Film Terms Heard on the Set That Aren’t What You’d Think
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This is not meant to be a glossary of all of the common film terms. For that, check out our glossary here. As for their etymology, some of them are tied to the early history of filmmaking when an “apple box” was quite literally an apple box. Just like short order cooks have their own language (for example “Cowboy with spurs” means a western omelet with French fries), so too does the film crew. Check out these commonly used film terms so you’ll be in the know when you hear them on set.
Here are a number of examples of film set lingo, many of which are worthy of a laugh.
Apple boxes: Wooden boxes that short actors stand on to make them appear taller. No fruit is involved.
Baby (version one): A small set of tripod legs used for low angle shots.
Baby (version two): A small light made by Mole-Richardson. If you hear the lighting director call out “bounce that baby off wall” don’t call child services, he’s simply asking for the light to be pointed at a wall to serve as an indirect lighting source.
Barn doors: Metal flaps on all four sides of a light that can help control/block what the light illuminates. No animals are involved.
Blocking: A run through of a scene that is done prior to filming so the actors can practice their movements and the camera operator and lighting director can place their equipment. Nothing to do with football.
C-47: Nothing more than a fancy term for a clothespin. They are often used to secure gels or filters to the barn doors of a light.
Cheeseplate: A metal plate with holes in it used to create camera rigs. The holes allow screw-based devices to be mounted easily. Not to be confused with a plate of appetizers.
Cookie: A device with patterns cut out of it—a light shining through it projects these patterns onto the background. Not to be confused with something you eat.
Craft services: The catering unit. Everything to do with food, nothing to do with arts and crafts.
Crossing the line: An imaginary line between actors that is used to determine where the camera should be placed. If you cross the line it will appear that the actors are not talking to each other.
Dead cat: The fuzzy cover that is placed over a microphone (usually attached to a boom) to block out wind noise. No animals are involved.
Dope sheet: A list of scenes that have already been filmed.
Elephant’s diaphragm: A round, foldable reflector used to provide a source of fill light.
Flag: An opaque piece of fabric used to block light. It can cast a shadow, provide negative fill, or shield the camera from len’s flares.
Juicer: The on-set electrician. Nothing to do with smoothies or diet.
Legs: Refers to the supporting legs of a tripod—a tripod consists of legs and the head. The camera is mounted on the head and supported and positioned with the legs.
Mini-Mole: A small lighting instrument from Mole-Richardson. Not to be confused with a small rodent.
Pigtail: A short piece of cable used to power lights in awkward positions.
Rhubarb: Background conversation by extras where they are told to mutter the word “rhubarb” to simulate a genuine conversation. Not to be confused with the vegetable.
Spoon: A mounting device used to lower the camera position on a dolly.
Spud: Studs welded to a C-clamp so that it can be mounted on a C-stand. Not to be confused with a potato.
Sticks: Another word for a tripod. It refers to both the legs and head of the tripod.
Stinger: An extension cord. Not to be confused with a sports injury.
Whip: Another term for an extension cord. Not to be confused with a device used in S&M.
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