The 2-shot is fairly simple for camera placement, but the close-ups could be tricky. If not shot properly, when cut together it could look like Tom and Jerry are looking in the wrong direction. Let's take a closer look.
When you frame the 2-shot, Tom is on the left of the screen looking right, toward Jerry; Jerry is on the right of the screen looking left, toward Tom.
Now let's shoot a close-up of Tom. You could have the camera replace Jerry and have Tom look directly into the camera, but this isn't typically done. For illustration purposes, we'll limit your choices to shooting with the camera over either Jerry's left (Jerry's actual left, not screen left) or right shoulder. Which shoulder do you choose?
Let's review the 2-shot. Which direction is Tom facing? He's looking right. If we shoot a close-up of Tom, we might want to make sure he's still looking right so we know he's speaking to Jerry and not a new character who has entered the scene. In order for Tom to look to the right, we need to have the camera over Jerry's left shoulder. If we shoot over Jerry's right shoulder, Tom would then be looking left. Since you're on the set, it might not confuse you because you're looking at the two actors on the set. However, since the camera will just crop a small portion of that set, your viewers might be visually confused.
All this talk of left and right, whether it be screen left or screen right, left or right shoulder, can be a bit confusing and the last thing you want to consider when you have a whole crew on set and actors ready to perform. This is where "crossing the line" comes into play.
If you draw a straight line between your two actors and keep your camera on one side of that line for all of the shots, then the viewers won't be confused. It's as simple as that. So when your seatmate at the theater said they crossed the line, this is what they were talking about.
If you want to avoid breaking the rule, but you need to shoot from the other side of the line, move the camera across the line during the scene action. Since the viewer will see the change as it happens, there will be less chance for confusion.
Some say that the viewers' cinematic experience allows the cinematographer to forget about not crossing the line. Just as jump cuts that represent advances in time are less jarring to audiences because they have become used to the technique, so the audience will become accustomed to crossing the line. I would say it depends on the scene.
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or mail to Video Assist, HDVideoPro Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
Video Assist: Crossing The Line
HD-SDI cable, and the 180° rule explained
By Michael Guncheon
Labels: Video Assist
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