What causes a continuity error and why do they happen?
According to Wikipedia, ‘continuity is particularly a concern in the production of film and television due to the difficulty of rectifying an error in continuity after shooting has wrapped up’.
But why do they happen?
The continuity in filming is the job of the script supervisor who has the tough task of maintaining continuity, or at least attempting to maintain continuity right across the ‘chaotic and typically non-linear production shoot.’ And there’s some serious attention to detail too – check out the Wikipedia link on just how much work they have on their plate.
So I guess it’s no surprise that the odd continuity error slips the net and it’s not just a tiny blink and you’ve missed it, or a ‘who would notice that error’, sometimes they’re so whoppingly huge that everyone sees them and they feature on many of the television and YouTube channels across the globe.
Over the years and in various programmes and films I’ve seen a lot of movie mistakes, and television mistakes. In Oliver Twist (1965), the currant bun that Oliver was given by the Artful Dodger seemed to take a considerable amount of time to eat one minute, and was almost gone in the next shot, then back again to a large bun. There’s the famous chariot scene in Ben Hur with the appearance of a red sports car, there are the crowd shots of a casually dressed guy in white t-shirt and jeans in a crowd scene for a Indiana Jones.
To try and avoid continuity errors while filming, often a production company will try and film all the shots for one particular scene all together which cuts down on the costume changes, or the outdoor scenes to avoid the lighting changes. During filming of ‘Bad Blood’, photos were taken of the zombies in order to keep the make up the same during each day of filming, as often we weren’t back on set for days, weeks or months at a time, and we had to where possible wear the same costumes so as not to look out of character. Although I do wonder what state my tie was in several different shots!!!
As a fan of Torchwood it would easy to just watch the series without questioning the usual errors but this is me and after the first moment of watching the series on DVD (I was quiet during the actual initial episode), I began to notice the errors almost immediately. Not big, leap off the cliff kind of errors but if you were concentrating, it was evident.
In Series One, Ghost Machine, there was a definite change of character running through the arcade a few feet or so behind Gwen. It was meant to be Owen, and it was for a few scenes, and then changed to a slightly balding bloke wearing the same clothes, then when Jack appeared, it was back to Owen again. Now if this was a deliberate mistake it was a poor one.
In Series Two, To The Last Man, the error was with Toshiko. While being chased up the promenade by Tommy, she drops her shoulder bag and it’s a deliberate drop, yet when Tommy in the next scene scoops her up off her feet, the shoulder bag is back on her shoulders again.
Again in Series Two, ‘Meat’, Rhys is shot by one of the Harries men in the warehouse. His hands are currently tied behind his back but as he falls his hands miraculously are free of ropes.
There is one continuity error that I’m not sure whether it was just Barrowman moaning at the fact he had to shave for his character who was meant to have no facial hair, or that it was perfectly natural for Jack Harkness to grow sideburns ‘Fragments’, or have a moustache ‘Miracle Day’, but it is increasingly frustrating when you’re lead to believe one thing but then given a different deal. I suppose this would come under Plot Holes.
We put the question to the fans to see how many they remembered and to locate the Vlog from John Barrowman heading on set of ‘To The Last Man’ which had prompted my question initially about his shaven and unshaven look throughout the four seasons.
Follow this link to read what the fans said about continuity errors.
We’ll be covering continuity errors a lot more in the coming months.
©BBC Torchwood 2006