180 degree rule
I kind of understand this rule, but can you draw the line (the line you have to stay one side of) anywhere you like? Is it one of those hard and fast rules or just a guideline?
It's your shoot, you can place the camera anywhere you like.
"Crossing the Line" or the 180 degree rule is a fairly "hard and fast" rule that should only be broken if you MEAN TO BREAK IT. In Event Video, weddings to be specific... it almost always should NOT be broken. For instance, it's very distracting to be watching, say the groom say his vows on one camera and then suddenly have the bride start saying hers facing the same direction, shot by a different camera. The two should be FACING EACH OTHER... in effect, looking at each other (one from the left one from the right). Same with interviews etc. I can't "draw" the line in this post, but it should go from your camera position diagonally across the subject. Hard to explain in a post. If you'd like to contact me at email@example.com, I'll give you my phone number and try to explain it better on the phone. Hope I made "some" sense.
The BEST way to imagine why the line matters is a football game. If you have a camera on BOTH sides of the stadium, cutting from one to the other means that a player is running left and then suddenly running right. Keeping the camera on the same side of the field means he'll always be running the same direction.
But outside of a football field, yes, put it wherever you like. You can even move the line at some point as long as you don't make an odd cut to transition from one to the other.
For a wedding it's a good idea to use the main aisle as your line for the processional. That way your bridesmaids are always walking the same direction. Once everyon's up front you can then treat the front of the alter as your line which means it's ok for a camera in the back of the church to cross the aisle at that point.
It's ok to move your line, but plan ahead so that you (and whoever you're working with) KNOW when and where you're moving it to.
It's interesting to note that the best position to get the vows is with a camera positioned behind the officiant's left shoulder. Any time you cut from this shot to a camera placed in the seating area or at the back of the church, you're going to "cross the line".
To minimize the impact of this, be sure that your shots don't otherwise match closely...for example, if the altar camera is on a two person head and shoulders closeup, then the back camera should have a full shot of the bride, groom, and officiant, and maybe the best man and maid of honor too, if they are in close.
I can certainly understand it in football, because there is movement. But in a wedding? In saying vows? Am I missing something here? Is it wrong to get the bride saying her vows from both sides? I get her saying part of her vows from the cam being the best man, and then part from the cam in the back. The first cam can't get the grooms face and reactions. But when I switch to the cam in the back, I can get him also. Not only do my clients like that, I personally see nothing confusing or wrong at all.
What am I missing here? Am I misunderstanding something?
Crossing the line may create confusion in some cases, but more commonly it breaks continuity, it interrupts the flow - in the same way as two scenes with different color castes interrupts the flow - both cause the viewer to be aware of the camera.
When two people are in converstion the line would be the eye line between the two.
Suppose you have a head shot of a groom facing right followed by a head shot of a bride facing right - what's happening? Are they both talking to some third person? Convention dictates that two people having a converstion face in opposite directions on screen. Personally I try to avoid cuts where the bride is on the left of the groom before the cut and on his right after. Perhaps when switching from back to front you are also switching from close-up to wide-shot? As Doug explains this greatly mitigates the interruption.
Equally if a car is travelling from left to right in one scene and then from right to left in the next many of the audience may assume the car turned round and is going back to where it came from.
A big part of getting the "film look" we all strive for is achieved by following the conventions established by filmmakers. The 180 degree rule is a very strong convention. Breaking it carelessly can push you in the wrong direction on the home movie/feature film continuum.
[Peter Ralph] "Perhaps when switching from back to front you are also switching from close-up to wide-shot? As Doug explains this greatly mitigates the interruption. "
absolutely! My shot from behind is always a close up of the couple. The shot from the back of the church is waist up (showing the hands).
The key to breaking the 180 rule effectivly is to allow the audience to know where the camera is located, by having something in the shot that visually explains this (usually a wider shot). If you handle it creatively and well, the 180 rule becomes less of a rule and more of a guideline.
I would amplify what Charlie said, to add that you can use a suitable cutaway shot between the camera changes to cover the transition and re-orient the audience, then the jarring and disorientation that comes from crossing the line is minimized.
In the case of the vows, a wide shot of the altar, or a cutaway to the parents in the front row reacting or the bridesmaid reacting in closeup could work.
Generally, the vows are so short, I see no reason to break from the shot. Usually, I would just roll on the angle that best favors the bride. That's an even bigger rule than crossing the line:
DO NOT MESS UP THE BRIDE'S VOW SHOT!!!;-)
Everything else is secondary to that, in my experience. Even when the groom is talking, most folks want to seee the facial reactions of the bride then too, and usually her side is paying for everything, so that's what we do. If I really wanted the groom to get a good shot too, I would cut away to a CU of the officiant, then the reverse angle of the groom. Then back to your wider cover shot from the audience area for "I now pronounce you...". If you can stand in the aisle and get the 2- or 3-shot in one take, that's safest, IMO, but uncommon.
you can use dissolves to lessen the impact of crossing the line. A nice LOOOOG dissolve with the bride on the right facing left and the bride on the left facing right with pleanty of screen space to super the two images at once can look really nice.
If you are cutting it like dialogue or movie action then worry about the line. If it is soft disolves with a flowing, almost musical feel, then the line is much less important.
To some extent you can draw the line where you want to, but really the "action" dictates the line.
A wedding has at least two distinct lines. At the begining and the end, the line is the main isle. you want all your coverage comming from one side or the other but not both. If they are walking left to right then keep them walking left to right all the way down the isle. If they turn at the front, and walk left to right you need to show that turn on camera.
During the ceremony the line moves to the line between the bride and groom. notice this is about 90 degrees out from the previous line. This means if you are behind the alter on the right side, you also need to be behind the alter on the left side.
The key is never change screen direction unless you SHOW that change or have a neutral shot to go through. (IE one where they are moving directly along the z axis) The other key is to not have them both facing the same direction for the vows. If he gives his left to right and she gives hers left to right, the audience will see them as talking to the back of each others heads.
Breaking the line rule is very disturbing to continuity, you ignore it at your own risk. No one in the audience may be able to verbalize what is wrong, but they will know something is because your video just doesn't "seem as professional" as what they want to see.
These basic "film 101" things have a tremendous impact on how your production "flows" and thus how it is percieved.
One caviet, the line thing is actualy a lot more complicated then outlined above, and seveal natural lines exist when dealing with the bride, groom, minister trio. You need to look at a full discussion of "line" in one of any number of basic staging and blocking books. Sit down at a bookstore and look through several basic production books. figure it out, then get some friends and stage something and shoot it WRONG. Cut it together and you will be able to see why it looks bad.