College of Letters & Sciences
UW-Whitewater Film Studies


Basic Terms

FRAME — the spatial parameters of a shot within which the scene is composed

COMPOSITION — the arrangement of subjects, props, and environments within a given shot



PERIOD PIECE — a film set in a distinctive past era, costumed and decorated in the particular style of the period Period Piece
LEVEL OF REALISM — the degree to which the world of the film resembles an audience's familiar reality Realism



THREE POINT LIGHTING — standard lighting  using three light sources: a key light to provide the main source of illumination along with a fill light from another side and back light from behind

Three Point Lighting

HIGH KEY — nearly all parts of image illuminated High Key
LOW KEY — extreme contrast between light and dark within an image

CHIAROSCURO — use of strong contrasts between light and dark to create a sense of visual drama or a sense of volume and dimension to the space and the figures within it



LEVEL OF REALISM — the degree to which an actor's dramatic choices resemble real-life human behavior and interaction

ACTING STYLES — performance conventions that change with time period and type of film