Movie Terminology Glossary: S

Sabre Artist

A member of the production team utilizing a combination of software programs to create special effects.

Safe Area

A camera's viewfinder actually shows (and records on film stock) a greater area of the scene than will appear in the final product. Markings are etched in the viewfinder to indicate to the camera operator the extents of the "viewable" film (called the live area). An area beyond that (called the safe area) is also marked; it is in this area that the production sound mixer might direct the boom operator to place the boom microphone.


A continuous block of storytelling either set in a single location or following a particular character. The end of a scene is typically marked by a change in location, style, or time.

Scene Chewing

AKA: Chewing the Scenery
An extreme, over-the-top performance that dominates the screen. "Chewing the scenery" suggests that actors are so engaged in their histrionic portrayals that furniture pieces and backdrops are left with big dental impressions.

Scenic Artist

A member of the crew responsible for work which includes the preparation, painting and/or coloration of all textures, plastering, appliqueing on scenery, sets, and properties; the application of all decorative wall or surface coverings; all lettering and sign work (including signs and murals; miniature sets and/or models and properties and the painting and aging in the (construction) studio or on the set of costumes and costume accessories as specified by the costume designer.

Science Fiction

AKA: Sci-Fi, SF

On the web: List of Science Fiction titles at the IMDb.


The musical component of a movie's soundtrack. Many scores are written specifically for movies by composers.

Screen Actors Guild

An association with jurisdiction over some works that can be recorded by picture or by sound. See also AFTRA.

On the web: Official Home Page

Screen Extras Guild


Screen Test

A form of audition in which an actor performs a particular role on camera, not necessarily with the correct makeup or on the set.


An exhibition of a movie, typically at a cinema. See also feature presentation, supporting feature, double bill, trailer.


A script written to be produced as a movie.


A writer who either adapts an existing work for production as a movie, or creates a new screenplay.


A general term for a written work detailing story, setting, and dialogue. A script may take the form of a screenplay, shooting script, lined script, continuity script, or a spec script. A script is often sold for a particular price, which is increased to a second price if the script is produced as a movie. For example, a sale may be described as "$100,000 against $250,000". In this case, the writer is paid $100,000 up front, and another $150,000 when the movie is produced. See also advance.

Fictional Movie(s): The Player (1992), Ed Wood (1994)

Script Department

The section of a production's crew responsible for the script of a movie. Consists of writers, script editors, and prompters.

Script Editing

AKA: Script Editor, Script Doctor, Story Editor
A process whereby a script is reviewed and changed, based on input from various sources such as the director or producer. Writers who specialize in script editing are called "script doctors", and are frequently uncredited.

Script Supervisor

A person who tracks which parts have been filmed, how the filmed scenes deviated from the script; they also make continuity notes, creating a lined script.


A person who makes the costumes.


AKA: Sequential Couleur avec Mémoire, Système Electronique Couleur avec
The standard for TV/video display in France, the Middle East, much of Eastern Europe, and some African countries. Delivers 625 lines (formerly 819 lines) of resolution at 50 half-frames per second. See also NTSC and PAL.

Second Assistant Camera

AKA: 2nd Assistant Camera, 2nd Assistant Cameraman, Second Assistant Cameraman
An assistant to the assistant cameraman.

Second Assistant Director

AKA: 2nd Assistant Director
An assistant to the assistant director. Duties include overseeing the movements of the cast, and preparing call sheets.

Second Second Assistant Director

AKA: 2nd 2nd Assistant Director, Third Assistant Director, 3rd Assistant Director
An assistant to the second assistant director; responsible for (among other things) directing the movements of extras.

Second Unit

AKA: 2nd Unit
A small, subordinate crew responsible for filming shots of less importance, such as inserts, crowds, scenery, etc.

Second Unit Director

AKA: 2nd Unit Director
The director of the second unit.


A movie that presents the continuation of characters and/or events of a previously filmed movie. See also series, serial, contrast with prequel.


A multipart film that usually screened a chapter each week at a cinema. The story structure usually has each chapter ending with a cliffhanger to ensure the audience would like to watch following chapter at its release. Contrast with series.

On the web: List of serials at the IMDb.


AKA: Franchise
A sequence of films with continuing characters or themes, but with little other interdependence, especially with respect to plot or significant character development. Until the advent of television series, there were various film series such as The Thin Man and Blondie that were started with the intention of making more than one. In subsequent years, the term would apply to features such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Dr. No that made more than one sequel. In modern times, the term "franchise" has been used (perhaps cynically) to describe to the practice of creating a movie and product-marketing package which is contingent on commercial success. Batman and its sequels are typically used as an example of a franchise. Contrast with serial.


An environment used for filming. When used in contrast to location, it refers to one artificially constructed. A set typically is not a complete or accurate replica of the environment as defined by the script, but is carefully constructed to make filming easier but still appear natural when viewed from the camera angle.

Fictional Movie(s): Postcards from the Edge (1990), Blazing Saddles (1974)

Set Decorator

AKA: Set Decoration
A person who has total charge of decorating the set with all furnishings, drapery, interior plants, and anything seen on indoor or outdoor sets. The set decorator has authority over a leadman. See also set dresser.

Set Designer

The person responsible for translating a production designer's vision of the movie's environment into a set which can be used for filming. The set designer reports to the art director.

Set Dresser

A person who maintains the set per the Set Decorator's requirements, placing elements such as curtains and paintings, and moves and resets the set decoration to accommodate camera, grip and lighting setups. Contrast with set decorator, property master. Responsible for set continuity with script supervisor and property master.

Set Medic

The set medic provides for the medical needs and emergency medical logistics of the entire cast and crew and is the safety liaison between production/construction and various agencies. This person may be an emergency medical technician, paramedic, nurse, or physician. Most often the set medic is involved in the production from the beginning of preproduction or construction through filming or production through striking the set or post-production.

Shooting Script

The script from which a movie is made. Usually contains numbered scenes and technical notes. See also lined script.

Shooting ratio

The ratio between how much film was shot versus how much was used in the final version on the film; also the amount of film purchased to shoot the film, versus the amount of film that remains in the completed print.

Shop steward

A person elected by the crew; on a set, a shop steward represents the crew in dealings with production management.

Short Subject

AKA: Short
A movie that is shorter than 45 minutes. Contrast with feature.


A continuous block of unedited footage from a single point of view. See also scene, take, frame rate.

Shot Composition

The arrangement of key elements within the frame. See also shot selection.

Shot list

A list given to the film production crew which indicates the sequence of scenes being shot for the day. This list may include the scene number, the location of where the scene is being shot, a description of the scene, the length of a scene (listed by number of pages from the script), a list of actors who will be involved in the scene, and, special notes to all departments of what will be needed or required for a particular scene being shot.

Shot Selection

AKA: Camera Angle
The location of the camera, and what can be seen with it. See also shot composition, POV, mise-en-scene.

Shot/Reverse Shot

A sequence of three shots: 1) a person's face; 2) what that person is looking at; and 3) the person again, giving the audience a chance to process the person's reaction to what (or who) s/he is seeing. See also reverse shot.

Shutter Speed

The length of time that a single frame is exposed for. Slower shutter speeds allow more light to enter the camera, but allow more motion blur. See also aperture, depth of field, go motion.

Sign writer

The person in charge of writing and making signs shown in a production; possibly part of the set designer's team.

Silent Film

AKA: Silent
A film that has no synchronized soundtrack and no spoken dialogue. It was a form predominate in film until the late 1920's when practical synchronized soundtrack technology was developed and its use became popular. See also intertitles.

On the web: List of silent titles at the IMDb.


A large section of translucent white cloth used to filter and soften a hard-light source.


A featured vocalist; often the person who sings a film's theme song.

Singing Voice

Someone who performs an actor's vocal parts. Marni Nixon was the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964); during post-production, Nixon's voice was dubbed over Hepburn's for the musical numbers.

Situation Comedy

AKA: Sitcom
A comedy in which humor is derived from people being placed in uncomfortable, embarrassing, or unfamiliar situations.


An short scene that typically lasts less than 15 minutes that is typically shown as part of a TV series' content. It is typically used in comedies that feature these productions such as "Saturday Night Live" (1975) and "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969).

Slapstick Comedy

AKA: Slapstick
A comedy in which the humor is derived from physical interactions, often involving exaggerated but ultimately harmless violence directed towards individuals. Named after a device used by circus clowns - two boards which slap together loudly when swatted on someone's backside.

On the web: A list of slapstick comedies at the IMDb., The Three Stooges: masters of slapstick


The recorded identification of scene and take numbers, usually done with a clapboard. Most takes are identified at the beginning; a "tail slate" marks the end instead. Also used in an audition, to identify an actor's name, representation (if any), and the scene they will be performing in the audition.


AKA: Sleeper Hit
An unpromising or unpublicized movie that suddenly attains prominence and success.

Slow Motion

AKA: Slow Mo, Slow-Mo
A shot in which time appears to move more slowly than normal. The process is commonly achieved by either repeating frames (see also freeze frame), or by overcranking. See also motion artifact, judder, frame rate, contrast with stop motion.

Slug Line

AKA: slug
A header appearing in a script before each scene or shot detailing the location, date, and time that the following action is intended to occur in.

Sneak Preview

AKA: Preview
An unannounced screening of a movie before the premiere, often used to gauge audience reaction and feedback for final editing. See also focus group.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

An international technical society devoted to advancing the theory and application of motion-imaging technology including film, television, video, computer imaging, and telecommunications. The abbreviation also refers to various measurements and standards defined by the organization.

On the web: Official Home Page

Society of Operating Cameramen

An honorary organization composed of several hundred men and women internationally, of outstanding and dedicated talent, who make their living operating film and/or video cameras in the cinematic media. Use of the abbreviation after a name indicates membership in the society.

On the web: Official Home Page

Sony Dynamic Digital Sound

Sony has produced a noise reduction and sound enhancement process. Competitors include Dolby Digital and DTS.

On the web: IMDb Sound Mix Section

Sound Crew

AKA: Sound, Sound Engineer, Sound Assistant
The group of crew members directly involved with creating of a movie's soundtrack. Individual job titles include: sound designer, sound editor, sound effects, sound mixer, sound recordist, boom operator, re-recording mixer, music supervisor, and foley artist. See also MPSE.

Sound Designer

The conceptual chief of a movie's soundtrack, responsible for designing and creating the audio component of a movie.

Sound Editor

A member of the sound crew who performs editing on the soundtrack. See also dialog editor.

Sound Effects

Sounds added during post-production by the sound crew. Also used as a job title.

Sound Effects Editor

A sound editor who specializes in editing sound effects.

Sound Mix

AKA: Mix
The process of recording the production sound on the set at the time of shooting.

Sound Mixer

An audio engineer who works with a boom operator to record the production sound on the set at the time of shooting.

Sound Recordist

See tape recorder operator.


A large area (usually in a studio) where elaborate sets may be constructed. Soundstages allow filmmakers greater control over factors such as sound, lighting, temperature, spectators, and security.


Technically, this term refers to the audio component of a movie. Popularly, it refers to a collection of songs which are heard during the movie, often sold as an album.

On the web: IMDb Soundtrack Section

Source music

Music that originates from a source (e.g. an orchestra, a band, a radio) within the film scene. If there's a scene where a character turns on the radio and listens to music, that's source music. Also known as 'Foreground music' (as opposed to 'background music', i.e. the film's score).

Spaghetti Western

A western filmed in Italy, many times with American leading actors. This term appeared following the appearance of Clint Eastwood in a number of Sergio Leone movies.

On the web: List of Spaghetti Westerns at the IMDb.

Speaking Role

A speaking role is one in which the character speaks scripted dialogue. A non-speaking role is a character specifically mentioned in the script but who doesn't have any lines of dialogue in the finished film. Speaking roles typically pay much more than non-speaking roles. While extras may or may not be heard to speak in a film, they are not included as either speaking or non-speaking roles.

Spec Script

A script written before any agreement has been entered into ("on spec" or speculation), in hopes of selling the script to the highest bidder once it has been completed.

Special Effects

AKA: SFX, Special Effects Assistant, Special Effects Technician
An artificial effect used to create an illusion in a movie. Refers to effects produced on the set, as opposed to those created in post-production. Most movie illusions are created in post production. These are called visual effects.

Fictional Movie(s): Stunt Man, The (1980)

Special Effects Supervisor

AKA: Special Effects Co-Ordinator
The chief of a production's special effects crew.

Special Makeup Effects

An artist who combines knowledge of makeup and hairwork, with technologies of mold- making and synthetic skin materials (such as foam latex, gelatine and silicone). Many have an art or sculpture background and familiarity with puppeteering, animatronics and CGI.

Fictional Movie(s): F/X (1986)


An announcement made by either the director of photography or camera operator indicating to the director that the camera is operating at the correct speed. Called just after lock it down, and just before action.


AKA: Spherical Print
An optical system in which the magnifications of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the picture are the same. See also aspect ratio, contrast with anamorphic.


A series of tiny, square holes (sprocket holes) on both edges of a piece of film fit onto notches on wheels (sprockets) similar to gears within a film projector, used to pull the film through the projector from one reel to the other.


A small explosive device, which - when detonated - will simulate the effect of a bullet/puncture wound or small explosion. When worn by actors, they typically include a container of blood which bursts upon detonation. See also special makeup effects.

On the web: When squibs go wrong
Fictional Movie(s): F/X (1986)


AKA: Stand In
A person who has the same physical properties of a particular actor, and takes their place during the lengthy setup of a scene. This allows the actor to prepare for the filming itself. Contrast with stunt double and body double.

Standby Painter

A scenic artist available during filming for last minute changes.


A famous actor.


A camera attached to a camera operator via a mechanical harness which reduces or eliminates the unsteadiness of the operator's motion.

Steadicam Operator

A camera operator who operates a Steadicam. See also Steadicam Operators Association.

Steadicam Operators Association

An organization which represents Steadicam operators around the world, providing referrals across the entire film and video industry. Additional services include organizing and conducting workshops, and providing Steadicam equipment rentals.

On the web: Official Home Page

Still Photographer

AKA: Stills Photographer
A person who photographs the action (often alongside the camera) to be used in publicizing the movie.

Stock Footage

For reasons of simplicity, time, or budget, some shots in a film may duplicated from other films or a film library. Such shots are called stock footage.

Fictional Movie(s): Ed Wood (1994)

Stock Music

AKA: Library music, production music
Music not written specifically for the film in question. Very often it's owned by a company connected with the production and so it's cheap for them to use - sometimes royalty-free.

Stop Motion

AKA: Stop-Motion
A form of animation in which objects are filmed frame-by-frame and altered slightly in between each frame. See also go motion.


A sequence of pictures created by a production illustrator to communicate the desired general visual appearance on camera of a scene or movie.


Commonly working on television series, storyliners create the plot twists for a given story line, keeping in mind the past storylines for a given character or pairing, and the work with the writers to bring those new plot elements to life.

Story Producer

AKA: Story Editor
Nonstandardized reality television term for a writer/producer who may be involved (at any level of pre to post production) in producing/editing source footage to create and nuance story. Other duties may include writing host dialogue, VO and dialogue/action pickups. During the post-production process, most either work directly with editors or provide detailed paper edits for editors to work from. The job consist of two parts: the production/shooting of the show and the post production/editing of the show. While shooting, a story producer tracks all of the story developments related to the cast, interviews the cast, and generally produces/directs the cast. In post production, the story producer is responsible for putting the episode together with an editor; building the episodes; making sure that all story lines and character arcs are clear and strong enough to make a good episode.


A company that makes movies. Larger studios (such as the majors) have extensive in-house soundstages (also called "studio"s) where filming can be done.


AKA: Gag
A non-trivial and often dangerous piece of physical action. Often performed by a stunt performer.

Stunt Co-Ordinator

A person who arranges and plans stunts.

Stunt Double

A stunt performer who specifically takes the part of another actor for a stunt. Stunt doubles rarely (if ever) speak, are typically chosen to resemble the actor that they are replacing as much as possible. Contrast with body double and stand-in.

Fictional Movie(s): Spaceballs (1987)

Stunt Performer

AKA: Stunt Player, Stunts
A specialist actor who performs stunts.

Fictional Movie(s): The Stunt Man (1980)


Words which are superimposed over a film which mirror the dialog that is heard at the time. Most often subtitles are in a different language than that which is being spoken, but this is not always the case: Trainspotting uses subtitles for humourous effect. Contrast with dubbing, intertitles, close-captioned.

Supervising Sound Editor

A chief sound editor.

Supporting Feature

AKA: Supporting Attraction
A feature film which appears (typically in a double-bill) with a feature presentation.

Surround Sound

AKA: Surround
A sound system which creates the illusion of multi-directional sound through speaker placement and signal processing. See also Dolby, SDDS, DTS, THX.

On the web: IMDb Sound Mix Section

Swing Gang

Set dressers who dress and strike sets, as well as pick up and return the dressing. They work apart from the shooting crew, as they are always either prepping a set for shooting or striking it after it's been shot.

Sword and Sandal Epic

A colloquialism for an epic film set in the times of Roman Empire or any other period, real or imagined, in which characters use sword and sandals. Often has biblical or fantasy elements

On the web: List of sword and sandal titles at the IMDb.

Sword and Sorcery

A colloquialism for a genre of film, usually set in days of old with magic as well as sword fighting

On the web: List of sword and sorcery titles at the IMDb.


A package of off network programs sold or bartered to individual television stations in a local market, either strip (daily) or weekly episodic (series). A package of titles may require cash purchase, bartered or sponsored programming. Most packaged syndicated contracts offer exclusivity to a market for limited number of airings. Contracts are generally designed for one to two full season runs.


A summary of the major plot points and characters of a script, generally in a page or two. Contrast with treatment.