Every industry has its own unique language.
- If you’re in the heating and air industry, a “blowout” means something completely different than it does in Nascar.
- And “drift” has a different connotation in Nascar than it does in geology.
So it should come as no surprise that the film industry has it’s own peculiar language.
A few years back, Dave Knox, a veteran of the motion picture industry wrote a book about the language of the production industry called, Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde: An Insider’s Guide to Film Slang. In it he shares some of our industry speak. Here are 20 of our frequently used favorites.
- Available Light – Available light is naturally occurring light, ie: sunlight, moonlight, daylite, street lights, store fronts, etc. used as the source of light for a scene.
- B-Roll – B-Roll is a term, used exclusively in video and TV production used to designate additional cutaways shots and other generic footage the editor might later need to share the story. On feature films, this is usually the second unit.
- Baby – A baby is a 750 or 1,000 watt movie light with a squiggly shaped lens on the front.
- Barn Door – Barn doors are metal flaps on the outside of movie lights that can be adjusted to control the spill of the light.
- Blonde – A blonde is 2,000 watt open face (no lens in front) quartz-bulb movie spotlight.
- C-47 – C-47s are just clothespins which are used by electricians to hold pieces of gels and diffusion onto hot lamps.
- CG – CG or character generation is used to refer to on-screen titles.
- Cowboy – During the heyday of westerns a director wanted to see a shot that framed both the actor and his gun. It’s wider than a medium shot and closer than a full shot. And so, a “cowboy” was born. All these years later, it’s stuck.
- DP – A DP or a Director of Photography works under the director and is over the crew in charge of photographing the film. They are responsible for decisions on light, lens choice, filters and film exposure among other things.
- Gaffer’s Tape – Gaff tape is a movie’s version of duct tape but it’s way more expensive and won’t leave a residue when removed from a surface – in theory.
- In the Can – “In the can” just means that you’ve got the shot. It originates from the old days where a physical roll of film was placed in a tin container (can) when the shot was finished.
- Kill – Kill is a term the electric department uses for turning off or unplugging lighting or equipment. Thus, “Kill the Blonde”
- Kroger Lights – Kroger lights is slang for fluorescent lights, like the ones found in a supermarket or large retail space.
- Lookie-loo – A lookie-loo is a gawking passerby who ruins shot by walking into the action.
- Man-Maker – A man-maker is actually an apple box which is is a small wooden box, in varying heights, that can be used to raise an object. It’s name “man-maker” comes from it’s use to “increase the height” of a male actor to appear taller than his female counter-part.
- Pancake – A pancake is the smallest part of an apple box (actually a small square of plywood) that can be used on set to level furniture and make an actor 3/4″ taller.
- Shoot – Shoot is just the act of recording a scene onto film, videotape or digital media. Some people will also “filming” in place of “shoot”.
- Sticks – Sticks is slang for a tripod, a stationary camera platform which holds the camera steady.
- Strike – On a set strike means you’re removing something from the set, ie: “Strike the baby”.
- Taco Cart – A taco cart is a 4 wheeled cart with various grip equipment to include lighting stands and apple boxes.
Now that you know our “secret speak”, you won’t worry the next time you hear we’re going out to “shoot” someone. It’s just the language of a killer…video.