In last week’s Friday fundas I had discussed about the 180 degree rule that is associated with the spatial relationship of the characters on screen. I had discussed about a scene in which two characters are talking to each other. Now consider the same scene is shot by alternating between the close up shots of each character as they talk. In reality this shot could be taken with covering all the dialogues of one person first and then covering the responses. During editing these are arranged in proper sequence. One of the items to take care when doing such a scene is Eyeline Match. In this week’s Friday fundas I would talk about Eyeline Match.
Eyeline Match is a movie editing technique. Whenever a character on screen is looking into the off screen space then audience would want to follow the gaze of the character. They would want to see the object, person or scene the character is looking at. Hence this is normally followed by a cut to the scene involving the object, scene or person the character is looking at. In our conversation scene character A is talking to character B. Now the shot involving character A talking is taken first. It is important to match the eyeline of character A such that it gives a feeling that the character is looking at B. Usually the actor playing character B is placed off camera for the character A to look at. Sometimes there is a mark placed off camera on which the character A focuses on while delivering the dialogue. The same technique is employed when taking the shot of character B responding to the conversation. In this case the camera is placed on the opposite direction. Now we know there is a 180 degree rule governing this. As we are going to focus on a different character there is no rule broken here. However in order to get the eyeline match right the same camera lens is maintained and also the camera is placed equidistant from the 180 degree axis as the previous shot. For instance if the camera has been placed 3 feet from character A then the same distance is maintained for character B during the next shot. Look at the following two shots from The Dark Knight movie where Batman interrogates Joker. The eyeline match makes it look they are looking at each other and talking.
At the editing table when the editor assembles these shots in order it appears to be a continuous flow of sequence for the audience. They feel that both characters are conversing with each other. However if these positions are not maintained correctly the characters would seem disconnected from each other and so would be the audience from the scene. Although this is a simple technique, when followed right it would create a pleasant visual.