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ABOUT THE VISUAL GLOSSARY

The rich language of the cinema provides the foundation for JBFC's Visual Glossary. Clips from some of our greatest visual storytellers put these terms in context, showing how filmmakers use these concepts and techniques to create iconic imagery, memorable characters, and powerful stories.

180-Degree Rule

Once an action occurs on screen, an imaginary line (180 degrees) is established (sometimes called "the line" or "axis of action") that the camera may not cross.

Aerial Shot

A shot from high above, usually of exterior locations and taken from a crane or helicopter.

Archival footage

Found footage placed into the larger context of another film to support the subject matter.

Aspect Ratio

The ratio of width (horizontal) to height (vertical) of a film frame or image.

Auteur

A filmmaker whose work is stylistically recognizable and told in his or her unique voice.

Blocking

The movement and placement of actors within the scene.

B-Roll

Footage that is intercut to support the subject matter in documentary films.

Camera Angle (Angle of Framing)

The position of the camera in relation to the action of the scene: above it, looking down (high angle); horizontal, on the same level (straight-on eye level angle); looking up (low angle).

Canted Angle/Dutch Angle

A camera angle in which the vertical and horizontal lines of the image appear off kilter, often used to suggest disorientation.

Center Framing

A composition that draws attention to the middle point in the frame.

Chiaroscuro

The dramatic lighting technique of contrasting areas of light and dark.

Cinematography

The art and technique of motion picture photography. This includes how the film uses light, shadow, color, movement, and composition within the frame.

Close-Up Shot

A framing in which one part of the subject takes up most of the frame, used often to express a character’s emotion.

Color Palette

A specific set of colors used in a film. Certain colors may have thematic or symbolic meanings associated with them.

Continuity Editing

Editing that maintains continuous and clear action so that screen direction and the position of objects and characters are maintained from shot to shot.

Crane Shot

A camera movement in which the camera travels along a vertical axis with the action of the shot.

Cut

The most common editing transition when two shots are juxtaposed without dissolve, fade, or effect.

Deep Focus

When both the foreground and the background remain sharply in focus.

Depth Of Field

The measured space that the camera holds in focus.

Diegesis

The world of the film and how it is experienced by characters within it.

Diegetic Sound

Any sound that originates within the world of the film.

Direct Sound

Music, noise, and dialogue, recorded live while filming.

Dissolve

An editing transition when a previous shot fades into a following shot.

Documentary

Nonfiction film structured as a story to record an event, place, or persons.

Editing

The selection, manipulation, and combination of shots to create structure and story.

Elliptical Editing

An editing technique that abbreviates the time of an action, event, or story through the use of dissolves and jump cuts.

Establishing Shot

A wide shot indicating where the scene is taking place.

Exposure

The amount of light passed through the lens, controlled by the aperture and shutter speed.

Extreme Close-Up

A framing that shows only a detail.

Eyeline Match

A cut from a shot of a character to a shot of what he or she is looking at, maintaining the proper angles and distance.