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Studio Lingo

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Above the Line:
Refers to the creative elements of a production such as the writer, producer, director and actors. Literally, these are the elements which appeared above a bold line which divided standard production budget sheets. (Production)
Academy Leader –
This is standard countdown leader, counting down 8 to 3 and then with one frame of 2, at which point there is a single frame beep on the sound track. It is used at the beginning of a film for the lab to line up sound (using the beep) and later for the projectionist to know when to turn on the lamp and hopefully not miss the opening of the film. A common mistake is to count the footage from the 2, but actually frame zero is the one right before the first 8, a single frame with the words “Picture Start.” Academy Leader is sometimes also known as S.M.P.T.E. leader.
A.D.R. –
Stands for: Automated Dialogue Recording. This is “Dubbing” , when in post production they add or replace sound or voices to the finished film. Sometimes this is to replace or improve on the sound recorded on location or in the studio. Interestingly it’s called A.D.R. rather than dubbing on the final credits to not make it so obvious that dubbing was needed on the film. Aren’t us humans curious ones.
Anamorphic -
A method of creating a wide screen image with standard film, using a special lens on the camera and projector that compresses the width of the image that is exposed on the film and then expands it when projected.
Apple Boxs (sizes full, half apples and quarter apples) –
Simply those boxes you might see around set that are used either to prop up anything from lights to cameras (or maybe a short leading man or two). You’ll often see a cameraman who’s camera is raised way high to get a shot standing on one of these “apple boxes” to reach the camera.
The Call –
If you watch and listen to the First AD or the Director right before they start filming a scene you will hear them call out a sequence of directions to get things going:
“Roll Sound”
“Roll Camera”
“Mark it”
Often you will hear some or all these (especially “Rolling”) repeated by many of the film crew to make sure everyone knows that the filming has begun.
Camera Reports -
A form of paperwork used to log shots and takes and put down any notes either to the lab or for future organization in the editing stage. There is generally one camera report per camera roll. Camera reports can be used to communicate specific timing requests to the lab (for instance, if a shot if lit with unusual color gels, this can be noted to let the timer know not to correct the color). Camera reports are extremely helpful to analyze any problem with the footage, since they provides a written record of the coverage (the least of which is that if the slate has the wrong information written on it, which happens now and then, a note can be made in the camera reports to keep the assistant editor from getting confused about which take is which).
Camera Roll –
After the “rolling”, “action”, “cut”, “that’s a take”… you have a exposed roll of film called a “camera roll”. If you were to look at it it would usually have the initials “C.R. plus a number on it. The numbers will be used by the lab to print and put them together in the sequence order of shooting which makes keeping track of all the processed film easier to handle, find and edit
Changing Bag -
A double chambered black bag with a zipper on one end and two elasticized arm holes on the other side, used for loading film into magazines.
“Cheat” -
When the camera is set up for a second shot at a different angle it is possible to move things around a little to improve the new composition, the difference in perspective and angle of the two shots hiding the fact that things are not exactly in the same place. Both actors and furniture on the set can be cheated. The term is often used as cheating something “into” a shot or “out of” a shot, as in telling an actor “We’re going to cheat you in a little,” and having them stand a little to one side so more of them is in the shot.
Clapper or Clapstick -
The Slate, or just the two sticks that are struck together to mark a sync sound take.
Clap Board -
see The Slate.
Continuity -
The seamlessness of detail from one shot to another within a scene. Continuity refers particularly to the physical elements, rather than to the choices in Coverage that can result in a lack of seamlessness. Elements of continuity include any actions of the actor, the placement of props, the lighting, the costumes, and so on.
Coverage -
Coverage is used to describe the architecture of breaking down a script into the shots that will allow the scene to be cut together. Although coverage addresses the bare-bones question of getting shots that will cut together smoothly, it is important not to be too distracted from bigger aesthetic question of getting the right shots for the scene to work.
Cut -
1.: What the director says to end the filming of a shot. 2.: The cutting apart of 2 shots at the frameline, or the point where the shots have been cut apart. 3.: In the different stages, or at the completion of editing the edited film itself can be referred to as “the cut” or “the edit.”
Cutaway -
A shot, usually a closeup of some detail, or landscape, that is used break up a matching action sequence, and is often very helpful in editing to rescue you from an impossible break in continuity or coverage. A cutaway, as the name implies, is a shot that does not focus on some detail of the shot before or after it but cuts away from the action at hand, unlike an Insert Shot. However, the two terms are sometimes used vaguely or interchangeably, although this is not always a useful practice. The best cutaways are the ones that have some logic to them, that relate to the scene.
Dailies -
The workprint, before it has been edited, so called because the minority of labs will have it ready later the same day it was dropped off (if you are a client to whom they give some type of priority). Also known as Rushes.
Dolly Shot (also called a “Tracking Shot”) –
You know how you see those scenes in films that seem to just keep up with some action or movement in a scene… and it seems like the camera is just moving parallel to the action? That’s when a camera is placed on a dolly and is moved following the action and filming.
Double Exposure -
A double exposure occurs when (prior to development) an exposed piece of film is reshot with a second image on top of the first. Several exposures can be made, but it still valid to call it a “double” exposure rather than a “triple” or “quadruple” exposure. It is perfectly alright to say “five double exposures,” as numerically incongruous as it may sound.
Dubbing (sometimes called “lip syncing”) –
When the film is in “post production” if they have a scene on film where the voices weren’t picked by the sound guy during filming… or they just don’t like the sound of the real voice or the way it’s said in the studio they will record new dialoge that matches the lip movements
Eye Line -
Eye line is the direction an actor should look off-screen to match a reverse angle or a P.O.V. shot. It is best to give the actor an actual thing or spot to look at rather than a blank spot on an empty wall or an empty space in mid air.
Frame -
A single image (of a series of them) on a piece of film. There are 24 frames per second.
Handheld -
Shooting without a tripod, but with the camera held by the cameraperson.
Insert Shot -
A close-up of some detail in the scene. (Sort of like a cutaway without the “-away” aspect.)
Location Sound -
This is the sync sound, or any other sort of wild track or room tone that was recorded at the shoot. Same as Production Sound.
Mag -
1.: Short for Magazine. 2.: Short for Mag Track.
Magazine –
Mark -
1.: The clapping of the clapstick to create a Sync Mark (1.) for the shot. 2.: A piece of tape on the floor that indicates where an actor should stand.
“Mark it!” -
What to say to the person with the slate to get them to clap the sticks together.
Master Shot –
Remember how a lot of the old westerns used to open up with a shot of a whole landscape that included everything visable for 25 miles in every direction… mountains, rivers, trees and maybe a single dirt road winding its way through the mountains or desert. There’s no actual action going on yet. That’s a “master shot”. It’s a all encompassing, often wide ended shot of the whole scene.
Matte Box -
A square shade that goes in front of the lens, usually supported by a pair of rods that attach to the camera. A matte box often has filter holders for square glass filters. (Often helpful for doing a Matte Shot.)
Matte Shot -
A double exposure that does not meld two images on top of each other, but masks off part of the frame for one exposure and the opposite area for another exposure. This is also known as a split screen. Matte shots can also be done as Opticals.
M&E -
M&E stands for Music and Effects. After a mix a big production will have an M&E track made, which is used when the film is dubbed into other languages so that all the Music and Effects do not also have to be redone. An M&E track is only essential if you plan on dubbing your film into a different language.
Mix -
This is the process of combining all your soundtracks into one, with all the sounds blended together at their correct volumes, together with any equalization, filtering, and effecting of the sound to give you the desired end result.
Nose Room -
When a subject is in profile, nose room is the space between their face and the edge of the frame, similar to Head Room. In a profile shot, nose room is considered “good” when a little extra room in front of the person’s face, rather than behind their head. The general rule is that the space around the subject should be apportioned to 2/3rds in front of the subject’s head, and 1/3rd behind.
180 Rule -
This is the rule which states that if two people are filmed in a sequence there is an invisible line between them and the camera should only be positioned anywhere within the 180 degrees on one side of the line. Crossing the line results in a certain particular jump, where is appears that the two people suddenly switched place.
Original -
Any film, negative or reversal, that was shot by a camera, as opposed to a print or intermediate copy. The term original can be used interchangeably with negative, but is as especially handy term when taking about reversal film, where it is the clearest way indicating whether something is a dupe or the original.
Outtakes -
The footage from your workprint that is not used in your edited version. Very small bits, a few frames or as little as one frame, are known as Trims.
Pan -
A horizontal camera move on an axis, from right to left or left to right. In a pan the camera is turning on an axis rather than across space, as in a dolly shot. Not to be confused with Tilt, technically it is not correct to say “pan up” or “pan down,” when you really mean tilt.
Pigeon -
This is a heavy round disc with a lighting stud, used to position a light on the floor, much lower than a stand will go. Basically, it is a Hi Hat for lights.
Photo Flood -
A photo flood is a high power screw-in light bulb that is often used in with a clamp light fixture. Photo floods are usually anywhere from 250 watts to 500 watts.
P.O.V. Shot -
Point of View Shot. A shot from the perspective of one of the characters, as if the audience were seeing the scene from their eyes. It is often important to get a Reaction Shot to establish that any given shot really is a P.O.V.
Quick Release -
A latching device for quickly mounting and removing the camera from the tripod.
Quick Release Shoe -
The part of the quick release that attaches to the camera is called the quick release shoe, and is inevitably worth double-checking, as they frequently stray away the tripod when left behind on the camera.
Rack Focus -
A shot where focus is changed while shooting. Unlike a Follow Focus shot, a rack focus shot is usually done not from the necessity of keeping someone in focus but to shift attention from one thing to another.
Reaction Shot -
1.: A shot of someone looking off screen. Used either to lead into a P.O.V. Shot (and let the viewer know that it is a P.O.V. shot), or to show a reaction right after a P.O.V. shot. 2.: A reaction shot can also be a shot of someone in a conversation where they are not given a line of dialogue but are just listening to the other person speak.
Reel -
1.: A metal or plastic spool for holding film, either for projection or editing. 2.: In 35mm a reel is 1,000 feet of film (or usually a little less). Also known as a Single Reel.
Reflective Light Reading -
A reflective light reading measures the amount of light bouncing off the subject. You take a reflective reading with a light meter equipped with a honey-comb or lensed grid. The meter is pointed at the subject, so as to read only the light bouncing off the subject. The other type of light reading is an Incident Light Reading.
Reverse Shot -
A shot from the other side of the previous shot (though preferably on the same side of the 180_ Line), such as cutting between two characters talking, a person exiting and entering though a doorway, a reaction shot and P.O.V. shot, etc.
Rushes -
The workprint, when it is just back from the lab, unedited, called the rushes because of the rush to see that everything came out alright. Also known as Dailies, in honor of the minority of labs that will have it later that day.
“Safety” -
An additional take, done after a successful one, as a backup.
Sandbag -
A cloth bag with two chambers filled with sand, used as a weight on the legs of a light stand for additional stability.
Scene -
A scene is really just a single shot. But often scene is used to mean several shots, which is more to do with the word’s origin in theater. It is sometimes clearer to say “sequence” for several shots, so as not to confuse the filmic and theatrical meanings of the word.
Scratch Test -
A scratch test is done before shooting, by running either a foot or two of the beginning of a roll of film, or a dummy roll of film, and checking for scratches, to insure that neither the camera nor the magazines are scratching the film.
Shot -
A shot is the film exposed from the time the camera is started to the time it is stopped. Shot and Scene are interchangeable terms.
The Slate -
A board with two hinged sticks attached. The slate is used to record a scene number and sync point (via the clapstick) at the beginning of a shot.
Soft Light -
A type of light with a built-in surface to act as a bounce card, providing soft, indirect light on the subject.
Sound Blanket -
Basically just a quilted mover’s blanket. Often it is thrown over the camera (and the camera operator) to cut down on camera noise, as a sort of improvised Barney.
“Speed!” -
This is what the cameraperson or sound recordist will call out to acknowledge that they are rolling. It comes from the days when it took a few seconds for certain equipment to reach proper speed.
Spot Meter -
A type of meter for taking a Reflective Light Reading with a short telescopic sight that enables you to take a very specific reflective reading of a small, well-defined area.
Tail -
The end of a shot or a roll is called the tail.
Tail Slate -
Sometimes it is necessary to mark a shot at the end rather than at the beginning. When this is done it is called a tail slate. It is customary to call “Tail Slate!” just before clapping the slate, so that the person syncing the film does not get confused. To easily distinguish a tail slate, the slate is held upside down when marking the shot.
Take -
Multiple versions of the same shot are called takes.
Tracking Shot -
A tracking shot is one where the camera is placed on a dolly and is moved while filmming. Also known as a dolly shot.
A Wrap or “It’s a Wrap!” -
What to say when you are done shooting, either for the day, at that particular set, or on the entire film. Usually if it’s not the final shoot you would say you are just going to “wrap for the day.”

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