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AudiAnnotate Guide to Annotating Film and Video Using Terminology Standard to Film Criticism and Production

by Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth and Janet Reinschmidt

The following list of standard film terms for annotation has been created by Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth and Janet Reinschmidt based on handouts for two University of Texas at Austin courses: E314J: Literature and Film-Form, Medium, and Politics Spring 2021 (Instructor Zoe Bursztajn-Illingworth) and RTF385K: Film Noir, Spring 2021 (Professor Noah Isenberg, Teaching Assistant Janet Reinschmidt).

Scholars annotating film and video will need to create layers in AdobePremier for their AudiAnnotate annotations that fit their research purposes. The film researchers who have made this list have found it useful to create layers such as–intertitles, effects, cinematography, editing, sound, and dialogue–and then use the more specific films terms below as well as transcribing dialogue or intertitles in individual annotations. This list and the above categories corresponding to layers are intended to be suggestions rather than prescriptions for research purposes; the types of film annotation and terms necessary for scholarship, preservation, and pedagogy will likely differ. Similarly, some researchers may need to note the duration of shots, intertitles, or scenes in their annotations while others may input markers on a moment by moment basis.

You may also use the alphabetized list below as a glossary to clarify the meaning of film terms in annotations you find on AudiAnnotate.

To learn more about how to describe and annotate film form using standard terminology please consult Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson and Yale’s Film Analysis Website

Standard Film and Video Terminology

Aerial shot: A camera shot filmed in an exterior location from far above the camera’s object; from a bird’s-eye view.

Angle of framing: The position of the camera in relation to the object that it shows. There are multiple angles (looking up from below – a low angle, normal or straight on, and oblique or tilted), each defined by the field and the vertex of the take.

Audio bridge: A sound, dialogue, or sound effect in one scene that continues over into a new image or shot

Camera angle: The angle chosen from which to film a shot. The most common angles are looking up from below – a low angle, normal or straight on, and oblique or tilted, each defined by the field and the vertex of the take. Directly related to the angle of framing.

Canted Angle: A shot positioned with the camera slanted to one side

Close-up: A close range shot, usually of a person or object. The scale of the object is magnified and fills the entire frame. The most common close-ups are of a character’s head from the neck up.

Cinematic identification: The process through which the spectator personally identifies with a character’s situation or experience.

Cinematographer: The person expert responsible for filming or photographing moving images.

Cinematography: Activities and elements related to the making and study of film. Specifically refers to the art and technique of film photography, the capture of images, and lighting effects.

Continuity editing: The systematic procedure of editing cuts to preserve the continuity, space, and time of the action.

Crane shot: A shot filmed from a mechanical apparatus called a crane. The crane moves the camera and the cinematographer (in some cases the director) in different directions. Crane shots usually provide an overhead view of a scene.

Cross-Cutting: The juxtaposition of distinct moments that demonstrate their occurrence at the same time; it is the juxtaposition of different scenes (via different takes) that occur in different spaces.

Cut: A sudden change in camera angle/view, location, time from one scene to another or one soundtrack to another

Cutaway: When a shot of one thing (such as archival footage or an intertitle) interrupts a continuously filmed scene

Depth of field: The depth of composition of a shot, composed of several planes: foreground, middle-ground, and background. Depth of field specifically refers to the area, range of distance, or field (between the closest and farthest planes) in which the elements captured in a camera image appear in focus.

Diegetic sound: any sound that manifests in and originates from the film’s narrative

Direct address: The speaking subject faces forward and speaks to the camera

Direct sound: sound effects, conversations, music, etc recorded simultaneously as the film is shot

Dissolve: A transition between takes, with one shot superimposed over another, the first image slowly disappears as the shot transitions to the second image.

Dolly shot: a moving shot taken from a camera mounted on a wheeled camera platform (known as a truck or dolly), pushed on rails

Dubbing: Replacing a voice from the original dialogue with another voice recorded later. Often used in International cinema to present dialogue in different languages

Establishing shot: Usually a long (wide-angle or full) shot, almost always the first in an edited sequence. Taken from a considerable distance, the shot establishes the spatial relations between the important figures, objects, and setting of the film’s scene.

Extreme close-up: A shot in which a small object (like a body part or an insect) occupies the entire frame.

Extreme longshot: A shot of the subject’s full body that includes a large portion of background

Fade in: A transition between scenes, the gradual brightening of a dark screen from black to full exposure. Also includes the gradual change in the intensity of sound

Fade out: The gradual disappearance of an image or scene and a gradual change in the intensity of sound

Fast motion: If an event occupying, say, ten seconds is filmed at 24 frames per second (normal sound speed) and later projected at the same rate, it will appear on the screen at normal speed. If it is filmed at half the normal speed (i.e. 12 frames per second) and projected at normal speed, it will occupy only five seconds of screen time. Thus, the action filmed appears speeded up. This effect is termed fast motion. (the opposite of slow motion)

Footage: refers to all material used in a film, including edited and unedited sequences

Framing: The place of the subject in relation to other objects

Freeze (or freeze-frame): An optical printing effect in which a single frame image is identically repeated or replicated over several frames when projected; gives the illusion of a still photograph.

Graphic match: A visual correlation between the compositional elements of two successive takes

High angle shot: A shot in which the subject is filmed from above with the camera tilted down

High key lighting: The scene is filmed with bright lights, reducing dark tones and increasing white tones

Indexical: A filmed image’s relation to the real thing it represents, the evidentiary value of a documentary image

Intertitle: Text on screen without other images

Iris: Transition shot frequently used in silent film, a black circle closes in or out to start/end a scene.

Jump-cut: A cut in film editing that joins two similar shots together, causing a jump in continuity, camera position, or time.

Long shot: A camera view of an object or character from a considerable distance so that it appears relatively small in the frame. A long shot often serves as an establishing shot.

Long take: A shot with a long duration without an edit

Low angle: A shot positioned with the camera tilted up

Low key lighting: The scene is filmed with low lighting to increase contrast and shadows

Match on Action: A cut between two shots of the same action taken from two different positions in order to achieve the illusion of simultaneity.

Medium Shot: A shot of a subject from the waist up

Medium Long Shot: Also known as a three-quarters shot, frames the whole subject from the knees up

Mise-en-scène: A term for referencing all of the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed and included in the sequence: settings and props, lighting, costume, make-up, and the action of the characters.

Montage: A series of short shots that condense time and space or a series of short shots that produce a single idea

Non-diegetic sound: Sound without an identifiable source within the frame (example:

Pan: Rotating a camera on the vertical or horizontal access, often to create a tracking shot

Point of View: A shot that demonstrates a character’s point of view

Pull / Rack Focus: When focus shifts from one subject to another in the same shot

Reflexivity: When a film points to its own construction as a film

Scale: How large or small the subject appears in the relation to other objects in the background or foreground

Sequence: A series of shots edited together to suggest unified action (colloquially, we might describe this as a “scene”)

Shot-Reverse-Shot: A method of filming dialogue in which shots of each subject speaking and reacting to dialogue alternate

Stock footage (archival footage): footage that is included in a film that is often shot by another filmmaker or for another project and not specifically for the film

Superimposition: When one shot appears layered over another shot, this may occur briefly as one scene transitions to the next or the superimposed image may remain for an entire scene as often occurs in experimental film.

Take: One shot of varying length

Top shot: A shot from a bird’s eye view

Tracking Shot: A shot in which the camera follows the subject being recorded

Voiceover: Narration from an off-screen speaker, often conveys a character’s thoughts.

Zoom: The movement of a lens of variable focal length that can be changed during the shot. It enables a smooth transition from wide-angle to telephoto shots without actually moving the camera.