Let’s face it; video production can seem a little confusing to the outside observer. Sometimes it seems like making a online video is as stepping into an alien world, complete with its own language, terms and rules.

Don’t worry! The filmmaking process is essentially straightforward. If you think of it as a step-by-step process of capture, recall, produce – it suddenly seems a lot less intimidating. And as for the terminology… well, here’s a little guide to help you when you’re making your creative video masterpiece.


A shot is a framed view of a subject, object or location. It can be close up, or far away.

Brief Shot

is almost a snapshot, a glance of something. Often used to establish where something is, or to sneak a look at something.

Held Shot

is a long, lingering look. Think of it as when you’re focusing on something important.

Long Shot

is often a locational establishing shot. It’s really as it sounds – far away!

Medium Shot (or Mid-Shot)

is from the waist upwards. It’s often used for framing a subject who’s talking at the camera or in conversation with another.

Close Up

… I think this is pretty obvious! This is tightly framed shot, very close on an object or a person.

Horizontal Camera Pivoting.

Think of it as keeping your head steady but turning, looking from your right shoulder to your left.


Vertical Camera Tilt

– The vertical tilt of the camera. If, again, we imagine your head as the camera, it’s the tilt of your head from looking at the ground to staring up into the sky.


This is when the camera travels vertically in tandem with a subject or object. For example, the camera moves upwards when someone stands up, or vice versa.

Dolly Track

A dolly is essentially a rail system or set of wheels that make the camera glide horizontally. Often it’s used to follow a subject, or to convey moving away or towards a subject or an object.


A zoom is used to make something bigger or smaller. It’s often used to convey the idea of studying something in detail – whether it’s a face, an item of clothing, or an object. Conversely, when used as a zoom out, it’s used to demonstrate a greater sense of context for what was previously seen up in close.


A cut is a transition between two moving images. For example, we start off looking at a coffee cup and then we cut to a man drinking coffee then to a man leaving a table – through cuts we have conveyed that the man has drank a coffee then left a table. It can be used to create meaning, or even contrast two different actions.

Montage or editing

A montage is a series of shots that suggest meaning and progression. It’s a way of conveying a lot of information to the viewer in a very short amount of time and building up a gradual impression or atmosphere. A famous (and perhaps rather clichéd example) is in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.


A dissolve is when one image transitions into another image. A dissolve is scalable; it can be any length you want. Although there are no hard and fast rules, generally pace would dictate the length of these (fast paced; short dissolves, slow paced; long dissolves).

Fade in

A fade in is when a screen starts of blank (usually black) and the subsequent image fades up. You’ll often find it used at the beginning of a video or motion picture.

Fade out

The opposite of a fade in, this often is placed at the end of film to convey a sense of closure.

So, these are the basics! Don’t forget, a lot of these effects are used in post, not during the production itself – so don’t go asking for a montage or a fade up halfway through a shoot!

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