It’s a rule that has been used on every film since the beginning of time – at least the beginning of cinematic time. Without it, films would be confusing, disorienting, and just plain hard to watch. What is it? This rule is called “Crossing the Line”. Contrary to what you’re thinking, it doesn’t have anything to do with your teenage son pushing the boundaries.
Film and video is all about telling a story. For your audience, that story is always seen through the eye of the camera. That’s why camera placement has certain rules.
One of those rules has to do with screen direction. Let me give you an example.
In this establishing shot, our actor is moving across the screen from right to left. So when we cut to different angles of that same action, as long as that screen direction is consistent, it all makes sense.
But the moment the screen direction changes and we abruptly see our actor from left to right, the scene becomes confusing.
The moment the screen direction changes the scene becomes confusing.
That happens when the camera breaks a rule and Crosses the Line.
What is Crossing the Line?
In every scene there is an imaginary line that runs through the scene. In this case, the line is here.
As long as the camera stays on one side of that line, the screen direction is always consistent. But when the camera jumps to the other side of the line, causing the screen direction to change, we say the camera has Crossed the Line.
“Crossing the Line” means filming successive shots from the opposite sides of the line.
“Cross the line by putting the camera in the wrong place, and all hell breaks loose; it’s like driving your car down the highway on the wrong side.”
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