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Study Across The Pond US Blog

An A-Z of industry phrases every Film student should know

Posted by The ATP Advisors on Apr 6, 2016 9:30:54 AM

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We all know that getting into the film industry is difficult, no matter whether you want to be a producer, sound engineer or editor. Education, of course, is very important to learn skills and prove to potential employers that you have the ability to fulfil a career in the industry.

But when it comes to speaking about film in a job interview, or meeting your idol at an industry event, do you feel you would have the confidence to use and understand common industry phrases? To help you along the way, here’s an A-Z guide of the most common film phrases. Be sure to bookmark this page on your browser!


ADR stands for ‘automated dialogue recording’ also known as ‘dubbing’. ADR is done in addition to, or as a replacement for location sound to enhance the production.

B – Barndoors

Barndoors are blinders used on the sides of lights to spread or focus the light produced - controlled by tilting the barndoors until the necessary light effect is reached. These do get hot so remember to wear gloves!

C – Camera Roll

No, this isn’t where photos and videos are kept on your Apple iPhone! Each shot that is filmed is called a ‘camera roll’. These are usually numbered in order of shooting, for example, “C.R. No 3”.

D – Dolly Shot

To allow for smooth movement while recording a shot (or camera roll), the camera is placed on a piece of equipment that traditionally rolls along the floor. This is called a ‘dolly shot’.


EDL stands for ‘edit decision list’ and is used by the negative cutter when films are cut digitally. EDL is created from the non-linear edit systems used.

F – Focal Length

Varying focal length can achieve shots that take on a wider or narrower aspect. Smaller focal length numbers mean a ‘wider’ shot, and larger numbers mean a ‘narrower’ shot.


A GOBO is a flat board that is usually full of holes or shapes. This is used for creating patterns of light or shadows when it is placed in front of a light.

H – Hair in the gate

How annoying would it be to shoot a blockbuster movie, only to find there has been a hair obscuring the lens since day one of shooting? Thankfully, camera assistants are tasked with checking the lens for hair and dust, while cleaning it regularly, to ensure this never happens.

I – Inciting incident

This is the single event in the script that upsets the balance of the story. A murder, getting fired, or a disaster are traditionally used as the ‘question’ that the story and main character have to solve. This incident can happen at any time in the first or third act.

J – Jump cut

Two similar shots cut together with a jump in camera position, time or continuity.

K – Key Grip

A key grip works closely with the director of photography to sculpt the desired looking of a film by diffusing light. The key grip is also in charge of camera movement whether on a dolly, crane or mounted.

L – Logline

A single sentence that describes the story.  Literally, a sentence that a production company or financier might put into their database to ‘log' receipt of a script.

M – Matte box

A square metal frame that sits on the camera lens. This is used to hold filters and various masks for different effects.

N – Neg cutter

The person who cuts and assembles the original negative to match the edited film work print or works from the EDL.

O – Outtakes

Footage from rushes that is not used (but sometimes find its way onto TV blooper shows instead)!

P – Prime lens

A lens with a single focal length, whether wide, normal or telephoto. Prime lens tends to be sharper and faster, but should not be confused with zoom lenses which have variable focal lengths.

R – Room tone

Also called “atmos”, room tone is the recording of a room in location, no matter if this is silent or not.

S – Script report

A script report is a paid-for feedback process which is completed with someone who reads a lot of scripts. The script in these reports are usually formal with headings, subheadings and information on synopsis and a conclusion verdict.

T – Telecine

A post production process in which film is transferred to video. This a practice often used in modern high-end television production and film as images can go from negative to video and then to non-linear for editing.

U - Underexposure

Filming a shot or scene with less light that the emulsion required for the correct exposure. The result can be darker, but grainy if not done correctly.

V – Vertigo effect

A camera technique that involves tracking backwards while simultaneously zooming into a person or object. This term was coined after first being used in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo

W – Wrap

Surely the most common phrase known in the film industry. Once you hear “that’s a wrap” you know it’s time to go home or move onto the next location.

Z – Zoom lens

A variable focal length lens.

Become a film industry expert in 12 months

Edinburgh Napier University is now offering US students the chance to study a Master’s Degree in Film in just 12 months.

The course has been designed to help you embark on a career as a professional fiction-film marker, whether you’re dreaming of becoming a director, cinematographer, editor, sound engineer or producer.

The one-year full-time course will cover all aspects of the film industry, including subjects in scriptwriting and screen project development. Students will learn through a variety of coursework and practical exercises to deepen your technical and creative knowledge.

Want to find out more about Edinburgh Napier? Get in touch with the ATP Advisors today and discover more about the course, including how much it costs and when you can start.

Interested in Edinburgh Napier find out about their programs by speaking to Across the Pond today

Topics: Graduate