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.