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Glossary of Film / Video Terms (N-S)

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Nanometer: The unit of measure for a wavelength of light. One billionth of a meter.

Naturalism: A type of lighting that follows natural (realistic) patterns and angles.

Negative: The term "negative" is used to designate any of the following (in either black-and-white or color): (1) The raw stock specifically designed for negative images. (2) the negative image. (3) Negative raw stock that has been exposed but has not been processed. (4) Processed film bearing a negative image.

Negative Cutting: Process of cutting and splicing the original negative to match the final edited film.

Negative Film: Produces a negative image (black is white, white is black, and colors appear as complementaries).

Negative Image: A photographic image in which the values of light and shade of the original photographed subject are represented in inverse order. Note: In a negative image, light objects of the original subject are represented by high densities and dark objects are represented by low densities. In a color negative, colors are represented by their complementary color.

Negative-Positive Process: Photographic process in which a positive image is obtained by development of a latent image made by printing a negative.

Negative Timing (Negative Grading): The selection of the appropriate color correction(timing lights) for the printing process.

Negative Perforations: A generic term for the Bell and Howell perforation.

Network: An interconnected system of computers and storage devices. Computers in a network are able to work together to perform processes and share data.

Neutral-Density Filters: Used over the camera lens to reduce the intensity of light reaching the film without affecting the scene's color balance.

Newton 's Rings: Fuzzy, faintly colored lines in the projected image caused by high or uneven printer gate pressure.

Nitrate Film: A highly flammable motion picture film that has not been domestically manufactured since around 1950. It is still present in large quantities in storage vaults and archives and must be very carefully stored to prevent explosions.

Noise: Random errors and fluctuations in an image. Noise can be distracting across a sequence of frames.

Non-Linear editing : (1) Flexible form of editing where shots can be edited in a manner that do not conform to, or affect, the planned story order. (2) Editing of video and audio on a computer.

NTSC: National Television Standards Committee. The television broadcast system used in North America. Not compatible with PAL.


OMNIMAX: a widescreen format, shot on 65 mm film and projected onto specialized large, dome-shaped screens. A trademark of IMAX Corporation (see IMAX).

One-To-One Printing: Optical printing of the images which are reproduced to the same size.

Optical Effects: Trick shots prepared by the use of an optical printer in the laboratory, especially fades and dissolves.

Optical Printer: Used when image size of the print film is different from the image size of the pre-print film. Also used when titles or effects (such as skip frames, blow-ups, zooms, and mattes) are included.

Original: An initial photographic image, or sound recording-whether photographic or magnetic-as opposed to some stage of duplication thereof.

Original Camera Negative: The negative originally exposed in a camera.

Orthochromatic (Ortho) Film: Film that is sensitive to only blue and green light.

Out-Take: A take of a scene, which is not used for printing or final assembly in editing.

Output Stage: The last stage of the digital intermediate process. Typically the files in the digital intermediate are used to render a digital master. The digital master is recorded out to film and to create a variety of electronic formats.

Overcoat: A thin layer of clear or dyed gelatin sometimes applied on top of the emulsion surface of a film to act as a filter layer or to protect the emulsion from abrasion during exposure, processing and projection.

Overexposure: A condition in which too much light reaches the film, producing a dense negative or a washed-out reversal.


PAL:   Phase Alternating Line. The television broadcast system used in Europe, Asia, and much of Africa. Not compatible with NTSC.

Pan and Scan: Technique used when transferring wide screen films to the standard 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. After the height of the film frame is maximized, the telecine operator pans back and forth selecting the best part of the film frame for each scene.

PANAVISION 35: A 35 mm process using 35 mm negative film and photographed through a Panavision anamorphic lens with a compression of 2X. Contact 35 mm prints are compatible with anamorphic systems such as CINEMASCOPE.

Panchromatic (Pan) Film: Black-and-white film that is sensitive to all colors in tones of about the same relative brightness as the human sees in the original scene. Film sensitive to all visible wavelengths.

Peak Density: Wavelength of maximum absorption.

Perforation Damage: On inspection the perforations through a magnifying glass you will find damage progressing from cracked, chipped or elongated holes to torn holes.

Perforations: Regularly spaced and accurately shaped holed which are punched throughout the length of a motion picture film. These holes engage the teeth of various sprockets and pins by which the film is advanced and positioned as it travels through cameras, processing machines, and projectors.

Pictorialism: A lighting method that violates natural angles for artistic effect.

Pitch: (1) That property of sound which is determined by the frequency of the sound waves. (2) Distance from the center of one perforation on a film to the next; or from one thread of a screw to the next; or from one curve of a spiral to the next.

Pixel ( picture element): A pixel is the smallest unit of a bitmap image. Digital images are made up of square pixels arranged in a fixed grid. Each pixel is assigned a specific color value.

Polyester: A name for polyethylene terephthalate developed by E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co. (Inc.). A film base material exhibiting superior strength and tear characteristics. CRONAR is the trademark name used by DUPONT; ESTAR Base is the trademark name used by Eastman Kodak Company.

Positive Film: Motion picture film designed and used primarily for the making of master positives or release prints.

Positive Image: A photographic replica in which the values of light and shade of the original photographed subject are represented in their natural order. The light objects of the original subject are represented by low densities and the dark objects are represented by high densities.

Post-Production: The work done on a film once photography has been completed, such as editing, developing and printing, looping, etc.

Primary Color: One of the light colors, e.g., blue, red, or green, that can be mixed to form almost any color.

Primary Color Correction: Primary color correction is completed first and sets the overall color balance and look of the image. It ensures that all scenes have a consistent color tone, with no sudden shifts in hue or brightness.

Print Film: Film designed to carry positive images and sound tracks for projection.

Processing: Procedure during which exposed film is developed, fixed, and washed to produce either a negative or a positive image.

Product Code: See film code.

Production: The general term used to describe the process involved in making all the original material that is the basis for the finished motion picture. Loosely, the completed film.

Projection: Presenting a film by optical means and transmitting light for either visual or aural review, or both.

Projection Speed: The rate at which the film moves through the projector; twenty-four frames per second is the standard for all sound films.

Protection Master: A master positive (MP) from which a dupe negative can be made if the original is damaged.

Pull-Down Claw: The metallic finger, which advances the film one frame between exposure cycles.

Pull Process: Using a reduced development time to compensate for overexposure, either intentional for effect or accidental.

Push Process: Using an extended development time to compensate for underexposure, either intentional for effect or accidental.



Raw Stock: Unexposed and unprocessed motion picture film; includes camera original, laboratory intermediate, duplicating, and release-print stocks.

Reciprocity Law: Expressed by (H)=Et, where E is the light intensity, and T is time. When E or T are varied to the extreme, an unsatisfactory exposure can result.

Reduction Printing: See blowdown. Making a copy of a film original on smaller format raw stock by optical printing; for example, printing a 35 mm original onto 16 mm stock.

Refraction: The change of direction (deflection) of a light ray or energy wave from a straight line as it passes obliquely from one medium (such as air) to another (such as glass) in which its velocity is different.

Release Negative: Duplicate negative or color reversal intermediate from which release prints are made.

Release Print: In a motion picture processing laboratory, any of numerous duplicate prints of a subject made for general theatre distribution.

Remjet Backing: Antihalation backing used on certain films. Remjet is softened and removed at the start of processing.

Resolution: The spatial detail of an image. For digital images, the number of pixels the image contains defines its resolution. Higher resolution images are sharper, smoother, and contain more image detail, but are also larger in file size.

Resolving Power: Ability of a photographic emulsion or an optical system to reproduce fine detail in the film image and on the screen.

Reversal Film: Film that processes to a positive image after exposure in a camera, or in a printer to produce another positive film.

Reversal Process: Any photographic process in which an image is produced by secondary development of the silver halide grains that remain after the latent image has been changed to silver by primary development and destroyed by a chemical bleach. In the case of film exposed in a camera, the first developer changes the latent image to a negative silver image. This is destroyed by a bleach and the remaining silver halides are converted to a positive image by a second developer. The bleached silver and any traces of halides may now be removed with hypo.

Rewind: An automatic console or set of bench-mounted spindles used to wind film from reel-to-reel.

Rewinding: The process of winding the film from the take-up reel to the supply reel so that the head end, or start of the reel, is on the outside. If there are no identifying leaders on the film, upside-down images will signify the head end.

RGB: A color model that combines red, green, and blue light in various intensities. Digital intermediate work is typically done in the RGB color space. It is the most common way of viewing and working with digital images on a computer screen.

RMS: Root-Mean-Square. This mathematical term is used to characterize deviations from a mean value. The term "standard deviation", which is synonymous, is also used.

RMS Granularity: Standard deviation of random-density fluctuations for a particular film.

Roll Number: This is the two-digit number that is assigned by the film manufacturer to each 6,000 ft roll.

Rough Cut: Preliminary stage in film editing, in which shots, scenes, and sequences are laid out in an approximate relationship, without detailed attention to the individual cutting points.


Safety Film: A photographic film whose base is fire resistant or slow burning as defined by ANSI and various fire codes. At the present time, the terms "safety base film," "acetate base film" and "polyester base film" are synonymous with "safety film."

Sampling Rate: The frequency at which an analog signal is measured and converted to a digital data.

Saturation: Term used to describe color brilliance or purity. When color film images are projected at the proper brightness and without interference from stray light, colors that appear bright, deep, rich, and undiluted are said to be "saturated."

Scan Resolution: The number of pixels acquired from the original camera negative. Film scanning has three popular resolutions: Full (4K), Half (2K), and Quarter (1K).

Scanner (Film Scanner): A device used to digitize film images. Each film frames yields a separate digital image file.

Scene: A segment of a film that depicts a single situation or incident.

SD: Standard definition video.

Secondary Color Correction: Selection and manipulation of specific portions of the color spectrum or objects without affecting the overall color balance of the scene.

Sensitivity: Degree of responsiveness of a film to light.

Sensitometer: An instrument with which a photographic emulsion is given a graduated series of exposures to light of controlled spectral quality, intensity, and duration. Depending upon whether the exposures vary in brightness or duration, the instrument may be called an intensity scale or a time scale sensitometer.

Sensitometric Curve: See "Characteristic Curve."

Sensitometry: Study of the response of photographic emulsions to light.

Separation Masters: Three separate black and white master positives made from one color negative; one contains the red record, another the green record, and the third the blue record.

Shadow Detail: A combination of three other image attributes, toe speed, black-level speed, and low toe contrast.  An improvement in any of the attributes should lead to an improvement in shadow detail; though it can be difficult to describe shadow detail when a film has an advantage in one of the categories but a disadvantage in others.

Sharpness: Visual sensation of the abruptness of an edge. Clarity.

Short Pitch (see Perforation Pitch): The perforation pitch of a negative stock, which is somewhat shorter than the pitch of positive stock to avoid slippage in contact printing.

Shoulder: High-density portion of a characteristic curve in which the slope changes with constant changes in exposure. For negative films, slope decreases and further changes in exposure (log H) finally produce no increase in density because maximum density has been reached. For reversal films, slope increases.

Shutter: In theatrical projection, a two-bladed rotating device used to interrupt the light source while the film is being pulled down into the projector gate. One blade masks the pulldown while the other blade causes an additional light interruption increasing the flicker frequency to 48 cycles per second-a level that is not objectionable to the viewer at the recommended screen brightness of 16 footlamberts (55 candelas per square meter). In a camera, a rotating disk with a section removed.

Silver Halides: Light-sensitive compound used in film emulsions.

Single-Perforation Film: Film with perforations along one edge only.

Slow Motion: The process of photographing a subject at a faster frame rate than used in projection to expand the time element.

SMPTE: Acronym for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Soft: (1) As applied to a photographic emulsion or developer, having a low contrast. (2) As applied to the lighting of a set, diffuse, giving a flat scene in which the brightness difference between highlights and shadows is small.

Sound Negative: The negative record of photographic sound recording.

Sound Positive: A positive print of the photographic sound recording film.

Sourcey: The tendency for a light source to be perceived as being artificial. This artificiality is a function of the light appearing too bright or too extreme on the subject and then dropping off in intensity very quickly.

Special-Dye-Density Curve: A graph 1) of the total density of the three dye layers measured as a function of wavelengths, and 2) of the visual neutral densities of the combined layers similarly measured.

Spectral Sensitivity: The relative sensitivity of a particular emulsion to specific bands of the spectrum within the films sensitivity range. Sometimes confused with Color Sensitivity.

Spectrum: Range of radiant energy within which the visible spectrum-with wavelengths from 400 to 700 mm-exists.

Speed: Can be characterized in terms of absolute film sensitivity or in terms of reproduced image blacks.  Absolute sensitivity is simply a measure of what level of light (exposure) begins to produce the first density signal in the film - this is known as toe speed.  The toe speed of a film can also be interpreted by a cinematographer as underexposure latitude or shadow detail.

The blackness of a positive image D-max can also be used to define speed.  Most cinematographers would describe a film with smokier blacks as slower than a film with blacker blacks given both were exposed similarly.  Black level also relates to a cinematographer's perception of shadow detail.

Speed Point: A point that corresponds to the exposure required to produce a specific optical density, usually 0.1 above base + fog.

Splice: Any type of cement or mechanical fastening by which two separate lengths of film are united end to end so they function as a single piece of film when passing through a camera, film processing machine, or projector.

Spot meter: A light meter designed to measure light reflected from the subject.

Sprocket: A toothed wheel used to transport perforated motion picture film.

Static Electricity: Electric field that is present primarily due to the presence of electrical charges on materials.

Step: An exposure increase or decrease, usually by a factor of 2. The same as "Stop", except stop specifically refers to lens aperture. A patch of a step tablet used for sensitometer exposures, as in "21 -step tablet."

Step-Contact Printer: Contact printer in which the film being copied and the raw stock are advanced intermittently by frame. Exposure occurs only when both are stationary.

Stock: General term for motion picture film, particularly before exposure.

Stop Down: To decrease the diameter of the light-admitting orifice of a lens by adjustment of an iris diaphragm.

Stop Motion: An animation method whereby apparent motion of objects is obtained on the film by exposing single frames and moving the object to simulate continuous motion.

Storage Area Network (SAN): A high-speed network that connects computer storage devices, such as hard drives and tape libraries, to servers. A SAN allows multiple computers to access a centralized pool of storage. Files can be shared, copied, or moved quickly and efficiently on a SAN.

Straight-Line Region: Portion of characteristic curve where slope does not change because the rate of density for a given log exposure change is constant or linear.

Subbing Layer: Adhesive layer that binds film emulsion to the base.

Subtractive Color: Cyan, magenta and yellow, the subtractive primaries used by film to reproduce color.

Subtractive Lighting: This technique is typically used when shooting exteriors in available light. By using large flags, butterflies, or overheads, light is removed from the subject in order to increase the lighting ratio. It is sometimes referred to as "Negative Fill."

Subtractive Process: Photographic process that uses one or more subtractive primary colors, e.g. cyan, magenta, and yellow, to control red, green, and blue light.

Sunlight: Light reaching the observer directly from the sun. To be distinguished from daylight and skylight, which include indirect light from clouds and refract the atmosphere.

Super 16: This format offers a much greater picture area than that of standard 16mm and provides a wider 1.66:1 aspect as compared to the 1.33:1 television aspect ratio.

Super 8 mm: Formerly an amateur format, now a popular choice for special effects and teaching.

Super 35: 35 mm camera format that utilizes entire frame area on film.

Supercoat: Protective coating on film.

SUPER PANAVISION: Similar to Panavision 35, but photographed flat in 65 mm. The 70 mm prints produce and aspect ratio of 2.25:1 with 4-channel sound and a ratio of 2:1 with 6-channel sound.

Sweetening: Audio post-production, at which time minor audio problems are corrected. Music, narration and sound effects are mixed with original sound elements.

Swell: The increase in motion picture film dimensions caused by the absorption of moisture during storage and use under high humidity conditions. Extreme humidity conditions and subsequent swelling of the film aggravates the abrasion susceptibility of the film surfaces.

Synchronization: A picture record and a sound record are said to be 'in sync' when they are placed relative to each other on a release print so that when they are projected, the action will coincide precisely with the accompanying sound.

Synchronize: Align sound and image precisely for editing, projection, and printing.

Synchronizer: A mechanism employing a common rotary shaft that has sprockets which, by engaging perforations in the film, pass corresponding lengths of picture and sound film simultaneously, thus effectively keeping the two (or more) films in synchronism during the editing process.

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