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180 line in storyboarding

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180 line in storyboarding

I was just wondering, what exactly is the 180 line? I've read some stuff on it but i'm still kind of confused.
I've learned that your not suppose to cross it or something like that when doing storyboards.

If anyone can help me out, it would be much appreciated.

The best way for me was to see a graphic's on it. The picture showed two people from the top facing each other with a camera on one side, in view of their profiles. Basically you can move the camera any where, as long as you do not pass around the two people. You should stay so that the same person on the right always stays on the right. If that person pops from facing right to left, to facing left to right, you start having problems. Look far some pictures showing this, I am sure that will help a lot.

Okay, here's a diagram of a set-up I used to teach this question with.

A simple room setting, with two seated characters A & B having a conversation.
The room location shows how this would work as a physical set, with 3 camera locations for this short sequence. It might help to think of the room as being like a set on a theatre stage--with the "audience" essentially where the cameras are. The cameras see what the audience would see.
Below the diagram is the "storyboard" for this sequence, with 3 scenes ( do not look at the 4th just yet).
Scene 1, for our example, establishes where the characters are in relation to each other in the room. Its a wide shot, wide enough to show where everything is, and who the principals are.

Scene 2 shows us a different angles, over-the-shoulder of character A, looking towards character B. Their placement is consistent with Sc-1 because Character A is still on the right side <---- of the screen, and Character B is on the left side ---->
Note that the camera position is very close to the axis line--the 180 degree line-- and could even sit right on it for this shot. You can move the camera ANYWHERE in the 180 zone, as close to the characters, or as far from them as practical, higher or lower as need be.

Scene 3 them cut back to just Character A, as he reacts to something that Character B says. Again, his placement is consistent and continuous with the previous two shots.

Scene 4-a close-up of......Character B???
Yes it is.........but what is going on here??
All of a sudden something is wrong.

Character B is talking to someone........but who? They are facing the wrong way, right? Because our unseen camera position 4 is on the other side of the camera-axis line, we lose the continuity with the previous shots--we have broken the 180 degree rule.
The key here is that we lose the sense of where the characters are in relation to each other. To make scene 4 work, we need to flop the image, reverse Character B, so they are facing <---- that way.

Make sense?

Now for the kicker: how to break the 180 degree rule properly.
Yes, you can break it deliberately.
The key thing to remember is that IF you NEED to change the the camera position to a situation like Camera 4, you MUST re-establish the shot as soon as possible, and then proceed from the new camera axis line from then on until the scene completes.

You might have a reason to break the rule, such as having a new character ( Character C) enter the room from an unseen door ( on the 4th wall) and their entrance sets up a new dynamic in the staging.
The above scene 4 CAN work, IF you show a 5th scene with a wider shot from the new camera axis line ( say from outside the window looking into the room) and maintain the new axis line.
You do NOT want to jump back and forth arbitrarily across the axis line, even if you do establish, because it'll likely be confusing for the audience.
Breaking the 180-degree rule deliberately can set up an unsettling set-piece--because the audience is seldom conscious of the mistake. The momentary confusion can be used to set them on edge before scaring them with something, or some other dramatic device.

But always, the key to using the rule is to establish the setting in some manner, and then reinforce the setting by maintaining continuity with each successive shot.

Now, if that works for you, I'll explain how the 180-degree rule can be used in a dramatic sense.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

To make the 180 degree rule work for you in a dramatic way, you have to understand that you can cut to almost any different camera placement in the setting to effectively tell your story in any way you need. How the camera looks at something from shot to shot influences what the audience feels, and you can deliberately manipulate that to your advantage.

Now, take a look up at scene 1 in the example in the post above. The two characters A & B seated in the room.
The establishing shot is in profile, with both characters facing each other.
Its a benign situation, with their emotional energy facing away from us and towards each other.
Imagine they are having a conversation.
Now, to build up to something dramatic, can do the following;
Since the camera 1 position is 90 degrees, looking at them at straight profile, you can cut closer to them, in profile, or further away--the emotional energy from the character will remain the same because its not focused at us (the camera). If you cut to a shot like, say, scene 2 above, or perhaps about halfway between sc 1 & sc 2, as a character says something provocative ( like: " Oh, by the way lovey, I wrecked the car!") then it starts to increase the tension.
The response would be literally a flop of sc 2, with the camera placed over-the-shoulder of Character B instead, looking toward Character A.
Each time you cut, as the argument builds, the cut would become closer to riding on the axis-line ( 180 degree line)--until the camera is swinging back and forth to show face-on each character in their angered emotional state.
That intense emotional energy will heighten the drama and tension, climaxing the scene.
The SWING of the camera, of the cuts, literally swinging 180 degrees back and forth, cutting from Character A to B as they scream at each other ups the tension to a peak.

Think of a gun battle, where you show one guy shooting, and then the other guy returning fire. You cut from one almost-face-on shot to another to show the action right? (good example to study: Helicopter/Swat Van chase sequence from Terminator 2--classic use of the 180 degree rule) the arc of the swing, is literally as if YOU were standing there trying to follow the action by swinging your head to see both combatants. If you shot the action from profile, it would be too benign and lose all or most of its dramatic energy. You would not feel any peril or danger, because you would feel detached from the action. But getting that energy directed at you, or close by you, ups the feeling of being in the action. That involvement increases drama and therefore increases entertainment.
Make sense?

Now, back to our arguing couple.......they are fighting it out, screaming at each other about the car. We have deliberately manipulated the audience into a rapport with this emotional scene, and we now want to cool things down.
The easiest way is to slowly cut/stage the shots to the reverse of how we built the sequence, going from the 180 degree line gradually out to 90 degrees and profile on the scene again. The energy is directed away from us, and the tension diminishes to the point of being calm.
You can use as many shots to cool down, as you used to build up, or you can just cut to a startling wide profile shot, like sc 1 ( for comic effect).

The placement of the camera in this example, influences how you feel about what the characters are doing. You build up to the argument, arrive at a climactic moment, and then consciously cool things down to a calm situation.
Your audience will seldom be aware of this, unless they are a student of drama or film. We need to develop these kinds of techniques to put the audience into states where we can better communicate our stories.
Remember, what they are seeing isn't real, but we want them to make the connection just as if it were real--so we manipulate what they see and HOW they see it to that end.
Its just one of many little techniques you can add to your cinematic tool chests.

Hope that helps.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Thank you so much. This really helped me out.
I didn't understand it when my classmate explained it, but seeing it on paper makes it much more clear.

Ken, excellent post.

That was a great explanation, I´ve seen on some movies mostly on fights the 180° axis brokes, and it makes the public to get lost for a while, it is important to follow the rule to not confuse the spectators.

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