College of Letters & Sciences
UW-Whitewater Film Studies

Film Analysis Guide

Basic Terms

SHOT — one continuous piece of film footage, ending with a cut to the next shot.

SEQUENCE — series of shots combined to represent a discrete set of actions or a coherent narrative section.

MOTIF — anything repeated more than a few times in a film. A motif can be visual (an image or film technique), sonic (a sound or piece of music), or rhetorical (a word, phrase, metaphor, etc.).


Analysis Categories

CINEMATOGRAPHY — a term used to define the ways in which the camera captures the shot. Under the heading of cinematography, we speak of such things as the different lenses used by the camera, how the camera frames the shot, the angle of the camera relative to the action, and how the camera moves.

EDITING — refers to how the individual shots are spliced together. The norm here is "continuity editing," in which shots are put together to achieve narrative continuity—to make the action appear to flow logically and naturally from shot to shot.

MISE-EN-SCÈNE — literally meaning "put into the scene," this term refers to the arrangement of actors and objects in front of the camera. Setting, lighting, costuming, and acting are aspects of mise-en-scène.

SOUND — refers to both the sounds that come from the scene itself, such as spoken dialogue or ambient noise, and the sounds that are imposed on the scene, such as voice-overs or musical scores.


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