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Donald Schneider
12-21-2015, 04:01 AM
I was watching a movie recently and noticed that during a scene a character’s arm changes position, while he is sitting, from his lap to resting on his knee without showing the intervening movement and this mystified me. I know movies are always cut after filming to fit them into a desired time span. Most of us have watched deleted scenes from films such as The Godfather, for example. These are entire scenes that might encompass a few minutes. In these cases, it is easy to discern why they were cut. They are all scenes that are nonessential, scenes that merely add background or ambience which can be cut without affecting the continuity of the movie. But are movies sort of micromanaged to this extent? I have no technical expertise whatsoever in this field and don’t know how many film frames equal a second, for example. But how long could it possibly take for the character to have moved his arm like this and how much time can be saved by cutting the intervening frame or frames? One or two seconds? Directors cut out a very small amount of frames throughout a movie, as in this example, in order to save time? A second here, a second there? If so, this gives me an entirely new appreciation as to just how difficult it is and how much work it is to make a movie.

I just ask this out of curiosity in the event anyone knows and is kind enough to respond.

Thanks much.

Beachgirl
12-21-2015, 06:48 AM
I majored in film production during my first stint in college back in the mid-1980's. I can't tell you how many hours I spent cutting and splicing film, sometimes cutting out only a couple of frames here and there, with reels of film unfurling around my ankles. Editing was eye-bleeding tedious. I'm not educated regarding the new world of digital film production, but I would imagine they still spend just as much time agonizing over every frame they cut.

M.N Thorne
12-21-2015, 07:02 AM
I majored in film direction at Academy of Arts University back in the early 2000's. I am quite skilled in both traditional and digital editing. I have spend tons of hours to just to edit together a 5 min scene. Plus, editing gets harder when it comes to machinima because you are editing animation happening in real time. You must go frame by frame in order to set the proper mood, continuity, and getting the right montage.

Aggy B.
12-21-2015, 07:37 AM
It's probably just an issue of the actor not completely replicating their behavior from one take to another. Normally, there is someone (or a group of someones) who are in charge of continuity, but they do not always notice or have the opportunity to micromanage every gesture. Or there might have been something about the particular takes that one was marked as being "no good" but then was used anyway later.

However, from the editing stand point - film speed is 24 frames per second, but the human eye and brain detects movement on screen in the space of four frames. This means that matching up gestures across takes can be extremely fiddly. So. Don't know if that answers your question, but there are any number of things that could cause the continuity error you spotted.

slhuang
12-21-2015, 08:24 AM
What Aggy said. That particular discontinuity was unlikely a cut bit and more likely that the two shots were from two different takes.

To simplify, let's say Actor A has a long monologue and then some dialogue, and the crew films the scene twice with the camera looking at Actor A's face. The first time Actor A nails the monologue but flubs the dialogue, and the second time he's wooden in the monologue but nails the dialogue. So when then cut it together they use the monologue from the first take but the dialogue from the second take. If in the first take he had his hand on the table and in the second take he had his hand in his lap, you'll see the switch without an intervening movement.

This is way oversimplified, of course. There are often more than two takes (sometimes many more!), and editing takes into account many, many factors other than whether the actor says the lines well -- camera focus, lighting or sound issues (e.g., a dog barking or a plane flying over can spoil some of a take but not all of it), something that wasn't supposed to be in frame getting caught on camera for a moment, a tricky movement that didn't get caught correctly, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

There IS a person on set other than the people directly involved in the shot whose sole job is to do continuity matching. That position is the script supervisor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Script_supervisor), and they take ridiculous, copious notes on details like whether an actress's coat was in her left hand or her right, and they will try to catch and correct the actor at the beginning of the take to match things. The job is MONUMENTAL and impressive and I could never do it. People catch continuity errors in movies all the time, but trust me, the number you would catch if it weren't for script supervisors is absolutely astronomical, because these things are surprisingly hard to keep track of. And sometimes the script supervisor will flag a continuity error but the director and/or actor and/or DP decides they want to try it a different way, and the editor still uses both versions and marries them together, but c'est la vie.

(Other people track continuity in their own departments as well -- for example, the wardrobe department usually takes photos of every person in every costume in case they have to go back to it. But the script supervisor is the one whose job is continuity.)

One script supervisor told me that she was always the person who caught continuity errors in movies, and when she found out she could do it as a job she was over the moon. :greenie

Donald Schneider
12-21-2015, 08:58 PM
Thank you all for your most appreciated answers!

Beachgirl and M. N. Throne, your responses reinforce within me that notwithstanding a perception that many might have that Hollywood types are a bunch of pampered and overpaid prima donnas, they do indeed labor mightily to bring us a quality product! There is indeed a ponderous amount of work involved in bringing us a two hour or so movie!

Aggy B, and Silhuang, your replies were an epiphany for me. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” I was laboring under the false assumption that in the example I cited that frames had been cut in the middle of a scene whereas it is far more likely that the director had yelled “cut” for whatever reason, and when the scene resumed the boy in the scene neglected to take note where his arm had been at the time the scene had been interrupted while filming. This is likely as the child actor involved had never acted before (and never would again notwithstanding a very good performance by him and his identical twin brother as well: sadly, he passed away a few years ago at 49 from kidney disease which the late, great Roger Ebert took note of on his blog). The scene was played with the character’s grandmother, a very experienced actress who made no such mistake, though I’m surprised that neither she nor the movie’s top-tier director noticed it and counseled the boy: “Chris, that wasn’t the position you were in when we cut.” Anyway, I know such minor mistakes are inevitable and don’t criticize them, and they are rarely noticed while watching a movie in a theater.

Also, Silhuang, thanks much for sharing your technical knowledge with me and all. I found it most interesting.

Thanks to all again! I can’t say this was a burning area of interest for me, but I was, as I said, most curious. It’s appreciated!