Film Language Tag: 180-degree rule

A method of staging and filming action in order to ensure visual continuity from one shot to another. On set, as a scene is rehearsed and blocked for shooting a continuity line—often referred to as the line, imaginary line, director's line, stage line —is decided upon and the camera will then remain on one side of that line; that is, within a 180-degree arc. The effect of this rule is that a character standing on the left and looking towards a character on the right will always be standing left and looking right no matter where the camera frames them from within the 180 degrees of the semi-circular arc. If, however, the line is crossed then the character will appear to reverse their position in the frame. For some framings they will be standing on the left and looking right and for others they will be standing on the right and looking left, and this will be potentially disorientating for the viewer. The 180-degree rule ensures spatial consistency and coherence for characters in a scene. Compliance with this rule (and the 30-degree rule) ensures that shots can be edited together easily using the continuity editing system. Kuhn, Annette and Guy Westwell. A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford UP, 2012.


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