Wohl talks about so many really important filming and editing techniques in “The Language of Film” such as the shot sizes and what they say and reveal about a person and a scene, how to tell a story with film, cutting on action, splitting edits, matching angles, and the 180-degree rule. The two that struck me as the most intriguing were two that I had never heard of and they were not intuitive at first: matching angles and the 180-degree rule.
Matching angles entails lining up characters’ eye-lines so that it really looks like they are having a conversation when shots go back and forth. By matching angles, the shots make sense to a viewer as they feel they are in certain characters’ point of view at different times. In the Parks and Recreation scene I chose to examine, shots are at slightly different heights and angles depending on who is the focus of each shot. This shows the point of view of the character that is not talking at that moment by being at the level of their eye-line. This scene is a bit harder to depict these matching angles than other scenes may be since Andy and April are frequently both shown in the shot. However, by examining the angles of the shots used, they transition naturally because they are at matching angles.
The 180-degree rule was one that I had never heard of before, but it is really important so that viewers are not confused or disoriented. This rule basically says that you can only shoot on one side of a subject or scene so that characters look like they are looking the right direction when you edit the pieces together. It is something that is much more obvious when watching an actual clip than theoretically so let me explain using my Parks and Recreation example. At all times during this clip, April and Andy are filmed from what is shown as their front sides. Say, however, that the two were standing just far enough away that you could squeeze in a shot of Andy on the side where Aril and Andy’s shoulders are close together. The reactions that you would get from this would be the wrong direction and confuse a viewer. Wohl says that there’s a trick to fixing problems like this: mirroring the shot. But since Andy’s jacket has letters on it, they wouldn’t be able to have a quick fix like that.
Here’s the clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VeykC1307c