Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 8 - The 180° Rule

For today's Through the Opera Glasses, I've got a definition for you from the world of film making.

All conventional films are shot following the 180° Rule.

"180° Rule - This is the rule which states that if two people are filmed in a sequence there is an invisible line between them and the camera should only be positioned anywhere within the 180 degrees on one side of the line. Crossing the line results in a certain particular jump, where it appears that the two people suddenly switched places." - Joel Schlemowitz, Glossary of Film Terms

Diagram illustration from Animatedbuzz

To show you how the 180° Rule works to give the viewers a sense of place where we can watch the events of the story unfold, here are three shots taken from Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education.

Here we have an establishing shot, which places us in a sports field and gives us our 180° line which joins the two boys in the center of the shot.

The next two shots are called shot reverse shot. They place one character in the sight line of the other, while staying on the same side of the invisible line.

This boy appeared in the establishing shot on the right side of the screen. Therefore, in a shot reverse shot sequence, he will remain on the right side of the screen.

In the second shot, the brown-shirted boy is actually in the center of the frame, but in the over-the-shoulder shot that follows, he remains on the right side. If this line is crossed by the filmmaker, it's very disorienting for the audience. The only time this would occur would be in an experimental film, or a film spoofing the 180° Rule on purpose.

Since breaking the line draws attention to the film as a film - which pulls the viewer out of the story - the decision to do this would be a stylistic one.

I'll be exploring more arts-related terminology subjects in future Through the Opera Glasses posts. Let me know if there's anything you've always wondered about, and I'll look into it for you.


Nikki said...

Interesting. You remind me of my film classes until last year!

Shelley Munro said...

Hi Julia - interesting post. I'd never heard that term before.

Story Teller said...

Hey, Nice One!!
You write real well ... Hope to see you tomorrow at Tell a Tale, as it launches...
Be the first one to post your entry and accumulate higher points!

Travis said...

That's a great tip. Anything that pulls the viewer/reader out of the illusion should be avoided.

One particular challenge I have in my writing is the info dump. I feel like I need them sometimes, but I try to make them as unobtrusive as possible so they don't pull the reader away from the real story.

Julia Smith said...

Nikki - I remind myself of my film classes! LOL! They've gotta be good for something...

Shelley - I'm hoping to explore lots of areas within the arts world that will shed more light on how we can enjoy creative works.

Story Teller - Your new blog looks very exciting!

Travis - sometimes reminding the audience that they're watching a film is part of the experience. For example, Baz Lurhmann's red curtains opening 'Moulin Rouge'. But crossing that 180 degree line is very off-putting - I should know. I did it by accident in one of my third year student films!

As for the info dump - that's something every writer works at, no matter who they are or how many books they've published.

Heather said...

"Crossing the line results in a certain particular jump, where it appears that the two people suddenly switched places."

I'll have to watch Freaky Friday again to see If this was done on purpose once characters went freaky.


Mojo said...

What about all those circular trolley sequences that are so popular? (Not that I'm all that big a fan, understand, but they are popular...)

Julia Smith said...

Heather - that would be interesting to find out.

Mojo - because the subject of the shot is in the center of the circular steadicam shot, the viewer still knows where he is in space and time. Also, the next edit goes back to the 180 degree line. If you stray from that line, the edited cuts don't match. The characters are looking in the wrong direction.