What You Need to Know About Continuity Errors

Script Supervisor Connection Error Continuity Film Video
Connections are only available at the station! | © Photo: FreePik

The viewer of a film must perceive what he sees as reality. That’s the only way he can immerse himself in the movie plot. The avoidance of connection errors and the profession of script supervisor play a decisive role here.

This paper explains why continuity in film, television and video plays a crucial role in viewer perception. At the same time, he names and shows connection errors from well-known film works where, in the heat of the moment, it was not possible to maintain film continuity.

You need to know

  • Connections have to do with time continuity in film. They help the viewer feel like they are watching the film in real time.
  • For example, film continuity requires identical clothing in a scene. An actor may not suddenly wear a hat in a long shot if he was previously seen without one in a close-up.
  • Ensuring film continuity is a separate film profession. The Script Supervisor is responsible for this.
  • Continuity in film touches on the working fields of make-up, costumes, props and film sets as well as staging aspects such as axis jumps.

1What are connection errors in film and video?

On every professional film production shoot, you’ll find a jokester on the crew who claims, “Connections only exist at the station!”

Creating continuity in a film or video is not easy. Whether the work is fictional (feature film) or draws its power from reality (documentary film) is of secondary importance. Not even the best directors and greatest films are perfect in this regard. Every movie, no matter how great it is and how expensively it was produced, has its share of flaws. Some continuity errors are apparent at first glance. Others require a trained eye.

Film continuity is the assurance that the same position of characters, objects, costumes and props is always maintained from different angles and when editing different shot sizes in a single location. Dialogues can also be the subject of continuity.

Connection errors are among the most common mistakes in film production. Young filmmakers affect them as much as Hollywood. The concept of film continuity is very easy to understand. But very difficult and costly to implement. The terms film continuity and the term connections, which is usually used on the film set, all stand for the same thing.

2Examples of continuity errors

Many film errors are continuity errors. Famous films, classics and blockbusters are also affected. As comical and incomprehensible as such bloopers may seem to the unknowing discoverer, such mistakes are inexplicable only to people who have never been present on a film set during shooting. In the pressure and days of stress, it’s easy to forget something or get something mixed up – this is true even for the most experienced and best script supervisors in the world.

In editing, where each frame is viewed many times, most mistakes are detected sooner or later by the editor. However, where defect-free material is not available, one must often grudgingly opt to use the existing recordings with defective connections. Digital retouching is an option, but only if the budget and time are available.

Example 1: The classic of all connection errors and in addition in an absolute cult film: A four-engine jet airplane (Boeing 747) becomes a Boeing 767 with only two engines during the landing approach:

Connection error Example: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Example 2: Also a continuity issue. In the counter-shot, the chessboard is suddenly empty:

Connection error example: Ace Ventura - Now it's getting wild (1995)

Example 3: Windows break, but are suddenly intact again at the end of the sequence in the background:

Connection error Example: Spider-Man (2002)

No connection errors (even though listed as such on many websites and on YouTube in sample videos) are mishaps that are outside the scope of the person responsible for continuity:

If an actor in a historical feature suddenly rolls up his sleeve to reveal a digital clock, it’s not a connection error. The script supervisor’s job is to make sure the actor always wears the same watch on the same wrist. Whether he wears a watch is not a question of continuity. Nevertheless, in such a case, the experienced professional will of course point out the error. Always assuming the error is discovered.

Example 4: Similarly, a camera reflected in a glass door is a film error, but has nothing to do with continuity. Here, camera crew or the editor (if there were shots without reflections) were not attentive enough in the megablock buster “Titanic” (with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet):

Film error, but not a connection error: mirroring camera in Titanic (1997)

The same applies if a microphone appears at the top of the image or a curious extra in the background looks directly into the camera.

3Why are connections important?

To attract their audience, films need to involve them in the plot. It should immerse itself in the film world, trust and believe the film and forget reality for a moment.

An example to illustrate connection problems:

The main character in a feature film smokes a cigarette in a half-length shot. Afterwards, when the camera cuts to the close-up, the cigarette (which had continued to burn when the camera was repositioned) is suddenly quite a bit shorter. Or a figure drinks from a glass of milk. After the next cut, the glass is on the kitchen table – and, strangely enough, has suddenly refilled (because the shots were shot in reverse order). Film audiences wonder.

Equally irritating in continuity would be a change in the position of the glass on the table: a frosted glass is first to the right of the performer. In the next picture it is to the left of the performer. It’s more common than you might think. Also with costumes (a tie knot suddenly changes its shape during the connection), with hairstyles (the parting of the main actor jumps from left to right) or props (the clock on the wall shows different times in the same scene) or with the weather (clouds in the sky suddenly have a different shape), the topic of connections is part of everyday life.

Continuity errors remind the viewer that they are “just” watching a video. Without proper continuity, the viewer falls out of character. He becomes a critic and analyst because of the wrong connection, instead of remaining an enjoyer and consumer. A lot of valuable movie time passes before movie audiences re-engage with the movie plot without reservations after a movie mistake.

4Who is responsible for continuity errors in film?

Ensuring continuity in a film project is a film profession in its own right. He calls himself Script Supervisor. Their work often begins during pre-production, then seamlessly transitions into film production and ends with post-production. To ensure continuity between the script and what is filmed, he advises and assists with a variety of other functions such as wardrobe / costumes, props, set design and make-up, thus preventing problems with the connection.

One of the most important duties of the Script Supervisor is to keep a detailed log of daily shots of the connections for production. In these protocols, which serve as a thought-provoking aid for one’s own work, but are also distributed as memos to others involved in the production process, it is precisely documented which setting shows what and how a connection must be.

These logs may also include shot numbers, director’s comments, camera angles and other details. After filming is complete, these daily logs usually go to the post-production team and editors. Film scenes are rarely recorded in the order in which they were written as a story in the script. Notes are used to ensure the consistency of each scene.

Ensuring continuity of content and connections on a project for television or film requires the ability to interpret the script consistently. Similarly, photographs, logs, and continuity production notes must be prepared with the utmost care.

Close cooperation with the director and the actors, the camera crew and the other people involved in the film production is essential for this profession. Accordingly, not only are the demands on professional competence high, but also on social competence.

5Types of continuity problems

Ensuring continuity and the associated problems and challenges can be divided into four areas for moving images. The subdivision refers to the shooting. If the editor makes a mistake during editing, this also leads to a continuity problem for the viewer at the end. The main effort, however, should be to prevent such problems from occurring on the film set in the first place.

  • Actor / Make up
  • Costumes
  • Props
  • Axis jump (180 rule)

Continuity can be critical to box office success. But continuity also plays an essential role in the effect of an image film or advertising video.

A Performer / Make-up

Professional actors as well as amateurs effortlessly manage to reach for a glass with their right hand in front of the camera during a dialogue scene and at the same time wipe their mouth with the fingers of their other hand.

However, if the position of the camera is changed between two shots, e.g. master shot and close-up, this can quickly mean a break of ten or more minutes for the actor. Briefly check the e-mails or made a call, let the mask check your hair and exchanged a few nice words … – and on it goes. And suddenly the left hand reaches for the glass again, because it has been refilled in the meantime and is in a slightly different position on the table.

In the best case, the continuity notices the error immediately afterwards and corrects it. In the second best case, the director, camera crew or 1st assistant director does this. If this is not the case, weeks later the editor wonders about the material delivered to him and the wrong connections. Perhaps he can salvage the faulty continuity of the shot by mirroring it horizontally. Most of the time, however, this is not an option, because this kind of solution would confuse the viewer even more than a glass jumping from one hand to the other during a re-cut.

Example 5: A beauty mark on the main character changes sides of her face during the story:

Continuity in the film: here make-up and script supervisor have failed

Experience and professionalism are also worth their weight in gold with regard to the connections in the film. If you save here, you risk a lot of connection errors and don’t have to be surprised about problems during editing.

BCostumes

Another area that is a challenge for any filmmaker is costumes. As a rule, the wardrobe constantly keeps an eye on all the actors’ costumes and takes pictures of them. This will ensure consistency of continuity.

Example 6: Here is a case where the main character’s suspenders disappear in one shot, but then reappear:

Continuity error: suspenders disappear

Before the first shot, the costume (on the actor) is photographed. This photo is the reference for all further settings. If the script dictates that a part of the costume changes (gets dirty, torn, soaked by the rain, etc.), this change is also documented photographically.

This becomes especially important when an actor has days off from filming. Without photos, no one is able to reliably and accurately remember how big the leading man’s tie knot was tied a week ago, or whether the leading lady’s blouse was closed to the top button or the second top button.

Photos (or prints of screenshots) are the magic weapon against image continuity errors.

C Connection error for props

Chairs have it in them. A little inattention on the set is all it takes and the next shot (or re-shoot) the chairs are slightly different at the table. Continuity errors are almost programmed into shoots where people get up from tables or sit down at tables.

Therefore, to avoid problems with the connection, as with the props, one works with a clean documentation and with photos. Anything else will result in film errors.

D Axis jumps

Leaps across the visual axis belong in the first lesson for budding filmmakers. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to axis jumps. Especially when a film project is documentary style, low budget or involves a high degree of improvisation.

A jump of axes confuses the viewer. It is true that no performer here holds a glass once on the left and once on the right. The image effect, however, is comparable for continuity when we look over the shoulder of a person on the left and right in a dialogue scene, depending on the size of the shot.

Connections, Continuity: Conclusion

Continuity helps to ensure the illusion of a world deliberately created by the filmmaker. The script supervisor (or, in the case of low-budget films, a person who tries to fill this role as much as possible) is therefore an essential feature of professional film productions.

Film continuity errors usually do not occur in the edit due to carelessness on the part of the editor or color grader, but on the film set. Photos help document connections so scenes and settings line up seamlessly.

Ensuring film continuity also ensures that all available shots can be used or considered for the finished work in the picture edit. Maximum editing possibilities, in turn, make actors taller, the film experience more intense and thus more successful.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

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