According to a dictionary, "live action" means:

(in filmmaking) action involving real people or animals, as contrasted with animation or computer-generated effects.

It does not mean "live". Live action can be prerecorded as well as live.

Is there a better term for live action? I would like one that doesn't lead to the confusion with the definition of "live".

3 Answers 3


No, there is no BETTER term. But if you really require a DIFFERENT word (for undisclosed reasons), you could perhaps re-define the term "Cinéma vérité". If we had some clue about the motivation for needing a different term, we may have a better idea how to respond.

  • The clue is that the term "live action" sucks when talking with people who are unfamiliar with it, they automatically assume it means "live". Can you suggest an edit to my question that would make this clearer?
    – Flimm
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:35
  • If people don't understand that "live action" doesn't mean "live broadcast", then why do we think they will understand some other more obscure term that almost nobody knows? Is it not possible to reply "no, it doesn't mean live broadcast"? What about "Real Action" or "non-animated"? Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:40
  • "Real Action" and "non-animated" are good suggestions, thanks! I'm not expecting lay people to know all the terminology, I'm just looking for an alternative that I can use with fewer disclaimers and explanations among lay people.
    – Flimm
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:43

You don't need another term. Live Action is the accepted term for differentiation between, well, live action film and other kinds of movies, such as animation/3D films. It's also used consistently for this purpose, e.g. the Oscars use it in their category names:

Short Film (Animated)
Short Film (Live Action)

Conversely, I have never seen this term used to indicate a live stream, so nobody will get confused.

There are other terms for feature-length such as feature film or motion picture, however those are rather used to differentiate between feature lenght movies and short films and can also be used for animated films.

If you have a feature-length film, you could amalgamate the terms to something like live action feature film or live action motion picture, but I really wouldn't recommend that.

  • This doesn't answer the question. Please take it as a given that I need an alternative term. I need to be able to talk to about live action to lay people, and I know from experience that it is confusing, this answer is 100% useless to me I'm afraid.
    – Flimm
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 14:59
  • Well you can't always get what you want .. there is no other term. At least none that is commonly used. Even if somebody on english.SE can find an obscure word for you, people wouldn't understand it any better. Why is this so important in the first place? Just describe what you mean if you must. Take it or leave it ...
    – MoritzLost
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:43
  • I don't think it's very important, it would just be nice if there was a term that worked well both in professional contexts and among lay people. It would be make my life just a tiny little bit of a speck better.
    – Flimm
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 19:51

The only other candidate that comes to mind is photographic, as used in the same sense as in Principal Photography. And photography does literally mean the capture of light.

Only hitch is that photography in lay use is firmly associated with the capture of still images.

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