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Film in primary literacy

Glossary of film terminology

Here is a brief guide to some of the key terminology for working with film in the primary classroom. Giving your pupils an awareness of these terms and concepts will help them better articulate their ideas and opinions in discussion and writing, as well as helping to improve their film production work.

Angle

The position from which camera photographs action. (May have an impact on how the subject is interpreted.)

Animation

Images that are slightly different in their placement, which, when shown consecutively, give the illusion of motion.

Classification

The way in which films are grouped and labelled - U, PG, 12A, 12, 15 and 18 - according to the age of the person that is allowed to watch them. U formation on the way in whic films are classified in the UK can be found on the website for the British Board of Film Classification.

Close-up

A shot from a close distance in which the size of the object is magnified and fills the entire frame. This focuses attention and emphasises its importance, showing details.

Cut

A sudden change or jump in camera angle, location, placement, or time, from one shot to another. Can also refer to the stopping of the camera at the end of a take.

Dialogue

Spoken lines in a film said by an actor or actress.

Director

The person responsible for overall artistic control of all phases of a film's production.

Editor

The person who selects, assembles, arranges and joins together many separate camera takes.

Fade

A gradual change in the intensity of an image or sound – this could be a fade in or a fade out.

Film

(1) as a verb, to record a scene or make a motion picture; (2) as a noun, refers to a motion picture, or (3) the thin strip of material on the film negative that is used to create images, through light exposure.

Frame

A single image, the smallest compositional unit of a film's structure, captured by the camera on a strip of motion picture film - similar to an individual slide in still photography.

Genre

Originally a French word meaning ‘kind’, ‘sort’ or ‘type’. Genre refers to a class or type of film that share common features including: distinctive artistic and thematic elements, iconography (e.g. bad guys in westerns wear black hats), narrative content, plot, subject matter, mood and milieu (or setting) or characters.

Long shot

A camera view of an object or character from a considerable distance so that it appears relatively small in the frame, e.g. a person standing in a crowd of people or a horse in a vast landscape.

Pan

Abbreviation for panorama shot; refers to the horizontal scan, movement, rotation or turning of the camera in one direction (to the right or left) around a fixed axis while filming.

Scene

A shot (or series of shots) that together comprise a single, unified dramatic event, action, unit, or element of film narration, or block (segment) of storytelling within a film, much like a scene in a play. The end of a scene is often indicated by a change in time and/or location.

Script

The written text of a film - a blueprint for producing a film detailing the story, setting, dialogue, movements and gestures of actors, and the shape and sequence of all events in the film.

Scriptwriter

The person who writes a script – usually not the author of the book if the film is a book-to-film story.

Short

A film that is shorter than about 30 or 45 minutes.

Soundtrack

The audio component of a movie, including the dialogue, musical score, narration and sound effects.

Special effects

The creation of fantastic visual and audio illusions that cannot be accomplished by normal means, such as travel into space.

Stereotype

A standardised image or conception of a type of person.

Zoom

The change of image size which is achieved when the focal length of the lens is altered.

(Definitions adapted from: Cinematic Terms - A Film-Making Glossary, Collins Concise English Dictionary)