27 February 2007

Screen direction

NZBlogPhoto6-2007-02-27-03-50.jpeg One of the most difficult things to understand and apply when shooting film is screen direction. There are two parts to it, walking direction or direction of movement, and viewing direction, as in a dialog between two people. When an actor or a car (or anything really) is moving across the screen from left to right, the assumption is that in the next shot the object will still be moving left to right in order to move forward. If it is moving from right to left, the audience will assume it is “coming back”, returning from wherever it’s been. When two actors are in conversation, the actor positioned on the left in the wide shot needs to always be looking left to right in any close up, and vice versa in order for it to look as if they are looking at their counterpart. If the direction is switched, the audience will lose track of who is talking to whom. This becomes even more confusing if there are more than two people in the conversation. There are different ways, when an actor is travelling across the screen, to cross the line and show them going the other way without confusing the audience: Use a cutaway between the two shots, use geography to establish general surroundings so that the audience can place the actor in context, use stairs or a lift to allow the actor to change direction, let the actor cross in front of the camera, or the camera cross the line of movement of the actor. This little movie explains the different options:

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