Production: How to Avoid Continuity Errors

Continuity errors are a problem that plague every kind of production. The errors are usually subtle and unnoticeable but they do have the potential to snap the audience out of the illusion your movie has created. The best way to avoid these errors is to hire someone on your production who's job is to stare at the monitor and meticulously study the footage being shot in detail. This person is called the Script Supervisor.

Hire Someone with a Background in Editing

The script supervisor is probably the director's most important ally on the crew. There's a lot on the director's mind and the script supervisor's job is to watch everything that is being shot. He/she will note what every setup is and will make detailed notes about every take. In short they're making sure that the footage is able to be edited together without any problems. They make sure that there was enough coverage of the scene to edit together while keeping an eye on the actors to make sure that their movements match in every take. It's an under appreciated job where a background in editing helps because those people know how it will call come together.

Avoid Using Props That Cause Continuity Errors

There are certain props like cigarettes and liquids being drank from a glass that are always changing in their size. If an actor is drinking something in the scene then try to cover up the glass, you run the risk of having the glass almost empty in the wide shot and then full when you cut in the medium. Cigarettes are even worse because they're burning away once lit. If you can avoid including these objects in the scene then think about taking them out because it will be one less thing to worry about. 

Rehearse

Most continuity errors are caused because an actor did something different  in their performance between takes. A way to limit the risk of this happening is to rehearse the scene a few times so that the repetition in the blocking remains constant between takes. 

Although you want to avoid continuity errors, don't let your fear of them limit your actor's performance. The performance is by far way more important than the shot matching up perfectly in the edit. 

Dealing with Continuity Errors in the Edit

Everyone is human and sometimes an error slips through the cracks like the actor's arms are up in the wide and then down in the medium you want to cut to. Continuity should be a factor in you editing decisions but it should be the last thing you should be worried about. What is most important is how the cut affects the viewer. If there is an error but you're cutting to the best part of the performance then suck up the error. How the audience emotionally connects to your work is way more important then the shots perfectly matching up. 

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