CINEMATOGRAPHY TERMS

Listed below are all of the Cinematography Terms that we retained in class. Each phrase is linked to a picture that allows you to click on it and view the visual representation, as well as a more in-depth definition to the concept.


 

  • COLOR – By the 1930’s filmmakers were able to include color sequences in their films. Color is used to create aesthetic patterns and to establish character or emotion in narrative cinema.
  • LOW CONTRAST – Difference between the light and dark areas in small
  • HIGH CONTRAST – Difference between the light and dark areas in large
  • DEEP FOCUS – Staging an event on film such that significant elements occupy widely separated planes in the image. Requires that elements at very different depths of the image both be in focus.
  • SHALLOW FOCUS – A restricted depth of field, which keeps only one plane in sharp focus; the opposite of deep focus. Used to direct the viewer’s attention to one element of a scene. Suggests psychological introspection, since a character appears as oblivious to the world around her/him.
  • DEPTH OF FIELD – The distance through which elements in an image are in sharp focus. Depth of field is directly connected, but not to be confused, with focus. Focus is the quality (the “sharpness” of an object as it is registered in the image) and depth of field refers to the extent to which the space represented is in focus.
  • EXPOSURE – A camera lens has an aperture that controls how much light passes though the lens and onto the film. If an image is so pale that the detail begins to disappear, it can be described as “overexposed” Conversely, a narrow aperture that allows through less light will produce a darker image than normal, known as “underexposed”.
  • RACKING FOCUS – Changing the focus of a lens such that an element is one plane of the image goes out of focus and an element at another plane in the image comes into focus. An even more overt way of steering audience attention through the scene, as well as of linking two spaces or objects. Racking focus is usually done quite quickly; in a way, the technique tires to mimic a brief, fleeting glance that can be used to quicken the tempo or increase suspense.
  • RATE – A typical sound film is shot at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. If the number of frames exposed in each second is increased, the action will seem to move more slowly that normal when it is played back. Conversely, the fewer the number of frames expose each second, the more rapid the resulting action appears to be.
  • TELEPHOTO SHOT – An image shot with an extremely long lens. The effect of using a long lens is to compress the apparent depth of an image, so that elements that are relatively close or far away from the camera seem to lie at approximately the same distance.
  • ZOOM SHOT – The zoom shot uses a lens with several elements that allows the filmmaker to change the focal length of the lens, while the shot is in progress. We seem to move toward or away from the subject, while the quality of the image changes from that of a shorter to a longer lens, or vise versa.
  • ANGLE OF FRAMING – Many films are shot with a camera that appears to be at approximately the same height as its subject. However, it is possible to film from a position that is significantly lower or higher than the dominant element of the shot. In that case, the image is described as low angle or high angle respectively. Angle of framing can be used to create striking visual compositions. Camera angle is often used to suggest either vulnerability or power.
  • LEVEL OF FRAMING – A low-level camera is placed close to the ground whereas a high-level camera would be placed above the typical perspective shown in the cinema. Camera level is used to signify sympathy for characters who occupy particular levels in the image, or just to create pleasurable compositions.
  • CANTED FRAMING – The frame is not level; either the right or left side is lower than the other, causing objects in the scene to appear slanted out of an upright position. Create an impression of chaos and instability. They are therefore associated with the frantic rhythms of action films, music videos and animation.
  • FOLLOWING SHOT – A shot with framing that shifts to keep a moving figure on screen. A following shot combines a camera movement, like panning, tracking, tilting or craning, with the specific function of directing our attention to a character or object as he/she/it moves inside the frame.
  • REFRAMING – Short panning or tilting movement to adjust for the figures’ movements, keeping them onscreen or centered. An important technique of continuity editing, thanks to its nature. The characters’ actions take precedence over the camera movements, as in this dancing scene from Kubrick;s Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
  • POINT-OF-VIEW SHOT – 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 unseen presence in the scene. Horror films and and thrillers often use POV shots to suggest menacing and unseen presence in the scene. Films that use many POV shots tend toward dynamic and non-naturalistic style. POV is one of the means by which audiences are encouraged to identify with characters. It is a rare technique.
  • WIDE ANGLE LENS – A lens of short focal length that affects a scene’s perspective by distorting straight lines near the edges of the frame and by exaggerating the distance between foreground and background planes. In doing so it allows for more space to enter the frame (hence the name “wide”), which is more convenient for shooting in a closed location, for instance a real room, rather than a three-wall studio room. A wider lens allows for a bigger depth of field.
  • EXTREME LONG SHOT – A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very small; a building, landscape, or crowd of people will fill the screen. Usually the first of last shots of a sequence, that is also called bird’s eye view shot, since it gives an areal perspective of the scene.
  • LONG SHOT – A framing in which the scale of the object shown is small; a standing human figure would appear nearly the height of the screen. It makes for a relatively stable shot that can accommodate movement without reframing.
  • MEDIUM LONG SHOT – Framing such than an object four or five high would fill most of the screen vertically. Also called plain American, given its recurrence in the Western genre, where it was important to keep a cowboy’s weapon in the image.
  • MEDIUM CLOSE-UP – A framing in which the scale of the object shown is fairly large; a human figure seen from the chest up would fill most of the screen. Another common shot scale.
  • CLOSE-UP – A framing in which the scale of the object shown is relatively large. In a close-up a person’s head, or some other similarly sized object, would fill the frame.
  • EXTREME CLOSE-UP – A framing in which the scale of the object shown is very large; most commonly, a small object or a part of the body usually shot with a zoom lens.
  • CRANE SHOT – A shot with a change in framing rendered by having the camera above the ground and moving through the air in any direction.
  • HANDHELD CAMERA, STEADYCAM – The use of the camera operator’s body as a camera support, wither holding t by hand or using a gyroscopic stabilizer and a harness.
  • PAN – A camera movement with the camera body turning to the right or the left. On the screen, it produces a mobile framing which scans the space horizontally. A pan directly and immediately connects two places or characters, thus making us aware of their proximity.
  • TILT – A camera movement with the camera body swiveling upward or download on a stationary support, mobile framing that scans the space  vertically. A tilt usually also implies a change in the angle of framing.
  • TRACKING SHOT – A mobile framing that travels through space forward, backward, or laterally. See also crane shot, pan, and tilt. A tracking shot usually follows a character of object as it moves along the screen. Contrary to the pan, which mimics a turning head, a tracking shot physically accompanies the entire range of movement. It therefore creates a closer affinity with the character or object moving, since he spectator is not just watching him/her moving, but moving with him/her.
  • WHIP PAN – Extremely fast movement of the camera from side to side, which briefly causes the image to blur into a set of indistinct horizontal streaks. Often trick transition between scenes. Whip pans always stand out, given abrupt, brisk nature. Commonly used in flashy action genres.
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