It can be said that there are many types of film, e.g. live action, computer animation, cel animation or stop motion.

However, the word "type" does not describe this distinction well, as it is ambiguous, as one might argue that the "type" of film refers instead to its genre, e.g. action, comedy, romance or sci-fi. It can also be interpreted as referring to black and white versus colour, or feature film versus short film, or any number of categorizations.

I have considered the following terms, but found them too generic:

  • category
  • classification
  • format
  • type

What is the appropriate terminology for the phenomenon I am trying to describe? Animation type? Technique? Videography? Visual style?

(This question was asked before on the Movies & TV beta, but it was put on hold for being opinion-based. The word style was suggested to me, but it still maintains a level of ambiguity. I am convinced, however, that a more appropriate terminology exists!)

  • 1
    It appears "process" seems to be used.
    – SrJoven
    Oct 8, 2014 at 14:56
  • @SrJoven: I like your suggestion. Could you post an answer motivating it?
    – Stephan B
    Oct 8, 2014 at 21:26
  • 1
    "Technology" is a possibility. But it's not a given that there's a perfect (and unambiguous) English word for every concept.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 15, 2014 at 20:49
  • @HotLicks: Agreed. I'd settle for the most appropriate term, then.
    – Stephan B
    Oct 16, 2014 at 11:26

3 Answers 3


The film classifications mentioned, i.e. live action, computer animation, cel animation, and stop motion, would be considered animation techniques. Technique borrows from the noun use of the French technique (1810-20, "technology") which itself comes from the Ancient Greek τεχνικός (tekhnikós, "of or pertaining to art, artistic, skilful"), from τέχνη (tékhnē, "art, handicraft"), from τίκτειν (tíktein, "to bring forth, produce").

tech·nique /tɛkˈnik/ [noun] the manner and ability with which one employs the technical skills of a particular art or field of endeavor.


All The Tropes, the wiki for storytelling patterns, calls each of these a medium for purposes of categorizing works that contain examples of each pattern:

  • Live action film
  • Live action TV series
  • Western animated film
  • Western animated TV series
  • Far Eastern animation (anime)

Its media headers don't distinguish CGI from hand-painted cel from digital cel from stop motion because films and series animated with different techniques or processes tend to share more storytelling patterns with one another than with live action. But "medium" might still be understood in a particular context.


Because there doesn't seem to be an "official" word, I looked at filmsite.org wherein animation is defined as:

a form or process of filmmaking in which inanimate, static objects or individual drawings (hand-drawn or CGI) are filmed "frame by frame" or one frame at a time (opposed to being shot "live"), each one differing slightly from the previous frame, to create the illusion of motion in a sequence, as opposed to filming naturally-occurring action or live objects at a regular frame rate. Often used as a synonym for cartoons (or toons for short), although animation includes other media such as claymation, computer animation; see also CGI, claymation, stop-motion, time lapse.

Given this, I would consider form or process to comply with the requested answer, though in my opinion, the description is the category (Is it animation? Is it Live Action? Is it both?) Certainly, someone has an official term for it, but if so, I'd reasonably expect it to exist in a site such as filmsite, considering the terms it does define.

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