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Pick A Side - The 180 Rule

Whether you are just beginning your journey into the world of film and cinematography, whether it be in film school or on your own, you’re probably aware that there are many rules within filmmaking techniques when it comes to the art of filmmaking and creative video. A wise filmmaker will follow all of these rules that have been put into place by generations of great directors, cinematographers, DP’s etc…, as well as understand why they lead to a better looking product. Unless your last name is Lucas, Scorsese or Coppola, you’re probably not someone who can break these rules and get away with it. Now let’s take a look at one of these rules, specifically, the 180 rule.

One Side Fits All

The 180 rule is very important to understand, as it’s not something you can fix in post, and oftentimes, if you don’t realize you’re breaking it on-set, it’s already too late to fix without reshooting. This rule helps the audience with perspective, and creates an understanding of where people, places and things are in a room or setting. Without this rule, an audience will be very disoriented, and the spatial relationship of the actors being filmed will not translate well to the viewer.

To follow this guideline, the filmmaker should begin by drawing an imaginary line through the room, and then picking the side of that straight line that they want to keep their camera on. This 180-degree line is mostly put in place for shot-reverse-shot dialogue, which comprises of an over-the-shoulder shot of two or more actors, often utilizing close-up shots, however is applicable in many other scenarios as well. It also ensures that the two actors speaking to one another have the same left and right relationship, so the viewer can decipher which actor is standing on which side. If one actor is on the right side of the screen looking left in the wide shot, and in the reverse cut they suddenly seem to be facing the opposite screen direction, it will cause disorientation in the audience.

A Line Has Been Drawn

Once the imaginary line has been drawn across the room by the filmmaker, the cameras should not cross that side of the line. This keeps everything in the room from seemingly switching sides when the video is cut together, and thus will allow the viewers to focus on the content rather than trying to figure out where people are standing in a space, and who the actors are speaking to. Crossing the line during a cutaway during a dialogue scene, especially if switching from a wide or medium shot to a close up can be disorienting for the audience, making the direction of a character’s eyeline feel as though they are suddenly looking at the opposite side of the character they were having a conversation with, based on the camera angles and camera position of the original establishing shot.

180 On The Go

What if you aren’t filming in a room? What if the video takes place outside, and you are following your subject with a camera? What if that subject is walking around different locations? These are all scenarios that a video creator may, and probably will be faced with. However, the rule doesn’t get more difficult to understand just because the video has gone mobile. Just make sure to abide by the same orientation rules as previously mentioned when setting up your shots, as well as making sure your camera stays on one side of the talent the entire time. If it helps, imagine the line is drawn through the person you are following with the camera, and as they move, the line follows them, but maintains its orientation.

Rules Are Made To Be Broken - Except For This One

Previously in this blog, it was mentioned that this 180 rule should never be broken, which is true. However, instances may occur to you where the 180 rule must be broken in order to capture certain shots which can be vital to videos that involve creative storytelling, and need to portray a certain feeling or to infer something is happening in a story. These are definitely occasions where the 180 rule is broken, and can be acceptable, as long as the rule is knowingly being broken as an artistic choice with the intention of getting a message across. This is often accomplished through uses of camera movement or a number of rapid camera shots, with or without specific camera moves, that convey the changing orientation of the camera and the line of action, without breaking down the continuity of the scene or making it feel like a slew of jump cuts. One quick example is a POV shot where someone is being spun in a room, and the camera is spinning around to portray this person’s point of view that they are moving 360 degrees as opposed to 180. Cameras can also be spun in a similar manner to create an effect to transition to another scene. Often, the spinning transition effect that creates a blur, making it easier to cut, is seen in creative storytelling videos on many social media video websites.

We Get It So You Don’t Have To

If all of these rules turn you off to the idea of creating your own videos, and you would rather have a professional deal with the intricacies of proper storytelling and video production, you have come to the right place! Luckily, here at 7 Wonders, we have not only learned, but mastered these techniques. We can help you perfect the vision in your mind, and save you the inconvenience of having to learn all there is to know about film in order to creatively and effectively tell your story.

7 Wonders is comprised of many producers, directors, editors and film nerds who have a passion for creating top-notch video. If you are seeking a video feel free to reach out, and we can deliver the video you are dreaming of.


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