the very end.

Cut
Joining of two different shots together, as well as the continuous transition from one shot to the next.
D
Daylight Spool
A container made to hold the camera film in order to avoid it from being completely exposed while changing during an outdoor shoot.

Deep Focus
A technique that allows both objects that are very near as well as objects that are very far away to stay in focus at the same time.

Direct Sound Recording
Dialogs recorded as they are spoken during a scene.

Dissolve
When one shot fades out, and the next shot fades in immediately.

Dolly Shot
Shot taken from a camera placed on equipment with wheels, used mainly for moving shots.

Dope Sheet
A list of all the shots taken during a specified time period.

Dutch Tilt
Camera held at a tilted angle for a slanted shot.
E
Editing
Assembling and cutting final shots to the required length in order to achieve the desired results.

Effects Box
Box-like equipment covering the camera lens for creating special effects.

Establishing Shot
A long shot used to portray a new scene, a new subject, or new object that is important to the film for the first time.

Extreme Close-Up
Zooming in completely on only one detail so as to have it fill the entire screen.

Extreme Long Shot
May serve as an establishing shot, and is taken from quite some distance.

Exposure Index
Sensitivity of light to a specific film, used to measure film speed.

Eye Level Shot
Shot that portrays a subject's view of another subject or object in the film, taken at the subject's eye level.
F
Fade (In/Out)
Transitioning of a shot from color to gradually black (fade out) or the transitioning of a shot from dark to bright (fade in).

Fading Solution
Liquid solution used for fading on film.

Fast Motion
Technique that allows shooting at a slow speed and yet producing extremely fast motion.

Fill Light
Extra lights that are used to reduce the harshness of the original lights in order to include a variety of details in the shot which would otherwise become useless.

Film Horse
Frame used during editing to hang separate shots in a decided order.

Film Cement
A solution used for joining two pieces of film together.

Filter
Tinted sheet placed in front of/behind the lens to change the color of the shot for aesthetic purposes.

Flashback
Transition from the current track of the story to its past tense.

Flashforward
Transition from the current track of the story to its future tense.

Flicker
Uneven brightness in the film, sometimes deliberately created for effects.

Floodlight
Lamp producing soft light.

Focal Length
Length of the view provided by a particular kind of lens.

Footage
Length of the film running through the camera- a shot or a series of shots, measured in feet.
G
Gate
An opening behind the lens of a camera or projector for exposing/projecting a single frame.

Gauge
Width of the film's format.

Gel
Transparent plastic sheet used as a filter.
H
Hand-held Camera
A shot taken from a camera that is not placed on a tripod. Often used to show a moving, shaky scenario, especially in horror movies.

Head
Head of the tripod/ The commencing of a shot.

Head Room
The room between the frame top and the top of a subject's head.

High Angle Shot
Shot taken from above the subject.

High Key Lighting
Lighting used to produce images with almost negligible color contrasts.
I
Insert Shots
Close up of significant as well as insignificant details of the film, usually do not include any actors. Insert shots are mainly of objects.

Interior Shots
Shots taken indoors.

Intercutting
Technique to show more than one event taking place at the same time.

Internegative
A copy of the film made for the purpose of making a large number of prints.

Iris
An opening in the lens that controls the amount of light passing through (very similar to aperture.)

ISO
A film's sensitivity to light, and is also a number used to measure the speed of the film.
J
Jump Cut
A sudden cut between two unmatched shots that draws all attention to itself, and gives the effect of bad editing.
K
Kelvin
The scale used to measure color temperature.

Key Light
The primary source of light in a shot.
L
Lab Role
A very large roll made by the lab for printing, by joining together several camera rolls.

Light Leak
Erratic and accidental light penetrating into the camera, creating little fog-impressions in the film.

Lighting Ratio
The light and shadow ratio, or the relationship between the key light and fill light.

Location
A place used for filming, usually outdoors and in natural surroundings.

Locked Cut
The final cut of the movie, after which no changes are to be made.

Long Lens
A lens providing a magnified view of an object far away.

Long Shot
A complete or full-body-shot of the subject along with his/her surroundings.

Low Angle Shot
Shot taken from below the subject.

Low Key Lighting
Lighting that creates a dark, dull, depressing atmosphere.
M
Macro Lens
Lens used for filming extreme close-ups of the subject/any other object of the film, such as a flower, a butterfly, etc.

Master Shot
A long shot of an entire scene, generally filmed in the beginning.

Match
Checking the quality of two shots for smooth and flawless transitioning of one shot to the other.

Medium Shot
A shot that's somewhere in between a long shot and a close up, typically taken from the waist up.

Mix
Fusing all soundtracks of the film into one with their appropriate volumes and after complete editing.

Mixer
Equipment used to fuse all soundtracks.

Montage
Editing
N
Negative
Film used in the camera while shooting.

Neutral Density Filter
Filter used for controlling light passing through the camera lens without affecting the color.

Number Board
Board held in front of the camera before every shot with the film title, scene number, and number of takes.
O
Opticals
Effects produced by the lab such as fading and dissolving of scenes which have originally been shot normally.

Original
Film used in a camera when shooting.

Over The Shoulder
A shot of two subjects with the camera placed/held behind one person, and facing the second person.
P
Pan
Horizontal movement of the camera from right to left or vice-versa while shooting.

Parallel Action
Different occurrences in the film being represented simultaneously by intercutting.

Playback
Recording soundtracks in a studio for synchronizing with actions on screen later.

POV Shot
Also known as Point Of View Shot, a shot taken in a way that implies the scene being witnessed through the eyes of a character.

Print
A copy of the film, usually ready for projection.

Pull Back Shot
A shot that zooms out from the subject to display the element of a particular scene.
Q
Quick Release
Apparatus for fast and easy mounting and removal of a camera from a tripod.
R
Rack Focus
Changing focus in a shot in order to shift the audience's attention from one subject (or thing) to another.

Reaction Shot
A shot of a subject reacting to another subject's actions or dialogs.

Reflector Board
A board used to reflect light on the desired subject.

Release Print
A positive print of the film that is fit for distribution.

Retake
Repeating a take because of not having achieved the desired results.
S
Safety Take
An additional take in case a backup take is required.

Selects
Shots that are selected for use before beginning with the editing to save time.

Shooting Ratio
Ratio of the length of the final movie to the length of the entire shooting before editing.

Shooting Angle
The angle at which the camera is placed for a shot in accordance with the subject.

Show Print
Similar to release print.

Specifics
Synchronized sound effects with a picture.

Special Effects
Specially created illusions which are often too fantastic to be true.

Still
An unmoving shot, a normal photograph of a subject or a thing in the movie.

Sub Titles
Words displayed in either a silent film, or for the purpose of translating a movie into several languages so as to reach out to a world audience.
T
Tail
The end of a shot

Take
A recording of a shot.

Tracking Shot
Similar to Dolly Shot

Two Shot
A medium shot taken to include two subjects only, generally from the waist up.
U
Ultrasonic Cleaner
A cleaning machine used to clean negatives before printing.
V
Vault Box
Box created to hold rolls.

Voice Over
An unseen narrator's voice in the movie.
W
Wild Soundtrack
Sound recorded independent of the film and added later.

Work Print
A copy of a positive used for editing purposes.

Wrap
Term used to indicate the ending of shooting.
X
Xenon
A bright lamp projecting daylight.
Z
Zoom
Changing the distance between the camera and the subject/object of focus without moving the camera itself.
That's quite a long list of terms, don't you think? Cinematographers and filmmakers and everyone else on a film set has a lot to remember! But don't worry, we're sure you'll get familiar with all these terms, and the more advanced ones too, very soon. Good luck!