Shooting Your Way Around the 180 Degree Rule and an Introduction to Composition Basics
As modern filmmakers, we have the benefit of hindsight in understanding what has been established in cinema, like the basics of scene coverage and shot composition. One of these shooting essentials is the 180 degree rule, which guides our coverage of a conversation between two subjects. Think of how commonly two people hold a conversation in films you've seen, and you'll have a good idea of how often the rule can apply! Read on to see how scenes can be boiled down to the most powerful imaginary measuring stick at a filmmaker's disposal, plus some more on basic shot composition and framing.
These videos come from a strong resource in the essentials, Lights Film School (also on YouTube). The video also goes into some detail about light placement and what each light source contributes to the exposure and texture of a scene:
You may think of the one-eighty degree rule as a compass by which you can navigate the shooting of your scene and the way in which you select your coverage. Conversely, it orients the viewer to the layout of a scene, and the spatial relationship things within that scene layout have to one another (like subjects, or important objects).
Another great thing about the basics is that we can fall back on them to simplify how we're shooting and still come away with something that works. Such a 'fall-back plan' could really be a life-saver on a shoot that might have benefitted from a bit (or a lot) more pre-planning. Just as there's no scene without a shot and no shot without composition, there's no composition without the proper orientation 'the line' provides -- each exerts an influence on the others. Here's more from Lights Film School on the basics of framing:
It's interesting to note, particularly in the first video, the way the shooter chooses to angle a 'profile' perspective of the character. The perspective moves closer to the subject in a way that emphasizes a realization (or similar character/narrative moment) when it is most effective or 'sensitive' to do so. The choice of an almost full-on profile perspective can be very dramatic, though you may find a more front-on view allows for a greater display of subtleties, like an actor's facial expression changing. It's all about what works for the moment within each unique scene, and that's always your choice, but wielding the basics may grant you a strong place to start.
Have you guys ever turned a confusing shooting situation around by getting back to the basics? When have you 'broken' the line intentionally, and to what effect?