Art Department Glossary for Film & Television

Art Department Glossary of Terms

General Art DepartmentSet DesignGraphic Design

Backdrop/Backing: Refers to a large photographic backing or painting for the background of a scene. These large scale photos are printed, hung, and lit behind windows to give the illusion of the outdoors.

Breakaway: Destroyable glass objects that are used for stunts or gags in a scene. Can also mean destroyable set pieces or scenery.

Camera Ready: A set that is completed and ready to be put recorded to camera; a fully constructed, painted, dressed, rigged, and lit set.

Contact Sheet: A print out of multiple images within a grouping of images available for one particular task. A contact sheet is a useful way of seeing which are the best images to use on any given task from choosing artwork, dressings, props to deciding which research images may be relevant.

Flat: A scenery wall.

Floating: A piece of scenery in a set that is designed to be moved, removed, and/or replaced as needed to allow for lighting, camera, and various production needs.

Gimbal: The mechanism used to spin or rotate a room, set, or scenery piece on set.

Greeking: Changing trademarks that haven’t been cleared for use within the film.

Hero: Any set, set piece, set dressing, vehicle, and/or prop of importance used, held, or mentioned by an actor on screen.

In House: When something is made within the office instead of sending it out to be made or printed.

Miniature: A smaller-scale model filmed in such a way that it seems like it is a full-scale model.

Moiré: Undesirable patterns in printed halftones caused by improperly aligned screens.

Picture vehicle: Any vehicle that is on screen in a movie.

Raked: A set floor that is angled up from the camera.

Retrofit: Specific physical changes to a location or set to make sure that the design of the film set is believable and seamless.

Schedule: Chart or table in a set of architectural drawings, including data about materials, finishes, equipment, windows, doors, and signage; also a plan for performing work.

Scout: Looking for the right location to shoot in.

Snot Tape or Clear Butyl: Used widely by Prop and Set Decoration departments for securing items to shelves, walls and tables for dressing sets, continuity and safety. The tape is sticky throughout, its pliability gives it the ability to be used in a variety of ways.  It is clear, non-staining and available in 3 sizes.

Spotting Plan or Stage Layout: A ground plan or floor plan for a set or multiple sets which indicate doors and distance from existing stage walls or other sets sharing the same space.

Standing Set: A recurring set in a television storyline in which the set remains on a stage throughout an entire season or series, for example, the lead character’s home or place of work. A standing set can also remain on a stage for longer than anyone production if it is a commonly needed location that can be rented to new productions, for example, a courtroom, airplane, or jail set.

Studio Tank or Water Tank: A large receptacle that holds water and water machinery to satisfy production needs involving water scenes in a controlled environment within a studio. Essentially it is a larger, more complicated swimming pool for very specific set needs.

Swing Set or Swing Stage: A set or entire stage that may be reconfigured into several different sets during the course of a film or television show season. Most commonly used in episodic television.

Title Block: A table located in the bottom right corner of a drawing which contains sections for providing the film title, production designer, set designer, set number, set name, location information, and drawing scale- for example 1/4″ = 1′-0″.

Translite: A large scale colour photograph printing on a translucent material, a category of photographic backdrop able to be lit from front or back.

TrueBlock: Trademarked shipping labels by Avery which use ‘TrueBlock’ technology that completely cover everything underneath the label, leaving a bright-white professional appearance on the outside. This adhesive paper is often used in house within an art department to print graphics.

Tuffback Paper: A large format thick low tack adhesive paper that you buy by the roll and apply like vinyl. Tuffback is often used when you need to paint something and you are not able to paint directly to the surface so you paint the tuffback paper then apply it over top the surface. Tuffback is the material of choice in these situations since it opaque, takes paint well, and comes off smoothly and reliably.

Waler: A horizontal beam used to help support joined flats; also used in concrete formwork.

Wild: A piece of scenery in a set that is designed to be moved, removed, and replaced as needed to allow lighting, camera, or other various production needs.

Abacus: The flat slab on top of a capital, supporting the architrave.

Access Floor: Removable finish flooring raised above the floor structure to allow installation of wiring or ductwork below.

Arcade: A series of arches supported by columns or other vertical elements.

Arch: Structural device that supports vertical loads by translating them into axial forces.

Armature: The wire or metal frame used to support the creation of a large or oddly shaped structure such as a manufactured tree or statue.

Asymmetry: Elements that when placed on opposite sides of a set, frame, page, line, or plane are not symmetrical.

Balcony: A platform that projects from the wall of a building, and which is enclosed on its outer three sides by a balustrade, railing, or parapet.

Baluster: A vertical supporting element, similar to a small column.

Balustrade: A railing consisting of a row of balusters supporting a rail.

Bay: A section of a building distinguished by vertical elements such as columns or pillars. Often, a bay will protrude from the surface of the wall in which it is situated, thus creating a small, nook-like interior space, often of a rectangular or semi-hexagonal outline. See bay window.

Bay Window: A projecting bay that is lit on all of its projecting sides by windows. See bay.

Bevel: An angled cut at a corner or edge.

Board and batten: A wooden siding treatment in which wide, vertically oriented boards are separated by narrower strips of wood called “battens,” which form the joints between the boards.

Bond (brickwork): Brickwork with overlapping bricks. Types of bond include stretcher, English, header, Flemish, garden wall, herringbone, basket, American, and Chinese.

Brace: A reinforcing and/or stabilizing element of an architectural frame.

Bracket: A projection from a vertical surface that provides structural and/or visual support for overhanging elements such as cornices, balconies, and eaves.

Buttress: Masonry or concrete reinforcement applied to a wall to resist diagonal forces from an arch or vault.

CAD: Computer Aided Design. Almost all set designers and architects work in CAD software and it is very rare to find technical drawings done by hand these days.

Cantilever: An unsupported overhang acting as a lever, like a flagpole sticking out of the side of a wall.

Casement Window: A window frame that is hinged on one vertical side, and which swings open to either the inside or the outside of the building. Casement windows often occur in pairs.

Chalet: A timber dwelling, cottage, or lodge with a gable roof and wide eaves.

Chevron: A design that incorporates a pointed shape similar to an accent mark, common to Art Deco architecture.

CNC: Stands for Computer Numerical Control. This means a computer converts the design produced by Computer Aided Design software (CAD), into numbers. The numbers can be considered to be the coordinates of a graph and they control the movement of the cutter.

CNC Router: A router that comes with the ability to use computer numerical control to route tool paths that enable the machine to function. CNC routers reduce waste and increase productivity, producing various items in a much shorter amount of time than using other machines.

Colonnade: A range of columns that supports a string of continuous arches or a horizontal entablature.

Column: A supporting pillar consisting of a base, a cylindrical shaft, and a capital on top of the shaft. Columns may be plain or ornamental.

Concept: A vision of how a product could be, often explained with hand sketches and rough models.

Corbel: A structural piece of stone, wood or metal jutting from a wall to carry a superincumbent weight.

Cornice: A crowning projection at a roof line, often with molding or other classical detail.

Cornice Molding: A decorative strip of wood running just below the eaves of a building. A cornice molding is a cross between a cornice and a molding – a cornice is a crowning projection at a roof line, while a molding is a decorative strip of wood.

Courtyard: An open space, usually open to the sky, enclosed by a building, often with an arcade or colonnade.

Crenellation: A sequence of alternating raised and lowered wall sections at the top of a high exterior wall or parapet. Crenellations were originally employed for defensive purposes (one could hide behind a raised wall section while shooting down at enemies from over a lowered wall section), but were later used for decoration. Also known as a battlement.

Crosshatch or Hatching: A pattern of parallel lines applied to an area on a drawing such as section-views.

Cupola: A small, most often dome-like, structure on top of a building.

Decorative Motif: A repeated pattern, image, idea, or theme. In classical architecture, series of urns and continuous or repeated swags of garlands are common decorative motifs.

Dentils: Small rectangular blocks that, when placed together in a row abutting a moulding, suggest a row of teeth.

Detail View: A portion of a view on a drawing, usually larger scale than the view it originated from.

Die Cut: Special shapes cut into a substrate by a steel rule.

Doric Order: Most easily recognized by the simple circular capitals at the top of columns. The Greek Doric column was fluted or smooth-surfaced, and had no base, dropping straight into the stylobate or platform on which the temple or other building stood. The capital was a simple circular form, with some mouldings, under a square cushion that is very wide in early versions, but later more restrained. Above a plain architrave, the complexity comes in the frieze, where the two features, the triglyph and guttae, are skeuomorphic memories of the beams and retaining pegs of the wooden constructions that preceded stone Doric temples. In stone they are purely ornamental.

Dormer Window: A perpendicular window located in a sloping roof; triangular walls join the window to the roof. Dormer windows are sometimes crowned with pediments, and they often light attic sleeping rooms; “dormer” derives from “dormir,” French for “to sleep.”

Double Doors: Two adjacent doors that share the same door frame, and between which there is no separating vertical member. Double doors are often referred to as “French doors”, due to their preponderance in French architecture.

Eaves: The projecting edge of a roof that overhangs an exterior wall to protect it from the rain.

Eclecticism: A mixing of various architectural styles and ornamentation of the past and present

Elevation View: Architectural drawing of a view of the vertical planes of the building showing their relationship to each other.

Exploded View: A view of a product with all its components separated, usually to show how it is assembled.

Exposed Rafters: Rafters that are exposed to the outside of a building. Rafters are the inclined, sloping framing members of a roof, and to which the roof covering is affixed.

Facade: An exterior wall, or face, of a building. The front facade of a building contains the building’s main entrance, the rear facade is the building’s rear exterior wall, and the side facades are a building’s side exterior walls.

Finial: Ornament at the top of a spire or roof.

Finish: An architectural finish is a standard finish characterized by a uniformly good appearance. This finish is most often specified for “exposed” surfaces. Often times we are not using a proper architectural material to finish a surface in the film industry. For example, the paint department might be directed to ‘finish’ a wall or flat/flattage as steel or wood.

Floor Plan: The architectural blueprint of the arrangement of rooms in a building or film set.

Hardware: The metal fittings of a building, such as locks, latches, hinges, handles, and knobs.

Joinery: Woodworking joints in carpentry.

Masonry: Being of stone, brick, or concrete.

Matte: A flat, not glossy finish.

Mezzanine: Intermediate level between a floor and ceiling that occupies a partial area of the floor space.

Millwork: Interior wood finish components of a building or set, including cabinetry, windows, doors, moldings, and stairs.

Model: Physical representation (usually on a smaller scale) of a building, building component, or set.

Moulding: A strip of wood, plaster, or other material with an ornamental profile.

Mullions: The structural units that divide adjacent windows.

NTS: Stands for Not To Scale which is labelled on drawings.

Panel: A smooth surface, usually rectangular (or sometimes circular) in shape and framed by a molding, and often featuring decorative, sculptural carving.

Panelling: A millwork wall covering constructed from rigid or semi-rigid components. These are traditionally interlocking wood, but could be plastic or other materials. Panelling was developed in antiquity to make rooms in stone buildings more comfortable. The panels served to insulate the room from the cold stone.

Partition: Interior non-load-bearing wall.

Plinth or Pedestal: The base or platform upon which a column, statue, monument or structure rests. A plinth is a lower terminus of the face trim on a door that is thicker and often wider than the trim which it augments.

Proscenium Arch: An arch framing the opening between the stage and the auditorium in some theatres.

Riser: Vertical face between two treads of a stair; also a raised stage platform or seating platform.

Section View: A drawing view created by cutting through another drawing with a section line.

Skin: The external layer of a structure, building, wall, or furnishing that is visible to the viewer.

Span: Distance between supports.

Tolerance: The amount that dimensions can be wrong without affecting the performance. Each can have its own specification for tolerance. Tolerances may be used to specify allowable variations in strength, stability, the mix of a material, the performance of a system, temperature ranges and so on.

Transom: Window or element, fixed or operable, above a door but within its vertical frame.

Tread: Horizontal surface between two risers of a stair.

Trim: Decorative building elements often used to conceal joints.

Truss: Structural element made up of a triangular arrangement of members that transforms the nonaxial forces acting on it into a set of axial forces on the truss members.

Vault: Arched form.

Veneer: Thin layer, sheet, or facing.

Wainscoting: A broader term referring to decorative panelling used for centuries as: a) a wall accent; b) insulation and; c) to prevent (and cover up) damage to walls. It typically is made of wood and covers the lower three or four feet of an interior wall.

Bitmap: Computer image composed of pixels.

Bleed: A printed area that extends beyond the trimmed edge of a printed piece. Bleed areas generally range from 1/8″ to 1/4″ (3.175 mm to 6.35 mm). Bleeds are produced by printing a piece on a sheet of paper larger than the trim size of the final piece and then cutting away the edges using the crop marks.

Bond (paper): Grade of paper used for photocopying, envelopes, office correspondence, and flyers.

Card Stock: A paper stock that is thicker and more durable than normal writing or printing paper, but thinner and more flexible than other forms of paperboard. Card stock is often used for business cards, postcards, scrapbooking, and other uses which require higher durability than regular paper. The texture is usually smooth, but can be textured, metallic, or glossy.

CMYK: Stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black). The primary ink colours that are combined on press or as printed digital output to produce a full range of colours.

Collateral: Ancillary print material used to support brands and marketing campaigns that often need to be recreated for fake brands in film and television.

Cover Stock: Fine printing paper with a basis weight or grammage that is heavier than text or book weight papers. For example, magazine covers require thicker cover paper than the pages inside. Cover stock often has a coated finish on one side or both sides (C1S or C2S, for “coated: one side” or “coated: two sides”) to produce a glossy look and smooth texture.

Crop marks: Marks placed on the edges of a mechanical to indicate where a printed piece should be trimmed.

Deboss: To produce a recessed impression on the surface of a paper by pressing it between two dies.

Die Cut: Special shapes cut into a substrate by a steel rule.

DPI: Stands for dots per inch. Used to measure the resolution of a scanned image. Higher dpi produces higher resolution and more detail.

Emboss: To produce a raised impression on the surface of paper by pressing it between two dies.

Foil Stamp: Where foil and a heated die is stamped onto paper to form a printed impression.

Golden Section: Unique proportional ratio of two divisions of a line such that the smaller of the two is to the larger as the larger is to the sum of the two.

High-res: A digital image with a resolution of 200 dpi or more.

Kerning: Adjusting the amount of space between letters or characters so that letter spacing appears to be in balance.

Leading: The amount of vertical space between lines of type.

Low-res: A digital image with a resolution of 100 dpi or less.

Mask: A means of isolating a portion of an image from its surrounding area so that it becomes a silhouette or outline image.

Matte: A flat, not glossy finish.

Moiré: Undesirable patterns in printed halftones caused by improperly aligned screens.

Proof: A test sheet made to represent how a final printed product will look so that flaws may be corrected before the piece is printed.

Raster: A pattern of closely spaced rows of dots that form an image (as on the cathode-ray tube of a television or computer display).

Raster Image Processing (RIP):  Converting digital files to bitmapped images that can be output on an imagesetter. The process is described as “ripping a file”.

RGB: Stands for Red, Green, and Blue, additive primary colours that are used to create a full range of colour as projected light on a computer screen.

Sans Serif: A font without decorative serifs. Typically with little stroke thickness variation, a larger x-height and no stress in rounded strokes.

Script: A typeface designed to imitate handwriting.

Serif: A small stroke at the end of a main vertical or horizontal stroke. Also used as a classification for typefaces that contain such decorative rounded, pointed, square, or slab serif finishing strokes.

Substrate: Any surface or material that is to be printed upon.

Typeface: Design of alphabetic letters, numbers, and symbols unified by consistent visual properties. Typeface properties are identified by name, such as Futura or Times New Roman.

Value: The lightness or darkness of a colour. Darker values where black is added are called shades. Lighter values where white is added are called tints or pastels.

Vector: Graphics that are made up using mathematical equations based on straight lines and curves. Vector graphics are infinitely scalable.