Animation Related Film Terms

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Animation Related Film Terms

Animation Related Film Terms

This is the forth post in a five part series of Animation Terms. In this part I’ve listed some film terms. Some of them are technical definitions others define a film style, but all of these terms are helpful to know as an animator.

Action Axis – The theoretical line that runs between the film plane and the position of the characters within the frame. It defines the spatial relations of all the elements of the scene as being to the right or left. The action axis is comparable to the apron of the stage in a theatrical production. It’s considered wrong to cross the Action Axes from shot to shot as it can create confusion in the audience as to where elements in the film are located.

Aperture – The f/stop of a camera lens (expressed numerically as f2, f5.6, f22 etc.) which determines exposure and depth of field.

Barn Doors – Metal flaps, hinged to the front of a spotlight and designed to limit the spill from a light. May be rotated to create a Slash of light.

Blue Screen – The photographing of a subject in front of a flatly lit BG (back ground) of a solid color. This color may then be Keyed on (ie. converted to a transparent Keysource) leaving only the subject to be composited over a new BG.

Burn-in – An effect which is considerably lighter in intensity than any part of the frame in which it appears and does not need a matte in order to read clearly.

Cinematography – The making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography. Many additional issues arise when both the camera and elements of the scene may be in motion, though this also greatly increases the possibilities at the same time.The Director of Photography is responsible for this area of live action films.

Cinema Verite – Also known as Kino Pravda. Is a Documentary style of film making designed to depict realism.

Color Temperature – The quality of light expressed in terms of degrees Kelvin. The lower the color temperature, the warmer or more red the light. The higher the temperature, the cooler or more blue.

Contrast – The whiteness of the whites and the blackness of the blacks in an image.

Creeper – Also known as title crawl. That section of the film, usually at the tail when the credits scroll from the bottom of the frame to the top.

Cutaway Shot – A shot in which the camera view is re-framed to give the audience information that was previously outside of the camera’s view. Often used to reveal something.

Depth of Field – The nearest and farthest point from the camera that the objects in frame appear to be in focus; a function of the f/stop of a lens.

Documentary – A film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or event and typically including the following features: periods of voice-over narration delivered in the style of a news reporter, and crisp editing.

Dolly – Moving the whole camera closer or farther from the subject as posed to Zooming in (which creates a similar effect by adjusting the optics of the lens).

Dolly-Zoom – A disconcerting visual effect made famous by Hitchcock. Achieved by Dollying in one direction and Zooming in the opposite direction at the same time.

DOP – The Director of Photography (also see Cinematography).

Exposure – The brightness or darkness of an image (as in Overexposure or Underexposure) in relation to the amount of light necessary to effectively record an image.

Expressionism – Film tradition originated in Germany that bridged the silent and sound eras, epitomized by oblique camera angles, high contrast lighting and psychologically disturbing subject matter.

Fill light – A light designed to bring the amount of shadow up to a minimum level of exposure so that some detail will appear in the area.

Film Gate – The Projection Mask that determines the final Aspect Ratio of a projected image.

Film Noir – American film tradition from the 1940’s dealing with dark subject matter, urban locations and blunt, gritty dialogue.

Filters – Originally referring to optical gels and translucent elements used in cinematography, now synonymous with plug-ins that an be used to create effects in digital post-production.

Flop Shot – The mirror image of artwork or animation where the coordinates of the X axis are reversed.

Focal Length – The distance from the front of a lens to the point where the image is focused (expressed in terms of wide-angle and telephoto lenses). A telephoto lens brings distant objects closer (like a telescope), a wide-angle lens make an object appear to be farther away from the camera.

Garbage Mattes – Black and white artwork or digitally generated Alpha Channel files that remove unwanted picture information from portions of the frame; often in Live-action – cables, C-stands, wires, etc.; in Animation, usually the result of a frameline, edge of artwork or because of an element being reduced in scale when composited.

Genre – A group of films involving a similarity of style, subject, story and techniques.

Grain – Commonly referred to as Film Grain. the molecular make up of photosensitive emulsion that records the film image; revered for its aesthetic quality.

High Key – A lighting technique in which all parts of the frame are well lit, like a Musical Production or Stage play.

High Contrast Lighting – Where sparse areas of stark illumination are employed to create a dramatic effect. Hard edge shadows are the result. Often employing lighting props like Cookies, Gobos and Blinds.

Intercut – The editing of all the shots in a sequence so that shots from two separate narrative storylines are alternately used.

Juxtaposition – The intercutting of two contrasting subject to point out the symbolic irony.

Key Light – That light which serves as the principle light source in a scene.

Key Source – Also known as Key Signal. An 8 bit file of data that is saved as a component of a 32 bit digital file that defines the areas of transparency in an image.

Low Key Lighting – Lighting in which a flat overall minimum level of illumination is achieved in order to fill in any areas of shadow and soften what shadows are present.

Montage – A sequence created by an Editor in which the story is expressed by means of a series of layered symbolic images rather than a narrative storyline.

Multiple Exposure – A camera stand in which the cel levels are not locked down so that different levels are free to move independently.

New Realism – An Italian film tradition that depicts ordinary people in a documentary style of film making, using natural light and low budget location shooting.

New Wave – French film movement of the 1960’s that popularized Cinema Verite.

Reverse Angle Shot – Reversing the camera angle to the opposite angle in relation to the Action Axis, usually turning to look at a second character after having shot the first.

Room Tone – Also known as Ambience, Presence. The natural sound of an environment, with subtle hums, wind, distant rumble, etc used as a Bed Track between dialogue, sound FX and music, and usually unique to a specific location.

Clapperboard – Also known as a Slate. A devise designed with a hinged arm that swings 90 degrees to make a loud audible crack which can later be synced to the corresponding film frame when Double System recording is used. The scene and take information is written on the Clapperboard.

Subjective Camera – A camera angle corresponding to the Point of View (POV) of a character, often moving and hand held.

Sub Plot – A series of events that add to our interest and understanding of the characters in a story, but are not directly related to the main events of a story.

Subtext – The real meaning of metaphors that appear in a film. The underlying emotions, biases, feelings and intentions of characters when their dialogue and actions are ambiguous.

Sync Block – A series of sprocketed wheels designed to keep several reels of film in the same relative position. Generally used for syncing sound to picture.

Tracking Shot – One where the camera moves similar to a Dolly Shot but where a constant distance from the subject is maintained, following the action.

Transition – A visual technique that hides or lessens the jarring effect of a cut, (eg. wipes and dissolves).

Undercranking – A camera that is run deliberately more slowly than normal so when projected at speed, characters appear to be moving more quickly than normal.