3 main types of light:

Key light:-The primary source, usually from high and to one side of the camera, producing a hard light with sharply defined shadows.

Fill light:-Soft, diffused light, placed near camera, filling in the shadows created by the key.

Back light:-Direct light shining on actor from behind, which adds interesting highlights and helps differentiate foreground from background.

High-key lighting(note that key as used here not referring to key light) refers to lighting techniques where the ratio of key to fill light is small, providing an even illumination, whereas with low-key lighting the ratio of key to fill is great, creating areas of high contrast and rich black shadows.

3 point lighting

Lighting (basic):  

back light

1. keylight

3. filllight

‘Three-point lighting’refers to the Hollywood convention of using at least three light sources per shot, positioned in the manner described above. In other lighting styles (e.g. noir) the number and position of lights may deviate from this pattern (by the elimination of fill light or the positioning of the three lights in unusual ways).

Composition: All sorts of compositional elements (e.g. the visual organisation of space, the arrangement of objects, the use of costume and arrangement of figures in relation to objects and setting) come into play in describing and analysing the techniques of mise-en­scène. However, there are few specifically cinematic terms for discussing these components which, by and large, overlap with those used to describe other arts such as painting


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.