Film is a medium consisting of vast details and structures. From camera settings to set design to props, everything needs to be taken care of so subtly that there must not be any gaps. In features, it is always difficult to track down each shot with the same level of detail. Regardless of how attentive you are, for a person alone, keeping everything aligned is a tough job. Today, we are going to talk about one of the most familiar mistakes in filmmaking, i.e., the continuity error.
Continuity errors, to some extent, are a part of filmmaking. It is quite certain that even big directors from big production houses can make a certain continuity error. This is not something that depends on money or the size of the production houses. Continuity errors can happen in short films, microfilms, indie films, and so on. It is all about keeping track of everything in the previous frame. The pressure that filmmaking brings is sometimes the reason behind these sorts of errors. Let’s jump into the details of it and see how an amateur filmmaker like you can avoid making a mistake.
What Is A Continuity Error?
A filmmaker is destined to create the “suspension of disbelief” in the audience. The audience must feel that they are part of the story; they are witnessing whatever the plot is offering. To create such an anomaly, the maker needs to think about the little details that can ruin the environment. One of which is the continuity error. Continuity is the element of filmmaking that develops the idea of subtlety from one shot to another.
In other words, in continuity, each shot flows seamlessly from the previous shot without any pause. When there is something off in a frame from the previous one, a continuity error takes place. For instance, if at the beginning of a scene an actor holds a glass in his right hand and the frame ends, in terms of continuity, the next frame should indicate he or she is holding the glass in the right hand. If the glass is then transferred to the left hand and not shown in-between frame jumps, then there is a continuity error.
Continuity errors mostly take place during the establishing shots, medium shots, and close-ups. While you are doing the establishing shot, it portrays a lot of the set, including props and characters. So, there is always a chance of a visual continuity error, as the chance of a prop being misplaced is very high. As for medium shots, a portion of the set is shown, including the character. Even if the camera mainly focuses on the character, there are high chances that the portion of the set shown in the camera may contain some props that are misplaced in different frames.
Types Of Continuity Errors
There are specific sets of continuity errors that filmmakers often make. Categorizing them can be pretty helpful for the younger generation, as they tend to have a little patience.
Acting Continuity: It is a tendency for a filmmaker to take multiple shots for a particular scene. Though it helps the editor in post-production, it is a risky business for the actor. It is quite certain that being a human, every step will create a hint of difference from the previous one. For example, if in one take the actor picks up a prop in the right hand, in the 5th or 6th take, they might take it with the left, or even if it is the right hand, the posture may be different. The expressions get changed with each take, the subtlety changes, and that is how the acting continuity error takes place.
Props and Costume Continuity: Props and Costume Continuity errors are one of the most common mistakes in filmmaking. In bigger sets, it is quite inevitable to misplace props from one shot to another. There are hundreds of props in an indoor scene. It is quite impossible to keep track of each of them. The same goes with the costume section. It is an absolute herculean task to track down the little details of the costumes every now and then. As a result, when multiple shots are taken, there remains a slight hint of continuity error. Although sometimes these flaws are quite negligible, befooling the audience is always a risk you want to avoid as a filmmaker.
Camera and Audio Continuity: In films, it is important to keep a particular picture and audio setting. For this, the filmmaker must ensure that they are using the same instruments throughout the whole shoot. If not, then the light settings or the volume may differ from one scene to another. Yes, it is possible to make corrections in the post-production of the film, but you are already going to have problems like acting continuity errors and props issues. So, rather than depending solely on the post-production, you should always be ready to ignore flaws in the shoot. A proper setting for the whole film is a must to avoid this kind of continuity error.
Plot Continuity: This error is one of the most prevalent construction errors in filmmaking. A script, if not written carefully, can create this kind of hoax. Plot continuity errors are things that are not seen through the naked eyes but felt through the conscious structure of the story. For instance, if a character at the beginning of the story says he or she doesn’t like to dwell in the past and later it is shown that the character is dwelling in the past without even establishing it, that is a plot continuity error. It is not important that the character in the beginning not be changed at all, but it is very important to show the audience how the character changed the way he or she changed. Without the establishment, the audience will find the plot as a continuity error.
Time Continuity: Shooting outside is always dependent on how the weather behaves. If you are willing to take multiple shots in a single day, that too, outside, you must plan to complete the shots with enough light. Moreover, the subtlety of the frame will be lost; hence the time continuity error will take place. Even so, at one point, a different shadow length can cause trouble for the audience in understanding the plot.
Tips For Maintaining Continuity
There are a couple of methods used by filmmakers to avoid such continuity errors. Here are some of those:
Take Pictures: One of the most popular ways to get rid of continuity errors is by taking pictures of the set. It helps to provide continuity in establishment shots. When you have a picture of the set, it is quite easier for you to place everything as it was in the previous shot.
Take Multiple Shots: It is quite fascinating to take multiple shots to get a vivid idea of a particular scene. But if you are working with amateur actors, taking multiple shots can create multiple continuity errors. Rather than taking multiple shots, you can always rehearse a number of times.
Keep Track of Continuity Reports: The detailed report of each day’s shooting is regarded as the continuity report. If you can keep good track of it, there are fewer chances in the next day’s shoot to make any continuity mistakes. Continuity reports help you keep track of not only the props and the costumes but also the camera, sound, and time continuities.
All in all, it is quite hard to keep track of all the shots, but what you can do is to try and make fewer errors in continuity. As an amateur filmmaker, you must try and avoid any lapses caused by carelessness in the making. If your foundation is strong, the movie itself will speak for it no matter what.
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