Film Terms 101: Beginner Guide


“Striking” — What you say when turning on a light on set. This warns the crew to not look directly into the light when it is switched on.

“Rolling” — What the camera operator says when they begin recording on the camera. This comes from film since it actually rolls through the camera.

“Speeding” — Also a term used to indicate recording, but for digital. This is currently the more commonly used phrase.

“MOS” — or “Mit Out Sound,” translates to “without sound.” This is when you record a take

“Reset and Cut” — When the director says cut, all recording stops, and the take is over. When the director says “reset,” the actors reset to the beginning of the take but recording resumes.

“Martini Shot” — The final shot of the day.

“Soft Sticks” — You say this when you have a close-up and you need to slate. It reminds you not to clap the slate too hard in front of someone. It’s rude.

“Soft 5 and Hard 5” — A 5 indicates a small break on set. A hard 5 means that it’s exactly 5 minutes (sometimes under), and a soft 5 means that it’s a bit more vague.

“10-200” — Code for going to the bathroom.


Blocking – This is the process of working out where to position all the cameras and lights based on where the actors are going to be standing and moving throughout a scene. This might sound like common sense, but in this particular case, common sense has a name: blocking!

Rhubarb – So you know when you see extras pretending to talk to one another in the background of a scene? Well, dear friends, that is what we call ‘rhubarb.’ Supposedly, this was the word many directors had their extras utter over and over again as they floated around in front of the camera back in the day. Sounds silly, right? And it is — as evidenced by this French and Saunders spoof.

Check the Gate – If a director shouts this out, it means they want the most recent take checked to ensure no impurities (like hair, bugs, arm-waving video bombers) interfered with the lens.

Flag on the Play – When someone realizes that there was something wrong with the most recent take and you need to go back to correct it.

Hot Set – A set that is perfectly set up with all of the props, cameras, and lighting in the correct places. Try to think of it as a cordoned-off crime scene — don’t touch a thing.

Hold the Red – If someone says this — don’t move! Another take is about to happen.

Crowd Base – This is the gathering area where the cast waits before being called onto set (also known as holding area).

Crafty – Short for ‘craft services.’ Which is short for ‘catering services.’ Go figure.

Video Village – A cluster of viewing monitors where all the directors gather to watch footage being taken.


GafferThe lead electrician on set. This is the person who plans the rigging of all of the lights on set and makes sure no one else touches the dangerous stuff. Lights are powerful, and electricity is scary.

Best BoyThe second in command to the gaffer. This phrase comes from old Hollywood — when a lead would ask for help from another department, they would say “Send your best boy.”

GripThe people on set who rig all of the camera setups such as dollies and cranes — as well as any other setups.

Key GripThe lead grip.

Executive ProducerThe bankrollers of the film. Usually, a big name who ties themselves to a project that they believe in and contributes money to get it going. Sometimes, there are creative executive producers who offer filmmaking input without being on set.

ProducerThe producer is the lead of the business side of the film. Producers hire people, organize shoot days, and generally create the film’s production timeline.

ADThe assistant director. The AD is the one who does everything the director doesn’t have time for — things like day-to-day scheduling, organizing extras, and preparing call sheets for the actors.

DP The director of photography. This is the lead cinematographer on the film. They are the ones who plan every shot and work closely with the director to translate their vision into what the camera actually captures.

Production DesignerThe production designer creates and builds all of the sets. They work with the director, the DP, and others to plan the set dressings and costume choices to achieve a certain look for the film.

Script SupervisorThe person who makes sure that every take maintains continuity. They are the ones who have a copy of the script and read along during takes to make sure that every line of dialogue is accounted for.

1st AD – The first assistant director is basically the second in charge on any set. They serve as the all-important link between the head honcho director and the entire cast and crew and are responsible for ensuring that the production runs like a well-oiled machine. Did someone say pressure?

2nd AD – Working directly under the 1sst AD, the second assistant director is responsible for drafting up all the logistical documents (call sheets and the like) and making sure that the 3rd AD has the cast and crew in check.

3rd AD – The third assistant director is basically one big people wrangler. It’s their job to ensure that all members of the cast and crew are in the right place and at the right time.

Second Unit – A completely separate crew charged with filming any takes that don’t involve face-to-face interaction, such as inserts and action sequences. Second units usually work simultaneously alongside the main unit to help speed up the production process.


Extreme Wide Shot – Also known as an establishing shot, extreme wide shots help give the audience some context by showing the building, city, or place where the next scene is about to take place.

Master Shot – Also known as a wide shot, master shots capture all of the relevant actors and action taking place within a scene. Like extreme wide shots, they’re typically used to provide context before jumping to a closer-range shot.

Cowboy Shot – Any shot that shows an actor from the thighs up. These shots were popularized during the Western film era when it was essential for audiences to be able to see the actor’s gun holsters.

Mid-Shot – The most popular shot of all! Mid-shots strike the perfect balance between subject and background and typically feature actors from the waist up. Oprah interviews, presenters reading the news, two actors engaged in dialogue — pretty much all of these shots are done at mid-range.

Insert – A close-up of an object that’s filmed separately and inserted into the scene during editing.

OTS Shot – Short for an over-the-shoulder shot. This is where the camera is positioned over one or both of the actors’ shoulders in a dialogue scene.

Martini Shot – Last shot of the day. Huzzah! If you hear this, it means your long day on set is almost over!

Items on Set

C-StandA three-pronged metal stand that holds up just about anything on set, such as lights, flags, etc.

Gaff TapeA cotton-backed adhesive tape with high heat resistance.

Boom PoleA pole that holds a microphone at the end, used to capture sound from the top or bottom of the frame.

ShotgunA microphone (typically used on a boom pole) that captures sound in narrow range.

SticksA tripod (“Hand me the sticks”).

Plate/BiscuitThe connection plate that connects the tripod and the camera.

C-47A wooden clothespin. Used for clipping gels and diffusions to lights.

Platypus/QuackerA duck-billed clamp used to hold large boards and planks in the air.

StingerAn extension cord.

Snoot A tube that controls the radius of a light’s beam.

FloppyA large, black, square tapestry used for blocking out a light source.

FlagA device that blocks light.

DiffusionA square white sheet used to diffuse, soften, and spread light coming from a source. Great for getting rid of harsh lights on the set.

Gel — A square of colored plastic material that is placed in front of a light to change its color.

ScrimA metal-gated circle placed inside of a light to soften its output.

BounceA white reflective object used to reflect softer light onto your scene.

DollyA device used to roll a camera from point A to point B.

CookieAn object with cut-outs that allow light to pass through to create a certain look, such as curtains or trees.

Dead Catthe fuzzy thing over a shotgun mic on top of a boom that cuts out wind noise.

ZeppelinA puffy case that goes over a microphone to cut down wind noise.

Slate/Clapper The black-and-white board you see at the beginning of a take with the scene and shot number on it. This is used to sync audio and video in post-production.