Continuity 101 (or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Scripty)
- Q & A on just what it is that Continuity / Script Supervisors actually do...

At least that one was short. Do we have to go through the whole list like this?

Not really. It’s a bit simpler from now on anyway.

There being so many things to look at and for, it’s not actually possible to look at them all at once. So that’s why it’s a priority list. From here on down, these are the things that are likely to be the focus of the audience’s attention in pretty much this order, so this is what I try to focus on.

If we’re shooting T-Rex marauding through the car park, I’m focussed most on T-Rex. If Cyrano and De Guiche are fencing to the death, then I’m not paying a huge amount of attention to the 32nd Musketeer on the left.[1] When Spartacus is admitting his identity, I’m Spartacus. Until it’s Antoninus’ turn, when we’re looking at him.[2]

And we don’t want that extra[3] in the front row wearing shocking pink when all the main characters are in khaki. Extreme and unlikely example,[4] but you get the idea – the eye is drawn to bright colours, so the only bright colours seen on screen should be the ones you want to be seen on screen.

More common are reflections – maybe distracting like a bright Japanese cartoon playing on the tv reflected in the painting on the wall behind[5], or just plain bad like a crew member reflected in the shop door as it opens.[6]

As for In & Up – we tend to shot in from the wide shot to the close-up. So generally we’re more concerned about what we will see in the close-up – character’s heads are more important than their feet.[7].

And in any event, once we get to the bottom of the list, there are actually other people looking out for most of these things.[8][9][10]

Props come under the Art Department, who (in Australia in the person of Standby Props) are responsible for resetting all props between takes and shots, and who will have someone watching every take. Standby Wardbrobe will similarly be watching to make sure their carefully-designed costumes are being shown to full advantage, worn correctly, and reset correctly between takes and shots. And likewise for hair and make-up: there will be on-set make-up artists watching every take to ensure that both are always as they should be, and dashing in during Final Checks to do touch-ups, apply powder to reduce shiny spots, spray on the fake sweat and that sort of thing.[11][12] All have their own comprehensive breakdowns and systems for maintaining continuity between takes and shots, and my role is to assist as a reference and double-check where necessary.

But of course, where they are looking specifically at their own area, I am looking at it all in the context of the shot, the cut and the story.

  1. Yes, I know Cyrano and De Guiche never actually fence to the death – it’s back-to-back – but I have a soft spot for them and wanted to get them in here somehow. [↩︎]
  2. This is assuming the person speaking is both on-screen and in-focus, as opposed to say a foreground blur asking about Voodoo Economics. Anyone? [↩︎]
  3. Sorry, “background artist”. Although I’ve done a lot of extra work, and anyone who tries calling themselves a background artist is in for a considerable degree of Michael-extracting. In mime, naturally (extras never speak). [↩︎]
  4. It would never get through Wardrobe, and even if it did the 3rd AD (who is responsible for extras) would pick up on it anyway. [↩︎]
  5. That was this. Except you won’t see it, because we caught it and did another take. [↩︎]
  6. Or the entire camera crew reflected in the passing train. Oops. [↩︎]
  7. Usually. [↩︎]
  8. At least on a properly-resourced production. [↩︎]
  9. So not an Australian one then… [↩︎]
  10. Tsk tsk, not funny. My bad. [↩︎]
  11. It is perhaps mildy ironic that these are the very things which tend to come to mind to the uninitiated when they think of Continuity. [↩︎]
  12. Okay, substitute “annoying” for “ironic” and you’re there. [↩︎]

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Posted By That Continuity Guy On March 2, 2009 @ 9:48 pm In Continuity 101

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