Bear The 180 Degree Rule
In Mind And Shoot Better Videos

There's this rule in videography that all of us need to know - it's called the 180 degree rule. It's a rule of composition and it says that in any video shot involving two subjects talking to each other, one should have your camera on his right and the other has the your camera on his left.

This is what a viewer would intuitively expect in a shot. Breaking this rule will disorient the viewer and make your shot a little less appealing.

How do you use this rule in your video shots? Well, that's what I'm going to talk about today. If you bear this 180 degree rule in mind, I am pretty sure the videos you shoot will start looking much better. You'll learn about what the rule is, when you should apply it and how it affects the scenes in your movie.

1. What's The 180 Degree Rule?

Ok, so what is the 180 degree rule again? It's a rule of composition. So say you have Mr A and Mr B facing each other in a video shoot. They're talking to each other intensely. Your camera must be on the right of Mr A and left of Mr B, as shown below.

Imagine if both Mr A and Mr B were facing your camera instead. What would you, as a viewer, think? You'd think they are talking to the viewer! So that is the essence of the 180 degree rule. Keep your camera on the "sides" of the subjects if they are engaging or speaking to each other.

2. When To Use It

The 180 degree rule certainly doesn't apply in all situations. If you're filming two people talking to each other, then yes, it is useful to apply it. You should not apply this rule if you're shooting a basketball game or action in sports, for example. That just would not make sense. I find that I usually apply to situations where you have 2 subjects engaged in conversation.

You can also very cleverly use the 180 degree rule to intentionally trick or confuse the viewer. Let me explain. Imagine Mr A walking along the street from the left to the right of the screen. Next, imagine Mr B walking along the street from the right to the left. Our minds would naturally think that Mr A and Mr B are walking towards each other.

Now imagine you cut the scene of Mr A out to its surroundings - maybe it's in some urban business district. And cut the scene of Mr B out to say, the Sydney Opera House. Now you know that Mr A and Mr B are in totally different places. If it was your intention to conceive such a scene, the 180 degree rule helps you out, as you can see.

3. Using A Neutral Shot

Sometimes, it can be boring just having your camera on the 180 degree plane showing the 2 subjects. If the video camera has been rolling for 15 minutes and you've not moved your position, your video might start getting boring.

What you can do in this case, to liven up the video, is to use a neutral shot. Get a close up of one of the subjects and make sure he or she is not directly facing the camera (example below).

This helps cut away the monotony of the shot and bring more life to the video. You can then cut back to the original shot which follows the 180 degree rule after concentrating the close up of that one subject.


The 180 degree is an interesting concept in videography and it is used sometimes without us even realizing it. But I guess it's always good to know there are such rules out there. If you want to find out about formal video editing rules,

I'd suggest you get a good book on digital video production and start reading up. Over time, you'll start to accumulate a set of your own rules and if you've any good ones to share, then feel free to let me know. Until next time, good luck with your videos!

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