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Cinematic Terms you should know as a beginner

After watching a great movie, do you ever sit back and think about how much work it took to make? You may check out how much the actors were paid or what kind of budget the film worked with, but it’s impossible to know what it truly takes to make a film. 

Well… at least not until you’ve been through the process yourself. Only a filmmaker knows what goes into creating a movie. 

Simply put, filmmaking is the art of making films and films as we know it, are creative expressions of writers, directors, actors, and other professionals.

Filmmaking involves a number of stages revolving around the initial story idea or commission through:

While including a range of economic, social, and political contexts, filmmaking can take place in various places around the world. Moreover, they use a variety of technologies and cinematic techniques to make the finished, screen-ready product.

Film Production is created in 5 phases: 

  1. Development, 
  2. pre-production, 
  3. production, 
  4. post-production, and 
  5. distribution. 

 

Each phase has a different purpose, with the overarching goal to get to the next one, and ultimately on to distribution. 

Apart from varying in lengths, different roles suit different stages. Moreover, each uses a set of technical words that you, as a filmmaker, should add to your dictionary. 

Let’s take a look at the most frequently used ones…

 

Cinematic terms for filmmakers

Films, like all technical mediums, have a very rich dictionary of terms. As a filmmaker, understanding these terms as well as the concepts behind them is important.

Why?

General knowledge of film terms is necessary for moving up in any department on a film set.  

Many are used to suss an individual’s familiarity with a department, the film set, or the industry itself.

We’ve put together an essential list of some of the most widely used film terms and concepts

 

Aerial Shot 

Used to indicate that a  shot is taken from a crane, plane, or helicopter. Not necessarily a moving shot but definitely a “looking-from-above” shot

Camera Angle

Refers to the angle at which the camera is pointed at the subject:

  1. Low
  2. High
  3. Tilt

Cut 

The slicing of 2 shots together. The cut is made by the film editor at the editing stage of a film.

Cross-cutting

Literally means cutting between various sets of actions or scenes that are occurring simultaneously or at separate times. This term is often used synonymously but somewhat incorrectly with parallel editing.

Deep focus

Calls for a technique used to focus both nearby and far away objects at the same time.

Editing

Editing refers to how the shots will be put together to make the final, polished film. It is the final phase of filmmaking where all the shots, voice recordings, special effects, and other cinematic elements are put together to create the final product. 

Extreme long shot

A panoramic view shot from far away, often as far as a quarter-mile, to capture an exterior location May also serve as the establishing shot of a scene or the film. 

Remember how many films start with wide shots of a city? That is one example of an extreme long shot

Flashback

A scene or sequence (sometimes an entire film), that is used to recall past times. These are inserted in between a scene that is running in the present time. The flashback is the past tense of the film and typically narrates memories of the character/s.

Focus

This refers to the sharpness of the image. When shot from the camera, a range of distances will become acceptably sharp. This makes it possible to have deep focus, shallow focus.

Framing

It refers to the way in which subjects as well as objects are framed within a shot produces specific readings. The volume and size captured within the frame speak as loudly as dialogues.

So do camera angles. 

For instance, low angle shots in medium close-up on a person can point to their power. However, it can also point to ridicule because of the distortion factor.

Master shot

Also known as cover shot, it refers to taking a long take of an entire scene rather than splitting it into various takes. It is typically a very long shot that helps in the assembly of closer shots in addition to details. This also helps the editor fall back on the master shot.

Montage

Simply put, a series of editing. 

Ever seen a training scene in a movie? Notice how shots cut with the protagonist training in various environments? That is an example of a montage. 

It is typically used to fast-forward time to get going with the actual story. 

Scene

This refers to a complete unit of film narration. A scene is either a single or a series of shots captured in a single location. A scene typically deals with just one setting and/or action. Sometimes used interchangeably with a sequence.

Storyboard

Some people like to call storyboards as a visual-script. Storyboards are a series of drawings that resemble the camera movements as well as planned shot divisions of the film.

Voice-over

This refers to the narrator’s voice when the narrator is not seen on the frame. 

EXT. & INT.

Used to denote whether the scene will be taking place in an interior setting or an exterior setting. These two terms are used while writing the script of the film. 

I/E (INT./EXT.)

Used to denote that a particular scene takes place both indoors and outdoors. The sequence of “INT.” and “EXT.” shows whether a scene starts indoor and moves to an exterior setting or vice versa. 

Freeze Frame

A single frame is repeated multiple times. As a result, it gives the illusion that time has stopped or slowed down. 

Isolate

A tight focus on a single object or person.

Magic

This refers to taking a shot during the “Magic hour;” the time period around sunset. 

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