FilmTerm  resources

FilmTerm termbase contains resources for film production and audio-visual examples that help to clarify more difficult terms (see examples below). Sõnaveeb functionality is being developed to display all of these resources alongside the terminology. Stay tuned for updates.


Action axis

In the continuity editing system, the imaginary line that passes through the main actors or the principal movement. It defines the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left. The camera is not supposed to cross the axis at a cut and thus reverse those spatial relations. It is also called the 180 degree line. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)

Aperture (lens)

The opening through which light passes within the lens. Its diameter is adjustable by means of a lens iris (diaphgram). (Malkiewicz & Mullen 2005)

Beat sheet

A breakdown of the script or story into a succession of events. Each event is summed up in a few words. (FILMTERM)


A document that is accounting the cost of every aspects of the movie. (Ascher & Pincus 2012: 727)

Butterfly lighting 

A lighting technique in which the light comes directly in front and above the subject’s face. This pattern creates shadows directly below the subject’s facial features. The most notable shadow, and where this lighting pattern gets its name, is a butterfly-shaped shadow just under the nose. (Jirsa 2021)

Call sheet

A script that shows the shot coverage. Created by the script supervisor during production. (Kellison 2006) 

Character design 

The full creation of a character’s aesthetic, personality, behavior, and overall visual appearance. Character designers create characters as a vehicle for storytelling. This means that every aspect of a character such as shapes, color palettes, and details are chosen for a specific reason. (Deguzman 2021)


A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large; most commonly a person's head seen from the neck up, or an object of a comparable size that fills most of the screen. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)

Costume design 

Design of the garments or clothing worn by actors/performers in a film. (Dirks, filmsite)

Cowboy shot

A variation of full shot. A shot of a character from the top of the head to mid-thigh, originally in order to see the six-gun on his belt. (Brown 2016)  

Crew list

A list that shows the crew members who work on the film. (FILMTERM) 

Extreme close-up

A single feature such as eyes, mouth or hand filling the screen. Also called Big Close-up (BCU). (Malkiewicz & Mullen 2005)  

Extreme long shot (ELS) 

A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a building, landscape, or crowd of people will fill the screen. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)

Focal length

The distance between principal points (effective optical center) of the lens focused on infinity. It should coincide with the film plane. (Malkiewicz & Mullen 2005)

Horror genre

A popular film genre designed to frighten and thrill with familiar elements (monsters, killers, vampires, zombies, aliens, mad scientists, the devil or demons, etc.), gothic qualities or settings (e.g., castles), psychological terror, etc. (Dirks, filmsite)

Kicker light

A light from behind that grazes along an actor’s cheek on the fill side (the side opposite the key light). Often it defines the face well enough that a fill is not even necessary. It should not be confused with a backlight, which generally covers both sides equally. (Brown 2016) 

Lens types

A short focal length lens has a wide field of view. A long focal length lens has a narrow field of view. A long lens compresses space and a wide lens expands and distorts space. (Brown 2016)

Lined script

A script that shows the coverage. Created by the script supervisor during production. (FILMTERM)

Location list

A list of locations being used for the production, along with contact information. (Wales 2017) 

Long shot (LS) 

Full figure filling the frame. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)


A lighting technique that falls right in the middle of the spectrum between flattering flat light and dramatic split light. It offers a nice middle ground where most of the face is lit, but enough shadows remain to create some definition. (Jirsa 2021)

Low key lighting, high contrast

Illumination that creates strong contrast between light and dark areas of the shot, with deep shadows and little fill light. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)

Medium close-up

A framing in which the scale of the object is fairly large; a human figure seen from the chest up would fill most of the screen. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)  

Medium shot 

Frame composition in which a three-quarter-length figure fills the screen. Abbreviated MS. (Malkiewicz & Mullen 2005)


(literally meaning "one color") usually refers to a film shot in black and white, although it can refer to a film shot in shades of one color. Grainy black and white is often used to convey authenticity. (Dirks, filmsite)

Mood board

A type of collage consisting of images, text, and samples of objects in a composition. It can be based upon a set topic or can be any material chosen at random. A mood board can be used to convey a general idea or feel about a particular topic. They may be physical or digital, and can be effective presentation tools. (AMC Filmsite 2019)

Near side key

Generally viewed as a flatter lighting technique that creates fewer shadows and is often used as "beauty lighting." (Light 2019)

Far side key 

Lighting the side of the actor's face that is away from the camera. (Light 2019)

One-sheet poster

Used in theaters, a standard-size movie poster typically measuring 27 x 41 inches and printed on thin paper. (Marich 2013)

Opening credits

An introduction to the film that includes the title and selected important members of the production. Often superimposed on the action [in the title sequence]. (Griffiths 2015)  


A scene-by-scene breakdown of the entire story of your screenplay. (Final Draft 2021)

Point of view (POV) 

A shot taken with the camera placed approximately where the character's eyes would be, showing what the character would see, usually cut in before or after a shot of the character looking. (Bordwell & Thompson 2013)

Production design 

Film's overall design, continuity, visual look and composition (colors, sets, costumes, scenery, props, locations, etc.) that are the responsibility of the production designer; the art department refers to the people in various roles (e.g., matte painters, set designers and decorators, illustrators, title designers, scenic artists, and storyboard artists) who work under the production designer's supervision; the art director is responsible for the film's physical settings (specifically refers to the interiors, landscapes, buildings, etc.). (Dirks, filmsite)

Rembrandt lighting 

A lighting technique in which half of the subject’s face is in shadow except for triangle-shaped light on the cheekbone and eye. (Jirsa 2021)

Romantic comedy 

A comedic film genre in which the main story revolves around a romance. Also known as romcom. (, 2017)

Scene cards

Method used by some writers to outline their script by describing each scene on an index card, then arranging and rearranging them to work out the story structure. (Grove 2009)


The work of drama in a written form, intended for the screen (film and television) (FILMTERM). It tells a story through visual descriptions, actions of characters and their dialogue ( 2017). Written by a screenwriter, it is intended to be the basis for a team of artistic collaborators who complete the storytelling through visual and aural designs, acting, and directing. (Burgoyne & Downey 2012).

Script breakdown 

An analysis of a screenplay in which all of the production elements are reduced to lists in order to schedule and budget the production. (Austin Community College 2014)

Script coverage

The script reader’s report. (Haddad, 2005) Generally included in the coverage is a one-line story description, a synopsis of the plotline, and the reader’s comments, including the words ‘Pass’ or ‘Consider’ at the end (Grove, 2009).

Shooting script

A script from which a film is made that includes scene numbers, camera angles, inserts and certain input from the director/cinematographer. (James 2009) At this stage the script is locked, so any changes are designated by different-colored pages, i.e. pinks. (Haddad 2005)

Shutter speed

The longer the shutter is open, the more light reaches the film or sensor. Frame rate also affects shutter speed. (Brown 2016) 

Split lighting

A lighting technique that “splits” the subject’s face, lighting half of your subject’s face while leaving the other half in shadow. Because of the angle of light, there is no Rembrandt triangle, only shadow. (Jirsa 2021)


Sketches of all shots in a picture, drawn in pre-production and distributed to heads of departments so they can see what each shot will look like. (Wales 2017)


One- or two-page summary of what happens in a story/film/screenplay. Written in the present tense. (FILMTERM)


A complete prose plan of the script, anything from about 6 to 30 pages in length. The treatment gives a clear sense of how the story would be treated cinematically. It is written in the present tense, includes all action but little, if any, dialogue.  (WGGB 2009: 20)