The over the shoulder shot is one of the most commonly used types of shot composition in film and television. It’s one of the most conventional ways to shoot dialogue. Because your audience has watched thousands of hours of film and television, the over the shoulder shot is a natural and unobtrusive way to shoot dialogue.
The technique of cutting between two over the shoulder shots is called ‘shot reverse shot’.
You’ll find examples of over the shoulder shots in almost every film or television program. Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (2014), for example, uses over the shoulder shots frequently during a conversation between Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Detective Robert Nock (Rory Kinnear).
When shooting over the shoulder shots like this, it’s important to observe the 180 degree rule. If you start shooting on one side of the characters, you need to stay on that side of the line. If you cross the 180 degree line, it will look like your characters are looking in opposite directions.
Got a dialogue scene to shoot? Remember that over the shoulder shots are one of the most natural and unobtrusive ways to set up this scene.