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May 20, 2011 / GreenMan

On-Set Film Jargon

“Must Know” Terms and Phrases

Let’s face it, no one wants to be “that guy” on set that doesn’t know what he’s doing. Knowing the jargon used by the pros (as silly as it may sound sometimes) is key to not only fitting in on a professional film set, but keeping yourself and those around you safe. I’ve jotted down a list of terms and phrases commonly heard on set, as well as some advice for creating a safe and ideal film environment. Chances are, you have probably heard most of the terms already, but perhaps you aren’t sure of their exact meaning. Have no fear! Don’t try to memorize them all at once. Use this page instead as a reference to come back to and review whenever you feel the need.

DRESS CODE: No Shoes, Ne Service

1)  NO open toe shoes! There are many heavy objects on set that fall (and believe me, something falls on EVERY set), so you need to keep your toes protected. Also, bulbs can shatter, dolly tracks will be lying around, so there are many occasions where injuring your feet are quite possible, so sturdy closed toed shoes are a must.

2) No reflective clothing. You don’t want your sound guy bouncing excess light onto your talent from his white shirt. It’s not a rule, more or less, but it is a courtesy to wear dark or muted colors.

3) Proper gloves for handling lighting equipment! Lights get HOT. Very hot. You need proper protection if you will be handling them. Get yourself a pair of gaffer gloves or grip gloves. (All you grips should ideally have gloves as well) Gloves will protect from heat, broken glass, and getting your fingers pinched on C-Stands (ouch!).

PAY ATTENTION ON SET: Hey you! Yeah, you! Look out!

1) Keep your head on a swivel. Look out for loose cables, booms, bounce boards, etc. If there is something to trip on, most likely people will trip on it. Tape down cables to the floor with gaff tape, and keep equipment out of the way of the flow of traffic on set.

2) Put away anything that isn’t being used for the current scene! The less in the way, the better.

3) Keep “grip city” away from set location and out of the way of actors and crew. It will help the crew stay organized and keep talent and spectators out of danger.

COMMUNICATION: Proper use of on-set jargon is essential to a smooth flowing set.

1)  “Talent” refers to any of the actors or models on set.

2) “Crew” refers to any production staff on set.

3) “UPM” Unit Production Manager (boss on set)

4) “Grip City” is the area designated for lighting/grip equipment.

5)  “Craft Services” are any food or beverage provided for talent and crew.

6)  “Green Room” is the area given to the talent (and generally the talent only) to rest between shot set-ups.

7) “Practical Lights” aka “Practicals” are any light fixtures that are normally found in the location you are shooting. i.e. desk lamp in an office

8 ) “Striking” is called before turning a light ON or OFF. When you hear this term, turn away from the light source to prevent hurting your eyes.

9)  To “Strike” is to remove from the set and put away. As in, “Strike that table” is a request to remove the table from the shot.

10)  “Hot Set” means there is active filming going on, and you should not be walking around or moving any props or costumes on set.

11)  “Crossing Camera” is said before ANYONE crosses in front of the camera during a shot set up.

12)  “Quiet on set” once this is said, you MUST stop making noise of any kind. No talking (even whispers), no cell phones (even on vibrate), and no walking around. It is best to stay where you are until the scene “Cuts”.

13) “Take” is a scene that has been or is being filmed.

14) “Speed” means camera is rolling.

15) “Print” is a term used by the director to specify which take is the best in a sequence.

16) “Mark” is a blocking term that tells the talent where they need to land in order to be in focus for the camera, usually marked by an “x” on the floor in spike tape.

17) “Spike” as in “spike the camera” means to look directly at the camera, thus breaking the 4th wall.

18) “Cheat” is to turn towards the camera. You may also hear “Cheat away”, which means to turn away from the camera.

19) “Martini Shot” is the very last shot in production for that day.

20) “Hot Points” is said whenever you are carrying anything with sharp end points (like dolly tracks, light stands, tripod, etc.)

21) “Stinger” is quite simply an extension cord.

22) “C-47” is the fancy term for a clothespin. They are super helpful on set, used for hanging gels, silks, blackwrap, etc. You will hear this all the time on set. Why don’t they just call it a clothespin? The term C-47 came from the original SKU for the product, which is how the studio ordered them. Or so they say… either way, C-47 sounds a lot cooler than saying clothespin.

23) “B-roll” is any footage that is taken besides what is in the script. B-roll is a must have and great for filling in transitions between scenes, or giving you the option of cutaways to add detail, emotion or tension to a scene.

24) “ADR” means Audio Dialogue Replacement and is the process of recording dialogue separately from the action of the scene, that will later sync up with the scene. For example, you would ADR voice over for a film and plug it in during post production.

25) “MOS” stands for Motion Omit Sound and just means silent filming.

These basic practices plus the 25 useful terms should help you provide a more professional and safe environment on your next big shoot. Of course there are many more terms, phrases, and advanced knowledge about film equipment, shot set-up, lighting, etc. But for that, my friends, buy a book. : )

Until next time,

GreenMan

Ps. I take requests! Got a subject you want to know more about? ASK ME! Drop me a comment. Imma listenin’…

4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Matt / May 31 2011 3:35 PM

    Good Info…I have always wanted to know what these terms meant.

  2. Nicky / Jan 4 2012 11:22 PM

    I’ve watched a lot of behind the scenes footage of TV shows being filmed.(I would assume that this would happen on a film set as well.) I noticed that the director will often call out “Hold,” sometimes after somebody has goofed, sometimes right in the middle of a scene that seems to be going fine, or even right after he has called action but before the actors have even spoken. What does this mean? I know the meaning is self-explanatory, with the talent stopping and waiting, but what exactly is happening after this is called out? What purpose does it serve?

    Thanks!

    • GreenMan / Jan 5 2012 11:41 AM

      Great question, Nicky. “Hold” is called out usually to mean that they are waiting, or “holding” for sound issues. For example, there may be a car driving by that would not cause a long enough disruption to “cut” the take, but would be loud enough to disrupt the actors’ dialogue. So they would continue to roll camera and just “hold for sound” until the car drives away. There could be many other instances that the director would want to hold for a few seconds before the action begins, like maybe to give the actors a moment to get into character, someone may be walking around, a grip might have dropped something, you never know. But usually the hold refers to any sound issue that needs a moment to settle in order for the action on camera to begin.

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