Glossary

This is the start of an ongoing glossary of terms relating to filmmaking -- both on-set and off.

50-50
A term used to tell the camera department to roll the camera without the actors’ knowledge (e.g., during a rehearsal)
Abbey Singer
The set-up before the final set-up of the day.
Apple Box
A sealed wooden box with a cut-out handle on two ends. Handy as a place to sit, or to stand on to make someone taller. Comes in several sizes: Full Apple, Half Apple, Quarter Apple, and Pancake. The Full Apple is the best one for sitting.
Back to One
Term (generally used by an assistant director) signalling actors and crew to return to their starting positions. Most often heard after a take is completed and another is going to be attempted, but can also be used after a false start or anywhere during a take that breaks down. Sometimes used with the camera and sound still rolling, which can add a bit of urgency to the reset.
Banana
An actor will sometimes be required to take a curved path from one position to another, for various reasons, rather than a straight line. He or she will be asked to “banana” in order to get to the mark.
Boom
An extendable pole, at the end of which is attached a microphone for picking up actors’ dialogue.
Buzz (focus)
A take will often have to be repeated because some of the previous take was out of focus, or “soft.” It will also be referred to as “buzzed” focus.
C-Stand
Short for Century stand, a three-legged stand used for a variety of things on set, very commonly to support flags and scrims for controlling light
”Circle it”
A term used by the director to indicate that he’s pleased with a particular take. The script supervisor, camera department and sound department will make a note to let the editorial department know that this is a favored take. On a film shoot, the camera department will draw a circle around the box on the camera report indicating the preferred take. This report will be sent to the lab with the film, where, after developing the negative, the lab will print only the circled takes (it’s considered too expensive to print every take), which will then be viewed the next day during the dailies screening. An alternative term would be for the director to say, “Print it!” This is the same as saying “Circle it,” and both terms are still in use today even on digital productions.
Choker
A very close angle, usually from the neck upward.
Cowboy
A shot of the actor from the middle of the thigh to the top of the head. From western movies, where the actor would often be filmed while sitting on a horse.
Eyebrow
An extension for the matte box, when further stray light control is needed. Often has sharp edges and pointy corners, and is very often placed at actor eye-height, so take care when it is mounted to the camera.
Eyeline
What an actor is looking at. Most often, it is another actor, but it can also be an imaginary thing out of frame, such as a burning building, a tennis match, etc. The actor will then ask, “What’s my eyeline?” so he knows where to look based on what the camera sees.
Eyelight
Often a small light placed on or near the camera to put a little dot of light into an actor’s eye.
Edge/Rim/Backlight
A light placed behind an actor, usually up high. Often used to help separate the actor from the background.
ECU
Extreme Close-Up. Generally, a shot of just the actor’s face, from chin to forehead.
Fill
Fill light. Light used to fill in lighting on the actor. Quite often, the Key Light will be placed to one side, creating a brighter side of the face. In some cases, the other side of the face will be deemed too dark, and some fill light will be added. Fill light is generally softer and less intense than the Key Light.
French flag
An extension for the matte box, for extra control of stray light. Similar to an eyebrow, but generally mounted on a flexible arm attached to the camera, so it can be used on top, on either side, or even sometimes below the matte box as needed. Can have sharp edges and pointy corners, so be aware.
Going again
After a take, the AD will signal for another take by saying, “Going again.” It’s basically understood that all parties are expected to go “back to one,” but the AD will often call this out, anyway.
Groucho
An actor will sometimes need to perform some portion of a shot while crouching down, oftentimes to keep from forcing the camera to frame up too high (perhaps there’s no ceiling on the set, or something bad will be revealed). They will be asked to Groucho (after Groucho Marx’s famed stooped-over gait).
Hand-Held
The camera is carried by the camera operator while shooting, very often on his shoulder, but can also be carried down at the feet, at the waist, etc. Often used to suggest a character’s POV (point of view), and/or to suggest some agitation or excitement, amongst many reasons.
Key
Key light. The main light hitting an actor in a scene.
Last looks/Final touches
Just before shooting, hair and makeup personnel will be called to do final adjustments.
Last man through
When the lunch break is called and the meal is catered, 30 minutes are allowed for the meal. But the thirty minute clock does not start until the last member of the cast or crew has been through the line, so the AD’s are in charge of noting when that happens, and keeping track of when it’s time to get back to work.
Lav
Lavalier microphone, generally worn under an actor’s clothing (along with a small transmitter).
”The Line”
An imaginary line that the camera will not cross when shooting coverage. To visualize: two actors are facing one another in a scene. Imagine that you are observing the scene from between the actors, as close as you can be to them without blocking their view of one another (which is what the camera often does). Turn to your left to face one of the actors--you will see that he is looking past your right shoulder at the other actor. Now, turn around to face the other actor--you will see that he is looking past your left shoulder at the other actor. If we replace you with a camera, it will need to do the same thing, so that when the two angles are edited together, it will appear as if the actors are looking at one another. You have created an imaginary line which must not be crossed by the lens in order to maintain this appearance. “Crossing the line” is when the camera shoots one actor looking past the camera (looking past the right side of frame, for example), then turns around for the reverse and has the other actor also looking past the right side of camera. When edited together, these angles will make it seem as if the actors are NOT looking at each other when speaking.
Magic hour
Generally, the time of day after the sun has gone behind the horizon, but before it’s completely dark outside. Considered a beautiful and magical time to shoot.
Martini
The final set-up of the day.
Matte Box
Rectangular frame attached to the camera in front of the lens, the keep stray light from hitting the lens, and also as a place to mount filters in front of the lens.
”Mime it”
Very often, background players will be asked to act like they’re talking in a scene, but for sound recording reasons, they will be told to “mime” the dialogue.
Oner
A shot done in a single, uninterrupted take: no cuts, no coverage, no editing.
Over
Over-the-shoulder shot. The camera frames an actor from behind the shoulder of the actor facing him. This type of shot will often be referred to as either “dirty”--in which the camera sees a piece of the actor facing away from the camera, or “clean”--where the camera does not see any of the opposite-facing actor’s head or shoulder.
Overcrank
Used for slow-motion shooting. The camera is run faster than the standard 24 frames per second, so that when the footage is played back at 24 frames per second, the action is in slow motion. There is no particular set speed for overcranking--the faster the overcrank, the slower the motion. The term comes from the silent film days, when the camera was cranked by hand.
Reverse
A reverse angle. If two actors are talking to one another in a scene, for example, the camera will shoot an angle of one actor, then turn around to shoot the other actor in a reverse.
Room Tone
A recording of the sound of the room in which a scene is being filmed. Generally recorded immediately after the last take of a scene is filmed in a particular space, and with everyone holding still and being completely silent. The recording will usually last from thirty seconds to one minute. This recording will then be used by the dialogue editor to fill in gaps in the dialogue track; if the editor were to use pure silence in these gaps, it would sound unnatural. It is a good practice when "Room Tone!" is called for that you quickly find a comfortable place to sit.
Run and Gun
Often used to describe shooting in a documentary-style, in a quick and simple manner. Sometimes used to add freshness and excitement to a scenario, sometimes used dues to logistical neccessity.
Set-Up
Each new shot is considered a “set-up.” Sometimes it can be fairly simple to reset for a new set-up (e.g., moving from a medium shot to a close shot), and sometimes it can be very complicated (e.g., turning around for a reverse angle).
Single
A shot with one actor in it. Variations include: -Dirty single A single shot from over the shoulder of the other actor, showing a part of that actor (typically a piece of shoulder and/or head). -Clean single A single shot from over the shoulder of the other actor, but not showing any of that actor. -Over Short for “over the shoulder.” See “Dirty Single.”
Soft sticks
When a close-up is being shot, very often the slate will need to be held right in front of the actor’s face, and the sticks clapped. The 2nd AC will notify the sound recordist that he will be doing “soft sticks,” which means clapping them lightly so as not to disturb the actor (the sound recordist can adjust his recording level as needed).
Speed
When it’s time to shoot a take, the 1st AD will call out “Roll sound!” The sound recordist will switch on his recorder and call “Sound speed!” The AD will then call out “Roll camera!” The camera assistant will switch on the camera and call out “Camera speed!” For the most part, the sound recorder and camera no longer actually roll. This is left over from the use of tape for sound and film for camera; the devices actually rolled tape and film through them, and it took a moment for them to get up to speed when turned on. This nomenclature has carried over into the digital era.
Steadicam
A vest-mounted arm and mount, used to support the camera for extremely smooth handheld shots. Named for a specific system, but often used generically for any similar camera-support apparatus.
Turn over
Generally a British variation on the command to “Roll sound/roll camera,” but sometimes used on US sets.
Two Shot
A shot with two actors in it.
Two T’s
A medium close shot from the nipples up.
Undercrank
Same principal as overcrank, except that the motion will appear faster than normal when played back at 24fps. Commonly used in silent slapstick comedies.
The Vanities/Glamor Squad
Nickname for hair and makeup personnel.
Video Village
The place where a concentration of video monitors is set up, for the director, script supervisor and others to watch while shooting. It is often placed under a tent, and can easily start to resemble a village. It can seem like an intimidating place, but it’s really not.
Wrap
When shooting has finished for the day. “That’s a wrap!” will be called by the First AD, and all departments will pack up their equipment. Also used on an individual basis: e.g., “Tom Jones is wrapped for today” (even though there are more hours of shooting to be done with others), and often “That’s a wrap on Tom Jones for this movie,” whereupon everyone will applaud and carry on for a few moments.