Terminology Glossary

Learning and knowing all these terms is the minimum preparation you should be doing - the minimum! 


Aerial Shot – A camera shot taken from an overhead position. Often used as an establishing shot.

Close Up – A head and shoulders shot often used to show expressions/emotions of a character. Also can be a shot of an object, filmed from close to the object or zoomed in to it, that reveals detail.

Extreme Close Up – A shot where a part of a face or body of a character fills the whole frame/dominates the frame. Also can be a shot of an object where only a small part of it dominates the frame.

Establishing Shot – A shot that establishes a scene, often giving ther viewer information about where the scene is set. Can be a close up shot (of a sign etc) but is often a wide/long shot and usually appears at the beginning of a scene.

Medium Shot – the framing of a subject from waist up.

Two Shot – A shot of two characters, possible engaging in conversation. Usually to signify/establish some sort of relationship

Point-Of-View Shot (POV) – Shows a view from the subject’s perspective. This shot is usually edited so that the viewer is aware who’s point of view it is.

Over the Shoulder Shot – looking from behind a character’s shoulder, at a subject. The character facing the subject usually occupies 1/3 of the frame but it depends on what meaning the director wants to create (for example, if the subject is an inferior character, the character facing them may take up more of the frame to emphaise this)

Overhead Shot – a type of camera shot in which the camera is positioned above the character, action or object being filmed.
Reaction Shot – a shot that shows the reaction of a character either to another character or an event within the sequence.

Camera Angle – the position of the camera in relation to the subject of a shot. The camera might be at a high angle, a low angle or at eye level with what is being filmed.

High Angle – A camera angle that looks down upon a subject or object. Often used to make the subject or object appear small or vulnerable.

Low Angle – A camera angle that looks up at a subject or object. Often used to make the subject/object appear powerful/dominant.

Canted framing (or oblique) – camera angle that makes what is shot appear to be skewed or tilted.


Pan – Where the camera pivots horizontally, either from right to left or left to right to reveal a set or setting. This can be used to give the viewer a panoramic view. Sometimes used to establish a scene.

Track - a shot whjere the camera follows a subject/object. The tracking shot can include smooth movements forward, backward, along the side of the subject, or on a curve but cannot include complex movement around a subject. ‘Track’ refers to rails in which a wheeled platform (which has the camera on it) sits on in order to carry out smooth movement.

Crane – A crane shot is sometimes used to signify the end of a scene/ programme /film. The effect is achieved by the camera being put onto a crane that can move upward.

Stedicam - A steadicam is a stabilising mount for a camera which mechanically isolates the operator's movement from the camera, allowing a very smooth shot even when the operator is moving quickly over an uneven surface. Informally, the word may also be used to refer to the combination of the mount and camera.

Tilt - where a camera scans a set or setting vertically (otherwise similar to a pan).

Zoom – Using a zoom lens to appear to be moving closer to (zoom in) or further away from (zoom out) a subject/object when in fact the camera may not move (so, strictly not camera movement). Can be used for dramatic effect.

Editing – the stage in the film-making process in which sound and images are organised into an overall narrative.

Continuity Editing – the most common type of editing, which aims to create a sense of reality and time moving forward. Also nick named invisible editing referring to how the technique does not draw attention to the editing process.

Jump Cut – An abrupt, disorientating transitional device in the middle of a continuos shot in which the action is noticeably advanced in time and/or cut between two similar shots, usually done to create discontinuity for artistic effect.

Credits – the information at the beginning and end of a film, which gives details of cast and crew etc.

Cross 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 technique usually suggests Parallel action (that takes place simultaneously). Often used to dramatically build tension and/or suspense in chase scenes or to compare two different scenes. Also known as inter-cutting or parallel editing

Cutaways – A brief shot that momentarily interrupts continuous action by briefly inserting another related action. Object, or person (sometimes not part of the principle scene or main action), followed by a cutback to the original shot.

Freeze Frame – the effect of seemingly stopping a film in order to focus in on one event or element.

Eye-line Match – a type of edit which cuts from one character to what that character has been looking at.

Flashback – a scene or moment in a film in which the audience is shown an event that happened earlier in the film’s narrative.

Graphic Match – an edit effect in which two different objects of the same shape are dissolved from one into the other.

Juxtaposition – the placement of two (often opposed) images on either side of an edit to create an effect.

Linear Narrative – a style of storytelling in which events happen chronologically.

Montage Editing – the juxtaposition of seemingly unconnected images in order to create meaning.

Parallel Editing – a type of editing in which events in two locations are cut together, in order to imply a connection between the two sets of events.

Visual Effects - visual effects are usually used to alter previously-filmed elements by adding, removing or enhancing objects within the scene.

Match on Action - A shot that emphasises continuity of space and time by matching the action of the preceding shot with the continuation of the action. (For example a shot of a door opening after a shot of a close up of a character’s hand turning a door handle)


Diegetic Sound – sound that can be heard by the characters within a scene/ sound part of the imaginary world.

Non-diegetic Sound – sound that the characters cannot hear and is not part of the imaginary world of the story. This includes a musical soundtrack or a voiceover (however this excludes a narration by a character within the story – referred to as an internal monologue and is diegetic).

Score – The musical component of a programme’s soundtrack, usually composed specifically for the scene.

Sound Effects – sounds that are added to a film during the post-production stage.

Sonic flashback - Sound from one diegetic time is heard over images from a later time

Sound bridge - Sound bridges can lead in or out of a scene. They can occur at the beginning of one scene when the sound from the previous scene carries over briefly before the sound from the new scene begins. Alternatively, they can occur at the end of a scene, when the sound from the next scene is heard before the image appears on the screen.

Ambient Sound - the normal sound which exists in a particular scene or location eg. traffic noise, bird song and crowd chatter. Ambient sound can exist in any location. 

Character Theme - the part of a soundtrack which is associated with a particular character. 

Contrapuntal sound - a term which refers to sound which does not seem to ‘fit’ with the scene or images you are watching. 

Empathetic Sound – sound effects or music that match the mood and rhythm of the actions on screen 

Non-diegetic - sound which does not exist within the story of the film, but is put onto the film in post-production. 

Sound motif - A sound effect or combination of sound effects that are associated with a particular character, setting, situation or idea through the film. 

Voice-over: a commentary or narrative guide, only heard by the audience of the film and not the other characters, which describes and comments on events portrayed in a film


Artificial Light – A source of light created by lighting equipment, rather than from natural sources.

Convention – a frequently used element which becomes standard.

Disequilibrium – the period of instability and insecurity in a film’s narrative.

Enigma – the question or mystery that is posed within a film’s narrative.

Equilibrium – a state of peace and calm, which often exists at the beginning of a film’s narrative.

Framing – the selection of elements such as characters, setting and iconography that appear within a shot.

Genre – a system of film identification, in which films that have the same elements are grouped together.

Iconography – the objects within a film that are used to evoke particular meanings

Intertextuality – reference within a film to another film, media product, work of literature or piece of artwork.

Mise en scene – a French term, which literally means ‘put into the frame’. When analysing a sequence the term refers to everything you see in the frame (props, costume, lighting, colour, makeup etc.)

Narrative – a story that is created in a constructed format (eg. A programme) that describes a series of fictional or non-fictional events.