Script Writing Terminology

The best way to learn the terminology  for script writing is to read a lot of scripts so you become more familiar with it.  Scripts are available on the internet, just do a Google search and you’ll be able to find as many as you want.  Here is a quick primer of basic terminology used in scripts.


Script Writing Terminology for transitions:

Cuts – instant change from one scene to the next, “Cut to…”

Dissolves – two scenes overlap during a transition from one to the other

Lap-dissolves –  (same as dissolve)

Fade-in – a two to three second transition from black and silent to the video

Fade-out – a two to three second transition to black and silent

Fade-in and fade-out transitions are often used when there is a division in the story and also to begin and end the story.


Script Writing Terminology for Types of shots:

Insert shot – a close-up of something in the scene

Cutaway – a related shot that is “away’ from the basic scene

Tracking shot – used to describe both dolly and truck movements

Moving shot – used to indicate the camera moving in some way during a scene

Long shot (LS) – a shot from the top of someone’s head to at least their feet

Full shot (FS) – (see long shot)

Medium shot (MS) – a shot from the waist up

Medium close-up (MCU) – a shot cropped between the shoulders and the belt line

Close-up (CU) – Used to catch facial expressions and following conversations

Extreme close-up (XCU) – used for dramatic impact and to show the eyes

Boom shot – high angle shot, usually with the camera moving

Jib shot – high angle shot, usually with the camera moving

Crane shot – high angle shot, usually with the camera moving

Establishing shot – A wide shot (WS) or long shot (LS) that gives the audience a basic orientation and geography of the scene (who is where), then switch to cuts of closer shots

Reestablishing shot – used as a reminder or updates the audience on scene changes

Master shot – similar to an establishing shot, but this term is generally reserved for the special needs of film. Once master shot action is filmed the scene is generally shot over again from different camera positions so that there are shots (especially close-ups) of each actor. Dialogue, and actor reactions and movements are repeated each time the camera is repositioned.

Coverage – the additional shots of a scene used to compliment the master shot.  It includes close-ups and so on

(a) Take – segments repeated with variations


Note: With film just one camera is generally used. However, since the camera is stopped and repositioned between takes, when the scenes are cut together during editing, it appears that there is a continuous flow of action and several cameras were used.

Actors must repeat everything over again in exactly the same way for each take in the coverage. This means they must use the same energy level with the same actions at the exact points in their dialogue. This is essential in being able to later unobtrusively cut together the various takes during editing to create a smooth, unbroken flow of action.

In the case of TV production several cameras are often used and the “editing” takes place in the control room as the scenes are shot. Although this approach obviously saves considerable time, it doesn’t allow for the “fine tuning” of each shot and take.


Canted shot, Dutch angle – a shot tilted 25 to 45 degrees to one side causing horizontal lines to be at an angle, similar to an isometric view

Two-shot (2S) – designate shots with two people

Three-shot (3S) – designate shots with three people

Subjective shot – a first-person shot, the camera will see what the character sees, good for chase scenes

Over the shoulder shot (OS) – A shot that shows the back of the head and maybe some shoulder


Other Script Writing Terminology:

Dolly – when the camera is moved towards or away from the subject

Truck – when the camera is moved laterally to the subject

Zoom – an optical version of a dolly, has the same basic effect

EXT – Denotes an exterior shot

INT – denotes an interior shot

Voice Over (VO) – narration heard over the scene

Point of View (POV) – a shot that is seen from the characters perspective

Special Effects (SFX) – audio or visual effects that alter the reality of the scene, added in the post-production phase