TV Terms Explained

Television and film production has it's own language and we want to make sure you feel comfortable using it to get the most out of your experience. See a list of terms, phrases, and extra information to make your MMN experience easy!

AERIAL SHOT – Filming a shot from above through use of plane or helicopter. Also referred to as a BIRD’S-EYE VIEW.   

ANGLE – AKA camera angle. The viewpoint from which the subject of the shot is depicted

APERTURE – A measure of the width of the opening allowing light to enter a camera.

ARC SHOT – Filming the subject through a moving, encircling camera. The camera moves in a rough semi-circle around the subject.      

ART-HOUSE FILM – Non-mainstream films that are still thought to hold artistic value. These films are often low-budget, foreign, and/or independent. Since these films do not have mass-appeal, they usually do not play in mainstream theatres. However, they can be found playing in niche art-house theatres.

ASPECT RATIO – A measure of the relative sizes of the horizontal and vertical components of an image. The ratio of the width to the height of an image or screen.  

BACKLIGHTING – Lighting for a shot emitting from behind the subject, causing the subject to appear as a silhouette or in semi-darkness.

BARN DOORS – Metal folding doors on all four sides of a lighting fixture. These can be moved on their hinges in order direct light for the shot.

BEST BOY – Also called the Assistant Chief Lighting usually of the gaffer or key grip. In charge of the people and equipment, scheduling the required quantities for each day’s work. The term originates from promoting the crew’s ‘best boy’ to supervising.

BLOCKING – deciding where actors will move and stand so that lighting and camera placement can be set.

BLUE SCREEN – Also known as green screen. This is a blue or green backdrop that actors are filmed in front of. Later the blank screen can be filled with digitally generated images to complete the background.

BOOM MICROPHONE – A long pole with a microphone on the end. Controlled by the “Boom Operator.”

BOUNCE BOARD – A large white card made of foam or poster board used to reflect soft light.

CHEATER CUT – Introductory footage at the beginning of a series episode to overview what happened in the previous episode.

CLAPBOARD – Also known as the clapper. A small board which holds information identifying a shot. It is filmed at the beginning of a take. Also called a slate or “sticks.”

CLAYMATION – Filming of figures and models constructed out of moldable material such as clay. This is often done through use of stop-motion.

COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY (CGI) – The use of 3D graphics and technology to enhance special effects.

CRANE SHOT – A shot taken from a raised apparatus such as a crane or boom (mechanical arm).

CUT – A change in camera angle or placement, location, or time. “Cut” is called during filming to indicate that the current take is over.

CYCLORAMA – A seemless, floor-to-ceiling curved backdrop used on studio sets to create a background for a scene. Often used to represent the sky on such sets.

DEPTH OF FIELD – The distance between the elements in the foreground and background of a shot that appear in sharp focus.

DIRECTING THE EYE – The use of lighting to emphasize what is important in the shot.

DIRECTOR’S CUT – The first fully-edited version of a film prior to any intervention from outside parties such as studios.

DOLLY – A dolly is a small truck that rolls along dolly tracks carrying the camera, some of the camera crew and occasionally the director.

DUTCH TILT – A shot composed with the horizon not parallel with the bottom of the frame.

ESTABLISHING SHOT – The first shot of a new scene that introduces the audience to the space in which the forthcoming scene will take place. The establishing shot is one of the core shots in cinematography, typically a wide shot, and the opener of a scene, it tells the audience where (and sometimes when) the next scene will occur.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER – Person in charge of production. Not involved in technical aspects, but oversees overall production. Usually involved on the business/finance end of filmmaking.

FOLEY – Named after sound-effects artist Jack Foley is the reproduction of everyday sound-effects that are added to film, video, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality.

GAFFER – Chief lighting technician who is responsible for designing and creating lighting plan.

GRIP – person responsible for the set-up, adjustment and maintenance of production equipment on the set.

MEDIUM SHOT – Camera shot from medium distance, typically above the waist. Allows viewers to see body language.

NTSC – The standard for TV/video display in the US and Canada, as set by the National Television Standards Committee, which delivers 525 lines of resolution at 60 half-frames per second.

OFF BOOK – When an actor has completely memorized his or her lines and is no longer in need of the script.

PULL BACK – A shot where the camera physical moves away or zooms out from the subject to reveal the full context of the scene.

SHOT – The section of unedited film from the time the camera starts to the time it stops.

SHUTTER SPEED – The length of time that a single frame is exposed for.

SOFT FOCUS – A visual effect blurring the image by using filters or shooting with an out-of-focus lens.

STOP MOTION – A form of animation in which objects are filmed frame-by-frame and altered slightly in between each frame, creating the illusion of movement.

STORYBOARD – Sequence of pictures created to describe each scene in the film production. Usually indicates camera angle and movement, blocking of actors, and size of the frame.

TRACKING SHOT – A shot which follows the subject through space. Often involves mounting the camera onto a dolly and moving it along dolly track.

UNDEREXPOSED – Film that has not been exposed to light for a long enough time to provide proper contrast and thus appears dim.

VERTIGO EFFECT – Also known as “contrazoom.” A camera technique created by Alfred Hitchcock during his film Vertigo that involves tracking backwards while simultaneously zooming in, making the person or object in the center of the image seem stationary while their surroundings change.

WRAP – To finish shooting at the end of the day or the end of the production.