Film Director’s Check List
of Technical Terms

By Patrick Tucker

Have you ever travelled to anther country and wanted the basics? When visiting another country, a few basic terms in the local language is a huge bonus.
Here are some basics for the language of the Land of Film:

Camera Shots

Each shot has a name and an abbreviation; from the widest to the tightest:

Wide shot (a general description of the widest shot possible with this lens).
ELS: Extreme long shot (everything at a great distance).
LS: Long shot (the complete figure, with a bit of space above and below).
¾: Knee shot (knees to head)
MS: Medium shot (waist to head); sometimes known as WAIST SHOT.
MCU: Medium close-up (chest to top of head).
CU: Close-up (neck to top of head).
BCU: Big close-up (full head from chin to hairline).
ECU: Extreme close-up (just a bit of the face, the hand – a detail).

HAnds On Directing For Film And TVMore things to do with shots:

A/B: "as before" – particularly when a shot is to be the same as the previous one.
B/G and F/G (b/g and f/g): are background and foreground.
CAMERA LEFT/RIGHT: are the left/right of the camera operator, and so will also be screen left/right, and very different to the theatre’s stage left/right).
ESTABLISHING SHOT: is to show where we are, and who is present. It can be a WS, but can also be done by following a character as they move within the setting.
OOF: the shot is out of focus (SOFT is the note given when you wanted it in focus).
OSS: an over the shoulder shot (sometimes written O/S).
POV: the point of view of the character; it is often close to what they would see, not actually what they would see (otherwise other characters would talk right into the lens).
PULL FOCUS or RACK FOCUS: is to change the focus within the shot from near to far (or the other way round).
TIGHTEN or LOOSEN: is to make the shot bigger or smaller.
X: an abbreviation of "cross", so X-CUT is CROSS CUT.
2-S: two people in the frame (TWO-SHOT).
3-S: three people in the frame (THREE-SHOT).

The camera can be moved in various ways:

PAN: rotating the camera through an arc: "PAN LEFT, PAN RIGHT" (but not "PAN up, PAN down").
TILT UP/DOWN: the camera TILTING UP to look up, TILTING DOWN to look down (but never PAN up/down).
CRANE UP/DOWN: moving the camera bodily up/down (or JIB UP/DOWN, especially if using a JIB ARM, attached to a DOLLY).
TRACKING (also DOLLYING or TRUCKING): the camera mounted on a DOLLY moving on TRACKS, or with rubber wheels on a very smooth floor. PUSH IN/PULL OUT is a very small TRACK IN/TRACK OUT.
CRAB: moving the camera sideways.
DUTCH ANGLE (also CANTING): putting the camera at an angle to the vertical, so that the whole picture looks aslant.
ZOOM: changing the field of view by using a varifocal lens. Since it is something we cannot do with our own eyes, it tends to bring attention to the mechanics of the shot unless it is hidden or motivated by actor or camera movement.

Things to do with sound:

MOS (sometimes MUTE): shooting a scene without any sound.
OFF: "off-mike" means that the dialogue was not picked up properly by the microphone.
OOV: out of vision; the dialogue is heard without the speaker being seen.
VO: Voice over
WILD TRACKS: the individual sounds recorded after a scene is shot, to help the dub.

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About The Author

Patrick TuckerPatrick Tucker is an internationally acclaimed stage and screen director with over 150 screen drama credits (including one feature film), over 100 stage credits and the founder of the innovative Original Shakespeare Company. He is the author of seven books, including the award-winning Secrets of Screen Acting (now in its 2nd edition) and The Actor's Survival Handbook, and is into his 15th year of presenting "Workshops for Raindance."

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Film Directors Check List of Technical Terms