Cut: Switch from one image to another.

Dissolve:  Switch from one image to another in which two images are temporarily superimposed.

Wipe: An optical effect in which an image appears to “wipe off” the preceding image.

Fade:  Fade-in refers to the process whereby the screen is black at the beginning and the image gradually appears, brightening to full strength. Fade-out refers to the opposite process.

Iris:   Use of a diaphragm in front of the lens which is opened (iris-in) or closed (iris-out) to begin or end a scene.


Continuity:  The continuous flow of a film, where shot follows shot and scene follows scene in an understandable and smooth way. An effective continuity makes us unaware of the cutting as we watch the film, of the way in which the camera and cutting control our responses. Effective continuity is dependent upon the proper matching of details, movement, and dialogue from shot to shot and the logical and explicit development of plot from scene to scene. Continuity technicians keep a close record of shooting details (clothes, props, settings, eye directions etc.) so that scenes shot weeks apart will match up in the edit.

Continuity cutting:  Editing that keeps the film moving in a straightforward, logical, and smooth way, uses time and space coherently, and develops narrative in a linear manner. The cutting is unobtrusive, with characters and objects continuing from shot to shot largely through match cuts, and scene following scene without any sudden breaks or jumps.

Establishing shot:   The opening shot of a sequence, which establishes location but can also establish mood or give the viewer information concerning the time and general situation. Establishing shots generally are long shots or extreme long shots. Sometimes a series of establishing shots view the location from different angles and perspectives, or a panning or moving shot is employed for the same purpose. Re­establishing shots are also used during a sequence to remind us of location or mood, or to suggest the passage of time.

The 180-degree rule: In any scene, explains film director Robert Aldrich, ‘You have to draw the centre line …. You must never cross the line.’ If we assume the two conversing characters are angled somewhat frontally (as is usual), the classic 180° system will be as laid out in the diagram below. Camera positions A, B, C, and D (and indeed any position within the lower half-circle) will cut together so as to orient the viewer, while camera position X (or any position on the other side of the centre line) is thought to disorient the spectator.

Reverse angle: An angle of view opposite to that in a preceding shot. A series of reverse angles is frequently used to alternate two characters in a conversation (called shot/reverse-shot technique), or such a shot may be used to show a character entering a room after we have seen him leaving another room. Reverse angles have also been employed countless times to alternate points of view from victim to assaulter and back again in thrillers.

Point-of-view shot: A shot that shows a scene as a character would see it.

Eye-line match:  The linking of two shots which show someone looking at something off screen and then what is being looked at (often in the form of a point-of-view shot).



Film Studies Vocabulary- VISUAL STYLE

An introductory guide to basic terms involved in the description and analysis of visual techniques in film.

VISUAL STYLE may be defined as the recurring or systematic employment of visual techniques in a particular film or group of films (e.g. classical narrative cinema, a genre, the work of a director). For purposes of analysis, visual style may in turn be subdivided into three sets of visual techniques:

  • Mise-en-scène
  • Cinematography
  • Editing

Mise-en-scène is originally a theatrical term and translates as “having been put in the scene”. In film study it refers to the visual arrangement of what is in front of the camera and refers particularly to the use of setting, lighting, costume and the positioning and movement of figures (often referred to as ‘composition within the frame’).

Cinematography refers to the actual filming process or use of the camera. This includes the photographic qualities of the shot (e.g. choice of film stock and lens, focus) as well as the framing and duration of shots (e.g. the position, angle and movement of the camera).

Editing refers to the joining of film images or shots together.