This video glossary covers the terminology and defines the meaning of common video terms related to cameras, codecs, lighting, film set lingo, post-production workflows, and everything else you ever wanted to know about film and video production.
The shot list is a director and cinematographer’s guide to all the shots they intend to shoot in any given scene on any given day. Functionally a checklist, the shot list determines the schedule for the day and what will be shot and from what angle.
This is what we refer to as coverage; how a scene is “covered” in different various shots.
The shot list helps film crews keep track of what they are filming and from what angle, and what they still have to accomplish.
Shoulder rigs are stabilizers that attach to a camera operator’s shoulder in some way to use the operator’s own body to help stabilize the camera. Shoulder rigs are nice for taking the pressure off an operator’s arms to carry the entire load of the camera, which is very nice for shooting handheld, as having to hold the camera all day can be a real drain.
The speed of your shutter refers to the duration of time that each frame is exposed to light for. Shutter speed is most easily referred to in degrees of speed, i.e. “1/60th of a second”, but can also be referred to in degrees of angle, i.e. “180 degrees.” Shutter speed is useful when controlled manually for creating specific effects. For example, shutter speed will impact the amount of motion blur captured. A faster shutter speed helps you capture crisp, clean movements, while a longer shutter speed will capture blurrier, more chaotic looking images - which creates an interesting effect when used intentionally.
The slate is a famous piece of film equipment - it’s the mini whiteboard that you write the shot, scene, and take number on before clapping shut in order to sync the sound with the video in post-production.
The slate is an organizational tool to help the editors both match the audio with the visual, but when used in conjunction with the script supervisor’s logs, it is also good for keeping track of which takes are the best from each set of shots.
A slider is a type of camera mount that actually slides forward and backward (or side to side, depending on how you position it). This is to create a push in or push out effect and is nice for creating dynamic movement in an otherwise stationary shot. You can also lock sliders in place and use them as shoulder rigs when shooting handheld, too.
For more information on sliders have a look at our in-depth guide Best Professional Camera Sliders For Any Budget.
Slow-motion is a pretty commonly known special effect where you slow down footage for a specific effect. Slow-motion is almost always applied after the fact, but you do need to consider what frame rate you are shooting a scene in when you are intending to slow it down later in post-production. As mentioned before, a higher frame rate creates a smoother effect when you slow footage down.
A snorricam is an interesting camera attachment that you rig to an actor’s body to create the illusion that the world is moving around them. With the camera locked on an actor’s face / upper body as they move through the world, the snorricam makes the camera stationary while the world behind the actor is fluid and rotating around them.
Softness and sharpness in cinematography refer to the crispness of an image, or in other words, how in-focus an image is. What we consider “soft focus” is the opposite of “sharp focus”, i.e. if an image is soft, that means that it is in-between being completely out of focus and in focus. However, it can sometimes be hard to tell, which is why it is called “soft” as the details of the image will be blurred slightly so that they look a little less crisp, or what we would consider “sharp.”
A split-screen is an editing term that refers to two different shots being spliced together into the same frame at the same time. So for example, one character is talking to another on the phone, and both of them are in separate locations (that were filmed separately) but are edited together to appear in the frame at the same time.
Steadicams, or Steadicam rigs, are camera stabilizers that create the impression of fluid movement, usually through a counterbalance system to keep a camera steady while moving it around in a handheld fashion.
Steadicam rigs usually hook up via a vest that the operator wears and an arm attachment that the camera can move around on. These arms are either side holstered like a third appendage or slung up the back of the vest to hang the camera from a tight extension cable above the operator’s head.
Stop motion is a type of animation where you create the illusion of movement through taking a series of still images and then cutting them together.
While that definition technically encompasses all of video and film, stop motion is different in that the subject being recorded can’t actually move on its own - or can’t move in the same way on its own.
Stop motion is best used to animate inanimate objects to make them appear to move. The animation style known as claymation, where clay figures come to life, is created via the stop motion process.
The storyboard is a director’s tool to visually outline every shot prior to filming them on the day by drawing them out in a sequence.
Storyboards are good for capturing the exact frame and angle of each shot and allows the director to draw what they see in their head. These storyboards are then used as visual guides, or blueprints, for the director and cinematographer to follow on the day.
Sync sound refers to all diegetic sound that is synchronized with an image. Dialogue matching lips, a shatter sound effect corresponding with a window breaking, or a car horn blaring as a fist slams onto it all count as sync sound.
Because sound is always recorded separately and not on the camera itself, it is necessary to sync sound up in post. This refers to the process of matching the sound file with the image file, which is why every scene begins with a harsh clap sound via the slate - so editors can sync up the sound from the scene in post.
Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.
About the author:
Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.