Best Boy, eh? What Makes Him the Best?
With all the jargon and slang that gets thrown around on sets, working on a film or TV show might as well require foreign language training. If watching Entourage and Extras (R.I.P.) isn’t enough to school you, our film production glossary will help fill in the gaps.
ADR – stands for “automated dialogue replacement” (or “additional dialogue recording”); also known as looping. Rerecorded dialogue that’s replaced during post-production.
ambience – not to be confused with any sort of romantic mood. Rather, a term referring to a scene’s background noise or existing light level.
answer print (or check print) – the initial film print with sound and picture included, which is used to assure quality and correct color balance.
apple boxes – wooden boxes of varying sizes used by the grip department for propping up lights and leveling dolly tracks, among other things. No surprise that the “full apple” (8 inches by 20 inches by 12 inches) looks, in fact, like a fruit crate. Full apples can either be placed in the New York position (vertically, at its tallest), or in the L.A. and Texas position (flat, at only 8 inches tall).
axis – not exactly actors’ “personal space,” but something similar. The imaginary line between actors and the camera that keeps the consistency of screen direction intact.
background – actors without dialogue; people occupying the background of a scene. Used to be more commonly called “extras.”
below the line – the area of a production’s budget that outlines crew and equipment costs.
best boy grip – next in command under the key grip; the member of the grip department who handles the grip truck. The “best boy” designation also extends to the electric department (for example, the best boy electric).
black wrap – blackened-foil material used for blocking light sources on set, among other things.
Blue Book – a set of guidelines for working with actors who are minors within California statutes and regulations.
boom operator – this person positions microphones on long poles (or “booms”) in the ideal spots for recording, and holds them there, (hopefully) out of frame, while the scene is filmed.
breakdown – the identification of various elements in a script (such as the speaking cast, stunts, special effects, props, etc.), which are categorized using a breakdown sheet.
bump – a change in status (and therefore, in pay) due to the addition of duties not originally contracted; can refer to cast or crew.
call sheet – the daily production schedule listing call time or scheduled arrival for all cast and crew. Simply put, the cast and crew live and die by the call sheet, which is distributed the day before the shoot.
call time – A pushed call is a call moved to later in the day; a pulled call is one moved to earlier (rare). A forced call is when the crew is called back to work before getting their turnaround time; very rare on union shows, as massive amounts of overtime pay are triggered.
callback – an actor’s golden ticket, otherwise known as the second audition.
character breakdown – a character cheat sheet of sorts, listing physical and personality traits that must be considered when casting actors for a production.
checking the gate – inspection of a camera lens’ film gate for dirt, hair, etc.
clapper loader – the second assistant camera, otherwise known as the person who operates the “clapper,” or “slate.” He or she also cleans and maintains all camera gear.
closed dailies/closed set – only essential cast and crew are allowed on a closed set or allowed to view closed dailies (unedited daily footage), for reasons of privacy (nude scenes) or confidentiality.
CGI – computer-generated imagery.
construction coordinator – he or she who builds all the sets.
contingency fund – the “oh crap” account, also known as the 10 percent of the budget that’s stowed away in case of unforeseen production costs.
continuity – if a bottle’s label is showing in a shot, the person in charge of continuity (known as the script supervisor) makes sure it’s showing in the next shot. Essentially, the necessary consistency that must exist within a scene from shot to shot.
cover sets – back-up exterior locations that are secured in case of inclement weather at the original location.
craft services – the best perk of working on a set: the snack table and catering.
crosses – any significant directional movement by an actor through the frame, whether lead actors or background. (Also known as the moment an extra can point him or herself out to friends and family.)
cross-fades – a post-production effect that links scenes (one shot fades out as another fades in) or two adjacent audio parts (one sound fades down while the other fades up).
C-stand – a metal stand used to hold flags, nets and various other grip items.
day breakdown – a script supervisor’s form that details which day each scene occurs in the script.
day players – any crew member not on the official crew list. Sometimes day players work every day of a shoot, but their contribution is considered additional man days above the planned budget.
delivery – the airing or release date of a TV show or film.
digital shader – the person who tweaks the colors and lighting that alter the appearance of CGI/computer-animated objects, aka the shading/lighting technician.
digitize – converting footage, both analog and digital, into a digital file for editing.
dispatcher – the wrangler of all things vehicle-related on a set.
dolly – the platform on which a camera is placed in order to achieve moving shots.
eighths – a unit of measurement used to determine the length of a scene; one-eighth is the minimum when measuring vertically on a script page.
Exhibit G – a sheet used by Screen Actor’s Guild members to log hours.
expendables – necessary but short-lived supplies that are handy to have on set, including lighting gels, gaff tape, grease pencils, batteries, etc.
flags – metal frames covered in fireproof fabric, which are used to block light to create shadows or reduce unwanted reflection on the camera lens.
focus pull – aka “rack focus,” the process of refocusing the lens to keep a subject in focus when the subject or the camera is in motion.
Foley artist – A sound effects artist who recreates effects on a sound stage, which are then added during post-production.
gaffer – the head of the electric department, who is in charge of all lighting on the set.
gel – a thin sheet of colored plastic placed in front of a lighting instrument, used for color correction or diffusion.
Glidecam – a portable rig used to hold a camera during moving shots. Similar to a Steadicam.
grip – any member of the grip department, which assists with the lighting and rigging responsibilities on set. The grip department works in conjunction with the camera and electric departments.
hold days – the days during which an actor is under contract with a production but not shooting.
honeywagon – sometimes just a fancy porta-potty on wheels, but more often trailers containing dressing rooms, offices, wardrobe or makeup rooms … and toilets.
jib – a camera mount on a boom or arm that permits the camera operator to shoot from a greater height; sometimes remotely controlled.
line producer – a producer responsible for managing the budget and making the production run smoothly.
lining the script – marking shots on a copy of the script as they are shot. Basically, keeping track of progress on set.
locked – a status of various production components, such as location and cast, that suggests that they are complete, secured, or unable to change.
lock-up – passersby on set or on location are stopped and asked to wait until filming is complete on a shot when “lock-up” is in place.
low-budget – by DGA standards, a production with a budget of $9.5 million or less.
M&E (music and effects) – an audio mix in which the dialogue track is separate from the tracks containing music and other effects. This is typically done so that the dialogue track can be replaced with a foreign language track when needed.
martini – a nickname for the last shot of the day. Presumably, the cast and crew can almost taste their post-work drinks when filming this final shot. The second-to-last shot is called the “Abby Singer,” named for an assistant director who realized how much time the crew could save with a little warning that the day was almost over.
new deal – a term used among the crew to indicate that the current shot is a “wrap” and that another shot is about to begin production.
O.S. – off-screen, a script notation indicating dialogue spoken by an actor not in the frame, or sounds originating off-screen (radio, backfiring car, etc.).
one-liner – a production schedule that outlines information in order of scenes.
partial – a scene that is partially completed when the shooting day comes to a close.
principal photography – the number of days a film is scheduled to shoot. Typically, this indicates first unit only, not second unit or reshoots.
rigging crew – members of the electric and grip crews responsible for assembling equipment ahead of shooting, or member of the stunt department who prepares safety equipment ahead of stunt performers.
rushes – another term for dailies, or unedited daily footage.
scale – minimum pay for cast or crew based on union rates—as in the phrase, “He did it for scale.”
script supervisor – the person in charge of all things continuity-related.
second team – a team comprised solely of the cast’s stand-ins. They’re not the first team (the main talent) – they just look like them.
second unit – an additional crew unit that shoots specialized footage (establishing shots, aerial shots, etc.) and/or extra footage. Basically, the JV squad of crew members.
side – a portion of a script that actors use to audition.
slate – the sign clapped in front of the camera at the start of each shot, listing the director and the DP, shot number, take number, and if shooting on film, roll number, all used for identification in post-production. The sound of the iconic black-and-white striped “clapper sticks” on top smacking together is used to synchronize audio and video.
split – a shooting day consisting of part day and part night. If you report to set anytime after 11 a.m., you will probably be working a split.
stand-in – a person with similar physical attributes to a lead actor, who is used primarily to tests lighting on the set.
Steadicam – a camera mount that’s attached to a camera operator’s body. It’s not a form of torture, but rather used to achieve smooth, fluid camera movement.
sticks – a camera tripod.
strike – the tearing down of a set after production wraps on it.
strips – a illustrative representation of one scene (akin to a storyboard), used in a strip or production board.
swing gang – crew members who move heavy props and set pieces to and from set.
Taft-Hartley – when a non-speaking actor on a Screen Actors Guild show is given lines in a scene, thus making him/her eligible to join SAG.
third man – the person who wrangles all the cables/wires in the sound department.
traveling matte – a computerized background that is used in combination with a moving image.
turnaround – the time between the last shot of the day and the call time next day. Also, a screenplay “in turnaround” has been bought but ended up not being produced, and is now eligible for someone else to take a crack at it.
walk-and-talk – a shot in which the actors, um, walk and talk, making it necessary for boom operators, camera operators, and lighting technicians to follow with all their gear.
Wescam – trade name for an gyroscope-stabilized camera mount attached to a helicopter to get aerial shots.
wild sound – audio recorded on set that is not synchronized to the picture; sound recorded without the camera rolling.
work-for-hire – terms that dictate that work produced by individuals who are in the employ of a production is property of that production, not the individual. Most film scores are work-for-hire.
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