The 30 degree rule is rule used in filmmaking with the purpose of creating continuity between different shots within a larger sequence of shots. It should also be noted that the 30 degree rule isn’t a scientific standard. Many filmmakers use an “anything more than a 10 degree change in angle” while others say no less than 25 degrees. However, a 25 to 30 degree minimum change in angle seems to be the agreed upon norm.
What does this all mean? Well, when moving your camera between shots the camera should be moved a minimum of 25 to 30 degrees (with a maximum limit of 180 degrees) to avoid jarring transitions also known as jump cuts. This helps you seamlessly piece together a larger sequence of shots in a harmonious manner.
Between shots you can change your camera’s depth, perspective and angle. All of these changes should be motivated by your story and flow with the pacing of your film or documentary. You’ll need to think both about the artistry of each shot and what the camera is trying to communicate but you’ll also need to think about the technical fundamentals of each change in position.
Let’s say for example that you have 1 actor in a scene who is lighting a cigarette under a tree.
You now have choices as to where to put your camera. Let’s say in this scene we want to expose the facial expression of our main character so we might start with a wide shot to show context and then change your angle by 30 degrees and move into a medium shot or close up.
Big transitions like this help hide small continuity differences (especially when you cut on the action) which is great when you’re shooting a film or documentary with only 1 camera.
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