How to avoid continuity errors in film.

Learn techniques to help you to escape common film continuity errors.

Continuity errors may not seem like a big deal to blooper lovers, but for filmmakers (both the experienced and the newcomer), they are the bane of their existence. When the goal is a seamless final film that keeps your viewers involved from beginning to end, even one single continuity error — that is, a lapse in self-consistency in a scene — can completely ruin their suspension of disbelief. And with it, the audience’s attention.

Don’t lose that crucial element of immersive storytelling. Learn how to create a seamless film by identifying the most common continuity error types and putting the right processes (and people) in place to avoid them from the outset.

Types of continuity errors.

Whether it’s a piece of equipment in a frame or a quick glimpse of the reflection of the camera person, continuity errors have found their way into everything from small indie films to polished Hollywood blockbusters — so don’t feel bad if you’ve found them in your projects as well.

Film and video creators battle all types of continuity errors during filming, including (but definitely not limited to) costume and prop mishaps — think a full glass of water held by an actor in one scene and an empty glass in the next. Or weather issues like an exterior rainstorm shot from inside, but with an actor looking out at the storm through glass windows that are completely dry. By the time you’re in post-production, editors will have to catch and correct any number of those continuity errors, like something as basic as making sure a film’s sound (the audio) actually matches its actions (the visual.)

Despite all those crew members' best efforts, there do remain a few continuity errors that seem to happen repeatedly, and a few well-known films where they (unfortunately) stood out.

4 common errors.

Here, we’ll help you identify and avoid common continuity errors so that you can produce a seamless film for your audience to enjoy.

  • Cameras or other film equipment caught in reflections.
  • Objects disappearing and reappearing from the scene.
  • Actor’s eyelines not matching between shots.
  • Actors using different physical movements from shot to shot.

4 famous fails.

  1. Forrest Gump: Forrest opens a letter from Apple dated 1975 thanking him for his stock purchase when Apple stock was not available to buy until 1980.
  2. Gladiator: In this renowned historical drama set in 180 AD, during the famous battle scene, a modern gas tank is clearly revealed to be attached to the bottom of a tossed-over chariot.
  3. The Fellowship of the Ring: This fantasy finds Sam traveling on foot through Middle Earth while a 20th-century car drives down a dusty country road in the background.
  4. Blade Runner: In one of its most celebrated scenes, just before replicant Roy Batty dies during a heavy, dark evening downpour, he releases doves into the sky — but in the next shot of those same birds in that same sky, it’s suddenly clear and sunny.

While you might take some solace in knowing you’re not alone battling continuity errors, sharing the struggle with directors like Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson, and Robert Zemeckis, in the end it’s more important to learn what you can do to avoid them in the first place.

Tips to avoid continuity errors.

The first tip is to make sure you have the right personnel in place. Everyone on a film set — from “above the line” directors, screenwriters, and cast tasked with creative development to “below the line” cinematographers, production managers, and editors participating in the day-to-day filmmaking — plays a part in the final product. But when it comes to continuity errors, often the most important person on set (on any given day) is the script supervisor.

Beginning in pre-production, script supervisors prepare a continuity breakdown document that analyzes the cast, actions, set decoration or dressing, wardrobe, hair, makeup, and props, plus the story days (every scene timeline, from day to night and back) in the script. Script supervisors record notes for each scene during the actual filming, which are then used to help the editor cut the scene in post-production. They’re also responsible for tracking the film’s daily shoot progress, which is extremely helpful if errors are found in post, allowing them to see where the original mistake occurred. Ultimately, a good script supervisor really can be the director’s best friend.

The second (and perhaps the most basic and budget-friendly) is to simply avoid having certain elements in your film, including shots of drinks, clocks, fires, and cigarettes, all of which constantly change, making it hard to main consistency.

With so many people and variables involved in every film project, it’s nearly impossible to avoid continuity errors 100% of the time. In addition to keeping shooting days close together and fixing continuity in post-production, there are a few more ideas you might want to keep in mind. The five technical steps below can help set you up for a more seamless shoot (and less time in the editing room).

  1. Reflections: Carefully examine all reflective surfaces in a frame to ensure no equipment is visible.
  2. Objects: In your master shot (the principal camera shot or angle used when filming a scene,) carefully note the location of each object in the frame to ensure they aren't removed from any other shots.
  3. Eyelines: In every shot, ensure that the actor’s eyeline matches the previous shots. Give them an eyeline marker to focus on to ensure continuity.
  4. Actions: If an actor picks up a coffee cup in the master shot, make sure they pick it up the same way every time in each new camera setup.
  5. Rehearsals: To limit the risk of actors slightly changing their performance between takes, rehearsing the scene a few times will help keep them on point

Help your films reach new heights.

With a little curiosity and a lot of research, you can not only learn how to avoid those dreaded continuity errors, but also find some tips and tricks that will inspire your filmmaking overall. Take a moment to discover everything you can do with Adobe Premiere Pro to make next-level films, videos and more.