The 180 degree rule is a basic guideline to follow religiously when filming making. It is an on-screen spatial relationship between a character and another character or object within a scene. An imaginary line known as the axis connects the characters and by keeping the camcorder on one side of the axis for every shot in the scene makes sure the first character is always “frame right” of the second character.
Here is a good video put together by www.videomaker.com that covers the rules basic principals in detail.
By using the 180 degree rule enables the audience to visually connect with any unseen movement which may be happening around the immediate subject. This is particularly important in action packed scenes in movies or battle scenes.
The 180 rule is cleverly used by a number of film makers in particular the split personality of Gollum during The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Gollum strikes up a conversation with himself and his “bad” personality through a river and by using the left Gollum as the goodie and the right Gollum as the baddie. It is easy for the audience to understand and engage with what is happening in the scene.
The 180 degree rule is an essential element for a style of film editing referred to as continuity editing and don’t get me wrong there are film makers out there that do break the rule and this is normally done to create an impact. The Shining scene incorporating Torrance and Delbert Grady in the rest room is a perfect example of how this can be done successfully.
As you can see Stanley Kubrick did the job well when breaking the line but he had many years of experience to play around with figuring out the best way to film this scene to make the viewer stay on the edge of their seat.
For any amateur filmmakers I would for now follow the 180 degree rule as you know it will make your video easy to follow. This rule does not only apply to films it needs to be followed when making documentaries, product demonstrations or an informational based video for your website. As long as you don’t cross that line it will make your life easier when editing your video to keep it engaging and interesting to your viewers.
Digital Marketing Manager
The Internet Marketing Academy