Video and Film Terms that may be helpful from the Internet
Using these terms will help you to analyse and explain moving image sequences in film, television or advertising.
What’s included and excluded in an individual shot.
Very long shot/wide shot
A shot in which figures appear small in the landscape. Often used at the beginning of a film or sequence as an ‘establishing shot’ to show where the action is taking place; also used to make a figure appear small or isolated.
A shot in which a figure can be seen from head to toe.
Shows the figure from approximately the waist to the head. In a mid shot, you can easily recognize an individual but you can also see what they are doing with their hands.
Medium close up
From chest to head
Head and shoulders, enabling you to easily see facial expressions, so you can see what characters are thinking and feeling
Big close up
Head only, used when expressions are important
From just above the eyebrows to just below the mouth, or even closer: used to emphasise facial expression or to make the subject appear threatening.
Other useful terms for shots are:
Any shot with two people in it
Point of view shot
A shot from a character’s point of view
A shot showing a character’s expression as they react to something
A type of reaction shot used in interviews, where we see the interviewer apparently reacting to the interviewee
A shot in which we see a character over another’s shoulder, often used in interviews or dialogues
Depth of field
This means how much of the shot seems to be in focus, in front of and behind the subject.
Everything in the shot appears to be in focus, which means that we can be looking at action taking place in the foreground, middle ground and background.
Isolates the subject from the background.
Where the camera is in relation to the subject.
Low angle shot
The camera points upwards, usually making the subject or setting seem grand or threatening.
High angle shot
The camera looks down, making the subject look vulnerable or insignificant.
Bird’s eye shot
Looks vertically down at the subject.
Moving the camera itself towards or away from the subject, or to follow a moving subject. (Not to be confused with a zoom, where the camera’s lens is varied to give the impression of moving closer to, or away from the subject.)
Pivoting the camera to the side to scan a scene or to follow a moving subject.
A sudden, fast pan.
Pivoting the camera vertically up or down.
Moving the camera in an arc around the subject.
A shot where the camera itself moves up or down.
This is used to convey a sense of immediacy.
How the individual shots are put together.
There are two main types of editing which you will encounter in mainstream films and TV programmes:
The majority of film sequences are edited so that time seems to flow, uninterrupted, from shot to shot. Within a ‘continuity editing’ sequence, only cuts will be used. Continuity editing can also involve ‘cross-cutting’, where a sequence cuts between two different settings where action is taking place at the same time.
In montage, different images are assembled to build up an impression. This is often used in title sequences. The most famous example of this technique is the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin.
Editing can vary both in pace (how long individual shots stay on the screen for) and in the transitions between shots.
Transitions describe the way in which one shot replaces the previous one:
One image is suddenly replaced by another, without a visible transition.
One image dissolves into another. This can be used to make a montage sequence - eg the title sequence - flow smoothly; it can also be used in continuity editing to show that we have moved forwards in time and/or space.
An image gradually fades in
An image gradually fades out.
Fades to and from black usually mean that time has passed
One image replaces another without dissolving, with the border between the images moving across or around the screen.