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180 Degree Rule

Lesson 8 from: Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking

Victor Ha

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Lesson Info

8. 180 Degree Rule

Lesson Info

180 Degree Rule

We're going to talk about for lack of a better phrase filmmaking concepts that we can apply to Instagram videos and DSLRs. And these are things that I want you to think about in a daily basis, hence the title, video a day. Because if you start thinking in these concepts it will become a part of the way you look at the world and it will become a part of the way you create videos. So establishing shots. The way I like to explain establishing shots it's your introductory paragraph to a news article. Back when were in elementary school we learned that the introductory paragraph was something that told us the five W's, the who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. If you're establishing shot can give you the five W's, that's a good shot. It sets the scene, tells you the time and place, gives you an indication of the mood sometimes. Is it dark? Is it stormy? Is it bright? Is it sunny? Here we have an establishing shot. I've got two droids presumably in an airplane hangar having a conver...

sation. Time of day, sometime during the day. So the thing is, you're establishing shot sets up something we call the 180 degree rule. 180 degree rule exists when two subjects are on screen. So I've got R2 here and I'll call this guy R4, for easy sake. So I got R2 and R4 and they're on the left and right side of the screen. It sets up a standard for me. It sets up a framework which I now have to believe and operate in as a filmmaker. So you think about it, let's get the toy droids off the screen, think about a bride and groom. Brides are always on one side, grooms are always on the other. You shoot from the back of the church, you've just established the scene. Which means for the remainder of the film brides got to be on one side, grooms got to be on one side. So the 180 degree rule, that's all it does, is it dictates and it keeps the people who should be on the right, stay on the right, people should be on the left, stay on the left. So when it comes to the 180 degree rule, it really just helps us from confusing our viewers and it helps us to know where to place the subjects in frame. Are you following me here? Now I don't like rules but this is one I like to follow, because this is one that will help you as you're making films and involve two people or as you're doing certain jobs that involve two people on screen at the same time. It will prevent you from making mistakes in your edit or mistakes in your camera position. Because now that we have in this scene two people on screen and we know who is supposed to be on the left and who is supposed to be on the right. There is only a certain element, there's only one place I can put the the camera, a few places I can put the camera. We're going to watch a little video. (droids beeping) Okay, pretty simple, right? It felt kind of normal, people belong, the robots where on the left and the right robot is on the right, it just felt right. We'll look at another one. Here's the next one. (droids beeping) That should have felt weird to you. That should have felt really weird. Because your brain saw this and said okay, R4 is on the left. Now keep your eye on R4. I'm going to mute the sound. Keep your eye on R4. He's on the left. Okay, he's on left. He's on the left. That's on the right and the right again. Now he's back on the left. See, when you can watch a video without sound you take yourself out of the story of what's happening on screen and you look at the footage, it's confusing. You're looking at it, and it's like wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, why is he in the wrong place right now? That doesn't make sense to me. So this is the wrong way. We're gonna watch the right way without sound. Here we go. So he's on the left, on the left, on the left, on the left. He's on the right. He's on the right. So it feels better. And the reason it feels better to us because our brain works at a million miles a second and it established in that first establishing shot where everything was in frame. What says, now that I know where everything are frame I can kind of put that to the background and enjoy the story. Oh wait, if you switch places you've just freaked your brain out, it doesn't make sense, you've lost, you've just pulled yourself out of the story. So we were to look at this. And the reason this is called a 180 degree rule is this. So right now I've got R2 on the right, I got R4 on the left. My camera is here, isn't it? When you establish the first shot here you would create what I call... One second. You create what I call the invisible wall of doom. So the invisible wall of doom I can place my camera anywhere on this side, absolutely anywhere on this side of the wall. I can place it ground level, I can fly it high above the ground, so long as I stay on this side of the wall. So there's my camera, there's another camera, there's another camera. That's all legitimate, it's all legitimate. If you take a look at the incorrect version again, now knowing what we know about where the rule and how its set up, can you see why this isn't right? Left, left, left, and all sudden, "Oh wait, why is he on the right?" Any questions before I move on? Both in the screen at the same time or is it, let's say it starts on the left side or later somebody but then you want to move them to the right side of the screen for the individual shot. But do you think his other side of his face or maybe. So the thing is like, if I'm... If I've got a subject here and I have another subject here and my camera position is here. I can move my camera at any point. I can isolate this subject. I can isolate this subject but I still want to place them on the respective side of the frame that they belong on. Even if when they're isolated that's all right. Even if when they're isolated. Because if I show them and I capture in here and I put them on the left side, I can still capture it and it may still feel okay but it might not look right, and they do this a lot. Lord of the Rings when Gollum had that dialogue with himself I think at the end of the second movie. What did they do? They put one version of Gollum on the right and he was talking to himself and they put the other version on the left. Why is that? It's because we have a conversation, we have a conversation with another person and they're usually across from us and we never like always talk on the same side with people. So it just helps mimic real life on screen a little bit. So when you have your two subjects it's here high, low, anywhere on this side of the wall but never over it. So let's talk about that really quickly before we move on. I see this a lot in weddings. So I've got the bride and groom and the videographers always have a camera at back. So they always have this establishing shot and they usually have a guy up here and a guy up here and they're all capturing three different angles. What do you see photographers do a lot? They creep up behind the efficient. Snap, snap, snap and they run over here. Snap, snap, snap. But I rarely if ever see a videographer who knows what they're doing back there. Why is that? They'd be on the wrong side. Be on the wrong side. Be on the wrong side. You're establishing shot from the camera at the back of the church establishes the bride and groom on one side on prospective, respective sides. The minute you run around to the other side you've just flipped them, not only have you flipped them, you've given a completely new background and it doesn't make sense and it doesn't work in the edit. Bubba wants to know, what if the camera physically moves around to the other side of the wall and the viewer is able to see this move. If you use that whole move-- But I like breaking rules There you go. So I want to break the rule. So I go, all right, well. I'll write each. I got you. I got you. You're going to be okay, fine. I will follow the 180 degree rule, but there will be a time where I actually want to break it. How do you break it? Well, let's go back to here. You got your invisible wall of doom. Got your cameras and you want to get to this side. So what do you do? You take this camera position and you move it. And you show that movement from start to finish and you show it in the edit. Thing is, the minute you show this movement when you show it in the edit, you've just re-established your 180 degree rule. When you reestablish 180 degree rule that means now R2 is going to be on the left, R4 is going to be on the right and you continue capturing footage the same exact way. It is a fixed rule until you break it right correctly. And there are people who effectively break the rule hundreds of times in a film, but it's because they're really good at what they do. And it's because they leverage a lot of like their filmmaking history and technique and experience in doing it properly. So question just came in from Nightowl who said, "Why did the peanut butter and jelly "from the cupboard work earlier?" That's what I'm saying. So you can break it, you can break it because we are very intelligent film watchers now. We watch movies very, very well. And if someone's walking up to a cabinet, your brain is automatically going to understand and assume, "Hey, what's in that cabinet?" So showing the reverse angle works. So showing the reverse angle works especially if it's one person. So that's technically not breaking the rule? It's still breaking it, because you're still breaking it, but it's a lot easier to decipher. Now let's make believe I've got another person in front of me. I can still do that exact same back to front like that like exactly the same. They do it in Kill Bill in the restaurant scene with Uma Thurman and the sushi chef. And they break that rule, they break the 180 degree rule over and over and over in the beginning of that sequence until they actually start to adhere to it. And there's just certain elements where you can actually break that rule and have it pay off really well because we've gotten smarter as we watched movies. We understand more, our brains can comprehend that. But if you have two people and you reverse their position, we can't comprehend that, that doesn't make sense to us. So Anthony Michael wants to know, "Does the 180 degree rule apply "if there's only one subject in a scene?" The 180 degree rule applies when you've established a relationship on a scene. So the technical definition would be, there has to be a relationship between two subjects on scene, on camera. If I have myself and a wall, I've established that relationship therefore I need to place those two subjects properly. So it's a lot easier to break it when you have one person. It's actually a lot easier to break it when you have more than two people as well, because there's more frame of reference on how your brain can actually work. But when there's two people and it's a stripped down set and it's lit from one way, that's when it starts to really blow your mind. And you see it a lot in kind of like a low-budget film. You see a lot where they don't really have the ability to kind of take the time and get it right. So to take us back to the idea of breaking it properly. We're going to watch a version a bit broken properly. So let's kick up the sound for this. (droids beeping) That make more sense? So when you can do that, not only do you add more elements of production into a specific piece like this. Now you're switching things up and spicing it up and throwing a curveball a little bit. We see this a lot in CSI. We see this a lot in like narrative like cop procedurals. Because things are always moving and shaking and they're always moving the camera back and forth and they're always kind of switching people around because that's the way that they want it to feel. Watching that version versus watching the other version, It wasn't that one was better or worse, it was one felt different than the other and it gave us a different perception of what was happening. So how we doing? That's a big concept and a lot of people, it takes a while to marinate. I can hang on it for a little bit if we need to. Are we good? Also that people are saying that is one of the best explanations of the 180 rule they've ever heard. Well, thank you. I credit my nephews toys. Quote unquote, your nephews toys, right? All right, you caught me.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Victors White Board Notes - High Resolution
Pre-Production Planner
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Victor van Dijk

This course was quite a treat! I had been learning piecemeal about DSLR Filmmaking but never had the opportunity to follow a course that ties it all together. And my namesake Victor is ex-cel-lent!!! Fundamentals of DSLR Filmmaking is a very very clear (I would almost say, lucid!), carefully, comprehensively tied together course teaching all you need and wanted to know about DSLR Filmmaking. Massive PLUS is that the course is first and before all NOT about the nitty-gritty technical details and numbers, but all about the basics of what filmmaking REALLY is all about. And yes, technique and gear are part of that but not for their own sake. And Victor shares that it's all about fun, and telling your story your way in the way that you like. I truly admire Victor's carefully planned and laid out path, in my opinion he planned the course exactly and meticulously like he would a full-blown movie production. And he is very open and honest and not belittling at all. He is really passionate, compassionate and 'infectious' with his happy happy mood :-)! I HIGHLY recommend this course for anyone wanting to properly and thoroughly learn the ins and outs of filmmaking, with a strong focus on using a DSLR.

Penny Foster

This is a very well constructed course by Victor Ha, who is very easy to watch, and very knowledgeable about using the DSLR for more than just taking pictures. For a Wedding Photographer like me, who wants to add some moving images into a slideshow for my client, this course was perfect. Victor shows us that, with the equipment you already own as a working professional photographer, you can get started into video RIGHT NOW, with baby steps. This is not a course on video editing, so if you need that tuition look elsewhere, BUT, Victor shows us how to set our cameras up for success right from the start, so that when we are at the editing stage, the footage is in the perfect state possible to produce excellently exposed, perfectly colour balanced material. He goes over the use of a light meter for capturing video, and how essential it is to get the exposure right 'in camera', so this is certainly a Fundamental DSLR Filmmaking course, for anyone who is already using their DSLR for stills, but who is interested in adding something else to their skill set. Victor is so enthusiastic in his teaching style, and this is a course I will keep coming back to time after time.

Sara safajar

Excellent overview on how to think as a storyteller with DSLR video. Great breakdown and really accessible examples- fun video on the making of a peanut butter sandwich- which inspire and make it feel like the video beast can be conquered. This course is packed with great ideas on not only figuring out to how to make the switch from still to motion, but also creative inspiration on how to begin thinking cinematically. Well worth the price. Great course!

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