8 Important Cinematography Terms

There are a lot of cinematography terms that one needs to learn if he plans on making a career out of working on a film set. Some of these terms are unique to the operation of a camera and a set, while others are simply just code words for everyday objects designed to separate those who know from those who don't. While you can make a thick book out of all of these terms, here are just a few to help you get started.

1. Shutter Speed

The shutter speed of the camera regulates how many frames are captured per a second. In film cameras and some video cameras, that speed is 24 fps, while on other video cameras it's 30 fps. The shutter speed of the camera remains unchanged unless you're shooting high speed or slow motion.

2. Aperture

The aperture regulates how much light passes through the lens to the photographic medium. It is measured in f-stops. You can change the aperture setting to compensate for too much or too little light in the scene to avoid over and underexposure.

3. Pan

Panning refers to moving the camera or a light on a horizontal axis. 

4. Tilt

Tilting refers to moving a camera or a light on a vertical axis. 

5. Singles and Doubles

Singles and doubles can either refer to scrims (steel circle nets placed directly on lights) or it can refer to nets (cloth nets placed on stands in front of lights). A single will reduce a light's intensity by 1/2 stop while a double will take it down by a full stop.

6. Flags

Flags are black clothes that are sewed onto metal frames. They are placed in front of lights to help cut the beams and shape it. If a flag is placed close to a lamp, it will produce a soft and fuzzy shadow. If it is placed far away from the light, it will produce a sharp and distinct shadow.

7. Diffusion

Diffusion can refer to any material placed in front of a light that will diffuse the beam and create soft light. 

8. Stingers

When you hear someone asking for a stinger on a film set, they're referring to an extension cord.