Cinematography : 180 Degree Rule by Paris Holmes

Paris Holmes

180 Degree Rule

This has been under my skin since I learned about the 180 Degree rule. People say the only time it's okay to break the 180 Rule is when a conversation is being held in the car. But the 180 degree line is not broken. The line moves and the camera position becomes lined up as if it was lined up for a over the shoulder shot. You have two guys in a car and they heads are facing each other. Just because the camera flops from side to side, that doesn't mean the 180 degree rule is broken, the line just sits in front of the actors and the cinematographer is still technically on one side of the axis.

Paris Holmes

In a normal over the shoulder shot conversation, you have to stay on one side of the line right? So in a car, although you are flopping over each side of the car, you are not breaking the rule or line because you're staying one side of the line. Let's use this as an example, two guys sit in the car and has a conversation. We have a long 12 ft pole that we put it through the car so it's between the back of their heads and the head rest of the car… There is your 180 degree line. People make a mistake and think that the line goes the long way or goes between the two people when it doesn't…. And you don't have to follow the 180 degree rule anyway but my thing is, you are following the rule if you shoot a car conversation in such way you would shoot a over the shoulder shot conversation. Keep it coming though D Marcus

Paris Holmes

true true

Paris Holmes

Explain to me a way you can shoot a car scene where you break the rule.

Paris Holmes

Because you can shoot form the drivers side POV and see the passenger looking to the left and then shoot from outside the passenger side and see the passenger and driver looking right, but it wouldn't be bad because they are looking ahead but I like you man because you reply back and give your input, you're dope dope meaning AWESOME

Andrew Sobkovich

I agree, the 180˚ rule is not broken in a conversation in a car shot as you described. The line is between the 2 people having the conversation. The problem is that people confuse the line that is the direction of travel of the car that is used if you are doing exteriors of the car, so that movement is in a consistent screen direction. Stems from a lack of comprehension or poor instruction regarding the 180˚ rule. There are far too many “film schools” teaching some really questionable stuff. Breaking the 180˚ line in a car discussion is easy. the sequence for cars with the driver on the left side of the car… 2 shot over the drivers shoulder with the passenger (looking L to R) framed between the driver and the steering wheel. 2 shot reverse of the driver (looking R to L) over the passengers shoulder CU passenger (looking L to R) CU driver (looking R to L) 2 shot from the back seat looking forward in the direction the car is traveling. The 2 shot from the back seat breaks the 180˚ rule. Surprisingly common request.

Paris Holmes

wait lol if the line is between the two people then the rule is being broken hahaha.

Paris Holmes

a 2 shot from the back seat showing the back of their heads and a 2 shot from the camera being positioned in front of the car showing their faces is definitely a way to break the rule but it still works. But i'm sure you're on the right track but I got a little confused with all the shots haha, maybe because i can't really see it but yea man this been under my skin for a long time and I didn't want to correct the professor. I'm out of college now so I can haha

Holly Johnson

From a professor's standpoint, breaking the 180 Rule is disconcerting for the audience, especially if it is at the beginning of a film, or if the characters look similar. However, I do agree with you that sometimes it's okay to do so. If you're showing a break in reality, a defining moment of change for a character, or extreme strife between characters, flipping to the other side of the 180 can work to your benefit. I've done it before, but on very rare occasions. I think it is a matter of trusting your gut, and filming in a way you think is necessary for the audience to understand the work. This is a great topic for discussion, and I hope more people will post their opinions on the matter.

Andrew Sobkovich

Asking is always good. It helps to understand a persons point of view and, hopefully, why they hold it. The professor may have been talking about something else and misspoke, or you may have mis-heard. Not the end of the world either way, just a missed opportunity to see the world in a slightly different way. Which brings up something else... "I can't really see it". One of the most crucial skills that a DP needs is the be able to "see it". You have to be able to visualize shots, sequences and the scenes as they will be cut together into the final picture. This visualization is where you decide on things like; lens choices, camera support and lighting to name a few. Without accurate visualization, you are staring at an on set monitor while the crew pushes gear around until you see something you like. Better to know exactly what you want, set up only that, and spend a few moments gilding the lily you have created. It is faster and better and much more creatively satisfying. To get back to the car shot, you do shoot the shot from the rear seat as asked, that crosses the line, but then you make sure there is something the editor can cut to in order to make the scene work, i.e. an exterior driving shot or a CU of some coffee spilling. A cutaway would allow you to come back to the shot from the rear seat, which after the coffee spilled would be the car plunging headlong into a parade of zombie marshmallow people recreating West Side Story :-) The response to being asked for something that "breaks the rules" should always be "how are you going to use this shot?" That opens up a conversation and possible learning opportunity for everyone. It is always worth trying something new, but make sure to also shoot some "safety" shots just in case the new idea doesn't work. Do not be hurried into not shooting the "safety" shots as that can come back to bite you. We learn by trying new things, but you as a pro, always have at least a "Plan B".

Paris Holmes

No he definitely was not talking about something else and I did not mishear lol I posted a photo of a car scene shot, check it out. But I'm not talking about shooting from the rear. I'm talking about people who think shooting from outside the passenger side and driver's side is breaking the rule. You would have to look at the photo I posted to see what I'm talking about.

Paris Holmes

When i said I can't see it, it's because the way you described your shots. you said 2 shot, 2 shot what? there's 2 shot where you see the both the actor's face, there's 2 shot when you see the back of their heads, I just didn't get the terminology because mines is a bit different and this is the reason I direct and shoot my own film. But you're right that you need to visualize things which I believe I do well but some people mix up CU, MCU, and ECU but overall, you're basically right. That's one skill you must possess as a DP

Paris Holmes

It would still be easy to me because I know whoever the person is talking to is the one he or she has to be facing as in eye level. I had a film scene with four people and it still matched up well. However, the cutting was too fast paced for a scene that was not that intense. And sorry to sound like I know it all because I don't but I did experience doing this already.

Paris Holmes

Connect with me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/parisholmesisindie87

James Stewart

I broke the 180 degree rule once. I'm so ashamed! www.winecountryfilms.com

Simon © Simon

I know it as 'Breaking the plane'. Have not heard it as 180 rule. Hence, me stopping to read. The camera is the viewers standpoint. It is dis-discombobulating to go from one view point and then the cut back, the viewer has moved. IGE: From the left shoulder now to the right. However a two shot from a 90 is OK, oddly enough.

Royce Allen Dudley

People break the 180 all the time in modern cinema. You must do it intentionally. You might shoot inside ( chests open to camera ) OTS coverage at a table as people eat and speak, seated 90 degrees to each other. Then you cut away to a bartender watching them from afar... then cut back to their OTS dirty closeups but this time you are outside with yuour OTS ( backs to camera ) as a more dramatic feel... and then some action, like the waitress's arrival, brings you right back to the inside OTS angles again. The key is EYELEINES, not 180. If an actor looks off lefgt and then you cut to the other addressing him, that actors eyes must be off right IN THE ADJACENT CUT. If you cut away to anything else even an insert of the tabeltop, it's fair to now change the line. the 180 rule applies within the intentional cutting of the scene ( and an editor can goof it up even if you shot it all right )

Andrew Sobkovich

Breaking the 180˚rule is not new, but that does not mean it works. I find that most of the people who ask to break the 180˚ rule do not fully understand it and change their mind when it is questioned regarding a specific situation. It is a “rule” because it helps the unique art form of editing motion pictures to tell the story in a visually comprehensible manner. Do you really want the audience wondering who is talking to whom in a multi-person discussion, i.e. a “Downton Abbey” dining table discussion. The line will be changing throughout such a scene and yet done properly the scene flows without any confusion. The line is part of the visual literacy of the medium. Get it wrong in that situation and it is akin to a script not including any information about the people taking part in a discussion. “hello” “that the heck is that?” “yellow” “what should I do with this” “what does RB say?” “six ” How many people are there, where, how many conversations, how many are talking, to whom, about what, and with what reaction? That is what breaking the 180˚ rule is the visual equivalent of to an edited sequence. If you are going to do it, do so deliberately, for some good reason and be able to cogently explain that reason when you are asked. And you will be asked.

Paris Holmes

My thing is when I shoot a scene, outside of a passenger's window and the driver's window. People say "Oh, you are breaking the 180 degree rule" Even though I know sometimes you can break the rule in some situations and it will work, but the point is, when I'm shooting that scene outside of the windows looking in, I am not breaking the rule. If I'm filming from the passenger side looking in and both of the actors are looking right, the looking direction will change to left if I go over to the driver's side...But, people will say that I am breaking the rule but it's working when I'm not breaking the rule because, if the actors are looking at each other instead of looking ahead, it will just be a normal over the shoulder type of shot.

Kyle I. Kelley

You're right. Breaking the 180 rule in a car scene usually occurs when you shoot from the back seat after shooting profiles from outside the window. That said, the 180 rule is broken all the time. As long as you either A. have a reason for doing so, or B. can do so without distracting the viewer, go for it.

Andrew Sobkovich

Guesses as to why the 180˚ was broken? Why was the rule then stopped being broken part way through the scene and followed for the rest of the scene?

Jonathan S. Abrams, Soc

I have broken the 180* rule only when the shot looked better from the other side, but you don't quite notice the difference and the actors were moving to a different area of a room. As the actors cross frame, it may have been un-noticeable at to who was where when the switch occurred, but it made for a better shot. Not saying it was right, but it looked a lot better.

Andrew Sobkovich

The more people you have in a scene the more necessary it is to absolutely stick to the rule. Certainly with one person or even two in a scene you can get away with breaking the rule without it getting overly confusing. With 3 or more people and who is speaking to whom becomes more and more an issue. While there may be some situational justifications, there is really no overarching reason to break the 180˚ rule that I know of. Usually, planning and blocking preclude crossing the line because you know the action and all of the shots and angles in a scene. As long as the sequence isn't confusing, all is well.

Marcus Langford

Can someone tell me what the 180° rule actually is please

Kyle I. Kelley

The 180 degree "rule" is a guideline by which to orient the audience during a scene. The camera stays on one side of a circle in order to keep perspective the same between shots. Here's a good visual representation: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/180_degree_rule...

Franz von Toskana

Actually Crossing the Line is a director's rule... The camera is put where the director wants it. The cinematographer lights and doesn't even go near the camera except for the odd check through the viewfinder. Whatever happened to basic training here?

Kyle I. Kelley

The cinematographer doesn't go near the camera? Sean Bobbitt and Roger Deakins (among many) would beg to differ.

Franz von Toskana

Well my mentor was Jack Cardiff and the person operating the camera is amazingly called the Operator. The DP lights and Seamus McGarvey would agree with me. I did say they may look through the viewfinder occasionally but the director decides the camera position. What else do the think the director does except decide on actor and camera position?

Kyle I. Kelley

I'm not sure why you're taking such an aggressive tone, but the argument that a DP only occasionally looks through the viewfinder is simply not true in today's world. Most notably on Indie sets, the DP and operator are often the same person, and as I mentioned, some of today's most prominent cinematographers also operate. To say that the Director only decides the position of the actors and the camera is incredibly reductive as well. There are some directors who focus solely on performance and would prefer to let the DP determine nearly everything visual. I'm not saying that what you say is never the case, but it's certainly not the rule. And to get back to the initial point of the thread, it is a cinematographer's job to point out when a director's wishes may not serve the story in the best way possible. Certainly a DP should never subvert a director, but it's his or her job to remind the director of things such as the 180 rule. Perhaps the director is breaking the rule on purpose, but if not, he or she will appreciate the input!

Andrew Sobkovich

The basics are important, I wish "film schools" would at least teach those based on actual work experience. Ultimately the camera goes where the director wishes it to go. The DP’s job in responding to what may be a questionable request, is to try to understand why something is being requested and to explain why there is some question about that request. The rule is part of our motion picture visual literacy.. We are human, we make mistakes, intelligence allows some of us to change initial opinions. A director that rigidly demands that everything they wish is always correct, is eventually treated to just that. They get exactly and only what they ask for. Not usually a method to achieve the best results. The ensuing hilarity in post is predictable. Traditionally in the UK the “Lighting Cameraman” works as Franz described. However, that methodology is not used everywhere in the world nor even always in the UK. There are a huge number of ways of structuring who does what, when and how often, but as long as everyone is seeking the best results on the screen, who cares? The way we work varies from project to project and person to person. This is why it is important that a position’s description and responsibilities be defined before the start of production. Just because we’ve learned one method to achieve an end, does not mean that is the only way. That includes my way, which I know is absolutely correct except when I’m wrong which my wife assures me is always.

Kyle I. Kelley

I agree with this completely.

Mike Stanford

what if the passenger in the back?

Andrew Sobkovich

If there are 2 people involved in a conversation the line of action goes through the two of them and extends on both sides. Simple. Stay on one side or the other and you will have no continuity issues with screen direction. Doesn’t matter where the people talking are. This is the essential basic concept of “the 180˚rule”.

Simon © Simon

This breaks the 180 rule you are mentioning. Does this disturb or is it when you do it, is when it matters. In other words rules are made to be broken. http://www.stage32.com/media/841765274444115423 Link should be Mirtoon, is the one selected. The 180 Fopah is towards the end if 50 seconds is to long...

Casey S Oberhansli

The 180 rule is like pirate rules, "more like guidelines". If you can cross it and nobody goes, "Where are we now?" Then it is all good in my opinion

Royce Allen Dudley

The 180 rule most strictly applies to eye-lines of characters and screen direction of movement. Break it, and disturbing the flow of either of those can confuse an audience of elderly people like me ;)

Andrew Sobkovich

Many utterances about breaking the 180˚ rule. Is there of a universally applicable rule that works as a guideline for when to break the 180˚ rule. There are examples that show that it was broken but not that it was better to break the rule. There was mention of breaking the rule for a reason that could have been avoided with better planning. There are examples of the rule being broken by some big $$$$ directors. Seems that lots of “film schools” are repeating this. I have a couple of questions… -Is there a situation when following the180˚ rule doesn’t work? -If you wish to break the 180˚ rule, what guideline is broadly applicable as to when and how to break the 180˚ rule so that we might learn and adopt?

Andrew Sobkovich

Academic theory of geometric symmetry? The 180˚ rule is about facility and fluency within the language of film. The "Leon" scene is a very good example. Only 2 characters and minimal movement. Great acting and writing. A wonderful scene. Breaking the line didn't lead to confusion but to a question. The question in that scene is a film-making one. As they cross the line and then cross it again (or uncross) part way through, which time was the error? Or was the error planned and if so, for what reason? If it was not planned was it based upon as it an error based in something left on the cutting room floor or a great performance that begged to be used?

Royce Allen Dudley

See also, GRAMMAR OF THE FILM LANGUAGE by Daniel Arijon.

Amit Kumar Vashisth

PARIS there are NO RULES .. if u know HOW IT's gonna APPEAR on SCREEN ... no 180, no 2 shot, 3 shot, CU MCU LS ..whatever ... U R THE FIRST MAN BORN WHOSE MAKIN a FILM ... Film making is indeed an audacious task ... u've got be arrogant at times .. with all due respect ... :)

Franz von Toskana

The whole purpose of Film Grammar (like the rules of any language) is to make it all flow so that the audience doesn't "see the join" and to establish and maintain the geography of the set and the characters therein. Crossing the Line is only one of many. A neat way to cross it is to dolly over it. The other rules are: Do not Jump Cut. Creatively done in Seven Samurai. 1,2,3 cuts on shot of the wise man's house. Always cut on action. Again a great one in that film when one man walks away from the group in long shot and then falls to his knees in close up. Note he drops his head BEFORE the cut. Rock it back and forth on an editing machine to see how it was done. A great film for study. Break the rules to deliberately confuse the audience. Keep them to maintain smooth continuity. In real life our vision does not go Cut,Cut,Cut to different scenes, does it? So keep the rules if you want the audience to be totally engrossed and not disturbed. Any editor will tell you to maintain continuity. The number of times one gets footage on the Avid which just will not cut together!!! Editors have been known to flip the image to get it right, so make sure there isn't a clock or signage in the background. This is why gaffs on IMDb report wrist watches changing sides etc because the editor has had to flip the footage. Hugh Grant's single earring (when he was trying to be trendy) suddenly changes sides in Notting Hill!

Franz von Toskana

PS Also Maintain a Sense of Direction. Another rule to discuss! See the early films made in Brighton 1895-1905 period! Classic establishment of the basic rules.

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