There's so much to learn about film! This little dictionary is just an accessory, a first step to becoming familiar with animation. The short definitions provided here offer a neat starting point for your filmmaking adventures. To keep expanding your knowledge, look into some books, magazines and web articles, and above all – WATCH FILMS!!! (From all periods of history and all parts of the world!)

Type of film

A fundamental classification that separates films according to their attitude towards reality. The basic film types are the documentary (which portrays real people and real events), the live-action film (which uses live actors to portray fictional events), the animated film (which uses fictional elements to portray fictional events), and the experimental film (which, rather than focusing on story, instead deals with exploring the boundaries of film language and new ways of expression in the medium).


In Latin, anima means "soul" or "spirit". In the Slovene language, animirati stands for excitement, encouragement, motion. And so in film, animation is the process that brings pictures or objects to life. The basic technique of animation is done by filming image after image, which is called 'frame by frame' – taking pictures, one after another, of the phases of motion of some image, puppet or object that we are changing or moving around. One individual phase can represent one image (single-frame animation) or two images (double-frame animation), depending on the desired look. When we play a sequence of these recorded images really fast, they appear to be moving.

Animation of silhouettes

One of the many forms of stop-motion animation, this technique makes objects appears as dark silhouettes. This is normally achieved by illuminating specially designed cutouts of cardboard, paper or other materials from behind (so-called backlight or gegenlicht in German), though there are other ways as well. Films in this technique usually have monochrome colors, with the foreground being black and the background in various shades of gray – the further away the object, the lighter the shade of gray, which creates an impression of depth. Color examples of this animation technique are usually done in hues of a single color. Silhouette animation was used by the very first still-preserved feature animated film "The Adventures of Prince Ahmed" (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, 1926, directed by Lotte Reiniger).

Animation techniques (in film and digital media)

Many different animation techniques exist, though most of them are based on the same principle (filming image after image and then playing them in succession to create the illusion of motion).


In traditional animation, the background is an image that represent the environment where the characters and objects move around. Transparent foils with the images of characters and other things we want to animate are then layered on top of the background. Backgrounds are also used in 2D computer animation.

Camera angle

The relationship between the position of the camera and the subject being filmed, or in other words the perspective from which the camera is filming the scene. When the camera is placed at the head level of the characters in the shot, we speak of the neutral or eye-level shot, when it's below that level it's called a low-angle shot, and when it's above that level it's called a high-angle shot. An extremely high-angle shot is also called a bird's-eye view, and an extreme low angle shot is referred to as the worm's-eye view.

Camera stand

A stand holding up the camera, light or microphone. It has one or more telescopic legs we can adjust to select the height and angle of the supported device.


The shaping of lifelike film characters based on physical, psychological and social characteristics. Together, these make up the characters' personalities and affect their 3 Animated film - Glossary reactions to circumstances in the story, according to the genre and style of the narrative. When it comes to actors (or animated characters), characterization offers a blueprint for the faithful portrayal of each character (their manner of speech, posture, movements ...).

Clay animation / claymation

One of the many forms of stop-motion animation, claymation works with malleable materials such as plasticine or clay to create animated characters, objects or backgrounds. The soft materials, which can be easily reshaped, are often wrapped around a wire frame so it's easier to create stable and precise positions during filming. A popular example of claymation is the cartoon Wallace & Gromit (by Nick Park).

Closing credits

Text at the end of the film that normally includes a list of actors and characters that appeared in the film, members of the film crew and other contributors, information on the technical and production characteristics of the film, a list of music, sponsors ... In contrast to the lavish opening credits, the closing credits are often simple and basic in their appearance.


A film genre often appearing in animated film. Comedies feature wacky comical characters and funny jokes that entertain the audience. The plot twists can be entirely fantastic or silly in nature, and the appearance of comedies is often very bright and colorful.


The arrangement and mutual relations between the main elements that make up individual images or shots – the position of characters, the setting, the light, the colors and texture. Several rules of composition exist, and we can decide to follow them or not. The composition of a film shot can change as the camera travels around (dynamic shots). The composition of two shots that follow one another is an important thing to consider for editing purposes, so that they will match well when put together.

Computer animation

Computer animation techniques consists of a bunch of techniques with the common trait of digital animation – on a computer. We know 2D-techniques, which focus on manipulating images, and 3D-techniques, which create entire virtual worlds in which characters move and interact.


Copyrights are legal regulations that govern relationships between authors in the field of filmmaking, and the rules of using works for commercial or cultural purposes (cinema, television or festival screenings ...). Financial rights arising from a particular film usually become invalid after a period of 70 years after the author's death, while moral rights 4 Animated film - Glossary (mention of the author's name and contribution) remain valid forever. Different countries have different copyright laws. We must always be careful to respect copyrights when we use works or parts of works made by others, although there are many archives and databases that offer them free of charge.

Cutout animation

A type of stop-motion animation that uses figures cut out of various materials (paper, cardboard, plastic, fabric, metal, glass ...), and the process of frame-by-frame filming.


One of the elements of film narrative, dialogue is everything the characters say. In animated film, dialogue can also consist of made up words, interjections or a fictional language. Interestingly, dialogue in animation is recorded before everything else, so that the mouths of characters can then be animated accordingly – with proper facial expressions, mouth shapes and timing of words and sentences. Some 12 different mouth positions are enough to create the impression of fluent speech. In movies, dialogue is sometimes created during shooting on the set (we call this improvisation), though most of it is written in the screenplay. When films were still silent, dialogue appeared as text inserted between scenes.


The artist who calls the shots during filmmaking and is responsible for the final quality and content of the product. The director guides all the other artists as well as members of the shooting and technical crews. This wasn't always the case throughout history, and all types of film don't necessarily have a director, but most of them do. We often say that a good film is a result of team effort but a bad film is the director's fault.


A branch of cinematography that acts as an agent between film production and screening. Distribution is done by companies called distributors. They purchase the right to screen the film from the producer for a certain period of time (and usually a certain country or region) and then rent the film to cinemas, festivals and other institutions. Authors sometimes distribute their own films by talking to television networks, cinema chains and festivals. When distributing their work, authors rely on databases and services found on the internet, where the terms and conditions for applying to a certain institution are usually published, for example the profiles of festivals (children's, short film, documentary 5 Animated film - Glossary ...) and other useful information. In modern times, distribution is also done online through providers such as Vimeo or YouTube.


A film genre. Drama portrays stories dealing with everyday life, where characters are facing difficult personal or relationship struggles and life circumstances. Drama is rather serious and normally doesn't contain too many special effects or comical situations. Its appearance is tailored to the time period and location where the events are taking place, and so dramas can look very different (historical, modern, wartime ...).


All the elements of a story arranged in a way that creates a formal and meaningful structure (in simple terms: how to build a film story so the audience understands the message and meanings we wish to tell). The basic elements that create dramaturgy are: motif, theme, plot twist, characters, motivations, events, situations, tension, interactions, timing ... Elements are developed from the concept to their representation in the actual film by using filmmaking means: selection of camera shots, editing, sound and music ... which are adapted to the rules of the genre and the style of the author. Dramaturgy is already outlined in the screenplay, and it has several basic types: linear (follows a chronological order), vertical (focused on a central point in the story), circular (a series of events revolving around a situation), inverse (events appear in reverse order), mosaic (scenes are fragmented and jump around in time).

Drawn on film animation / direct animation

An animation technique where images are created directly onto film tape. There are two basic methods of doing this: the first uses transparent blank tape as the foundation (blank tape is film tape that has been exposed but has no useful images on it, we usually put it at the beginning and end of film reels to protect them during various procedures such as screening, telecine, editing of negative ...); and the other uses black blank tape. Of course, we can also use real recordings as our foundation. We then scratch the tape, draw on it, paint, print, perforate or even glue things onto the tape to create interesting images. For this purpose we can also use unexposed film negative if we do it in the darkroom, where we can manipulate the tape by shining thin beams of light on it that expose only those parts we wish.

Dubbing (sound sync)

Dubbing stands for several things in film:

1) synchronizing the operation of the camera with the operation of the sound recording device (this doesn't happen in animated film because most of the sound is recorded separately).

2) synchronizing the video and sound during the editing process.

3) recording and inserting dialogue and sound effects, the procedure of adding sound and music to an already recorded film – in animated film, this is almost always the case because there is no synchronous sound to be recorded when we film animation.


The creative and technical process of combining picture and sound recordings into a certain sequence and into certain relationships – editing puts the film together into a single whole planned by the screenplay. There are many editing techniques and tricks, one of the popular ones is for example "parallel editing", which follows two or more events taking place at the same time by quickly alternating between them.

A bunch of rules exist (of course, once we know them well we can always decide to break them) that outline ways to edit material into a natural, smooth and fluent film narrative (natural gestures, appropriate direction of glances and movement, clear presentation of the setting and the characters in it ...).

The rule of the axis helps us preserve the impression of an uniform space. It works by imagining a straight line (180 ̊ angle, since we perceive space as a circle around us), that cuts through the location of the shot. When shooting a scene, we mustn't cross this line with our camera to avoid changing perspective. For example: a man walks across a room. In the first, wider shot, we record him walking from left to right. In the second, narrower shot he also needs to walk from left to right. But if we move the camera across our imaginary axis between the shots, it would seem like the man is walking in a different direction (although he's moving the same way!).

Another rule, the 30 ̊ rule, is simple and quite important – if the angle between the camera and the object doesn't change more than 30 ̊ between two consecutive shots, it'll make it seem like the picture is skipping. This is because the camera angles are too similar to be smoothly edited together.


Erasure technique is based on drawing (and erasing) the same image several times, which is done with various tools (pencil, charcoal ...) on different foundations (paper, plaster ...)


A scene that takes place outside in the open air – it can be shot on the actual location (by the seaside, on a road, in the woods) or created in the studio using a projected background or set design (set) that mimics an outside location. The notion also relates to a certain filmmaking mentality and practice that opposes the "fake" and spectacular form of expensive studio production. Filming in the exterior is normally cheaper and more authentic, though it is subject to unpredictable conditions (weather, noise, unexpected events ...). Animated film is, for obvious reasons, almost always done in the studio and doesn't have to deal with these problems.

Film music (soundtrack)

The film soundtrack is music composed specifically for a film, and is one of the essential elements of film structure. In a broader sense, it can also mean any commercial music or songs that were included in the film. Film music may also denote the musical accompaniment of silent films, which normally used existing compositions, or the release of music from the film on CDs, records or other sound carriers featuring songs, adaptations and original compositions appearing in a film.

Flip book also flick book

A booklet with a series of images that gradually change from page to page. If we flip the pages quickly, the images become animated – creating the illusion of motion or some other event. Basically, it is the fundamental way animation is performed. Just like film, the images in the flip book appear to be moving due to the 'persistence of vision' phenomenon taking place in the retina of the human eye. When we are watching rapidly changing sequences, the eye connects them together into a moving picture instead of a series of separate images.


The frame is a single individual image on film tape or digital medium. A recording (shot) is made from a rapidly changing series of images or 'photographs' we call frames, which are filmed using a camera. Each frame captures a tiny moment in time. When frames are played back really fast (at speeds of around 20 frames per second), they create the picture on the screen.


A funny event. In the broadest sense, it can be any kind of spoken or visual joke in a film, while its narrow sense only denotes events and surprises that happen on-screen. The gag first appeared in slapstick comedies (these often had no screenplay but were improvised during shooting, and gags were thus any ideas that made people laugh).


A classification of films according to their general style. There are many kinds of genres and sub-genres: crime flick, horror movie, comedy, drama, romantic comedy, love story, western, science fiction... Genres are based on certain stylistic criteria that are shared by all the films in a given genre – for example the Wild West setting of westerns, the scary atmosphere of horror movies, the funny love plots and twists of romantic comedies, science fiction's focus on technology, space and the future, imaginary creatures in fantasy films etc. When we understand the properties of a genre and what makes it work, we are able to create an appealing genre film. We learn these by simply watching films and reading books. Usually, each genre has its own recognizable narrative, iconography, protagonists and setting. Genre films are the foundation of commercial filmmaking.

Historical film

A film genre based on historical or mythological events, with an artistic design that tries to faithfully recreate the age and the lands where the story takes place. Historical films are often spectacles with huge crowds, epic events and many side characters.

Horror movie

Film genre. Horror movies revolve around things that arouse terror and other uncomfortable feelings in the spectator. Their intent is to frighten or disgust the viewer. Sometimes, they also include unusual, bizarre comical elements. Horror characters can be real-life people, or they can also be fantastic creatures or monsters such as zombies. Naturally, the appearance of your typical horror movie is very dark, sinister and mysterious. Sudden camera shifts and editing along with sound effects that aim to scare the audience often bring shocking surprises or create a scary atmosphere of tension and anxiety.

Illusion of reality (suspension of disbelief)

In film theory, this term describes the amazing ability of film to create an illusion of reality in the mind of the spectator. Filmologists established that the nature of the film image – its striking resemblance to actual things, actual motion and actual time, makes it easy for us to believe it's real.


An inside shot made in a closed space – normally in the studio using artificial light; or inside any enclosed space like a house or car.


Text on a neutral, most often black background, intertitles appeared between shots in old silent films that had no sound or dialogue. Intertitles replaced the announcer who once used to sit in the audience and commentate silent films during screening. Intertitles explained the relationships between characters, circumstances, the location and time of events ... everything that was hard to understand just by looking at the picture.

Narration (storytelling)

The way we tell a certain story (for example, try looking at different film adaptations of the same book – each film tells the story in a different way).

Object animation

One of the many forms of stop-motion animation, this technique works with common everyday objects (as opposed to specially designed props), for example toys, blocks, household items ... Since these objects aren't malleable like clay or plasticine, they must often be combined with characters, objects and backgrounds designed specifically for animation. One of the most famous artists known for his object animation technique is the Czech author Jan Švankmajer.


A widely used term for sound in the film (voices, surrounding noises, music) that doesn't come from what is shown in the picture (what we see on the screen) but originates from somewhere outside the shot or is spoken by a narrator. The so-called 'subjective voice' that reveals the thoughts (inner monologue) of characters, their memories or imaginations, is also part of the off.

Opening credits

A graphically designed initial part of the film, which normally shows the logo and name of the production house, the film title, the names of leading actors and important contributing authors (director, screenwriter, music composer, director of photography, producer ...) and sometimes an explanation, dedication or warning. Credits can be separate from the start of the film story, or they can be written over the shots in the technique of double exposition, appearing on the screen while the story is already playing out. In feature films, credits can sometimes even appear several minutes into the beginning. In short films, opening credits are usually limited to a couple lines (producer, film title ...) and the film crew is presented in the closing credits instead.

Optical gadgets (the beginnings of film)

Optical gadgets are the predecessors of film technology, as they are based on the same principle that allows us to watch movies and television – a property of the human eye called 'persistence of vision' (or retinal persistence in scientific terms). An example of retinal persistence: imagine you are in a dark room and the lights are quickly turned on and off. If we flip the switch faster than 16 times per second, we'll reach a critical frequency where the light no longer seems to be flickering but instead appears to be shining all the time. This is because every image we see persists in our retinas for a small fraction of a second after it's gone, which lets our brains connect static images together and create the illusion of motion.

The idea that persistence of vision lets us bring static images to life was discovered a long time ago already. In the 17th and especially the 18th and 19th centuries, people invented a whole variety of optical toys and gadgets. The oldest and simplest one was the thaumatroph – two images painted on opposite sides of a board that become one single image when the board is spinning really fast. More advanced gadgets then included the zoetrope, phenakistoscope and praxinoscope, early animation devices that had a series of pictures drawn on disks or reels that could be spun around to create moving images.


Paint-on-glass technique utilizes the manipulation of slow-drying oil paint on glass panels.


Pinscreen technique uses a panel filled with movable pins, tacks or similar small objects, which are reshaped to create unusual textures and forms.


One of the many stop-motion techniques, pixilation is used to animate people as if they were living puppets. The actors create a scene and stand still as we record the image (frame). Then, they change their pose and stand still once again as we record the next frame. The technique is handy when blending real-life actors together with animated characters and was utilized to create many films, for example those by Canadian animator Norman McLaren, a famous pioneer of animation.


In animated film, postproduction means everything we do to our images and sound after we are done recording: visual effects, color and contrast correction, voice dubbing and music, editing and so on.


An animation device, the successor to the zoetrope. It was invented in France in 1877 by Charles-Émile Reynaud. In both gadgets, a strip with a sequence of images (depicting various phases of motion) was placed around the inner surface of a spinning cylinder. The praxinoscope improved on the zoetrope by replacing its narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors, arranged so that the reflections of the pictures appeared more or less stationary in position as the wheel turned. Someone looking in the mirrors would therefore see a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion (animation), with a brighter and less distorted picture than the zoetrope offered.


Preproduction in animated film stands for all the preparations we do before we start filming. It begins with the idea, the synopsis and the screenplay followed by the artistic concept, selection of reference photos and creation of the storyboard. Preproduction also entails the organization of filming preparations: getting the crew together, choosing the schedule of filming, drawing up the shooting plan and getting all the necessary technology together.


Production in animated film is everything that has to do with the filming: the creation of backgrounds and characters, set design, filming of images, animating and recording of sound and dialogues.

Production design

Before we start making an animated film, we must have a good idea of how it will look in the end – the appearance of its characters, backgrounds, scenery and overall atmosphere. This is why we create the production design, where we design characters (character design) and backgrounds (set design).

Character design is the next step of characterization. With it, the appearance and look of characters is precisely defined. When we design characters, we can decide to follow some handy guidelines, for example using soft, circular lines for friendly characters and sharp, angular lines for the bad guys ...

The design of backgrounds and scenery is also based on a good understanding of what we want to achieve and the setting and mood we wish to create. Before we start animating, it's thus wise to think about the style, lighting and color scale we will use in our film. We can research these things and find examples in literature and online by collecting reference photos or creating what is called a "mood board" (a collage of photos, images, text ... that illustrates the atmosphere and overall mood we wish to achieve in the film).


An item used in the film to complement the set design or costume, with either a passive or active role in the story. Passive props are only there to look interesting, while active props can play an important role in the film and are sometimes even its key element (treasure, for example).

Puppet animation or stop-motion animation

A film that uses the stop-motion technique to bring to life puppets and other 3D objects created from various materials. Puppet animation was once used in most children's films, and the possibilities it provides in the creation of fantastical creatures, starships and other imaginary objects also made it very useful in the making of special effects for feature films. This kind of use has become less frequent due to digital computer animation, but puppet animated films are still going strong as part of original filmmaking. In the USA and elsewhere, puppet animation is normally called stop-motion animation. Famous examples of puppet animation include the animated film Coraline (2009, directed by Henry Selick) and the Czech comedy series Pat and Mat (A je to!, 1976–2013).


An animation technique in which animators draw over existing footage (tracing the shapes and lines), frame by frame. Originally, recorded live-action film images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and then re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is called a rotoscope and was patented by Max Fleicher in 1917. Today, we do rotoscoping on a computer.


Sand technique moves grains of sand around a piece of glass illuminated from behind or the front, creating curious light contrasts.


A part of the story (filmed in one or more shots) that happens during an uninterrupted timeline in the same location. The scene is an important unit when it comes to structuring the story and also when organizing shooting – it is most practical to shoot a scene in a single day or, when it's really long, in several consecutive days.

Science fiction

A film genre filled with space adventures, robots, aliens, distant planets and made-up worlds. Science fiction often focuses on existing or future technology and the exploration of space. The appearance (lighting, set design, costume ...) is very attractive and important in this genre, and it is also quite often very expensive. Nonetheless, low budget science fiction films still exist, using clever and innovative aesthetics to conjure up the future, cybernetic or alien worlds.

Screenplay (also called script)

The written text used as the basis for making a film. The screenplay tells the story, presents all the spoken dialogue and describes the setting of the events, divided according to scenes which take place in a certain location at a certain time. The screenplay usually contains two formats of text: one with descriptions of the setting, the characters and the events, and the other with all the spoken dialogue and the names of persons who are speaking. The screenplay can be original, adapted from a book, or also a remake of an old movie or story. On the basis of the screenplay, the film director (often together with the D.O.P. – director of photography) creates the storyboard and shooting plan. As a rule of thumb, one page of the screenplay translates into one minute in the film.


An artist that writes the screenplay. In addition to creative writing, the screenwriter's work often consists of research, which is sometimes done in cooperation with the film director. Normally, the screenplay is written before the filming begins, and the screenwriter then adds any eventual additional scenes, parts of scenes or dialogues during filming. In animated film, it is almost essential for the screenplay to be fully done before production starts, because it is much harder to change things on the go. The screenwriter also writes the synopsis, treatment and similar shortened versions and summaries of the screenplay, which are used to present the project to other people to raise funds or do promotion.


A series of scenes that form a relatively independent part of the film story, held together by either the same location or the same timeline. Example: a bank robbery (in this case the sequence can include thieves' preparations, the robbery itself and finally the getaway).

Set design

The design and creation of the scenery where the film is made, which represents the location, setting and the atmosphere of the film. The artistic and technical concept of set design is based on the aesthetic vision of the authors, the expectation of the genre and the director's concept of the film. In animated film, set elements include a colorful variety of props and backgrounds.

Shot (recording)

A frequent definition goes like this: shot is each part of the movie that the camera records without interruption from the moment it's turned on to the moment it's turned off. The shot is determined by the shooting plan in duration, size, angle, range of motion ... The shot as we know it developed through three historical periods:

1. films created in one single shot or recording (1895–1902),

2. films with several unrelated shots (the introduction of editing, but at the time not yet in close cooperation with shooting; 1903– 1910),

3. films with many related shots that are combined together with editing.

Shot planning

The decision on what exactly will be shown in the shot and what left out (selection of the shot size, camera angle, lens, a static or moving camera ...).

One of the basic tasks of the director.

Shot size

The way the shot is cropped, which dictates the size of the pictured object on the basis of camera distance and selection of camera lens (the object is usually in focus and the background out of focus; when objects in the foreground and background are equally sharp this is called "depth of field"). Shot sizes are divided according to different criteria but the basic concept is always the same – they go from far away to up close.

a) Panorama or extreme long shot shows the landscape or surroundings (city, settlement ...) from a great distance. In the USA, this kind of shot is also called the "establishing shot" as it presents the setting of the events.

b) Long shot portrays a wide image of a location, but the characters inside it can already be recognized.

c) Medium long shot shows a character from closer up, but still as part of the environment.

d) Medium shot shows a person so that their body fills the entire screen.

e) American shot is already fully focused on the character, cropping it below the knees.

f) Medium close shot shows a character from their waste or chest up.

g) Close-up shows a character's head and shoulders. In the history of film (and the development of film language) this shot has played an essential role as it gives strong exposure to the face and the emotions expressed by the actor.

h) Extreme close-up focuses on a small part of the face, body or object.


The first, silent type of comedy. Slapstick is based on more or less absurd humor where the characters perform funny physical actions. The basic element of slapstick is the gag. Since the gag also plays an important role in animated film, it is clever and useful for animators to watch some legendary old slapstick films (Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel &Hardy – Stan & Olio ...) and classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes.


Software is used during all phases of animated film production – during preparations to write the screenplay and storyboard, during filming to make it run smoother, and finally in postproduction to edit the video and sound, add special effects etc. Professional studio software can be very expensive, but there are many semi-professional programs available we can get cheap or even for free.

Sound (film sound)

A basic component of the film (in addition to the video), which may contain speech (dialogues, narrator's voice), various sounds and music. The first films were silent (they had no synchronized or recorded sound, only picture) and this lasted for a couple of decades. The era of silent film ended in 1927 when Warner Bros released The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland, which turned out to be the first commercially successful sound film.

Sound effects

All the sound in the film that isn't dialogue, music or the narrator's voice. Effects mostly consist of two kinds of sounds: sounds made by objects (or animals) and background sounds (thunder, rain, howling wind, birds singing ...). Interestingly, most of these sounds are not recorded during filming, and not many of them are even recorded in their real environment – the majority of sound effects are made in a special studio. In animated film, sound is always added separately, sometimes by using sounds from sound banks and sometimes by recording them on our own.

Special effects

A special effect is any shot or element of the shot that isn't created during regular filming but is added through various ways of manipulating and changing the image. We can use optical effects (by modifying the film tape in order to change the size of objects or their speed of motion, create brand new elements ...), mechanical effects (these take place in front of the camera, for example artificial rain, snow, wind, pyrotechnical explosions, gunshots, costumes and make-up ...), effects used during filming (the very first special effects used on film, for example stopping the camera during a shot and removing an actor then continuing filming, which makes it look like the person has suddenly disappeared; double exposure ...), and of course the most widespread and popular effects of the modern age, digital special effects which let us create all the above tricks on a computer.

Stop-motion rig

A flexible, adaptable yet stable mechanical hand (animators often make them by themselves) that helps us hold a character or object suspended in the air above the foundation or in front of the background where we are filming. During postproduction, the rig is then erased from the images, and the objects appear to be flying. To achieve this effect, we can also use a transparent nylon string (which doesn't have to be erased later as it's nearly invisible) to hang the object above the setting, but these are often quite unstable and tend to spin around.

Stop-motion technique

An animation technique where we physically animate (move) puppets, objects, people and backgrounds around and take photos of their state, filming one frame then moving them to a different position then filming another frame and so on. When we quickly playback these images, they create the impression of fluent motion. Several kinds of stop-motion animation exist, usually named after the medium used to create them. These include: puppet animation, claymation, cutout animation, silhouette animation, object animation, pixilation and time lapse.


A visual representation of the screenplay in the form of drawings or photographs, arranged in a way that creates a good idea of the shot or sequence we are going to film. Drawings in a storyboard don't need to be very nice, basic shapes and simple backgrounds will do as long as the main elements and perspective of the shot are well illustrated. The key elements in a storyboard are: characters and their gestures (facial expressions, size, entrance into and exit from the shot ...), timeline (duration of each individual shot), audio information (planned dialogues and sound effects ...), and the position and motion of the camera (shot size, camera angle, direction of the camera etc.).


A storytelling technique – telling the story in a way that leaves many possibilities open for the events to unfold in different directions. By delaying the conclusion, suspense creates feelings of tension and excitement which keep the audience at the edge of their seats (for example, somebody falls from a cliff and we don't know if they are dead or alive). Suspense is based on hints and clues that let the audience develop their own expectations and theories on how the dramatic situation will finally turn out. The structure of suspense can span the entire duration of the film (in case of action movies, thrillers, horror movies ...), but it is most often present during individual sequences or parts of the story. One of the most legendary masters of suspense was the famous director Alfred Hitchcock.


A summary of the screenplay that presents the story, the main plot elements and the leading protagonists on a couple of pages. This word often also means a short summary of the film story that is printed on marketing materials, catalogues, in magazines ...


A film genre. The story of thrillers is built around crime and events taking place in the criminal underworld. Characters are usually mobsters, thieves, policemen and detectives. Thrillers are full of mysteries and secrets that use suspense to keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Their appearance is often dark and gloomy as they portray events taking place on the edge of society and the law.

Time lapse

A stop-motion technique where we photograph an object or scene in certain time intervals (one image per second, per hour or per day ...). Time lapse is especially suitable for filming things that happen too slowly for the human eye to notice (for example the movement of clouds in the sky, the growth of a plant, the aging of a person) but that's not a necessary condition. We can easily film regular things, too, such as city streets and then play back the recording at regular speed, which makes things on the screen happen much faster than real-time.


Timing in animated film deals with the number of frames (or different phases of motion) that are used to record a certain gesture (for example raising a hand or jumping in the air), and it shapes the speed of the action. If we record the movement between two phases on more frames it appears slower and smoother; if we record it on fewer frames it appears faster and choppier. With appropriate timing, we can make objects and characters behave according to the laws of physic, which makes them look lifelike.

Timing is also very important when shaping the overall mood, the emotional responses of characters and their reactions to the environment, and it can help us express the personality of a character. We learn timing by practicing and looking at the results. Timing is one of the twelve basic principles of animation, described in the book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (1981) by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.

Traditional animation

Traditional animation, also called a cartoon, was the most frequently used animation technique of the 20th century. We do it by photographing (filming frame-by-frame) drawings, which start on paper and are then redrawn or copied onto transparent foil where they can also be colored. By stacking the foils on top of each other, we create the complete look of the cartoon (characters, backgrounds, additional elements ...).


A short video that advertises and announces the arrival of the film into cinemas and other media platforms (web, television, tablets, smartphones). Most often, it's put together from some of the most attractive shots of the film, and it sometimes includes scenes that aren't even found in the final product. The trailer usually features dynamic editing, asks questions whose answers will be found in the film, and includes dramatic sound to go with the voice of the announcer narrating the text. In exceptional cases, the film's authors create a completely original, separate short film, a prologue to the story or some other creative idea.

Twelve basic principles of animation

The 12 basic principles of animation were described in 1981 by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation. The books presents the work of Disney's lead animators since the 1930s and their aspirations to make animation as realistic as possible. The main goal of the principles is to create characters that follow the laws of physics (so they look alive), but they also touch on more abstract issues such as the charisma of characters or the emotional timing of the story.

War film

A film genre. War films are full of suspense and drama and portray events taking place during modern or historic wars. Sometimes, they also include romance.


A highly characteristic film genre with a long and famous tradition. Westerns feature cowboys, indians, sheriffs, bandits, gold, guns, horses and lots of action. The stories take place in the ruthless wilderness or in dusty lawless towns.


An optical gadget that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of still images. The zoetrope is a cylinder with many vertical holes cut into its sides. Inside the cylinder is a band printed with images in a sequence. When the zoetrope is spinning, we see a rapid succession of images through the holes in the cylinder, which creates the illusion of motion.