100 Film Terms To Know (With Definitions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Film can be an exciting industry with many different types of jobs and projects. If you're interested in working in film, it may be useful to familiarize yourself with industry-specific terms. This knowledge can help you can understand and communicate with your coworkers. In this article, we explain the importance of film terms, provide the definitions for 80 film terms and list 20 more that you may encounter.

Related: 15 Jobs You Can Get With a Film Degree

Why is it important to learn film terms?

Learning film terms can be important because doing so may help you quickly understand what other professionals are saying to each other. It can also help you understand instructions and communicate your own needs effectively. Film production can be a quick moving industry, so knowing the proper terms can be a vital tool for new professionals hoping to keep up.

80 film terms with definitions

Here are 80 film terms with definitions that may be useful to know:

Film production jobs

Here are 10 common film production roles:

  1. Best boy: A best boy assists the gaffer or key grip on a film set.

  2. Camera operator (OP): This individual sets up and manipulates the camera to capture footage.

  3. Cinematographer: Also known as a director of photography (DP or DoP), the cinematographer helps direct the lighting and camera crew to capture a shot.

  4. Composer: A composer writes music to create the soundtrack for a film.

  5. Director: A film director develops a creative vision for a film, then guides cast and crew members through the process of production.

  6. Gaffer: A gaffer, also known as head electrician or chief lighting officer, creates and executes a lighting plan for a production.

  7. Grip: Grips set up film and lighting equipment on set. The head grip, also known as the key grip, receives instructions from the gaffer.

  8. Producer: A producer coordinates the overall production of a film, including the script and financing.

  9. Screenwriter: This is a writer who produces the script for a film.

  10. Showrunner: A showrunner is the writer or producer of a television show who has primary creative authority.

Related: What Is a Film Director? (Duties and Qualification)

Camera terms

Here are some technical camera terms to know:

  1. Camera angle: The camera angle refers to the visual relationship between a camera and the person or object it's shooting.

  2. Camera dolly: This is a cart that crew members can use to move the camera and capture a smooth moving shot.

  3. Camera movement: Camera movements describe the way the camera op manipulates the camera to create pans, zooms and other various types of shots.

  4. Camera rig: A camera rig is a device like a tripod or handheld rig that helps improve the functionality and often the stability of a camera.

  5. Depth of field: This is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a shot that are both in focus.

  6. Filter: A filter is often a piece of glass or plastic that filmmakers can put behind or in front of the camera lens to change the lighting or visual effect of the shot.

  7. Focus: Focus is how sharp objects in the shot appear. Filmmakers may adjust focus to help tell their story or to ensure the actors' faces are clear.

  8. Frame rate: This is how fast the images that make up a film play on screen. High frame rates result in smooth footage, while low frame rates result in choppy footage.

  9. Gate: The gate is the opening in a film camera for the purpose of light exposure.

  10. Lens: The camera lens is a curved glass in the front of a camera that works with the rest of the camera to control and capture the visuals of a shot.

Camera movements

Camera movements can help create dynamic and interesting shots. Here are a few to know:

  1. Aerial shot: This type of shot shows the action from high above. Filmmakers often use a drone or aircraft to achieve aerial shots.

  2. Close-up: This shot shows an object or part of an actor from a close distance and can help capture details.

  3. Dutch angle: This is a camera movement that involves filming with the camera at an angle, so the footage slants diagonally.

  4. Full shot: A full shot captures an actor's entire body, from head to toe.

  5. Long shot: A long shot shows the subject from far away.

  6. Medium shot: A medium shot shows the subject from a medium distance. With an actor, this often means from the waist up.

  7. Point-of-view shot: Also known as a P.O.V. shot, this shot shows the action of a scene from the perspective of a character.

  8. Push in/pull back: This refers to the camera either moving toward or away from its subject.

  9. Reaction shot: This shot shows a non-speaking character reacting to the dialogue or events of the scene.

  10. Static shot: This is a shot in which the camera stays still.

Lighting terms

Here are 10 useful lighting terms:

  1. Ambient light: This is the existing light in a space from the sun, moon or pre-existing lighting structures.

  2. Back light: This light is located behind and slightly to one side of a subject and provides back light in a traditional three point lighting setup.

  3. Bounce board: This is a large, usually white, board that filmmakers can use to bounce ambient light onto the subjects of a scene.

  4. Chimera: Also known as a soft box, this is a cloth frame filmmakers can use to defuse light.

  5. C-stand: This is an easily adjustable metal stand for holding lights on a film set.

  6. Diffusion: In lighting, this is the process of creating a softer light by placing a material between the light source and the subject.

  7. Fill light: This is another light in the three point lighting setup. It provides a secondary light source from the opposite front angle of the key light.

  8. Gel: A gel is a colored material, often either plastic or gelatinous, that filmmakers can place over lights to change their color and temperature.

  9. Gobo: A gobo is a stencil that lighting professionals can place in front of the light source to create a pattern or image with shadow.

  10. Key light: This is the primary light source in the three point lighting scheme. It provides a powerful light on the front of a subject, slightly to one side.

Related: How To Successfully Work on a Movie Set

Sound terms

Here are 10 sound and audio film terms:

  1. Automated dialogue replacement (ADR): This is the post-production process of re-recording an actor's dialogue and substituting it for the dialogue captured on the day of the shoot.

  2. Boom pole: This is a long pole that a sound technician can use to hold an attached microphone close to an actor.

  3. Diegetic sound: This is any sound in a film that's part of the story and setting, including character voices and background noises.

  4. Lavalier: Also known as a lav mic, this is a small microphone that actors can clip to their clothing.

  5. Location sound: Also known as a buzz track, this is the background noise that filmmakers can capture on location to use later in the editing process.

  6. Narration: This is a technique in which a character or narrator talks directly to the audience in a voiceover.

  7. Non-diegetic sound: This is any sound that's added to the film from outside the world of the story, including narration or soundtrack.

  8. Shotgun mic: This is a long microphone that can pick up sound from one particular direction.

  9. Sound effects: In film, a sound effect is a pre-recorded sound element that editors can add to a scene to improve the storytelling.

  10. Sound stage: This is a shooting location with optimal audio recording acoustics.

Production terms

Here are 10 production terms for film:

  1. Call sheet: This is a list that explains the shoot schedule and what the call times are for cast and crew members.

  2. Cast: The cast is the group of actors who play all the characters in the film.

  3. Crew: The crew is the group of professionals who perform technical tasks like operating film equipment.

  4. Clapperboard: Also known as a slate or slate board, this is a tool that filmmakers hold in front of the camera at the beginning of a shot to display information and help editors synchronize sound and visuals.

  5. Dailies: Dailies a collection of unedited footage from the previous day. Directors may review dailies to plan for the next day's shoot.

  6. Extras: These are actors who play non-speaking background roles in a film.

  7. Film set: A film set is an artificial rendition of a setting using props and scenery to create a space where filmmakers can shoot scenes.

  8. Shot list: A shot list is a detailed description of each shot in a scene that crew members may use as a checklist when shooting.

  9. Take: A take is the footage captured between when a camera begins recording and when the director says "cut."

  10. Wrap: A director uses this term to mark the end of the primary shooting phase of a project.

Editing terms

Here are some useful film editing terms:

  1. Cross-cutting: This is an editing technique that involves cutting back and forth between two scenes.

  2. Cross-fade: A cross-fade describes when the end of one shot fades into the beginning of another.

  3. Eyeline match: This technique can make it appear that a character is looking at an object by showing the character looking at something followed by a shot of the object.

  4. Jump cut: This is a cut that breaks up a shot, causing the subject to jump to a different place on-screen.

  5. Match cut: This is a technique wherein an editor matches two visually similar elements of different shots together to create a smooth transition.

  6. Mixing: This is a post-production sound process of combining dialogue, music, sound effects and narration into a single coherent soundtrack.

  7. Montage: This is an editing technique that involves combining numerous clips into a sequence that shows the passage of time.

  8. Rough cut: This is an early draft of a finished movie. While some details may be absent, the sequences are in order and tell the story.

  9. Split screen: A split screen is an editing technique where half the screen displays one shot and the other half displays a different shot.

  10. Visual effects (VFX): VFX are the additional visual elements and images added to a film in post-production.

Related: How To Become a Film Editor in 2021

General film terms

Here are some more common film terms:

  1. Logline: This is a one or two sentence description of a film or television show.

  2. Pipeline: The production pipeline refers to the process of filmmaking. A film that's in a production phase is "in the pipeline."

  3. Post-production: Post-production, or post, refers to the filmmaking process that occurs after the film shoots. It includes editing, VFX and captions.

  4. Pre-production: Pre-production refers to the filmmaking process that occurs before the film shoots. It includes writing, casting and location scouting.

  5. Pre-screen: Pre-screening means showing a film to a group of people before it comes out.

  6. Principal photography: This is the production phase, after pre-production and before post-production, in which the shooting of most footage occurs.

  7. Screener: This is an early copy of a finished film which studios may send to critics, award show voters or other industry professionals.

  8. Screenplay: A screenplay is the script of a film including the dialogue and screed directions.

  9. Storyboard: A storyboard is a series of drawings that form a visual representation of how the shots in a scene might look.

  10. Treatment: This is a detailed summary of a film. It may include descriptions of the theme, tone, characters and plot.

20 more film terms

Here are 20 more terms you may encounter in the film industry:

  1. Aspect ratio

  2. Avant-guarde

  3. Axis of action

  4. Background

  5. Billing

  6. CGI

  7. Continuity

  8. Coverage

  9. Cue

  10. Cue card

  11. Deep focus

  12. Director's cut

  13. Master shot

  14. Mise-en-scène

  15. Principals

  16. Postmodern

  17. Production value

  18. Spec script

  19. Three shot

  20. Wide angle

Explore more articles