Basic understand of film terms



While students will learn the common terms used in the film industry, walking into the classroom with an already basic understanding of the standard terms used in the industry can go a long way.  Many online schools offer resources to obtain this background knowledge.  A few of these basic terms are as follows:

A “shot” is a single stream of images that are uninterrupted by editing.  It must be continuous.  A “scene” or “sequence” refers to a segment of narrative film that takes place in a single time and location.  A single scene can only contain two minutes of dialogue or can last for more than 15 minutes.  Scenes usually involve the same characters acting out a part of the story line.  Using the word “scene” usually refers to the shorter span of time while the word “sequence” refers to the longer length of film.

The concept of editing is more than just reviewing the film to determine what should be changed.  Editing refers to joining together clips of the film into a single filmstrip.  Editing is a way to transition from one shot to another.  Many films are not shot in order of the plot depending on the schedules of actors, studio or location needed, and editing allows filmmakers to tie clips together to form a logical sequence.

Focus refers to the interaction of light rays coming through an object, passing through the lens and connecting on a frame of the film negative.  Students will learn so many different ways focus can be used to create variations in the film:  shallow focus, deep focus, racking focus.

A “flashback or flashforward” is a jump backwards or forwards in time.  It breaks the order of events in the plot but can be used to give context to the main story line.   Many films begin in the future and flash back in time to tell how the characters got to where they at the start of the film, while many flashback and then flashforward to show a significant event that influenced where the story line begins.

Genres are essentially types of film recognized by specific producers, audiences and markets.  They stand out based on the pace and background of the story line, as well as the style of dialogue, whether it be narrative or poetic.  Genres can also depend on the area of the world where the film is popular.  Genres can range from documentary, theatrical, or comedy.

These terms are just a few of the basics used in the classroom, and while they will be taught in the classroom, walking in with that knowledge will only help you in the end.

Yale Film:

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