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Anatomy of Film

The terms to describe how a director see's his film are important to understand.

John Janiczek

on 13 May 2010

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Transcript of Anatomy of Film

The terms of film adaptation the presentation of one art form through another medium; a film based upon, derived from (or adapted from) a stage play (or from another medium such as a short story, book, article, history, novel, video game, comic strip/book, etc.) which basically preserves both the setting and dialogue of the original; can be in the form of a script (screenplay) or a proposal treatment aerial shot
a camera shot filmed in an exterior location from far overhead (from a bird's eye view), as from a helicopter (most common), blimp, balloon, plane, or kite; a variation on the crane shot; if the aerial shot is at the opening of a film, aka an establishing shot

refers either to a male performer, or to any male or female who plays a character role in an on-screen film; alternate gender-neutral terms: player, artist, or performer
mostly a literary term, but taken in film terms to mean a suggestive resemblance or correspondence between a visible event or character in a film with other more significant or abstract levels of meaning outside of the film; an extended metaphor angle
refers to the perspective from which a camera depicts its subject; see camera angle, and other specific shots (high, low, oblique, etc.)
ambient light
the natural light (usually soft) or surrounding light around a subject in a scene; also see background lighting aperture
refers to the measurement of the opening in a camera lens that regulates the amount of light passing through and contacting the film.
arc shot
a shot in which the subject(s) is photographed by an encircling or moving camera. aside
occurs when a character in a film breaks the 'fourth wall' and directly addresses the audience with a comment. aspect ratio
in general, a term for how the image appears on the screen based on how it was shot; refers to the ratio of width (horizontal or top) to height (vertical or side) of a film frame atmosphere
refers to any concrete or nebulous quality or feeling that contributes a dimensional tone to a film's action. available light
the naturally-existing light in an off-set location; a film's realism is enhanced by using available or natural light rather than having artificial light. backlighting
this phenomenon occurs when the lighting for the shot is directed at the camera from behind the subject(s), causing the figure(s) in the foreground to appear in semi-darkness or as silhouettes, or highlighted; with backlighting, the subject is separated from the background. Bookends
a term denoting scenes at the beginning and end of a film that complement each other and help tie a film together; aka framing device Camera Angle
the point of view (POV) or perspective (including relative height or direction) chosen from which to photograph a subject. Various camera angles, compositions, or positions include: front, behind, side, top, high (looking down), low (looking up), straight-on or eye-level (standard or neutral angle), tilted (canted or oblique), or subjective, etc.; see also framing candlelight (lighting)
refers to lighting that is provided by candlelight, to provide a warm hue or tone, and connote intimacy, romance, and harmony catharsis
during a film's climax, the audience may experience a purging or cleansing of emotional tension, providing relief or therapeutic restoration change-over cue
the small dot, oval or mark on the top-right corner of a film frame that signaled to the projectionist to change over from one projector (or film reel) to another (about every 15-20 minutes); nowadays, most film theatres have only one projector - the reels are spliced together into one giant roll and fed into a single projector from a horizontal revolving turntable called a platter cinematic
relating to or suggestive of motion pictures; having the qualities of a film. close-up
a shot taken from a close distance in which the scale of the object is magnified, appears relatively large and fills the entire frame to focus attention and emphasize its importance; i.e., a person's head from the shoulders or neck up is a commonly-filmed close-up; a tight shot makes the subject fill almost the entire frame; also extreme close-up (ECU or XCU) is a shot of a part of a character (e.g., face, head, hands) to emphasize detail; also known as detail shot or close on; contrast to long-shot (LS) da
literally, means "tail" in Italian, and usually refers to musical selections; in film, it refers to the epilogue, ending or last section of a film (often wordless), that provides closure, a conclusion, or a summary of the preceding storyline contrast
refers to the difference between light and shadow, or between maximum and minimum amounts of light, in a particular film image; can be either high contrast (with a sharp delineation between the bright and dark areas) or its opposite low contrast; color can also be contrasted; see also chiaroscuro conventions
the expected elements in a type of film, without question, thought, or judgment crane shot
a camera shot taken from a large camera dolly or electronic device (an apparatus, such as a crane), resembling a extendable mechanical arm (or boom), that can raise the camera up in the air above the ground 20 feet or more; the crane allows the camera to fluidly move in virtually any direction (with vertical and horizontal movement), providing shifts in levels and angles; crane shots usually provide some kind of overhead view of a scene
in general, this term refers to the list of technical personnel, cast, and crew of a film; specifically, it refers to the list of names and functions of persons and corporations contributing and responsible for the artistic or intellectual content of a film, such as: "Story by...", "Screenplay by...", "Photography by...", etc.; sometimes distinguished from the cast (the performers in front of the camera); see also titles or post-credits sequence. ross-cutting
the editing technique of alternating, interweaving, or interspersing one narrative action (scene, sequence, or event) with another - usually in different locations or places, thus combining the two; this editing method suggests parallel action (that takes place simultaneously); often used to dramatically build tension and suspense in chase scenes, or to compare two different scenes; also known as inter-cutting or parallel editing. a shot or image of a large group of people (often extras) in a film; CGI is now often used to film large crowd shots, to avoid huge costs associated with hiring extras cut
(or cutting)
an abrupt or sudden change or jump in camera angle, location, placement, or time, from one shot to another; consists of a transition from one scene to another (a visual cut) or from one soundtrack to another cutaway shot
cutaway shot
a brief shot that momentarily interrupts a continuously-filmed action, by briefly inserting another related action, object, or person (sometimes not part of the principal scene or main action), followed by a cutback to the original shot; often filmed from the POV of the character and used to break up a sequence and provide some visual relief, or to ease the transition from one shot to the next, or to provide additional information, or to hint at an impending change; reaction shots are usually cutaways; cross-cutting is a series of cutaways and cutbacks indicating concurrent action; a cutaway is different from an insert shot. bsorption of Light
The fate of non-Reflected, non-Scattered light. The reason why black suits are difficult to light (and hot to wear) is that they absorb most of the light and convert it into heat. Surfaces that absorb only parts of the Spectrum appear pink, purple, green, or some other color. Accent Light
Any Source from almost any direction which is used in addition to more basic lights to call attention to an object or area - not the Lighting. Achromatic
A subject, scene, or Image without color. Aims of Lighting
To enhance mood, atmosphere, and drama; to illuminate the story; to separate planes; to suggest depth; to direct attention; to reveal character; to convey time of day; to enrich and, occasionally, bedazzle. Minimum aim: to stimulate microchips and silver halides. Ambient Light
The general (and often undesirable) Illumination surrounding the shooting or projection area; not exactly the same as Available Light or Natural Light. Tip: use the term to ward off meddling clients, as in "I can't light it your way because of the ambient light." They are likely to nod sagely. Angle of Light
The angle formed between the light/subject axis and camera/subject axis is probably the most important aspect of light in determining mood, modeling, and "message." Both the horizontal and the vertical angle should be indicated. Examples: true Rim Light 180 degrees for both; Key Light commonly 15 to 45 degrees for both. Tip: On the job, pros tend to use less specific designations such as Top, Side, and 3/4-back, which indicate the approximate angle yet allow for fine-tuning based on the subject. Arc Light
A very large, near-daylight, carbon-arc source that was used to shoot Hollywood blockbusters - now rivaled by HMI and MSR Lights.
Artificial Light
An ambiguous term that refers to light produced by electricity as opposed to a Natural source and to illumination introduced to record images. Depending upon how it is used, it looks either artificial or natural. Back Light
Back Light separates subject from background, saints from sinners, and one pro from another. Angle: toward the lens from above and behind the subject, or above, behind, and slightly to the side of it, high enough to cut lens Flare. It is especially helpful for video images that may suffer loss-of-edge contrast. Sins: confusing this source withBackground Light, and, for Motivation purists, using it at all. Tip: Smoke, steam, and other Translucent subjects adore Back Light of almost any color.
A front-of-the-light device having two or more pivotable black panels used to shape the Beam and shade the camera lens or scene. Blue Process (film), Chroma Key (tape)
Shooting action in front of a deep blue or other color Cyc becomes a separation matte for a background scene that will be added later. Tips: Try to see the background scene before you light, avoid any blue - or whatever color is used - elsewhere in the scene, light the Cyc evenly, keep shadows off it, and consult an expert. Brightness Ratio, Contrast Ratio
The all-too-often awful truth about a subject or scene that has inappropriate or excessive Contrast. Meter reading procedure: Take two reflected-light readings: 1) the lightest significant area of the subject or scene and 2) the darkest. Divide 1) by 2). Each medium or method of reproduction has different brightness ratio limits. Movie theaters can project a maximum of about 125:1 (7 stops plus); modern, well-adjusted video cameras 30 or, some pros suggest, 40:1. Also see: Lighting Ratio and Contrast Burning Up
Overly bright, washed-out parts of a scene or subject, often as a result of subjects moving too close to an intense source. See: Moving Subjects, Graduated Scrim, and Floater for remedies Butterfly Lighting
A slightly high-angle, slightly Diffused source, cen-tered on a (frequently female) subject's face to minimize nose shadow, skin texture, and double chins and emphasize cheekbones and beauty. See also: On-the-nose Key* Close-up, CU (film & video)
A composition in which a subject's head more or less fills the frame. In an extreme or very close shot (ECU, VCU) only part of the subject is included, frequently just eyes, nose, and mouth. Dark Adaptation
Optical and chemical changes in the eye which, over a period of about 20 minutes, enable people to "see in the dark." It makes Exposure judgments by eye doubly difficult when light levels change. Tip: at such times, color perception is minimal or non-existent.
Double Exposure
The re-exposing of film, intentionally or not, to a second image.
The result of light that reaches any recording surface through the combination of time (Shutter Speed) and quantity (lens Diaphragm size).
a film in which the narrator knows (and sees) everything occurring in a story, including character thoughts, action, places, conversations, and events; contrast to subjective point-of-view overture
in film terms, a pre-credits or opening credits musical selection that sets the mood and theme for the upcoming film pan
(or panning shot, or panoramic shot)
abbreviation for panorama shot; refers to the horizontal scan, movement, rotation or turning of the camera in one direction (to the right or left) around a fixed axis while filming; a variation is the swish pan (also known as flash pan, flick pan, zip pan, blur pan, or whip pan), in which the camera is purposely panned in either direction at a very fast pace, creating the impression of a fast-moving horizontal blurring of images across the screen; often confused with a dolly or tracking shot. P.O.V. shot
(or point-of-view shot)
a subjective shot made from the perspective of one of the characters to show the audience the scene as it would look through the character's eyes; usually coupled (before and/or after) with a reaction shot (or a three-shot sequence called a shot reverse shot) to establish the POV; also known as first-person point-of-view shot or subjective camera (the use of the camera to suggest the POV of a particular character) post-credits sequence
either a throwaway scene or an epilogue that happens during or after the end credits; sometimes used as a bonus for theatergoers who remain to watch the credits, and partly to generate 'buzz' about the extra scene post-modern
refers to a return to tradition, in reaction to more 'modernist' styles still
refers to a single, static image, either (1) a frame still (possibly enlarged) from a finished film, (2) a production still taken from an unfinished film, or (3) a publicity shot (of an actor or scene); aka photogram. story
the events that appear in a film and what we can infer from these events; aka narrative or plot
the deeper and usually unexpressed "real" meanings of a character's spoken lines or actions - if the viewer can 'read between the lines'. subtitles
refers to the printed line(s) of text superimposed and displayed at the bottom of the screen frame, often used to translate a foreign-language phrase, or to describe a time/place; also the text translating an entire foreign language film (that hasn't been dubbed); often termed caption surreal (surrealism)
a term applied to a film, signifying a distorted or fantastic dream state, a nightmarish or hallucinogenic world, or a subconscious thought or death experience; often expressed by a random, non-sequential juxtaposition of images that go beyond realism symmetry
within a film when two or more distinct plotlines 'mirror' each other or develop variations on the film's theme or plot; aka mirroring take
a single continuously-recorded performance, shot or version of a scene with a particular camera setup; often, multiple takes are made of the same shot during filming, before the director approves the shot; in box-office terms, take also refers to the money a film's release has made tech-noir
modern day (or post-modern) expressionistic film noirs set in the future, with dark, decaying societies theme music
the opening or closing music of a motion picture, often containing the film's 'signature' or leitmotif tune/phrase that is associated with a character or situation within the film tint
the use of color to physically tint film stock to achieve a desired mood, usually done selectively by hand; often used by silent black-and-white films before the widespread use of color film. See gel and sepia. title role
the lead part in a movie or other production for an actor or actress, that is named after the title of the film tracking shot
(or truck)

a smooth shot in which the camera moves alongside ('tracking within') the subject, usually mounted on a dolly, in a side-to-side motion trades
refers to the professional magazines and publications that report the daily or weekly entertainment news of the entertainment industry. trash film
refers to second-run, low-budget films that are deliberately over-the-top, infantile, amateurish, sometimes excessively gory or raunchy which are intended to shock, disgust, and repel mainstream audiences trilogy
a group of three films that together compose a larger narrative and are related in subject or theme tubthump
a term that denotes to promote or draw attention to; usually conducted by publicists, advertisers, and agents; from the ancient show business custom of actors wandering the streets banging on tubs and drums to draw an audience together two-fer
slang for coupons that discount an film's admission price to "two for" the price of one twist ending
a film that is marketed as having a surprise ending that shouldn't be revealed (as a spoiler) to those who haven't seen the picture undercranking
refers to the slowing down of a camera, by shooting at less than the standard 24 fps, so that the image, when normally projected, will appear in fast motion underexposed
refers to a film shot that has less light than normal, causing an indistinct, dimly-lit, unclear image; the opposite of overexposed vamp
a femme fatale or woman with a bad reputation, usually seductive and scheming in nature or behavior. vignette
a scene in a film that can stand on its own; also refers to a masking device, often with soft edges. weenie
refers to the object that motivates the main action in a serial (e.g., a lost city, buried treasure, or missing plans, etc)
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