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...

Okay, okay. What don’t you do?

Well, my hollandaise sauce never seems to turn out quite right…[1]

In terms of what I don’t watch for – I’m not looking at:

  • Performance. As mentioned earlier, this is between the Director and the Actors. Exclusively.
  • Lighting. This is the DoP’s area, and frankly I wouldn’t have a clue. It can take over twenty years of experience for camera assistants to work their way up to cinematographers, and their world is one of marvellous cinematic magic to me. In the studio they may have all sorts of complex lighting setups programmed into the board for each shot, while outdoors their ability to manipulate natural lighting is astonishing.[2] It’s also worth pointing out that, in terms of lighting, what I see on the monitor while the film is being shot is not the same as what it is going to look like on the screen. Cinematographers do all sorts of funny things with their lighting based on what they intend to do afterwards.
    I do however log basic camera info for each shot (lens, stop, filter, and if I’m lucky focus), and will often note down things at the DoP’s request. These might be notes on particular takes (something as simple as “DoP’s preferred”), reminders for future reverse shots (“We’ll need to up to 4000 for the reverse”), or grading notes for the editor to be aware of (“We’ll be bumping this up a half-stop in the grade”).
  • Image quality. By this I mean things like focus – the camera operator is going to know if the shot was soft without me pointing it out. More likely, she’ll tell me “soft in the middle” to put on the continuity sheets for the editor.
  • Composition. This is between the Director and DoP, and in turn the Camera Operator, and nothing to do with me.
    That said, I do constantly scan the frame, looking for those distractions I was banging on about earlier. So if while the Camera Operator is adjusting the frame to get just the right amount of Sam Spade’s face in shadow, I notice what looks suspiciously like the legs of a C-Stand in the background camera-right, I will quietly check to see if it’s supposed to be there. But I’m not looking at the merits or otherwise of the frame – I’m just checking to see that there’s nothing in it which is going to prevent the shot from being used or distract the audience.[3]
  1. The key is to keep the heat as low as possible, and to have the butter at room temperature. Won’t work straight from the fridge. [↩︎]
  2. Cinematography is known as “painting with light” for a reason. [↩︎]
  3. I have however been known to sigh aloud at shots of sheer beauty being framed up in front of me, but no-one seems to mind that sort of comment. [↩︎]

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Posted By That Continuity Guy On March 2, 2009 @ 11:53 pm In Continuity 101

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