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Film Dictionary


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Getting your film right

Adapted by Ewan McIntosh
from BBC Blast and BBC Training and Development Guides
Write a summary. A good summary has:
        • a hook
        • characters
        • a setting
        • a central question.

Make a schedule that says which shots are to be taken where and when (this is called a
'shooting schedule') and when you've completed a 'take', cross it off the list. Remember
that you may want to shoot 'out of sequence', e.g. shoot the last scene first, and the first
last. Similarly if the film begins and ends by a tree in the park, it may make sense to film
both scenes while you're there.

      Permission to shoot in hotel and SECC?
      Need for ID cards for entry / Access certain areas?
      Power supply and equipment storage
      Background noise – need for a clapper board and two man crew

      Follow the "five shot" rule
            o Close up hands
            o Close up face
            o Wide shot
            o Over shoulder shot
            o Another shot from a different angle (side, low, high)
      On each new shot, change the shot size and the angle - use the zoom if you're in a
      Shoot the person, the thing, then the person and the thing.
      Plan cutaways and cut-ins.
      Overlap the action.
      Shoot the whole action three times from three different angles.
      Plan GVs (General Views) and get wallpaper shots– these may take time to get to
       and shoot

For sufficient coverage and edit options:
       If you need 5 shots, get 8.
       If you need 3 shots, get 5.
       If you need 1 shot, get 3.

Types of shot:
WS - Wide Shot (subject small in frame)
LS - Long Shot (head to toe)
MS - Medium Shot (from waist up)
MCU - Medium close-up (from upper chest)
CU - Close-up (head and shoulders)
BCU - Big close-up (forehead to chin)
     Remind yourself of the principles of storytelling.
     Follow the action: carry the camera at all times and keep it running before, during
      and after an event.
     Decide who your key character is.
     Be ready to adjust if something more interesting occurs in your main story.
     Make a decision and stick with it.
     Check you've got everything on your script.
     Log all the shots on paper – time, subject, part of which story?

     On location, identify the key light source and whether it's hard or soft.
     Prevent ugly lens flare: don't point the camera at hard light sources and avoid
      backlit subjects.
     Try to exclude bright windows from indoors shots.
     Outdoor pictures look best in early morning or late afternoon light.
     identify where the key light source is coming from and whether it's hard or soft.
     In interviews, try to light people from the side, to bring out facial details.
     Eyelines should look towards the key light.

     Place the mic as close as possible to the action.
     If you record outside, take a windshield.
     Always monitor sound on good-quality headphones, but be aware that high
      volumes can damage your hearing.
     Record atmos – let the camera run for five seconds after each shot to provide some
      ‘empty’ sound that you can use to cut with
Film Dictionary
Actor Placement
How you place the actors relative to other actors, props and the scenery objects in three
dimensions within your shot that will be two-dimensional.

Short for 'Assistant Director'. They may help out the director or direct the second unit
additional shooting. There may be more than one AD on a movie.

Camera Angle
The angle of the camera on who/what is being shot. Low angle: The camera is low
downand points upwards. High angle: The camera is higher up and points downwards.

Camera Stock
The actual film you use to shoot your movie on. It's called camera stock to distinguish it
from 'print stock'.

Short for 'Computer Generated Imagery'. Effects created digitally are cheaper and more
common than ever before. CGI in movies may be just a background, a simple effect or a
digital character throughout the entire film.

Clapper / Clapstick
The slate or clapperboard that is struck at the start of a take. It will usually have
information about the scene number and take so it can be found easily during editing. The
noise is made to help sync up sound in editing.

One minute the actress has a red scarf on, the next it's gone then it reappears. This is a
continuity error. Continuity is ensuring that everything including props, make-up, clothes
and hair remain the same through a scene no matter how many different takes are later
edited together. Continuity is very important as often one scene is shot over several days
and mistakes are usually spotted by the audience.

Crash Zoom
A zoom shot executed at great speed usually from a mid-shot or long shot to a close up.
Example: Woman steps into room sees a decapitated head crash zoom from a mid-shot of
her to her face screaming in horror. Tend to be a bit of a cliché but effective if used

This is what a director shouts at the end of a take. A cut is also the simplest way to join
two shots in editing - no dissolve or effect, just a simple cut and splice of two shots.

Usually a close-up shot that is spliced into the middle of a sequence to break it up eg. two
people are talking , close-up of a phone as it rings, back to the two actors who hear the
ringing phone.

Raw unedited footage in a work print. Called 'dailies' as some labs will make the print later
the same day it is dropped off. Dailies, also known as 'rushes' let the director, crew and
producers see how the raw footage is looking.

Director's Cut
Often the final film that is first released is a compromise between the director's artistic
vision of the film and the studio or producer's commercial vision. Movies may be cut
shorter for a variety of reasons. A director's cut is usually a restored version of the film
where additional scenes and shots are added which were originally cut from the first
release version. Occasionally the director's cut removes elements of the film to try to
recreate their original vision eg. in Bladerunner the director's cut has added scene of a
unicorn but Ridley Scott also had the final scene and the voiceover removed.
A type of transition between two shots. The first shot fades away as another shot fades in.
Film dissolves are done at the lab in the printing phase. Digital dissolves can be done on
computers with most editing packages.

Dolly Shot
Also known as a 'tracking shot'. The camera is placed on a 'dolly', a wheeled cart on
tracks, and is moved while filming eg. side on view of an actress as she walks along a

Recording dialogue in a sound studio after all the footage is shot. The actors watch the film
and lip-synch. Foreign films are often offered in subtitled or alternative dubbed versions
where the original dialogue is replaced by a different language version.

Short for 'Director of Photography'. The DP is behind the camera and actually directs the
lighting of the shot while the director concentrates on getting the best performance from
the actors.

Short for 'Digital Video'. Video format that is increasingly replacing the older analog
format. 'DV' covers many different formats including MiniDV, DVCAM and DVCPRO.
Professional DV cameras are smaller and much more portable than typical Hollywood-style
35mm cameras and are slowly making inroads into feature film production.

The cutting, arranging and splicing together of shots. Alternatively 'the edit' is a name
given to the edited film itself during or after editing is completed.

Taking separate pieces of film and joining to creates scenes and eventually the entire
finished film. The first version is called 'an assembly' then after further editing you have
the 'first cut' and eventually after all the editing is finished and all cuts are agreed you end
up with the 'final cut'. Editing isn't just a simple matter of cutting and splicing though. You
are taking the raw footage deciding how to tell the story

Establishing Shot
A shot which shows where a scene takes place and/or where characters are in relation to
each other at the beginning of a scene eg. we see Grand Central Station as Kevin Costner
arrives in The Untouchables. Usually establishing shots are used to locate the action of the
film in a setting but sometimes they are used at the end of a scene to reveal where the
action has taken place.

A scene that is set outdoor. This may mean a location shoot or the scene may be set up
using scenery on a sound stage. In a film script you would find an exterior signified by the
letters 'Ext' eg. for an 11pm scene in a garden you would write: Ext - the garden - night.

A type of transition. When the shot gradually becomes darker to black it is a 'fade out'.
When the shot starts off black and then gradually becomes brighter it is a 'fade in'. Film
fades are done at the lab in the printing phase. You might also fade in or out of white.
Most digital editing programmes can replicate the same effect on a computer.

A protocol for the storage and high speed transfer of data. Anything used to transfer
digital video from a DVCAM to a computer tends to be referred to as Firewire so there are
firewire cables and cards. Firewire allows you to connect your DVCAM to your computer so
you can edit your digital footage.

The sharpness or fuzziness of an image. This ranges from 'sharp focus' with no fuzziness
to 'soft focus' that is very blurry. This can be an 'in camera' effect or added to DV footage
using a computer video-editing package.

Recording all the background sound in a shot eg. a woman walks along a gravel path,
turns a key in a lock and opens a creaky door. The footsteps, jingle of keys and creak of
hinges can all be dubbed onto the film in post production.

Short for 'effects'. Special Effects that are either created digitally or live action eg. the
alien in Alien 3 was sometimes a computer-generated effect and sometimes an
animatronic effect.

MiniDV tapes are 6.35 mm (0.25 inch) wide. MiniDV digital video cameras are an
increasingly popular tool of short film and low budget film-makers. They are small,
lightweight and are relatively affordable. They produce high quality picture results and the
footage can be relatively easily transferred to a computer for editing.

Short for 'Moving Picture Experts Group', which defines standards for data compression of
moving pictures. An MPEG is a moving pictures clip file in the same way as a JPEG is a still
image file.

Pivoting a camera either to the left or right - pan left or pan right. The shot moves
horizontally across the scene. Usually a slow pan with camera fixed on a tripod.

Pivoting a camera either up or down - tilt up or tilt down. The shot moves vertically
through the scene. Usually a slow tilt with camera fixed on a tripod.

Tracking shot
Also known as a 'dolly shot'. Shot where the entire camera is moved from one position to
another. This is not the same as a pan or tilt as the camera does not stay in the same

   * A 'track in' may involve the camera being moved towards an actor who stands still as
he gradually fills the frame.
   * A 'track out' might have the camera moved back away from a car window where a
body lies slumped so we can see the hitman slowly step away from the scene of the crime.
   * On a railway station a woman walks along the platform through a crowd and the
camera keeps alongside her matching her pace.
   * Two people sit having a conversation over dinner as the camera slowly circles them
   * These 'tracking shots' literally involve laying tracks in a straight line or a circle so the
camera can be moved on a 'dolly' wheeled cart.

When you finally reach the end of a day's shooting the director calls, 'That's a wrap.' It
simply means: that's it for today, we're finished and we can all go home. It's also used to
mean that something is completed, examples: we wrapped the movie - we completed all
the shooting, we should be wrapped on the final cut by Tuesday - editing on the final
version of the film should be completed by next Tuesday.

Shot where you 'zoom in' from a mid-shot or long shot to a close up or 'zoom out' from
close up to mid-shot or long shot. Examples: See close up of a pocket watch and slowly
zoom out to reveal a gunslinger watching the seconds tick by. See a shut wooden door and
slowly zoom in to the doorknob which begins to turn.

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