What Is Screen Direction, and Why Is It So Important?

'Jurassic Park'Credit: Universal Pictures
What is screen direction, and why does it matter?

This post was written by Mal O’Neill.

There’s no better place than the YouTube comments section for a healthy reasoned argument. Between being called a fascist or being Rick Rolled (see 2009 YouTube videos), there is actually space for some real discussions on filmmaking. The team at Epic Light Media takes our YouTube comments very seriously. Especially when they’re from Pixar animation genius Craig Good.

Good has worked on the biggest Pixar movies of all time, including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters Inc., to name a few. He was part of the layout team that created beloved memories for children across the world, and it was his specific job to make sure the screen direction was always moving the correct way.

But what exactly is screen direction?

Check out our video below to learn.

What is screen direction?

Screen direction is one of those absolutely essential parts of filmmaking that barely anyone notices until it’s gone wrong.

The classic example used in the Epic Light video (from 2009 rom-com romp The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock) is of an airplane leaving a runway. It’s a shot that is in hundreds if not thousands of movies. The plane moves from the right of the screen to the left. And then in the next shot, Bullock and her dreamy co-star Ryan Renolds are facing left to right.

It makes it seem as if they are moving in opposite directions. Not good screen direction.

When the comments section blew up with enraged cinephiles saying that Epic Light were talking out of their filmmaking proverbials, Craig decided enough was enough.

He commented.

Not only did he agree with the Epic Light team, but he weighed in with his ample knowledge on the subject, going through exactly how screen direction works in the classic animation Toy Story.

Good breaks down the difficult steps he took to make sure Sid’s house was always on the left and Andy’s house was on the right. It literally guided Woody, Buzz, and the whole gang through the story (and back into Andy’s arms). That’s good screen direction.

This is a real gem of a video if you’re a student of film and want to hear the thoughts of a true Pixar legend.

Have a watch and, of course, please leave a comment.     

Check out Epic Light Media for more.

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1 Comment

Just use the George Lucas method and shoot everyone on a greenscreen so that you can then make them jump out of any scene to the left or right and appear in the next scene from the bottom or top of frame, screw planning, we'll fix it in post!

January 10, 2022 at 1:55AM