The 180° Rule

Since film takes place on a two-dimensional plane it is important to maintain screen direction so the audience remains properly oriented in terms of movement and eyelines. This is accomplished by following the 180º Rule. The rule states that all action must take place within an imaginary 180º degree arc. Anything on the other side of that arc is considered “crossing the line” and will disorient the viewer. If you have coverage that takes place on both sides of the action line, it is important to place a neutral shot (one where scene direction isn’t obvious) between a shot on one side of the line and a shot on the other side. Figure 1.1 illustrates this concept.

film eyelines

A corollary of the 180° rule resides in the need to maintain eyelines. Few cuts are more disorienting than those where two characters converse face to face and, rather than looking at each other, appear to stare past the other. Generally, if Character A is on the left side of frame and looking right, then Character B should be on the right side of the frame looking the left. When eyelines don’t match, the editor can sometimes alleviate the problem by repositioning the frame or, in a few extreme cases, flopping the shot.Football Entrance Tunnels

Excerpted from The Healthy Edit by John Rosenberg © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved

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