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Film School - The 180 Degree Rule

Updated: May 28, 2023

The earliest rule students learn in film school is the 180-degree rule. It's a practical film technique that encourages you to think. So what is it, It's simply remembering to keep the camera on one side of the action.


Imagine a straight line (axis) between two actors (1 & 2), draw a semi-circle on the axis from 1- 2.

This semi-circle is now space for shooting, hence 180 degrees.

The camera stays on one side of the 180 degrees throughout a scene; this keeps characters grounded compositionally on a particular side of the screen or frame, and keeps them looking at one another when only one character is seen onscreen at a time.

Shots from the TV Series (Routine,2018) you can watch it here on Telly


By keeping the camera on one side of this imaginary axis, the characters maintain the same left/right relationship to each other, keeping the space of the scene orderly and easy to follow. If you break the line you break the rule...

When shooting with multiple characters establish lines and cameras between different axis, think of the x&y-axis on a graph with semi-circles for both of the lines on the axis. When you break the 180-degree line, you signal to the viewer that something is wrong. However, as with all rules, of course, the 180-degree rule can be broken but by learning, using and fully understanding it will assist you in being creative with it. When you are ready to experiment with breaking the 180 rule be aware of continuity, eye-line and the watching audience who could get disorientated. Breaking the rule should be done with purpose and there are a few ways to do it here we offer you some suggestions

Neutral shot This is a shot directly on top of the line. When you do this, your line resets because there is no longer a side of the line. A good example of this is a shot that is directly behind an actor’s head or straight on their face.

Camera movement This is where we physically see the camera move across the line during an uninterrupted shot within a scene. The viewer is aware of when we cross the line, and their orientation within the scene is maintained. Using a movement like this is a great way to signal to a viewer that something has slowly changed.

Cutaways This is when you cut away from your actors to a shot that has no established orientation, thus resetting the 180-degree line. Cutaways are useful for many reasons, so you may end up planning for one during your scene without even realizing you could follow it up with a line change.

Perspective Often times you will have to break the 180-degree axis simply to get the perspective you need. Many different perspectives are natural to the viewer because they appear in their lives. These shots can be interspersed easier with those following the 180-degree rule, even though they may not. For example, if you switch from a car driving to the left to a shot of the driver looking to the left in the side mirror you will technically be breaking the 180-degree rule. This will not be as unsettling, however, to the audience that is watching it in comparison to other break shots.

Remember, the 180-degree rule is there to protect you! But breaking this rule effectively can give you unique and amazing results

(Routine,2018) watch it here on Telly


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