View Full Version : Crossing the Line of Action

Boz Uriel
10-11-2005, 02:05 PM
technically speaking, the 180 degree rule confuses things when dealing with a scene that has 3 or more characters.. because the line can and will be crossed whenever a character turns to look at another in the scene.. I'm going to disagree with this because I think, no matter how many people you have in your shot, crossing the line of action will only confuse your viewers more. Unless you show a player moving to a new position with a master shot, player moves or camera moves or both move, then you MUST re-establish your master shot. Crossing the line of action just because you have dialog between three players is not a good idea.

Here's my case in point. In the movie "Chocolat"; Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Lena Olin are in the typical A formation for three person dialog. Binoche and Dench are almost perfect 45 degree angles toward each other. The master shot captures all three women. Olin is behind the counter, binoche and Dench are seated at the counter but turned half way toward each other. The master shot captures all three women, then dollies in on Dench as she begins the scene. Never once does the camera cross the line of action so wonderfully established by the counter.

My suggestion is that you should never cross the line of action without two things; A good reason and another establishing master shot.

Granted I'm new to this whole directing thing but I thought this was a staple?

Will Vincent
10-11-2005, 02:51 PM
Of course. But you know, rules are made to be broken.. ;)

10-11-2005, 04:02 PM
Especially in experimental works, 'crossing the line of action' is probably the first classical rule to be broken.

Hope I'm remembering this right because I haven't seen the work since high school....Michael Snow's me the 'line of action' was the film plane up until the cam ventured through the window frame (therein crossing the line of action). But I digresssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

10-11-2005, 04:06 PM
I haven't seen wavelength in years, but you only need to see it once :eek:

Boz Uriel
10-11-2005, 06:36 PM
Oh trust me, nobody knows better than me that rules are made to be broken, especially when it comes to art. However, how many mainstream films have you seen that do this? Does it happen a lot? Is there a running theme or reason for breaking this particular rule?

10-11-2005, 10:07 PM
Generally, you break these rules (in traditionalish movies) to make the audience feel uneasy/displaced/disoriented.

strange m1nd
10-12-2005, 02:52 PM
Why do we need so many rules when film is art... maybe crossing the line of action works sometime, maybe it doesn't... but its how you apply these terms that really matter

10-12-2005, 06:46 PM
must know the rules to break them! Otherwise, you're just punting :)

10-13-2005, 05:47 AM
Crossing the line, like many things in film is a convention. A convention that an audience unconcioussly uses to understand a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional illusion.

Film making is about learning to understand the languague of those conventions. In the same way that I use grammar to construct a coherent sentence writing, I also use the grammar of film to communicate.

The line is something that audiences have learnt to understand. So, for example, if you watch Fritz Laing's masterpiece "M" you'll see that because at that time the languague of film was still being developed, he uses shots where the person responding to the protagonist looks directly into the camera. Something that we avoid in currnet production. To a modern eye, it looks odd or strange. However, it just predates the whole master shot, shot over shoulder, reverse, which is the current grammar.

The thing to remember about crossing the line is that "where you put the camera is where the audience is standing within the action." The convention allows them to keep track of their relationship with action, as they are instantly transported fron POV to POV.

The issues with crossing the line with multiple characters, especiallly characcters in motion is complex, but that's the reason that a floor plan is a director's best friend. beautiful storyboards are a luxury in a production in my opinion, because they give the DOP a framing, that to be honest you can give verbally. However, floorplans give you an instant understanding of both coverage and whether you've crossed the line.

Plus, when in doubt, shoot both sides, a few extra set ups is a small price to pay in comparision with having footage that won't cut..