Industry Terms - Film Terms

Many of you would have heard the terms slide and slide film. Some may have heard the terms transparency or reversal. But what do these terms stand for, and what's their correct usage?


Back in the days when film was king most people shot negative film (e.g. Kodak Gold 100 film or Fuji Reala 400 film) to record the original image. The original negative image was then converted to a positive during the printing process. So the print that you looked at wasn't really the original, but a reproduction from the original negative film image.

It's a little like when you'd buy a record (vinyl). The only way you could play it in your car was to copy it onto a cassette tape. The trouble was that this process of reproduction resulted in a loss of quality from one generation (e.g. vinyl) to the next (e.g. cassette tape). Interestingly, although most folks don't know this, a loss of quality also occurs when a negative is reproduced as a print. In the audio example the loss occurs in the bass and treble. Similarly, when a negative is printed, shadow and highlight detail is likely to be lost in the resulting print, particularly when the original image was shot under relatively high contrast conditions.

The word Transparency can be used to describe a roll of film designed to record and process the original scene into a positive film image. The word transparency was also widely used to describe a single, unmounted positive film image. The term Trannie is actually a slang word for transparency, for which the correct abbreviation is trans.

Glenn Guy