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Term: Sight Line

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An imaginary axis that runs between the eyes of a person and the subject or object that is in focus. Sight lines draw the viewer’s attention to specific parts of the mise en scène (this is particularly important in long takes). In rare cases, the sight line of an actor may directly meet the lens, so that the character seems to be looking directly into the eyes of the viewer (see 90-degree-shot). Nevertheless, since this is very obtrusive and confronting, films in the tradition of continuity editing generally try to prevent such a direct addressing of the viewer. The sight lines of the various subjects in a shot can form special shapes (i.e. a triangle). For this reason, sight lines should be taken into account in the analysis of a shot’s composition.

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