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The Language of Movies 2: The Revenge

Sequels rarely live up to the originals. There’s just something about them that usually doesn’t quite capture the same magic. Maybe it’s rehashing old material or poorly thought out ideas.

Hopefully, this article isn’t like that! Some sequels do work, and with the MTV Movie Awards in the United States this weekend we couldn’t resist to do another language of movies post. Luckily there are enough film terms out there we could do 100 of these and not run out of material.

So read on and here’s hoping we’re more Empire Strikes Back than Weekend at Bernie’s 2!

Boom

This one’s obvious – gotta have something to do with explosions, right? Nope! A boom is actually used when capturing sound. It can refer to either the type of microphone used or the equipment that it attaches to.

Ever seen a movie where the microphone slips into the camera view at the top of the screen? Maybe it was part of a joke or a goof – sometimes the projector will mess up at the movie theater and show part of a frame you’re not supposed to see. In any case, that microphone was more than likely a boom mic.

Boom mic operators hold these mics from a good distance through the use of a long pole also called a boom. They have to be careful to not get it too close and ruin the shot, but also not to let it slip too far away so as not to pick up the actor speaking!

The word “boom” seems to come from the ancient Scottish word “boun,” which meant… a long pole.

Matte

The matte process is as old as filmmaking itself. If you are a director and have a scene where your actors are walking along a mountain path with giant snowy peaks behind them, you may not want to actually travel to the Carpathians to get that shot. Instead, you would combine two shots.

The first would be of your actors walking on a set constructed to look like a mountain path. In places where the mountain background would appear, you would cover up the scene with something like a blue screen. Then you would film the mountain background over the same footage you shot before. When combined, it looks like the heroes are on their journey to the top of the mountain.

“Matte” comes from the old French “mat”, which means lusterless or a dull, dead surface. This more than likely evolved from using matte paintings to fill in the backgrounds during a film.

Script

Before anything gets shot in the first place, a lonely, tortured writer must come up with the idea in the first place. Or, going with our sequel idea, try to copy someone else’s magic. This is of course all written down in the form of a script. But where did this word come from?

Obviously there were scripts before films because of the theater. In fact, the term goes all the way back to Latin. Seems the term that meant “to write” was scriptum which became scrit in Middle English. It can also be used as a verb, as in “I will script that scene as soon as I finish my latte and cous-cous.”

Dolly

The action mounts and the characters onscreen just can’t sit still. To keep up, the camera moves along with them. This is called “dollying” or a “dolly shot.” The reason it’s called this is because it’s performed by placing the camera on a dolly and physically moving or rolling the whole shebang across the floor. These contraptions can be expensive or homemade pieces of junk – whatever gets the shot!

This is not just for following actors walking, either. The actual dolly shot takes place when the camera moves. So you have dolly-ins and dolly-outs. One of the most famous dolly zoom-ins is from Jaws – recall the scene where Chief Brody realizes the shark is chewing up folks on his watch. This shot is also known as a “Hitchcock zoom” as the director used it in many memorable films.