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How to Pre-empt Errors in Continuity Editing

Chances are you’re going to make a few mistakes during production that you simply can’t solve in post no matter how experienced you are as a director, or how talented your team might be in this department.

These types of errors are inextricably tied to continuity and can be difficult to detect while on set, especially if your crew is minus a dedicated Script Supervisor (Continuity).

Coverage Breeds Continuity Errors

Shooting a scene from a variety of angles and shot sizes is referred to in the industry as coverage and most indie directors working with only one camera will usually want to shoot key scenes a few extra times in a few different ways to compensate.

This is standard practice and a good habit to get into. But as much of an asset as the additional footage can be in editing, just filming it opens the door for lapses in continuity.

Consider this:

Every time you do a take of the same scene or shot from a different angle, your actors must perform the exact same actions and interactions whilst hitting their marks over many hours of filming.

In addition, your actors must also make sure their attire, hair and makeup remains consistent over the course of any shoot where it is necessary for it to be so.

If there are any slipups here, you will run into complications upon entering the editing suite.

This is why a Script Supervisor is so important. It’s their job to ensure that photographic references of the actors and set configurations are kept on hand so that none of these potential pitfalls become an issue.

That said, the biggest liability of all is not what you shoot but how.

Shooting Boards a Potential Solution

We’ve written about the 180-rule before in a previous post and for good reason — if you make this mistake the only real way to come back from it is to spend time and money on reshoots.

Usually, this would not be a problem if were adhering to a storyboard.

The best storyboards are those that are practical in their application. As such a better way to think of them might be as shooting boards.

Essentially, shooting boards are like storyboards but are drafted with specific reference to the shot list. This makes them a more effective tool at planning for and maintaining continuity.

Staying on Top of Continuity

Continuity is one of those areas that many filmmakers can easily overlook, even those most experienced. It’s understandable, but these ‘little mistakes’ can undo a lot of your hard work.

But if you put the right people and procedures in place at the outset, you should end up with all the footage you’ll need and a film you can successfully cut together.

This will ensure your audience emotionally invested and give your film the best chance of success on the festival circuit — assuming that’s where you want to go with it.

Next Steps…

For more great articles, be sure to read through our archives and consider signing up to our monthly newsletter or following along on social media.

And next time you’re on set, remember to be vigilant. Errors in continuity won’t catch themselves!

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