April 1, 2017

Watch: How Much Do Continuity Errors Really Matter in a Film?

Editors do their darndest to ensure that there are no errors in continuity, but does it really matter when a few slip through the cracks?

We've all seen them, whether it's Dorothy's ever-changing hair length in The Wizard of Oz or the already bullet-riddled wall during Pulp Fiction's "Divine Intervention" scene. Continuity errors are the easter eggs editors unintentionally leave in pretty much every film, but while some find them charming and unobtrusive, others claim these little mistakes are distracting at best and complete film-ruiners at worst.

So, which is it? In this video from Indy Mogul, editor Sven Pape discusses continuity errors, from the effects they have on audiences to what some of the most renowned editors think about them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ5UooWm38E

We all have our personal opinions about continuity errors. Some of us could care less about them; some of us pull our hair out when we spot them. However, the main point Pape points out is this: if a continuity error is distracting to the viewer, then either it's really, really big and apparent, or the film wasn't interesting enough to keep the viewer's attention. 

Now, there are those that make it their mission to discover mistakes in continuity—they're the cinematic version of a Grammar Nazi and the happier version of an internet troll. But according to studies that explore human attention utilizing eye-tracking technology, most individuals are simply not going to notice the random crew member wandering in the background or the length of a cigarette in a character's hand. As viewers, we're more concerned with the faces on the screen, as well as the eye movements of each character. Catching most continuity errors means you have to go looking for them. (I say most because some are too obvious to ignore.)

So, do continuity errors matter? Yes and no. You should always try to watch for continuity to make your edit as free of errors as possible. But while some may slip through the cracks, most people aren't going to notice them, and most of those that do aren't going to care that much.

What do you think about continuity errors? How much energy should editors spend on trying to find them in their work? Let us know in the comments.     

Your Comment

9 Comments

The camera in the mirror is not really a continuity error - just a physical reality - at least it's not a shot of a guy pretending to film. You can fix it in a couple of minutes - wouldn't even have to go to After Effects, just insert a mask in Premiere... (or FCP or Avid, I'm guessing)...

April 2, 2017 at 6:36AM, Edited April 2, 6:36AM

11
Reply
Nigel Traill
Director, Camera, Editor
85

They matter A LOT! Just go watch a Nolan film and see how many errors they have.

April 2, 2017 at 11:07AM

0
Reply
avatar
Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
597

In your video example, I did not catch the jacket error, but I did notice the trolley leaving the scene is different than the one that entered.

April 2, 2017 at 1:03PM

0
Reply

seriously ? that first clip .... i noticed the Bigger continuity error, but i didn't notice the jacket error. look at the cutaways of the train passing by .... in one scene, it has advertising all over the side of it ... two cuts later, as it leaves the vicinity, it's a clean train with no ads ..... the film maker never noticed that ?

April 2, 2017 at 1:20PM, Edited April 2, 1:19PM

0
Reply
avatar
stephen knifton
owner / creative director
397

That's what I was waiting for them to notice because it jumped out at me immediately. It's an entirely different damn train, lol!

April 2, 2017 at 7:27PM

6
Reply
avatar
David West
Filmmaker
948

I tend to think they matter a lot but no one I watch movies with seems to catch them. I'll often stop a film and show everybody the error and I usually get yelled at for it. LOL!

Either way, when I'm editing a film we shot they drive me crazy. Losing the best take for it is probably a bad idea, though.

April 3, 2017 at 11:03AM

0
Reply

Great video.
Continuity really doesn't matter, as long as it doesn't affect the audience.

April 5, 2017 at 10:18AM, Edited April 5, 10:18AM

0
Reply
avatar
Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
897

Performance first but, while shooting, there are additional shots you can do to get yourself out of a continuity problem. Shoot singles of your actors if possible, where it's just them and no other actor in frame. This is also where shooting higher resolution than delivery is useful. If shooting 4k for 2k, you can always punch in up to 2x, sometimes even 2.5x for a single of your actor. Cutaways. Can be anything. A close up of a cup. A dog in the corner. A doorknob. These shots can also help if you are cutting down a scene, trimming out dialogue or rewriting it in the edit.

October 14, 2018 at 7:20PM

0
Reply
Batutta
301

Just wanted to say how helpful these articles are.
I used to work as a cinematographer/editor
Now I'm moving into teaching film and you guys have some amazing articles and videos to use as recourses.

Thank a bunch ya beautiful bastards!

October 16, 2018 at 9:06AM

0
Reply