Cinematic techniques  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from List of film techniques)
Jump to: navigation, search
 This page Cinematic techniques is part of the film series.Illustration: screen shot from L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat
This page Cinematic techniques is part of the film series.
Illustration: screen shot from L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat

Related e



Cinematic techniques are methods employed by film makers to communicate meaning, entertain, and to produce a particular emotional or {psychological response in an audience.



Cinematographic techniques such as the choice of shot, and camera movement, can greatly influence the structure and meaning of a film.

Size of shot

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.

Common shot sizes:

  • Extreme close-up: Focuses on a single facial feature, such as lips and eyes.
  • Close-up: May be used to show tension.
  • Medium shot: Often used, but considered bad practice by many directors, as it often denies setting establishment and is generally less effective than the Close-up.
  • Long shot
  • Establishing shot: Mainly used at a new location to give the audience a sense of locality.

Choice of shot size is also directly related to the size of the final display screen the audience will see. A Long shot has much more dramatic power on a large theater screen, whereas the same shot would be powerless on a small TV or computer screen.

Mise en scène

"Mise en scène" refers to what is colloquially known as "the Set," but is applied more generally to refer to everything that is presented before the camera. With various techniques, film makers can use the mise en scène to produce intended effects.

Movement and expression

Movement can be used extensively by film makers to make meaning. It is how a scene is put together to produce an image. A famous example of this, which uses "dance" extensively to communicate meaning and emotion, is the film West Side Story.

Provided in this list of film techniques is a categorised (and then alphabetised) list of techniques used in film (motion pictures).

Camera view, angle, movement, shot

Lighting technique and aesthetics

Editing and transitional devices

Special effects (FX)


In cinematography, the use of light can influence the meaning of a shot. For example, film makers often portray villains that are heavily shadowed or veiled, using silhouette.

Techniques involving light include backlight(silhouette), and under-lighting(light across a character form).


Sound is used extensively in filmmaking to enhance presentation, and is distinguished into diegetic ("actual sound"), and non-diegetic sound:

  • Diegetic sound: It is any sound where the source is visible on the screen, or is implied to be present by the action of the film:
    • Voices of characters;
    • Sounds made by objects in the story; and
    • Music, represented as coming from instruments in the story space.
    • Music coming from reproduction devices such as record players, radios, tape players etc.
  • Non-diegetic sound: Also called "commentary sound," it is sound which is represented as coming from a source outside the story space, ie. its source is neither visible on the screen, nor has been implied to be present in the action:
    • Narrator's commentary;
    • Voice of God;
    • Sound effect which is added for dramatic effect;
    • Basic sound effects, e.g. dog barking, car passing;
    • Mood music; and
    • Film Score
Non-diegetic sound plays a significant role in creating the atmosphere and mood within a film.

Sound effects

In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point, without the use of dialogue or music. The term often refers to a process, applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself. In professional motion picture and television production, the segregations between recordings of dialogue, music, and sound effects can be quite distinct, and it is important to understand that in such contexts, dialogue and music recordings are never referred to as sound effects, though the processes applied to them, such as reverberation or flanging, often are.

Techniques in interactive movies

New techniques currently being developed in interactive movies, introduce an extra dimension into the experience of viewing movies, by allowing the viewer to change the course of the movie.

In traditional linear movies, the author can carefully construct the plot, roles, and characters to achieve a specific effect on the audience. Interactivity, however, introduces non-linearity into the movie, such that the author no longer has complete control over the story, but must now share control with the viewer. There is an inevitable trade-off between the desire of the viewer for freedom to experience the movie in different ways, and the desire of the author to employ specialized techniques to control the presentation of the story. Computer technology is required to create the illusion of freedom for the viewer, while providing familiar, as well as, new cinematic techniques to the author.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cinematic techniques" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools