Notes: Film Vocabulary

Film Editing

Film editing is the process of arranging sequences of shots.


Shot duration: Length of a shot. Typically the average length of a shot in modern films is around 2.5 seconds long, down from an average of

Pace: The rate of activity, cuts, introducing characters or plot points. Typically refers to the general shot duration in a section of a film.

Long take: Unusually long shot which breaks with the regular pacing of a film.

Plot time: Duration of narrative. Two men talk in a bar about the past 10 years of their careers, the plot time is 10 years.

Story time: Duration of story. Two men talk in a bar about the past 10 years of their careers, the story time is the hour they spend at the bar.

Screen time: Duration on screen. Two men talk in a bar about the past 10 years of their careers, the screen time is the few minutes that we see the event take place on screen.

Editing Transitions

Cut: The immediate transition from one shot to another.

Dissolve: One clip fades in while another fades out, briefly overlaying both clips.

Wipe: Transition in which the clip is masked along a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal moving across the screen.

Iris: Transition in which the clip is masked by a expanding/shrinking shape (typically a circle) to transition to or from black, or between two shots.

Fade: Clip transitions to or from black.

Split screen:

Temporal Relationships

Parallel editing: Cutting between two different actions or locations, usually implying that both actions are occurring simultaneously.

Intercutting: Different actions or distinct locations being edited together as part of the same scene.

Flashback: Cutting to a scene or event which happened in the past.

Flashforward: Cutting to a scene or event which will (or might) happen in the future.

Montage sequence: Sequence of shots, usually without dialogue.

Graphic Relationships

Graphic match:

Graphic contrast:

Continuity Editing

Establishing shot: This shot establishes a scene before an action takes place.

Master shot:

Two shot: Any shot containing two people, no matter their positioning or spatial relationship in the scene.

Over-the-shoulder shot: Shot filmed behind a person to frame the shot with their shoulder/back-of-head, usually used in conversations between two characters to keep continuity of having two people in the scene while the camera focuses on a more frontal perspective of just one.

Axis of action: An imaginary line, usually between two characters, which the camera rarely crosses as to keep the spatial relationship between the characters between shots. This rule of not crossing the axis of action is typically referred to as the 180 degree rule.

Crossing the axis of action: Breaking the 180 degree rule, characters flip their spatial relationship in the scene. Unless by an amateur filmmaker, this can be an intentional technique which may be required in some cases to show a different part of the scene during a conversation.

Shot/reverse shot: Shot of character talking to other character offscreen, then shot of character they are talking to. This may be just two shots, the shot and reverse shot, or it may continue flipping between the two characters ad infinitum.

Eyeline match: Character looks at something off screen, then cuts to shot where we see what they are looking at, around the general height/perspective as the character themselves. Similar

Match on action: Cutting on an action to give the perception of continuity between two shots. Subject starts action in one shot, which draws the viewer's attention, and then follows through with the action in the next. Since our perception is on the action itself, and the action is continuous between the two shots, the cut becomes less jarring whether it is changing perspectives or even moving into a new location.

Reaction shot: A shot cuts away from the main action to show another character's reaction.



Disjunctive Editing

Elliptical editing:

Overlapping editing:

Rhythmic editing:

Intellectual montage: Sort of like a video metaphor, cutting between two or more seemingly unrelated scenes to develop a more nuanced message or meaning.

Jump cut: