Movie Terminology Glossary letter a abby Singer


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Movie Terminology Glossary

letter - A

Abby Singer

The second-to-last shot of the day. Named after production manager Abby Singer, who would frequently call "last shot of the day" or "this shot, and just one more," only to have the director ask for more takes. See also martini shot.
Above-the-Line Expenses

The major expenses committed to before production begins, including story/rights/continuity (writing); salaries for producers, director, and cast; travel and living; and production fees (if the project is bought from an earlier company). Everything else falls under below-the-line expenses.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards

Oscars, Academy Awards

The term "Oscar" was coined by an anonymous person who remarked that the statue looked like their Uncle Oscar.

"Action" is called during filming to indicate the start of the current take. See also cut, speed, lock it down.


A person who plays the role of a character. Historically, the term "Actor" refered exclusively to males, but in modern times the term is used for both genders.

On the web: Search for an actor
Factual Movie(s): Rhinoskin: The Making of a Movie Star (1995)
Additional Camera

B Camera
An extra camera operator, often needed for complicated action sequences or stunts. Contrast with additional photography.

Additional Photography

Additional Photographer, Reshoots, Reshooting, Pickups

Focus group or studio reaction to some shots or scenes may be bad enough to convince the filmmakers to discard them. In some cases, actors are recalled and parts of the movie are refilmed. This is referred to as "Additional Photography", "Reshoots", or "Pickups". Contrast with additional camera, pickups.


Of a composite print: the distance between a point on the soundtrack and the corresponding image. Of payment: an amount given before receipt of services.


A person responsible for the professional business dealings of an actor, director, or other artist. An agent typically negotiates the contracts on behalf of the actor or director, and often has some part in selecting or recommending roles for their client.

Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Alan Smithee

Allen Smithee

The sole pseudonym that the Directors Guild of America allowed directors to use when they wish to remove their name from a film. The name has reportedly been retired by the Directors Guild of America, after 1997's An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn revealed the alias to the general public. It appears that project-specific pseudonyms are now used instead, selected on a case-by-case basis when the DGA agrees that a film has been taken away from a director and cut and/or altered to such an extreme extent that it completely deviates from that director's original vision.
American Cinema Editors

Honorary society of film editors founded in 1950 by Jack Ogilvie, Warren Low and others.

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

An association with jurisdiction over some works that can be recorded by picture or by sound. See also the Screen Actors Guild.
American Society of Cinematographers


An organization founded in 1919 and dedicated to advancing the art of cinematography through artistry and technological progress, to exchange ideas and to cement a closer relationship among cinematographers. Membership is international and by invitation based on an individual's body of narrative filmwork. Use of the abbreviation ASC, e.g. for on-screen credits, indicates membership in the society. The society publishes "American Cinematographer" magazine.



An optical system which has different magnifications in the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the picture. See also aspect ratio, contrast with spherical. Cinemascope is a tradename of an anamorphic technique.
Anamorphic Widescreen

16:9 Enhanced

DVD mastering process whereby a film source with an aspect ratio greater than 4:3 (usually also greater than or equal to 16:9) is transferred to the DVD video master in such a way that the picture is vertically stretched by a factor of about 1.33 (e.g. if the picture had an aspect ratio of 16:9, it now has one of 4:3). The idea is to use as much resolution of the video master as possible so widescreen pictures use the 4:3 frame optimally, gaining another 33% of vertical resolution and looking markedly sharper. When playing a DVD with anamorphic widescreen the display (16:9 capable TV or projector and screen) has to vertically squeeze the picture by a factor of 0.75 so a circle is still a circle. If the display cannot do this the DVD player will do the squeezing and add black bars on the top and bottom of the picture. In that case the additional 33% resolution are not available.

Animated, Animator

The process of creating the illusion of motion by creating individual frames, as opposed to filming naturally-occurring action at a regular frame rate. See also computer generated animation, claymation, time lapse. Contrast with motion capture, rotoscoping.


A style of animated movie which had its roots in the comic books of Japan. Animation enjoys an immense variety of subject matter and audiences in Japan. Outside of Japan, "Anime" is often used to describe only the adult oriented science fiction and fantasy entries in the field.

Answer print

The first graded print of a film that combines sound and picture, which is created for the client to view and approve before printing the rest of the copies of the film.


F/Number, F-Stop, Effect Aperture, Relative Aperture

A measure of the width of the opening allowing light to enter a camera. The apparent diameter of a lens viewed from the position of the object against a diffusely illuminated background is called the "effect aperture". The ratio of focal length of a lens to its "effective aperture" for an object located at infinity is called the "relative aperture", or "f/number". Larger apertures allow more light to enter a camera, hence darker scenes can be recorded. Conversely, smaller apertures allow less light to enter, but have the advantage of creating a large depth of field. See also shutter speed.


A person who is responsible for weapons on the set of a movie or television show. Duties include providing the correct weapons to suit the era and style of the film, advising the director on use of weapons, choosing the correct blanks, creating a safe set for the use of said weapons, teaching actors about handling and using weapons, making sure use of all weapons is properly licensed, and ensuring the safety of everyone on the set while weapons are in use.

Art Department

The section of a production's crew concerned with visual artistry. Working under the supervision of the production designer and/or art director, the art department is responsible for arranging the overall "look" of the film (i.e. modern/high-tech, rustic, futuristic, etc.) as desired by the director. Individual positions within in this department include: production designer, production buyer, special effects supervisor, draftsman, art director, assistant art director, set decorator, set dresser, property master, leadman, swing gang, and property assistant.

Art Director

The person who oversees the artists and craftspeople who build the sets. See also production designer, set designer, set director, leadman, and swing gang.


A visual defect in an image caused by limitations or the malfunction of imaging equipment. See also motion artifact, contrast with cinch marks.

Articulation Artist

A person who takes an artist's designs and builds them in a computer, so that animators can manipulate the figures to tell the story of the film.

Aspect Ratio

Aspect, Academy Ratio

A measure of the relative sizes of the horizontal and vertical components of an image. "Academy Ratio" is 1.33:1. See also anamorphic.
Assistant Art Director

An assistant to the art director.

Assistant Camera

Assistant Camera Operator, First Assistant Cameraman, 1st Assistant Cameraman, 1st Assistant Camera, Assistant Cameraman, Camera Assistant

A member of the camera crew who assists the camera operator. This person is responsible for the maintenance and care of the camera, as well as preparing dope sheets. In smaller camera crews, they may also perform the duties of clapper-loader and/or a focus puller. See also additional camera.
Assistant Director

AD, First Assistant Director, 1st Assistant Director, 2nd Assistant Director

An assistant director's duties include tracking the progress of filming versus the production schedule, and preparing call sheets.

A First Assistant Director is responsible for the preparation of the shooting schedule and script breakdown used to plan the shooting of a film or television show. The AD works directly with the Director to manage of the minute to minute operations on the set during the process of filming, as well as co-ordinating the necessary communication of details of future operations as the filming progresses. Other duties include tracking the progress of filming versus the production schedule, observing all rules related to union crafts, labor contracts and location agreements, maintaining safety on the working set, and working with the Unit Manager to keep operational costs within the budgeted plan.

A Second Assistant Director is responsible for information distribution and reporting, cast notification and preparations during the shooting process, recording of all data relative to the working hours of the crew and cast, management of the background cast (atmosphere or "extras"), preparation of call sheets, production reports,and other documentation. When needed, the Second Assistant Director can assume the duties of the First Assistant Director on a temporary basis.

Fictional Movie(s): Living in Oblivion (1995)
Assistant Film Editor

Assistant Picture Editor, Assistant Sound Editor, Assistant Editor, First Assistant Editor, Second Assistant Editor, Apprentice Editor

Editing room crewmember responsible for providing any and all required logistical assistance to the editor(s). Duties vary, depending on whether the assistant is working with a picture or sound editor and whether the show is being edited on film or on a non-linear editing system. On a film-edited show, assistant picture editors will, during production: liase with the film lab and sound transfer facility regarding the processing of dailies; leader, sync and edgecode the dailies rolls; coordinate and take notes during dailies screenings; organize and maintain camera reports, sound reports, script notes, and lined script pages from the set, as well as lab reports and sound transfer reports; log all dailies footage; and reorganize footage for editing, if necessary. Ongoing, and during post-production, they will: reconstitute trims; locate and pull trims requested by the editor; check sync, clean, measure, re-splice, and add change-over marks to cut reels; coordinate screenings of cut work; take notes during screenings. Once the sound department begins work, the assistants produce change sheets detailing each day's changes to the workprint and production track and send them, along with any necessary duplicate trims, to the sound department. Assistants may be permitted by the editor to do some creative work, such as commenting on the editor's work; cutting temporary ("temp") sound effects and music into the track; and sometimes even editing scenes. After picture lock, the assistant: oversees the creation of optical effects such as fades, dissolves, etc. and cuts them into the workprint; continues to work with the sound department as necessary; and in some cases oversees the final stages of post-production, all the way through sound mix, negative conforming, and the production of final prints. The assistant editor chain of command consists of the First Assistant Editor(s), who bears the most responsibility for the smooth performance of the assistant team; the Second Assistant Editor(s); and the Apprentice Editor(s).

Assistant Production Manager

Assistant Production Co-Ordinator

An assistant to the production co-ordinator. See also production secretary.
Associate Producer

An individual who performs a limited number of producing functions delegated to her/him by a producer, under the direct supervision and control of that producer. The term may also refer to a person who would qualify as an executive producer of a project, but for the fact that (s)he acts on behalf of a production company which is subordinate to another one on that project. See also co-producer and line producer.

Association Internationale du Film d'Animation

ASIFA, International Animation Association

ASIFA was founded in 1960 in France, chartered under UNESCO, as a membership organization devoted to the encouragement and dissemination of film animation as an art and communication form.
Association of Film Commissioners International

WWW: A non-profit educational organization founded in 1975 to serve the needs of on-location film, television and commercial production.

Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers

A membership organization serving local and international film and videomakers—from documentarians and experimental artists to makers of narrative features

Australian Screen Editors

A cultural, professional and educational organisation, dedicated to the pursuit and recognition of excellence in the arts, sciences and technology of motion picture film and televisual post-production. It aims to promote, improve and protect the role of editor as an essential and significant contributor to all screen productions.

Association of Motion Picture Sound


A UK-based organization whose aims are to promote and encourage the science, technology and creative application of all aspects of motion picture sound recording and reproduction, and to promote and enhance the status and recognition of the contribution of those therein engaged.

Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers

Australian Screen Editors

A cultural, professional and educational organisation, dedicated to the pursuit and recognition of excellence in the arts, sciences and technology of motion picture film and televisual post-production. It aims to promote, improve and protect the role of editor as an essential and significant contributor to all screen productions.
Australian Screen Directors Association

The Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA) is an industry association representing the interests of film and television directors, documentary filmmakers, animators and independent producers throughout Australia.

Australian Society of Cinematographers

Use of the abbreviation after a name indicates that the person is a member of the ACS.


A filmmaker, generally a director, who creates a body of work with a unified sensibility that reveals, through the interplay of themes and styles, a personal worldview. The term originated with François Truffaut, whose 1954 essay "Une certaine tendence du cinéma français" put forth the idea that the most interesting films were those that functioned as a medium of personal expression--and therefore bore the distinctive imprint of their "author." American critic Andrew Sarris later translated and expanded this idea into an "auteur theory," which proposed an evaluation of films based on their context within the filmmaker's oeuvre, rather than for their technical proficiency or greater historical significance. The term "auteur" later came to refer to any filmmaker who performed or was intimately involved in all aspects of the moviemaking process (writing, directing, producing, editing, etc.).

Automated Dialogue Replacement

Automatic Dialogue Replacement, ADR, Dialogue Looping, Dialog Looping, Looping

The re-recording of dialogue by actors in a sound studio during post-production, usually performed to playback of edited picture in order to match lip movements on screen. ADR is frequently used to replace production track of poor quality (e.g., due to high levels of background noise) or to change the delivery or inflection of a line. ADR can also be used to insert new lines of dialogue which are conceived during editing, although such lines can only be placed against picture in which the face of the actor speaking is not visible.

Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Automated Dialogue Replacement Editing

Automatic Dialogue Replacement Editing, ADR Editing

The process of editing sound during Automatic Dialogue Replacement.
Automated Dialogue Replacement Editor

Automatic Dialogue Replacement Editor, ADR Editor

The person who performs ADR Editing.
Automated Dialogue Replacement Mixer

Automatic Dialogue Replacement Mixer, ADR Mixer

The person who mixes the sound during Automated Dialogue Replacement.

Manufacturer of a popular non-linear editing system. Often used to refer to the system itself, as "AVID editor". Competitors include Lightworks.

Axis of Action

In the continuity editing system, the "Axis of Action" is an imaginary line that passes through the two main actors of a scene, defining the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left. The camera is not supposed to cross the axis at a cut and thus reverse those spatial relations. Also called the "180° line."


A low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theater owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theaters while still able to draw revenue.

Back Projection

.: Rear Projection
A photographic technique whereby live action is filmed in front of a screen which the background action is projected on. Originally used for scenes occuring in vehicles. Contrast this with a matte shot.

Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Background Artist

.: Scenic Artist, Backgrounds
A person responsible for designing or constructing the art placed at the rear of a set. See also matte artist.

.: Back lot
A large, undeveloped area on studio property used for constructing large open-air sets or for filming wilderness scenes.

Many countries have either government or official movie classification boards who are responsible for determining the suitability of a movie for release in their country or region. These boards occasionally block the release of a movie either in theaters or on video. Often, a banned movie will find its way around a ban by means of bootleg distribution. See also censorship.

Behind the Scenes

The off-camera goings on associated with filmmaking.

Factual Movie(s): Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Below-the-Line Expenses

All physical production costs not included in the above-the-line expenses, including material costs, music rights, publicity, trailer, etc.

Best Boy

.: Assistant Chief Lighting Technician, Best Boy Grip, Best Boy Electric
The chief assistant, usually of the gaffer or key grip. In charge of the people and equipment, scheduling the required quantities for each day's work. The term originates from promoting the crew's 'best boy' to supervising, allowing the gaffer and key grip to stay on set and carry out the cameraman's lighting needs. The origin of the term is from "pre-union" filming days when the line between Grip and Electric departments was less rigid. When the head of either department needed another body temporarily, he'd go to the head of the other department and ask him to "lend me your BEST boy". By default the 2nd in charge of either department came to be known as best-boy. This term may also have been borrowed from early sailing and whaling crews, as sailors were often employed to set up and work rigging in theatres. There are no "best girls" per se; female chief assistants are also called "Best Boys".

.: Top Billing, Diagonal Billing, Equal Billing

A great deal of importance is placed on the relative sizes, positions, and order of names and the movie's title in printed publicity material as well as the opening credits. Generally, higher positions designate higher importance. Additionally, there is significant given to names which appear before or above the actual title of the movie. The person whose name is shown first in the credits or whose name is at the top of an advertisement is said to have received "top billing". If more than one name appears at the same time or at the same height, they are said to have "equal billing", with the importance of the people concerned decreasing from left to right. In some movies with a large number of stars, the publicity department must go to great lengths to satisfy the demands of various parties. "Diagonal billing" is where a different name appears first, depending on whether the material is read from top to bottom, or from left to right. In some extreme cases, multiple stars in the same movie have each demanded top billing, in which case an equal number of differently-billed advertisement have been created.

Biographic Picture

.: Biopic
A filmed story of a person's life story.
Bit Part

A small unimportant role, usually lasting only one scene.

Black and White

.: BW, B/W, B&W
Indicates that the images have no color. The first movies were black and white (as color film stock hadn't been invented), but in more recent times many films have been shot in black and white either for artistic reasons or because it is cheaper. Some films are shot using color film stock with the final print in black and white.
Black Comedy

A comedy in which the humour is derived from subjects which are typically considered "serious", or for which humour is usually considered as unsuitable. Common examples are death, war, suffering, and murder.


The make up technique of making an actor, usually white, to resemble an African American or at least a caricature thereof such as in the final scene of The Jazz Singer (1927). There were also equivalents for Asians (Yellowface) and Native Americans (Redface). It was a standard practice in the early 20th century for the casting of actors in non-white roles and abandoned when it was recognized to be an insult to minorities which also cheated them of casting opportunies.


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