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Camera and lighting personnel
Shooting terms
The camera
The lens
Grip and camera - operating terms
Film stock
Filtres and gels
Lights and lighting
Film processing and the laboratory




Director of photography also refereed to as DP, lighting cameraman (or simply cameraman): Head of the camera department, primarily responsible for all the photographic elements of a film.

Camera operator:  works in close collaboration with the DP and the director to determine the camera’s position and movement during a shot, witch s/he physically executes.

Focus puller (1st camera assistant):   Responsible for determining and maintaining the field of focus required by each shot.

Clapper loader (2nd camera assistant):   Responsible for loading and unloading film stock and keeping records of each day’s shooting so that the film laboratories know what to print. Also responsible for the clapper board which identifies each shot and every take of the film; ‘clap’ also provides the editor’s assistants with the means of synchronizing picture and sound.

Grip:   works with the DP and camera operator, and is responsible for haw the camera is mounted and moved, for example, on a tripod dolly or crane.  For a tracking shot, the grip will lay tracks on which the dolly is pushed or pulled.  On bigger budget films, which require a lot of complex camera movement, a team of grips will work under the key grip.

Gaffer:  Head of the lighting department works closely with the DP to determine how to execute the lighting required in each set or location.

Sparks:  The electricians who control the power supply and rig the lights according to the gaffer/DP‘s instructions.


Blocking:  The technical rehearsal in which the actor’s position in relation to the camera are plotted out.

Coverage:  The way in which a group oh shots is designed (by the director and DP) to cover all the action described in any one scene of the screenplay.

Magic hour:  The term used to describe the twilight time of early evening, which on film can make the sky appear deep blue.

Marks: Positions, marked out by tape on the floor, given to the actors to enable them to achieve the camera/action blocking and to ensure they will be in the optimum place for focus and illumination.

Scene:  A self contained unit of action in one location, as laid out in the screenplay. A sequence of such units constitutes the dramatic action of the whole film.

Set-up:  The position of the camera in relation to the action during a shot, designed to cover a portion of a scene.  Each set-up is identified by a slate number on the clapperboard.

Storyboard:  the action of a scene or sequence, broken down into a series of drawings like a comic strip.

Take:  each repeated attempt to capture successfully on film the intention of the set-up.


Gate:  the pressure plate constructed around the aperture, the rectangular opening which creates a frame for the light passing through it on to the camera.

Magazine:  the compartment into which rolls of film stock are loaded before being attached to the camera.

Matte box: a box which can be attached to the camera, making possible to use a variety of devices - such as mattes and filters and contrast control systems, such as the VariCon. -  which affect the way image is registered.

Motor:  the mechanism which controls the rotation of the shutter and the transport of the film trough the camera, usually at 24 fps(frames per second) to achieve  the persistence of vision (which creates the illusion of movement  when projected at 24 fps).  Variable motors can over crank   to 64 fps and higher, giving the effect of slow motion (projected at 24 fps), or under crank  to as low as 2 fps, giving the effect of high speed .

Shutter: disk with 180 degrees cut out which rotates, so that each frame passing the aperture is exposed to light. The size of the cut out can be varied; a narrow shutter angle results in a strobing effect.

Viewfinder:  in modern camera, the image is reflected from the shutter mirror into the viewfinder, so that the operator can see the exact image being filmed.


Depth of field: the area between the nearest and the farthest  point  in front of a lens in which an actor or object can move and stay in focus – dependent on such factors  as the speed and focal length of the lens, the f-stop and the amount of light illuminating the action.

Exposure: the quantity of light passing trough  the lens and on to the film over a given time, producing a latent image  - perhaps the DP’s most important tool in defining the look of a film.  For dramatic reasons, the DP may choose to use a degree of under or overexposure to create an atmospheric sense of darkness or brightness.

f-stop/t- stop: units of measurements indicating the degree of opening of the lens diaphragm determining  how much light passes trough  the camera aperture. (t-stops are more accurate). If any factors (such as changing light or variation in the speed of the camera motor) make the exposure unstable while filming, the f-stop may have to be altered manually.

Flaring:  an effect created when the lens is pointed at a strong directional light source. Although regarded as a technical mistake, flaring is part of the modern cinematographer’s vocabulary, which can be used to evoke a sense of immediacy.

Focal length: the distance from the optical centre of the lens to the point just behind the lens where the image is in sharp focus, while the focus is set to infinity. Long focal lengths bring distant objects up close; short length push distant objects, further away, and give a much wider angle. Because different focal lengths affect the viewer’s sense of perspectives in different ways, choice of focal lens is a key factor in determining how best to render the dramatic action of a  scene.

Prime:  lens of fixed focal length.

Zoom:  A lens of variable focal length, so that the magnification of the subject of a shot can be altered during filming. This allows an alteration in the sense of perspective between the subject and the background (unlike the tracking shot).


Crane: Allows the camera to climb to a vantage point high over the subject and to descend toward it-or vice versa.

Dolly:  a wheeled vehicle on which the camera is mounted for tracking shots (in which the camera moves towards or away from the object).

Steadicam/Panaglide: trade names for two camera – stabilizing systems which allow the camera to be harnessed to the body and which include gyroscopic controls to ensure that the operator’s movements do not create a jerky image (a danger with hand-held shooting) . Steadicam shots are characterized by a floating, fluid sense of movement and camera mobility has been greatly increased since the system’s introduction in 1975.

Pan/tilt:  camera movement on horizontal/vertical  axis respectively, facilitated by geared heads,(used for most 35 mm films) which connect the camera to is mounting (on  a  tripod/dolly/crane), allowing the camera operator to move he camera by rotating wheels for each axis.

Track:  Movement toward or away from an object by means of a dolly.

Anamorphic:   A wide screen format based on lenses which optically squeeze the picture, which is then unsqueezed in the projector to produce a wider image whose aspect ratio is 2.35:1.

Aspect ratio:   the ratio between the width and height of the frame. The industry standard, which was 1.37:1until the 1950s, is today 1.85:1.

Cinemascope:  trade name for one of the earliest wide screen formats, introduced in the 1950s to give the cinema an edge over its new rival.

Super 35: A variable format system which ranges from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1.


EI/ASA:  the sensitivity of film to light as rated numerically.

Emulsion:  the light sensitive coating on film negative, consisting of silver halide crystals suspended in gelatin. Black and white film stock contains one layer of emulsion, colors has several. The emulsion is fused on to an acetate base.

Exposure latitude:  refers to the emulsion’s ability to produce acceptable image over a range of exposures.

Frame: a single picture on a strip of film.

Negative: Raw film stock and also raw stock which has been exposed but not processed.

Sensitometry:  the science of measuring a film emulsion’s light sensitivity.

Speed: the emulsion’s sensitivity to light, expressed by the EI/ASA rating, enabling the DP to make important decisions as to which stocks to use in different lighting conditions.


Diffusion filters: used to scatter light and reduce image resolution – to soften hard edges.

Fog filters: used to scatter light from the bright part of the image to the dark part, creating a foggy effect over the picture.

Graduated filters/grads: filters with neutral density or color on one part of the glass, graduating to clear glass.

Low contrast filters:  used to reduce the contrast of a scene – useful when shooting in exteriors with heavy contrast.

Matte:  an opaque mask placed in front of the lens to black out a portion of the image. Whatever part is blocked is filled later with another image element – such as a mountainous vista  - which is shot separately.

Net: a hair net used as a form of diffusion.

Neutral density filters:  colorless filters in a range of densities, used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens when the intensity is too great for the film stock or the required f-stop.  Can be used in the camera or over windows.

Pola screen: used to polarize light and eliminate reflections in glass, glare from a bright light source and flares (if used at certain angle). Is also used to deepen the color in a blue sky and make the clouds “pop” out. 


Arc-light: - a high intensity source in which light is produced by discharge of electricity between two electrodes.

Available light:  a term used for shooting without film lighting, using only the light available in the natural surroundings.

Back-light: lighting an object from behind.

Barn-door: the metal shields hinged in front of a lamp to limit /shape the light it produces.

Bounce lighting: a technique in which light is directed on to a reflective surface, producing a softer, more shadow less effect.

Brutes: a type of arc light producing a high intensity spot.

Color temperature: the measurements of light’s color quality on the Kelvin scale.

Contrast: the difference in intensity between the darkest and brightest parts of the scene to be photographed.

Cross-lighting: lighting which comes from the side of the scene.

Eye-light:  a small, hard light source placed close to the camera, used to pick out an actor’s eyes.

Fill light: secondary lighting used to reveal more detail in shadow areas of the image; also reduces overall contrast.

Flag:  used to shield unwanted light from the lens, or to create shadows. When perforated, it creates shadow patterns and dappled light effects.

Gel: a transparent filter placed in front of a light; different coloured gels can act as colour correction for daylight or tungsten; gels can also be used to colour the light for aesthetics effects.

High-key lighting: lighting which gives an overall brightness to the image, obtained, for example by a soft, diffused light source.

HMI: daylight coloured lights.

Inky-dink: a small incandescent light source.

Key light: the principal light source used to illuminate a scene.

Kicker: this serves a similar function to backlight, placed in a three-quarter-back position at a low angle behind the subject.

Low key lighting: describes a scene usually lit by one principal light source which casts shadows and only partially illuminates the whole image.

Reflectors: a light reflective surface, used chiefly for redirecting sunlight on to the scene in order to fill in shadows.

Rim-light: a form of back light placed so that the edges of a subject are framed by light.  Used to separate the subject from the background.

Scrim: fabric placed on a light to diffuse its intensity.

Soft light: open reflector lights that produce soft and shadow less light.

Source light: refers to light which is intended to came from a source in the image , a window, or a practical light source in the interior such as a table lamp.

Space light: used to provide a very big source of light. A number of space lights are often rigged at ten feet intervals to provide fill lighting over very large interior sets.


Answer print: the first complete print of a film delivered by the laboratory.

Bleaching:   a stage in colour film processing when the metallic silver image is converted into halides, later removed in fixing.

Bleach By-Pass: generic name for a variety of techniques which make it possible to retain a certain amount of silver in the colour print or intermediate, thus adding a strong element of black and white to the original colour image.

ENR:  trade name for the Technicolor printing process, named after laboratory technician Ernesto N. Rico, who pioneered it with DP Viitorio Storato.  As in bleach by-pass, ENR retains the silver, resulting in a high contrast image with rich blacks,. With ENR, the amount of silver retained can be controlled, which makes the process more flexible than the bleach by-pass.

Flashing:   a laboratory process in which the negative is exposed to light before shooting, reducing the contrast of the stock and resulting in an image which appears slightly desiderated. 

Grading or timing:  the laboratory operation wherein printer light intensity and colour filters are selected to optimize the density and colour rendition of the original footage.

Rashes/dailies: the first prints produced from the exposed negative, processed overnight by the labs and delivered to the film’s cutting-rooms for viewing by the crew.

Saturation: a colour when it is reproduced in its purest and most vivid state.

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