Terms in Movies
Here is a guide through some of the most common terms concerning filmmaking and understanding of movies. Knowledge about terminology helps you understand discussions and text written of movies.
Visual presentation and filming technique
Scene – the scene is the parts of a movie. It can be a scene with a dialogue, a scene with a empty landscape and lots of other things.
Mise-en-scène – all the visual things that can be seen in a scene: for example the setting, props and the lightning. See also Diegesis.
Shot – the smallest unit in the visual presentation – one scene can consists of many shots.
Mise-en-shot – the camera components in a shot: shot size, framing, focus, angle and movements.
Cut – the change to another shot.
Close up – show details of a person, for example his head and some parts of his body or just the face or some part of the face. An example of extreme close ups can be observed in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as seen in the picture below.
Deep focus – refers to when foreground, middle ground and background are in focus on the same time. This is a method that can reduce shots and the need for editing.
Narrative methods and techniques
Editing – the process then the footage material is selected and put together in the creating of the movie.
Continuity editing – this is a concept of shooting and editing that results in a continuity and consistency which makes it easier for the audience to understand the spatial relationships and what is going on in general on the screen without lose orientation and easy can focus on the story. One certain important element is the 180-degree rule that dictates that the camera should stay on one side in relation to the subjects in a whole scene, for example in a dialogue between two persons face to face. This are illustrated below in two screenshots from the movie From here To Eternity.
Montage – the use of several images that by its combining gives understandable meaning to a scene.
One frequently used montage technique is to link to scenes at different geographical and give them a feeling of events that occur simultaneously by so-called parallel montage. Montage is also a technique used to be more economic in the storytelling there by a number of different shot can deliver lots of information in short time.
Another famous montage technique was developed by Sergei Eisenstein that use montage in intricate way by letting two separate shots without natural relation be linked thus creating a new meaning.
Narrative elements in films
Point of no return – refer to a phase in a plot when the conflict escalates and it therefore no return. Before the point of return the audience has be given expectations and after Point of no return the focus of the main conflict accelerates.
Turning point – refers to the climax in the story. In a crime story this can be then the detective has solved the murder mystery and starts the final chase of the guilty.
Open ending – refers to an ending that not gives all the definite answers to the outcome of the story.
Diegesis – this is a somewhat complicated term. The diegesis (Greek for “narration”) is the entire created world in the film, all the fictional content of the narrative, and involve all the events that are presumed to have occurred in the movie – even the not shown.
Non-diegetic – of natural reason there can also be non-diegetic ingredients and this may for example be a soundtrack that is played for the audience but doesn’t exist in the fiction or an actor who is taking directly into the camera with the audience as the target.
Auteur – A term which refer to a film-maker who usually do both the manuscript and directing and also let his personal artistic vision be shown in the film.
Cameo appearance – the term for the occasion then a celebrity or a person related to the movie makes a small appearance in it. Most famous for this are probably Alfred Hitchcock that very often could be spotted in his own movies.
Auto quotation – this is when a film-maker makes a reference in a movie to another movie he has made.