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Top 10 Funniest Production Terms
Being on a film set or part of a video production crew is like being in a football huddle. It sounds like they are reciting inside jokes and spitting out plays from a playbook with all those weird production terms, especially when the crew consists of grips, gaffers, and lighting DPs. We’ve assembled our top ten favorite video production terms to celebrate the video crew’s vernacular.
TEN: MOS. This film/ video production abbreviation means several different things depending on its context. Legend has it that a German director on an American film set called out to the crew “without sound” but because of his thick accent it sounded like “mitout sound”. MOS onset is now the acronym for a great many terms all of which mean record picture and no sound: mute on sound, motor only shot, motor only sync, mic off stage and so on. When video producers ask for MOS footage they are referring to “man on street”, conducting interviews with a random selection of people in a crowded place. To make things even more confusing UK or Australian producers say “vox pop” which is derived from the Latin term “vox populi” or “voice of the people” instead of MOS.
NINE: Director in a box. Crews Control Production Manager Cricket Capucci said “My favorite production term is being asked for a director in a box.” No, you will not receive your video director in your next FedEx shipment. Director in a box is a term used to allow the interviewer to be seen by the interviewee in front of the camera lens with something like an EyeDirect from VFGadgets. This gives the interviewee a convincing eye line right into the camera lens.
You can also achieve the same effect with teleprompter in front of the interviewee’s camera and an additional camera pointed at the interviewer whose feed is sent to the teleprompter monitor.
Eight: Duckbill Clamp. What do ducks get after they eat? A bill. Just a little duck humor for you budding ornithologists. No really, a duckbill clamp is what electricians use to ground electricity among many other applications. In the film world a duckbill clamp (sometimes called platypus clamp) holds and positions foam core, reflectors, or bead board. Mathews calls their duckbill clamp the Quacker Clamp.
Seven: Beefy Baby. This light stand has steel construction and a 5/8” pin, so, of course it makes total sense to name it Beefy Baby.
Six: C-47. The story as it was relayed to me by a DP and told to him goes something like this. A cameraman billed a major network in the 70’s for clothes pins. That network said “you can’t bill us for clothes pins” to which the cameraman replied “…but I used them on your shoot.” Hence the name change from clothing pins to C-47s. By the way a proper C-47 is wooden not plastic, thank you.
Five: Spike that spot. “Can we get a gaffer tape X to spike that spot so that the talent knows where to stand, please?” A grip will spike a spot so the talent can hit their mark.
Four: Stingers. A stinger according to Webster’s is a sharp organ connected to a poisonous gland, sharp remark, or a cocktail with brandy and white crème de menthe. For grips, gaffers or lighting DPs it is an electric cord. BZZZT.
Three: Pigeon Plate on a Pancake. “I love the term Pigeon Plate on a Pancake. It sounds like it should be on a menu not in a grip kit” said Crews Control VP of Production Valerie Nolan. I would go further to say it sounds like it should be on a diner menu at a truck stop in the south. A pigeon plate also called a baby nail on, baby plate, or 750 pigeon is a low stand used for a light on the floor, Apple Box, or on top of a bookshelf. The pancake part of this equipment request is a piece of wood that the plate attached to.
Two: “Woof.” Stop!
ONE: Baby lights. Babies are 1K or larger and often a petite version of lights with equal luminance. Crews Control Production Manager Becky Holzman recalls a funny story. “I know a DP who was shooting an interview in a children’s hospital who shouted across the room, “kill the baby” when they needed the light turned off. After the gasps of horror, he realized that the production phrase might not be commonly known. There was the awkward explanation followed by a personal decision to be ‘more aware’ of his environment before using grip slang.”