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March 23, 2011 / GreenMan

Film/Video & Photography Dictionary

The ultimate dictionary for terms & equipment is here!

Folks, I’ve teamed up with a buddy over at TubeTape to bring you the most up to date, valuable information you will NEED to know if you are pursuing a career in the video or photography industry. And if this is just a hobby for you, it will serve a great reference as well. Listed below are a bunch of common terms that you will hear thrown around on set, and their definitions. Don’t worry, this post isn’t going anywhere, so no need to memorize everything the first time you read. I mean, how can you, right? This is to serve as a fountain of knowledge for you to drink from at any time you wish… just don’t backwash. Anyway, enough with the bad jokes. Hope you enjoy, and please, if you’d like to add to our dictionary of terms, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Lots of love to ya film fans (and shutterbugs too!),


Basic Camera Terms:

Aperture: The amount of light that is allowed into the lens, usually measured in  F-stops. The lower the F-Stop the wider the lens is open and vice-versa.

Depth of Field: The distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

Depth of Focus: Measures the tolerance of placement of the image plane (the film plane in a camera) in relation to the lens.

Dutch Angle: Term for a cinematic tactic often used to portray the psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed. A Dutch angle is achieved by tilting the camera off to the side so that the shot is composed with the horizon at an angle to the bottom of the frame.

Film Speed: The measurement of a photographic film’s sensitivity to light. It is measured in ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

Frame Rate: The frequency at which an imaging device produces unique consecutive images called frames, most often expressed in frames per second (FPS). *Standard film frame rate is at 24 FPS and digital media (HD) will usually be at 60 PFS.

Shutter Speed: Total length of time that the shutter remains open when taking a photograph.

White Balance: The process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo.


Back Light: Illuminates the back of the subject. This light will also light the foreground elements from the rear. 

Key Light: The most important light. It will be the brightest on the set and highlight the subject of interest.

Fill Light: Used to reduce the contrast of a scene and illuminate the shadowy areas, filling in what the Key does not.

Flood Light: A spread light that projects the light wide and covers an entire area instead of a single subject.

Fluorescent Lighting: Gas-discharge lamp that uses electricity to excite mercury vapor. The excited mercury atoms produce short-wave ultraviolet light that then produces visible light. A fluorescent lamp converts electrical power into useful light more efficiently than an incandescent lamp.

Halogen Light: Incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament contained within an inert gas and a small amount of a halogen. The combination of which produces a chemical reaction which allows the lamp to operate at a higher temperature than a standard gas-filled lamp of similar power. The higher operating temperature results in light of a higher color temperature.

Hard Light: Casts crisp shadows with ‘harder’ edges giving less transition between illumination and shadow.

Practical Light: Any source of light that is not explicitly supplied by the photographer for the purpose of taking photos. The term usually refers to sources of light that are already available naturally  (the sun, moon, lightning) or artificial light already being used (to light a room).

Soft Light: Light that tends to “wrap” around objects, casting shadows with soft edges. Softness depends mostly on the distance and size of the light source.

Spot Light: A confined light source that focuses on a desired spot, i.e. a person on stage.


Apple Box: Wooden boxes specifically made for a film/video or photo shoots. You can use them as a seat, a stand, or raise the level of an object like a dolly track, a piece of furniture, ect.

§  They come in four sizes

  • Full Apple: 8”x 20” x 12”
  • Half Apple: 4” x 20” x 12”
  • Quarter Apple: 2” x 20” x 12”
  • Pancake (Eighth Apple): 1” x 20” x 12”

Barndoor: This piece of lighting equipment gives you the ability to control and direct the light on a certain object or detail on a subject.

Blackwrap: Black aluminum foil that has many uses on set like acting as a makeshift barndoor or snoot that could possibly have more range than the actual equipment.

Bounce Board: White board that reflects and diffuses the light onto the subject. You can use a studio light or even the sun as a light source.

Century Stand (C-Stand): Is a metal stand that is commonly used for various rigging and lighting tasks.

Cucoloris (KOOK-ah-lore-iss): Piece of wood or medal that is held in front of the light, at a distance, and projects designs. Examples: window blinds, tree branches, ect.

Flag: Piece of black cloth on a rigid frame that blocks light, often used to control light spill.

Gaff Tape: Gaffer tape or gaffer’s tape is a strong, cotton cloth tape used in theater, film and television productions. While related to duct tape, it differs in that it can be removed cleanly because it uses a synthetic rubber adhesive rather than a natural rubber adhesive.

Gels: Transparent color material made of polycarbonate or polyester that are used to change the color of the light.

GOBO: A metal object that is placed in front of the light and projects a design.

Silks: Sheer piece of white cloth on a rigid frame that diffuses light usually placed on C-Stands in front of the light.

Snoot: A tubular object that is placed in front of a light to allow the control of the direction and radius of the light beam. Also known as a top hat.

Softbox: Box-like encasement that surrounds the light head and diffuses light by projecting the light through a semi light permeable material or by bouncing the light.

General Good-To-Know Terms:

Blocking: Refers to the precise positioning and movement of the subject with in a scene.

Chromakey: The process of removing a specific color or a color range.

Color Temperature: Is a characteristic of visible light  measured in Kelvin (K). Temperatures over 5,000K are called cool colors (bluish white) [Daylight light]. Temperatures from 2,700–3,200 K are called warm colors (yellowish white through red) [Interior light].

Compositing: The process of removing a colored background (green or blue screen) and inserting another background in its place.

Foley Sounds: The reproduction of everyday sounds from footsteps, a door opening, or a creek in the floor, that are done in post production by a Foley artist.

Grip: Lighting and rigging technicians in the film and video industries.

MOS: Term used in production reports to indicate an associated film segment has no audio track. MOS stands for “Motor Only Sync” or “Motor Only Shot”


Thanks to, Wikipedia, and Jesse from TubeTape for this information.


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