Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Storyboard Study - Over the Line!
I'm sorry Smokey, that's a foul.
In storyboarding there's something that's known as the 180 degree rule, line of action, or the camera "line"; an invisible line that runs through the shot to maintain screen direction and continuity. Most times this line is the line of sight between two characters and is part of a semi-circular area where the camera can be placed to maintain continuity.
With some directors, this is a hard and fast rule that is not broken; with others, it is broken liberally. Most directors fall somewhere in the middle. The most important thing (at least to me) is knowing HOW and WHY one crosses the line. To me the 180 is not really a rule; it is a suggestion. Most of the time we are within the comfortable confines of the 180 semi-circle, but every now and then, to break up what can turn into monotony and also to generate interest, we go over.
Some suggestions on how to go over the line:
1. Lead the viewer's eye to the part of the screen where you want them to look when you cut over the 180.
2. Create a big enough change in the shot that the characters don't jump or pop.
3. Cut away to a third character or object or action
4. Cut to a neutral angle (an ON AXIS shot, where the camera is ON the line of action)
5. Move the camera over the line creating a new line.
6. Just do it (to elicit a reaction from the viewer) (good examples are the opening of The Insider by Michael Mann and the dinner scene from The Underneath by Steven Soderbergh).
It's up to us to use all the tools available to make our scenes and shots interesting. Just because a character is on the left side of the screen doesn't mean they have to be there for the whole scene; or because a car is moving from left to right doesn't mean it has to be moving left to right in every shot, especially in action scenes.
Take a look at your favorite films and see if and when the director goes over the line; look at it and ask yourself HOW and WHY the director did it.
(the above shot form the Big Lebowski is not an example of going over the line in the film sense).