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How to Create Continuity in Film

Learn how to create continuity in film.
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Action in film is the main thing that people focus on when they are watching a movie. People engage with the story, and the action that moves the story forward will get most of the attention. However, that doesn’t mean you should neglect the small details. Continuity in film is perhaps the most important element to guarantee the audience’s suspension of disbelief.  All details, no matter how small, should be considered when making a film, and that’s why here we will take a look at 4 tips to avoid breaking the continuity in film.

Keep an eye on objects and characters

First things first, your characters should have a consistent appearance throughout your scenes. The main point of continuity in film is, precisely, to give the audience a sense of continuous time and space in film. Make sure your characters are always dressed the same way for sequences taking place in the same timeframe, and keep objects consistently in the same place if they are kept as references throughout the sequence.

Hair should be combed the same way always, makeup should match colors between shots, and drinks should be as full or as empty as the character drinking it last left it.

Eye trajectory makes things match

Continuity is not just a matter of characters but also a matter of action. One of the things that tends to throw people off while watching a film is when two shots don’t correspond with each other. A common way in which this happens starts with a shot of a character looking in one direction, followed by a shot of the corresponding object or character placed in a way that doesn’t match the eye trajectory of the first character.

Action and aftermath must make sense

Action is only as impactful as its effect, and when we fail to see the effect properly reflected in film, it loses most of its magic. This is why most filmmakers seem to get stuck on getting practical effects right or making sure they can add them in post production. Many films show bad guys jumping through a window and falling on a table, only to get no traces of broken glass or table legs in the next couple of shots. Always make sure that the aftermath of the action is present throughout the sequence.

Mind frame entries and exits

Lastly, us humans are very direction-oriented and filmmakers need to take that into account when making transitions between shots. Someone walking out of frame on the right needs to enter the frame on the left in the following shot. Similarly, when shooting sequences that are supposed to depict opposite processes like leaving for work and coming back home, you should mind the direction of the actions so that they mirror each other. Otherwise, you may confuse the audience by shooting both actions moving in the same direction.

Bonus tip: get a script supervisor in your crew

Depending on your budget and the complexity of your project, you should consider getting a script supervisor. This person’s role is precisely to keep track of all the continuity details in a scene just to make sure there are no disruptions in the flow of the story. Other department heads will usually keep an eye on the details that pertain to their roles, but a script supervisor will have complete records of all things continuity.

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