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Word on Set (Part 1: A-G)

Not an all inclusive list, but some of the basic terminology that one would hear on set. Often, crews from different parts of the country or world have slightly different jargon.



Apple Box: A box built of a strong wood or plywood which is capable of supporting weight. These may be of various sizes, the smallest of which is also known as a ‘pancake’ because it is nearly flat.

Action: A term used to initiate a take.

Anamorphic: An optical system used to magnify vertically and horizontally in a picture.

Answer Print: The first graded print that is a combination of sound and picture. Used to show the client the final product before final copies of the film are printed.

Artifact: A visual defect found in the image because of a malfunction in the imaging equipment.

Alan Smithee: A notorious pseudonym used by directors unwilling to have their own name slapped on a film when they weren’t happy with the final cut.

Abby Singer: The shot taken before the last shot of the day. Named after an American production manager and assistant director.

Above the Line: Individuals associated with the creation and artistic development of a project, including writers, directors, producers, and actors.

Above the Line Expenses: Expenses that occur during pre-production such as story rights, payrolls and expenses related to the above-the-line participants.

Agent: A person or agency that works to promote and represent the interests of their clients, including the obtainment of employment and negotiation of contracts. People who employ agents include actors, writers, directors, directors of photography, production designers, and camera operators.

Anime: A style of animation originated in Japan.

Auteur: A filmmaker, usually a writer/director, but refers to any filmmaker who plays a part in all aspects of the moviemaking process.



B-Movie: A film considered to be less successful due to factors like low budget, bad writing, unknown cast, bad acting.

Back to one: Actors return to beginning or 1st positions in the scene.

Backlot: A large, empty space on studio property used as a location for construction of exterior sets or outdoor scenes in the film.

Background Artist: A euphemistic term used by the crew to refer to extras.

Below the Line: All physical production costs not included in the above-the-line expenses, such as equipment, labor, food, transportation, locations, etc.

Best Boy: 2nd in command under the Key Grip or Gaffer, in charge of equipment and labor, and can be male or female.

Bit Part: A small role, often lasting only one scene.

Black Wrap: Black Aluminum foil which is used for wrapping lights, to control light spill, and for making small flags.

Blockbuster: A film that succeeds at the box office, measured by ticket sales.

Blocking: The process of determining the best placement and movement of actors and camera during the rehearsal of a scene.

Blooper: A scene not used in the film because of a cast or crew mistake.

Body Double: A person whose physical features resemble an actor sufficiently enough to be used for scenes in which the actors face will not be seen. Examples include scenes in which the character is in the background, nude scenes, and insert shots.

Bomb: A movie that fails at the box office, measured by ticket sales.

Boom: A long pole with a microphone on the end. Controlled by the “Boom Operator.”

Box Rental: A fee or allowance paid to a crewmember for providing his/her own equipment or other specialized apparatus for use in a production.

Burrito: Rolled up sound blanket.



Call Sheet: A sheet of paper distributed to the crew every night at wrap, with the next day’s scheduled scenes printed on the front and the list of required crew printed on the back, listed by department. Additional information includes the work schedule of actors, required special equipment for the day, weather notes and contact information for production.

Call Time: The time individual cast and crew members must report to set.

Camera Report: The list of the scenes already filmed including camera notes for future use & for edit.

Cameo: A famous actor appearing in a small role.

Cast: The group of actors appearing in the production.

Cel: A hand-painted depiction of a single frame in an animation film, traditionally made on acetate or similar transparent material.

Character Actor: An actor known for their prolific body of film work, typically playing smaller supporting roles. Often sought due to their unique appearance and acting style.

Cold Open: An editorial technique for jumping straight into a storyline without exposition, often before opening credits.

Completion Bond: An insurance guarantee that principal photography on a given film will be completed. It indemnifies a production against the unforeseen costs of any type, whether or not they result from problems

which are covered by other types of insurance.

Cookie: A perforated material which is used to break up light or create a shadow pattern. Also known as a cucoloris.

Copy: Spoken acknowledgment used over the walkie to inform the person you are communicating with that you have heard and understand what they have said.

Coverage: Refers to a variety of different shots filmed for a scene. They are used in the editing process to create pace and variety.

Cowboy Shot: a shot taken from mid-thigh up of an actor.

Cover Set: An indoor location which is kept in reserve to serve as an alternate shooting site in case the chosen exterior shooting site is unusable, often due to bad weather.

Crossing: A warning said by anyone who must cross in front of the camera during a set-up, alerts the Camera Operator that it is not part of the scene.

Cut: Term called out by the director to the cast and crew to signal that the current take is complete and to stop cameras and sound recording.

C47: Clothespin that grips often use as a small clamp.

C-Stand: A general purpose grip stand.



Dailies: Refers to the footage shot on any given day to be regularly reviewed by the Director, 1st AD, DP, Producers and Studio Executives.

Day For Night: Camera/Processing technique for making footage shot in daylight appear to take place at night.

Day Out of Days: A form designating the workdays for various cast or crewmembers or special equipment of a given production.

Dance Floor: A floor built of 3/4 inch plywood which is usually covered with masonite to provide a smooth surface for the dolly.

Deal Memo: A crew contract made with the Production Company that outlines salary, screen credit and kit rental fee.

Denoument: Final scenes of a film where the characters’ status post-climax is explored.

Development: The process of developing a script in the hopes that it will be greenlighted by a studio.

Dialect Coach: A person who assists actors in developing accents and dialects for their character, and retaining that manner of speaking throughout the film.

Dingle: Branches which are placed in front of a light as a cookie would to cut the light and provide a shadow pattern.

Dissolve: An editing transition between two clips where the first clip fades into the second over a short span.

Double Bill: Two movies shown back to back for the price of one.

Dubbing: A sound technique for combining or replacing sounds, including dialogue.

Dutch Angle: A shot where the camera is tilted, to create drama.



Easter Egg: A hidden reference to another movie, event, person etc. in a film.

Electrician: A crew member who works in the electric department, providing electricity to set and setting lights for scenes.

Epic: A large budget production that has an “on the edge of your seat” storyline.

Exposition: Narration, dialogue, or on-screen graphics meant to advance the storyline quickly.

Extra: People who appear in a scene in non-featured, non-speaking roles, to add life and vitality to a scene.

Establishing Shot: The first shot of a new scene, that introduces the audience to the space in which the forthcoming scene will take place.

Editing: The process of sequencing shot footage into a final product.

Extreme Close-Up: A close-up shot that focuses in extreme detail on one particular aspect of a person, place or object.

Eyeline: This term means both the actor’s field of vision during a shot as well as the direction of their gaze. Crew are often asked to move out of an actor’s eyeline to prevent the actor from being distracted during a take.

Eyeline Match: A filming technique to provide an actor with a location to focus their gaze during a close up, to ensure that their eyeline will appear to be looking at fellow actors or onscreen events when the shots are edited together.

Exterior: A shot made outdoors.



Fade: An editing transition as an image fades to black.

Feature Film: A movie has to be at least 40-45 minutes long to be considered a feature film.

Feather: Moving a ‘flag’ closer to or further away from a light source that it is in front of will ‘feather’ or soften/harden the shadow on the surface upon which the light falls.

Feautured Background: Non-Featured speaking extra(s) with prominent onscreen placement.

Femme Fatale: A slang term used to describe a female character whose seductive nature ultimately brings trouble to the lead character, typically a man.

Film Noir: A style of filmmaking pioneered in the 1940s, featuring moody, high-contrast lighting and strong shadows, with a wry, jaded writing style centered around crime and intrigue, with an overlay of sexual tension.

Film Printing: The transition of negative into a print.

Fire Watch: The duty of watching equipment and sets while the cast and crew are on lunch break.

First Team: the actors in the scene.

Flashing: A warning issued by anyone taking a photograph on set with a flash. Done to let crew know a flash is coming and the electricians don’t assume they burnt a light bulb.

Focus: Sharpness of an image.

Frame: A single image isolated from the actual film, often used for print and marketing.



Gaffer: The head of the electric department. Collaborates with the Director of Photography and the Key Grip to light scenes.

Gel: A colored sheet of acetate placed in front of a studio light to impart color to actors and sets. Useful for subtly creating moods and bringing out color in an actor’s face.

Generator: Used to produce electricity for use on set, primarily for lights.

Giraffe: A rolling stand that holds a mechanically-operated boom microphone, typically used for in-studio television productions.

Goof: A scene/take not used because of a mistake on-camera.

Greenscreen: A method of filming actors in front an evenly lit green background then using an editing process to replace that green background with desired background footage.

Grindhouse: A term used to describe movie theaters that show B movies.


*Continue to Part 2 for more!

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