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Establishing Continuity When Shooting

Conventional continuity -- the impression of continuous time despite cuts between different shots -- depends on both shooting and editing. In addition to matching the action from shot to shot, the director needs to consider a couple of "rules" of continuity. These rules are made to be broken when you think that is effective (for example, jump cuts to show jumps in time) but breaking them accidentally will lead to awkward continuity.

The Difference Rule

There should be a significant difference in angle or distance for each shot. Does it show us something new?

Give the audience a different view of the action or characters, and they won't think about your cut.
This is the single most important thing you can do to create a scene which can be edited in continuity. If a different shot isn't needed, there is probably no reason to cut.

180 Degree Rule

Find the dramatic axis of the scene, and use it to maintain screen direction of eyeline and movement. Avoid cutting directly to the other side of the axis. To change screen direction, try a tracking shot that moves across the axis, or allow a character to move so the axis moves.

In shooting a moving character, a Head-On shot can be used to change screen direction while maintaining continuity:

Shot 1) Left to Right screen direction. Shot 2) Head On, then Right to Left as character leaves the frame. The axis changes within the shot. Shot 3) Right to Left screen direction.

Choosing the right height for the camera will also help to match the eyeline between shots.

Shot Order

Traditional shot order moves from Long Shot to Medium Shot to Closeup. A scene may return to a wider shot as a Re-Establishing Shot .

A scene could also start with a closer shot for impact, and be followed by an establishing shot.

Avoid jump cuts by "matching the action" between shots. Overlapping the action at the beginning and end of shots can help the editor get a good match.

If characters are moving, letting them enter or exit the frame at the beginning and end of shots can help avoid jump cuts and allow the editor to compress time.

Closeups are important for telling the story visually. They can be used for action (inserts), reaction, or cutaways to bridge jumps in time.

A close-up can also serve to establish a Point of View for the next shot, of what the character sees.

Frame enlargements from Inglourious Basterds.

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