Movie Terminology Glossary: M

Macguffin

AKA: Weenie
A term used by Alfred Hitchcock to refer to an item, event, or piece of knowledge that the characters in a film consider extremely important, but which the audience either doesn't know of or doesn't care about. Examples: the engine plans in The 39 Steps, the statue with the microfilms in North by Northwest, and the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

Magic hour

The minutes just around sunset and sunrise, where light levels change drastically and quickly, lending a warm orange glow to earlier shots, and a clearer blue in later minutes that allows a crew to shoot night scenes while light still remains.

Magnetic Soundtrack

AKA: Magnetic Print
A composite print in which the soundtrack is recorded on the attached strip of magnetic tape. Largely obsolete due to high cost and maintenance difficulties.

Maintenance Engineer

A person responsible for general maintenance and repair.

Majors

The major Hollywood movie producer/distributor studios (MGM/UA, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Universal, and Disney).

Makeup

AKA: Make up, Make-up, Makeup Artist, Makeup Supervisor
The decorations placed directly on the skin or hair of an actor for cosmetic or artistic effect. Practitioners are called artists or supervisors. See also body makeup, special makeup effects, prosthetic appliances.

Martial-Arts

AKA: Martial Arts, Chop-Socky, Chopsocky
A film which features hand to hand combat, usually using various Asian combat systems like Karate and the Chinese fighting styles popularly known in the west as Kung Fu. "Chop-socky" is a slang and scornful term for martial-arts movies.

On the web: List of Martial Arts titles at the IMDb.


Martini Shot

The last shot of the day's shoot... because the next "shot" is in a Martini glass. See also Abby Singer.

Matte Artist

AKA: Mattematician
A person who creates artwork (usually for the background of a shot) which is included in the movie either via a matte shot or optical printing.

Matte Shot

A photographic technique whereby artwork - usually on glass - from a matte artist is combined with live action. Contrast this with back projection or a travelling matte.

Method Acting

A style of acting formalized by Konstantin Stanislavsky which is believed by some to create more realistic performances. Essentially, the theory requires actors to draw experiences from their own personal lives that correlate to the character they are playing - an extremely demanding process emotionally. In some cases, "method" actors take the theory even further by arranging events in their private lives to resemble the lives of their characters. See the trivia entries for Down and Out in Beverly Hills and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for examples, and the trivia entry for Marathon Man for an amusing anecdote.

Medium shot

A camera shot from a medium distance, usually showing the characters from the waist up, that allows the audience to see body language, but not as much facial expression.

Microphone

AKA: Mike, Mic
A device which converts sound into electrical impulses, usually for recording or amplification.

Mini-Majors

AKA: Mini Majors
Studios which are large but not as large as the majors: Embassy, Gramercy, etc.

Mini-Series

AKA: Miniseries
A television series with a set number of episodes which tell a complete story, usually filmed at the same time. Contrast with serial.

Mise-en-scene

Literally translated as "what's put into the scene", this is the sum total of all factors affecting the artistic "look" or "feel" of a shot or scene. These can include shot selection, shot composition, production design and set decoration, as well as technical camera properties such as shutter speed, aperture, frame rate, and depth of field. Mise-en-scene is often contrasted with montage, where the artistic "look" of a scene is constructed through visual editing.

Modeler

A person who develops any three-dimensional object (either inanimate or animate) via specialized software in 3D computer graphics.

Montage

An artistic device for creating the artistic "look" or "feel" of a scene, through the use of visual editing. Often contrasted with mise-en-scene.

MOS

AKA: Mit Out Sound, Minus Optical Stripe, Motor Only Sync,
A take that is filmed without recording sound at the same time. MOS stands for "mit out sound"--it is purported that director Erich Von Stroheim couldn't pronounce "without sound" correctly due to his accent.

Motion Artifact

AKA: Strobing, Nyquist Limit
The visual interference patterns between a shot's frame rate and a filmed object's periodic motion or change. If a shot is filmed with a frame rate R, any images of periodic events of a frequency greater than R/2 (the "Nyquist Limit") will be misrepresented on film. A commonly-occuring example of this artifact is the illusion of spoked wheels appearing to turn in the wrong direction or at the wrong rate. Incorrect frame rates and synchronization can also cause strobing during shots of projected movies or of television screens. See also artifact, judder.

Motion Blur

Shots of objects that quickly move in the camera's frame, and/or shots with a slow shutter speed are likely to produce a "smearing" effect, since the object is in a range of positions during a single exposure.

Motion Capture

An animation technique in which the actions of an animated object are derived automatically from the motion of a real-world actor or object. See also rotoscoping.

Motion Control

A camera setup which records the motion of a camera during a shot so that visual effects can be easily synchronized with the photographed scene.

Motion Picture

AKA: Movie, Film, Flick, Picture

Motion Picture Association

AKA: Motion Picture Export Association of America, MPA, MPEAA
The Motion Picture Association of America and its international counterpart, the Motion Picture Association serve as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries, domestically through the MPAA and internationally through the MPA. Before 1994, the MPA was known as the Motion Picture Export Association of America.

On the web: IMDb and the MPAA, Official Home Page


Motion Picture Association of America

AKA: MPAA
The Motion Picture Association of America and its international counterpart, the Motion Picture Association serve as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries, domestically through the MPAA and internationally through the MPA. Through the Classifications and Ratings Administration (CARA), the MPAA issues certificates.

On the web: Official Home Page


Motion Picture Editors Guild

A professional union for picture and sound editors, which now also includes re-recording mixers, projectionists, recordists, mic boom operators, engineers, and story analysts.

On the web: Official Home Page


Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America

AKA: MPPDA

Motion Picture Sound Editors

AKA: MPSE

Motion Picture Stills Photographers Association

AKA: MPSPA

Movematch

AKA: Matchmove, Matchmoving, Camera Tracking
The use of computer programs to combine and synthesize real footage with CGI effects. The person that makes the integration possible between CG with live action footage is called "Matchmove artist", "Matchmover", "Integration artist" or "Camera tracking artist".

Music Arranger

Someone who adapts a musical composition for voices, instruments, and/or performance styles other than those for which the music was originally written.

Music Editor

A person who, in collaboration with the music supervisor and composer, performs editing on the score, live vocals, songs and source music of a movie.

Music Preparation

Person who prepares printed parts from the composer's score for the musicians to play from at the score recording sessions.

Music Supervisor

AKA: Musical Director, Musical Direction, Music Director, Music Direction
A person who coordinates the work of the composer, the editor, and sound mixers. Alternately, a person who researches, obtains rights to, and supplies songs for a production.

Musical

A movie whose dramatic story structure includes unrealistic episodes of musical perfomance and/or dancing.

On the web: List of musicals at the IMDb.