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An On

An On-Line Glossary of Film Style

& Its Metaphors

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crane shot any shot achieved by a camera mounted on a mechanism known as a crane (adapted from farm and building construction machinery) extended vertically several feet to several stories. Helicopter or other airflight-mounted cameras can accomplish "super-crane" effects as well. The use of crane shots often requires a big budget.

General Significance An ascending crane shot away from an object, person, or scene can confer to viewers a sense of effortless, privileged superiority, escape, or alienation. It often serves as closure or poignant commentary inviting contemplation at the ends of films. A descending crane shot toward an object, person, or scene can confer to viewers a sense of increasing observation and interest accompanied, nonetheless, by a certain detachment.

Examples of stylized Examples of stylized crane shots


shadow.jpg (31054 bytes)Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock 1943) Click Here for Clip


Description: In the library reading room. From a choker close-up of young Charlie’s (Teresa Wright) face we cut to a close-up of her hands removing the ring centered over the Santa Rosa newspaper article Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) prevented her from reading with the diversion of tearing it up to make paper dolls. Cut to her point of view, an extreme close-up insert shot of the ring he gave her. She rotates the ring in order to read the inscription, comparing the initials on it, "B.M." (allegedly an inside Hitchcock toilet humor joke), to those of a recent victim of the Merry Widow murderer listed in the article. We return to the previous close-up of her hands. As she clasps the ring in her right hand and exits the reading room deep in thought or in a daze, the camera begins to pull or zoom back while simultaneously ascending up a great distance as Dimitri Tiomkin’s soundtrack begins its bittersweet, slightly tragic melody. As young Charlie’s exit is nearly complete we lap dissolve to Uncle Charlie’s recurring image of gentlemen and ladies waltzing and Tiomkin’s score changes to Franz Lehar’s "Merry Widow Waltz." This brief scene dissolves to Uncle Charlie strolling on the sidewalk in front of his neice’s family home reading presumably another copy of the same newspaper as young children run past him on either side.

Significance: The result of the zooming out and ascending crane shot shows young Charlie’s image getting smaller and smaller as the "forbidden knowledge" of her beloved uncle’s true identity sinks in. The effect of this scene depicts the formerly naive girl gaining knowledge and participates in classic Western culture’s iconography and ideology of "falling from grace," as did Adam and Eve in Genesis.


diegetic sound any "natural" sound source that originates from within the scene including foley effects and automatic dialogue replacement (ADR also known as looping, dubbing) unless used as a voice over.

non-diegetic sound any sound source that originates from outside of the scene, such as a composer’s soundtrack.

Examples of stylized Examples of stylized Examples of stylized diegetic and non-diegetic sound

Caddyshack caddy.jpg (4904 bytes) (Ramis 1980) Click here for Clip

Description: In the opening title sequence we hear the lush, full-bodied voice and instrumentation of Kenny Loggins’ "I’m Alright" (non-diegetic) soundtrack playing over images of the Bushwood Country Club golf course, the gopher, and the first establishing shot of the Noonan residence. When we then cut to the interior of the crowded house the music continues, but has been transferred to Danny’s AM radio (diegetic) and the sound’s lush quality is translated into the flat, tinny, non-dynamic AM sound. Once Danny (Michael O’Keefe) "escapes" from the bickering house via the fire escape and is outside, the music continues as soundtrack (non-diegetic).

Significance: Loggins’ song clearly articulates Danny’s interior thoughts, is his theme song as it is the film’s, and when we are inside the Noonan house we discover Danny listening to it but that it is compressed, squeezed. This stylized sequence can be cited to support the argument that the impoverished sound reflects his situation during this summer between high school and college and the prospect that he might end up "working in a lumberyard all his life." Not until he gets free of the tinny sound and the crowded house, and enters the lush sound away from the house and on his own, with his desires (indicated by the point of view shot/reaction shot of him bicycling past the mansions on the "right side of the tracks") will he be free.



 stage.jpg (37369 bytes)Stagecoach (Ford 1939)  

Description: With Bert Glennon’s camera providing a close-up of Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt) praying for deliverance from the attacking Apaches underneath the soundtrack (Carbonara, Gruenberg, Hageman, Harling, Leipold, Shuken) we hear a non-diegetic bugle playing. To our surprize, Lucy Mallory hears it and asks herself (and the others): "Do you hear it? Do you hear it? It’s the bugle! They’re blowing the charge!" We then discover the transition from non-diegetic to diegetic as the Cavalry enters the scene, bugle and all, to rescue the day. Significance: The audience has already received audio clues with the embedding of Stephen Foster’s "I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" (uncredited) combined with close-ups of Lucy Mallory and her "secret illness" which is later revealed as pregnancy (Dallas [Claire Trevor]: "It’s a little girl!"). Mrs. Mallory’s praying is doubly rewarded here--a) An (off-camera) apache gunshot kills Hatfield (John Carradine) before he can "mercy kill" her in order to prevent a worst fate (!) at the hands of the Apaches (an interesting irony in that she is saved by the "savages" from the southern gentleman gambler), and b) the Cavalry shows up. Lucy Mallory, previously depicted as a snob, now emerges as a pure soul and good woman who eventually even overcomes her prejudice regarding Dallas, the "Whore with a Heart of Gold".

faux raccord-literally a "false echo." When a diegetic sound from the upcoming scene "bleeds" into or echoes forward into the current scene as a seemingly non-diegetic interruption.

Examples of stylized faux raccord

Taxi Driver taxi.gif (37507 bytes)(Scorcese 1976) Click Here for Clip

Description: When gunshots are heard over the slowdancing to "HOLD ME CLOSE" (Music by Bernard Herrmann, Lyrics by Keith Addis) of Sport (Harvey Keitel) and Iris (Jody Foster), then cut to Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) shooting at a paper-human target at the firing range.

Significance: Travis desires to separate the young prostitute from her pimp and foreshadows his doing so through handgun violence, despite the apparent happiness and affection between the couple. This stylized sequence can be cited to support the argument that Iris is content, cared for, and does not wish to be "rescued" by Travis, thus undercutting his "heroism" and sympathetic persona.

Blade Runnerbladelil.jpg (39823 bytes) (Scott 1983) Click Here for Clip



Description: Acoustic piano notes, which seem a part of the non-diegetic soundtrack of Vangelis, are heard over the end of the "homecoming" scene between J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) and Pris (Daryl Hanna): "Can I take those things for you? They’re soaked, aren’t they?" However, with the cut to a slow right to left pan of the search-lighted city exterior and seamless entrance into Deckard’s apartment is complete, we tilt down past the family photographs on the piano (as the synthesized Vangelis soundtrack orchestrates those notes) to discover we have been hearing the diegetic piano playing of Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Liberty and Justice for All: The History of the Bill o

the "vertigo" shot any shot achieved by a simultaneous combination of tracking (either in or out) and zooming (either in or out).  Alfred Hitchcock is the first director in concert with Director of Photography 

General Significance A

Examples of stylized vertigo shots

f Rights (pages 47-50)

Click here for Hitchcock's "Vertigo shot"

 Click here for Indochine's "Vertigo shot"





 Click here for the The Young & The Restless "Vertigo Shot"



  Click here for Maltese Falcon tilt down


Click here for Maltese Falcon "arrow shadow"



Click here for Psycho Shower Scene Psycho5.jpg (49693 bytes)

Future entries:

Mildred Pierce Citizen Kane

slow motion

Caddyshack Taxi Driver

spatial relationships

Citizen Kane Stagecoach Mildred Pierce


tilt up