Cinematic Language


Film and video programs are efforts at communicating and just like speaking English, tapping out Morse code, or waving semaphores, there is a whole language that can be learned including words, phrases, grammar, punctuation, rules, and common practices. And like any other language, the more thoroughly you master it, the more effectively you can communicate.

While the writer conceives the story, and the director realizes it, it is you, the editor who is the storyteller; given the task of organizing the thoughts and ideas and transmitting the intended message to the audience.

Communication is both an art and a craft. Part inspiration and part perspiration. Effective editing requires both aspects, and while you can’t necessarily be taught the art of eloquence, you can study and practice the rules of the language, and hone your craft so you can edit quicker, more efficiently, and communicate more effectively because of it.



planos de cine

The use of different shot sizes can influence the meaning which an audience will interpret. The size of the subject in frame depends on two things: the distance the camera is away from the subject and the focal length of the camera lens.

 In terms of camera distance with respect to the object within the shot, there are basically 7 types of shots:

  • extreme close-up
  • close-up
  • medium close-up
  • medium shot
  • medium long shot
  • long shot
  • extreme long shot or distance shot

shot-types (1)

Click here to learn more about Cinematic techniques, from Wikipedia!

Click here to learn more about Shot (Filmmaking), from Wikipedia!

Click here to learn more about Filmmaking, from Wikipedia!


Film Technique and Terminology

For further information:


The Basic Camera Moves


Let’s look at the basic moves that are used in every video and film production:

Tilt: Moving the cameras lens up or down while keeping its horizontal axis constant. Nod your head up and down – this is tilting.

PanMoving the camera lens to one side or another. Look to your left, then look to your right – that’s panning.

Zoom: Zooming is one camera move that most people are probably familiar with. It involves changing the focal length of the lens to make the subject appear closer or further away in the frame. Most video cameras today have built-in zoom features. Some have manual zooms as well, and many have several zoom speeds. Zooming is one of the most frequently-used camera moves and one of the most overused. Use it carefully.

Pedestal: Moving the camera up or down without changing its vertical or horizontal axis. A camera operator can do two types of pedestals: pedestal up means “move the camera up;” pedestal down means “move the camera down.” You are not tilting the lens up, rather you are moving the entire camera up. Imagine your camera is on a tripod and you’re raising or lowering the tripod head (this is exactly where the term comes from).

DollyMotion towards or motion from. The name comes from the old “dolly tracks” that used to be laid down for the heavy camera to move along – very much like railroad tracks – in the days before Steadicams got so popular. The phrase dolly-in means step towards the subject with the camera, while dolly-out means to step backwards with the camera, keeping the zoom the same. Zooming the camera changes the focal length of the lens, which can introduce wide-angle distortion or changes in the apparent depth of field. For this reason, it’s sometimes preferable to dolly than zoom.

Truck: Trucking is like dollying, but it involves motion left or right. Truck left means “move the camera physically to the left while maintaining its perpendicular relationship.” This is not to be confused with a pan, where the camera remains firmly on its axis while the lens turns to one direction or the other. You might truck left to stay with a pedestrian as she walks down a street.

For further information:


The Fancy Camera Moves

Now that you understand the basics, here are few more advanced moves. Some of these usually require the use of a steady device and one or two crew members to execute smoothly.

Handheld Shooting: Sometimes the action is moving too quickly or too unpredictably for the camera to be on a tripod. This calls for making the camera more mobile and able to follow the action of a scene. Most times the camera will simply be held by the operator, who will then employ a number of basic camera moves by moving the feet – trucking in and out, dollying in one direction or another, tilting, panning, zooming – and combinations of all of these.

Floating Cam or Stabilizing Shot: The Steadicam was invented in 1971 by Philadelphia native Garrett Brown. Famously used in the jogging sequence in Rocky and extensively with exceptional effect in the Kubrick masterpiece, The Shining. It uses a series of counterweights (and gyroscopes on more-expensive models) to keep a handheld camera’s motion very smooth. Although the term “Steadicam” is used often, this is a trademark name belonging to the Merlin company. Similar to Kleenex for tissues, we call the devices that are non-Steadicams “stabilizers”. Stabilizers for the small-business video producer are plentiful, much more affordable and are widely used today.

Crane/Jib: A crane can be used to lift a camera (and operator, if it’s big enough) from low to high shooting positions. Less expensive jibs can support the weight of a camera and lift it several feet off of the ground. Sometimes called a boom, but the boom term usually applies to the device that holds a microphone aloft.


Narrative Structure

Narrative structure is generally described as the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer. The narrative text structures are the plot and the setting.

Generally, the narrative structure of any work (be it film, play, or novel) can be divided into three sections, which is referred to as the three-act structure: setup, conflict, resolution. The setup (act one) is where all of the main characters and their basic situation are introduced, and contains the primary level of characterization (exploring the character’s backgrounds and personalities). A problem is also introduced, which is what drives the story forward.

The second act, the conflict, is the bulk of the story, and begins when the inciting incident (or catalyst) sets things into motion. This is the part of the story where the characters go through major changes in their lives as a result of what is happening; this can be referred to as the character arc, or character development.

The third act, or resolution, is when the problem in the story boils over, forcing the characters to confront it, allowing all elements of the story to come together and inevitably leading to the ending.

Lights, camera, action!
  1. I really like the cinema language, I´d like to learn how to take wondereful photos and this blog woud help me. Thank you!

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