Film Language A-D

Here area list of terms commonly used when talking about film:

Animation

A form of filmmaking characterised by photographing inanimate objects or individual drawings frame by frame, with each frame differeing minutely from the previous frame. When these images are projected at the standard speed of twenty-four frames per second, the images appear to move.

Here is a nice example of a short animation film.

Auteur

French for “author”. Used by critics writing for Cahiers du cinema and other journals to indicate the figure, usually the director, who stamped a film with his/her own “personality”. The concept allowed critics to evaluate highly works of American genre cinema that were otherwise dismissed in favor of the developing European art cinema. Auteur theory emphasises  the director as the major creator of film art.

Here is part of a documentary on auteur theory.

Costume

The clothes that characters wear. Costume in narrative cinema is used to signify character, or advertise particular fashions, or to make clear distinctions between characters.

Here is short video clip which examines the work of a costume designer.

Biopic

A biographical film normally about the life of a famous person.

Here is the trailer to Ray about the life of the singer ray Charles.

Captions/ titles

Written labels on the screen. A title designer is responsible for the captions. One of the most famous title designers was Saul Bass who worked on many of Hitchcock’s films. Here are the titles for Vertigo.

Here is a short film which celebrates  Saul Bass’ title design.

This short film gives a brief history of title design.

Cinematographer, director of photography

The artist responsible for the lighting of a shot and the quality of the photography in a film.

Here is  a master class in cinematography by Christopher Doyle, the renowned  cinematographer of film such as In The Mood for Love and The Quiet American.

Cross-cutting

Cutting repeatedly between one scene/shot and another to suggest the sequences are taking place simultaneously.

The baptism scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is cross cut with the murder of Michael Corleone’s underworld rivals.

Diegesis


The narrative elements that are shown or inferred from the content of a film. The diegesis includes objects, events, spaces and the characters that inhabit them, including things, actions, and attitudes not explicitly presented in the film but inferred by the audience.  The audience constructs a diegetic world from the material presented in a narrative film.

Dolly shot, tracking shot, trucking shot

A shot taken from a moving vehicle. In the past tracks were laid on the set to permit a smoother movement of the camera.

In Hitchcock’s North by Northwest we can see this example of a dolly shot.

In the final scene of Amélie the director uses frontal and lateral dolly shots to follow the two characters on motorbike.

In the opening scene of Trainspotting there are several dollying shots to follow the characters as they run.

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