Crossing the 180 line (10 replies and 6 comments)
Hey guys. I have a commercial shoot coming up and I could use some advice. I have two actors at a sink doing dishes, the camera is directly behind them (flat space), the OTS shots of them looking at each other are also behind. I want to get a reverse shot of them both through the kitchen window but this will be opposite the 180 degree line. I have planned to dolly one of the OTS angles across the line so I can get that reverse shot without a jarring cut... but I'm curious on opinions as to whether a jump across that line for that one shot is a huge deal. It would save me a headache in post because that move to cross is going to take up valuable time. The ad has a bit of quirkiness to it so maybe that's an OK thing. I'm attaching a map. Hopefully this makes sense and I appreciate any advice. Thank you.
This scene from 'Killing Them Softly' shows a similar dolly move to the one your suggesting: https://youtu.be/Tx2QAX3TSYk»
It works quite well in the context, but I think you can get away with a simple jump across the line if you show a wider shot first, showing the actors in the context and environment, and switching to closer shots.
Another option - if viable for you - is to have one of the actors cross the line for you. If one of them went to the fridge for instance, you could then stay on that side of the line as they approached the sink again.
Thanks! Great stuff!
I wouldn't worry so much about it, it is very common to jump over the line when shooting two people standing side-by-side where their relative position to each other is very clear. One common example would be two people standing on the edge of a cliff looking out and shooting a frontal 2-shot of their faces and a reverse 2-shot with the landscape beyond them. You only have to follow a line when intercutting singles in this case so that they look like they are looking at each other. The 180 rule only exists to avoid confusion in the audience as to where people are and who they are looking at when intercutting, so as long as there is no confusion, then it's not a problem. The red bathroom scene in "The Shining" is a good example of two wide 2-shots done from opposite ends of the room, so a 180 degree flip, but the close-ups pick a screen direction to match to for intercutting.
Thank you, David! Really appreciate your insight. Very helpful!
The white wall to the left looks to have been purposefully painted a reflective white. Think this was the case? Because, picturing the shot with the wall being less reflective and a more dull matte finish might change the feeling of the scene. Though perhaps very slightly.
Notice that Shot Two is tighter for emphasis.
Do you think there was negative fill behind those walls?
I would say if you are worried about the coverage and crossing the line then just give one of the characters motivation to create a new line of action, something like dropping a cloth on the floor or reaching for a pile of dirty dishes. Also if you are feeling adventurous you could mock up a reverse shot by framing a mid shot of your talent the same background but place a table there with two big bowls of water and dishes in them so you still give the audience the same effect without jarring them.
A good way to break the rule is to cross after a cutaway.
For example, two people are facing one another in a two shot or even in a single (once you've established the two shot; though, I don't suppose you NEED a two shot).
Then, lets say, a phone rings OS.
We cut away to a CU of a phone sitting on a table.
Note: staying consistent in the cutaway.
The character on the right (profile, 3/4, etc.), the one in the single, reacts to the ringing phone, and turns away to answer it.
We cut on his action to the before mentioned CU of the phone with his hand reaching in, taking the phone off the hook, and answering.
Now, this is where it gets tricky.
Crossing the line can and should be done in a way that does not jar the audience.
However, in order to cross the line, you need, MOTIVATION.
That can mean a lot of things. For the most part, I believe it is used to express SYMBOLISM, and this involves STORY.
In the case of OUR little story here:
What our character says or hears on the phone, may be EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to a possible motivation.
The symbolism is usually very straight forward: Everything is FLIPPED.
So what does that mean. Well it doesn't necessarily have to mean anything; however, it CAN mean that the two characters have either SWITCHED places or are metaphorically MIRROR IMAGES of each other. CONTRAST vs. JUXTAPOSITION.
Another kind of weird interpretation is that WE the audience are SWITCHING sides, and in a sense we are interacting with the story on a different level, a sort of breaking of the fourth wall so to speak. But, this is surely getting into the realm of OVER-analysis.
Ex. The bathroom scene shown above from Kubrick's 'The Shining.'
Now to continue our story here once more:
Once our character hangs up the phone and we cut on the action of him turning back around to face the other character (whether in a single or a two shot), we CROSS THE LINE, and the character visually has traded places in the frame with his fellow character in the scene (and vice versa).
Does that make sense to you?
So to tie this in with what you are proposing...
Perhaps you could use this CUTAWAY idea with the faucet from your scene, essentially replacing it with the phone from my example?
Judging from your diagram, let me ask you:
What is the motivation of the JUMP CUT from the Establishing Shot to the DOLLY AROUND and OVER THE LINE move?
Seems to me that a simple cut from the Establishing Shot to Angle 2 would be much simpler and direct.
Better yet! Just CUT from the Est. Shot to the Reverse, Two Shot!
THEN, go to your singles/OTS's.
If you really want to do a dolly around. Why not start at the Est. Shot and go straight around to the OTS?
For me, Singles or OTS's are kind of like cutaways except that instead of REACTING (though not always the case) to something OS, you're EMPHASIZING something already in the frame.
Any time I push in on something specific in the frame, I'm EMPHASIZING it. Rudolph Arnheim 101, here.
So, if I'm shooting a dialogue scene in a two shot, and I cut to an OTS or a Single, it's because something in the dialogue is telling me to "Push in! This is important!"
Same with crossing the line of action.
So for example:
Two guys are talking about nothing important in particular, just gabbing about politics or the weather.
At this point we are in a wide establishing shot (like in your diagram).
Maybe they're in a gym locker room and there are a bunch of other men in there moving around, crowding the frame.
So we do a slow push in to our two guys in order to EMPHASIZE that these are the guys who are the focus of the scene. Of course we've strategically placed them in the center of the frame for even more emphasis.
Anyway, they're talking, talking, blah, blah, blah.
The guy on the right turns to his friend, putting his hand on the guy's shoulder!
GUY #1: Dude! I forgot to tell you!......
OTS of GUY #1, we see GUY #2's JOLTING reaction.
That is called MOTIVATION!
We see something strange happen in the frame and we instinctively want to LEAP FORWARD in our seat. Whoa! What was that!?
This of course can be dome much more subtly. I'm just using this analogy as an example.
Look at any film by Yasujirô Ozu, you'll see just how subtle the Cutaway, Jump Cut, Cut to Single, etc. can be.
Anyway, hope this makes sense and is helpful.
Sorry for all my cheesy analogies. 😛
Watch 'Army of Shadows' if you are worried about crossing the line. Melville was a master at crossing the line for deliberate effect.
I did it on the pictures below.
I crossed the line for a better background. The editors got a bit pissed off. Nobody ever noticed the crossing though.