Sunday, December 21, 2008

Continuity

A film - large or small - comes together through a long process in which filming is just one component. Individual scenes are filmed, edited, special effects added, edited some more. And the filming of each scene doesn't occur in sequence: the crew doesn't open the script on page 1 and start shooting. No, each 'shot'; each scene of the film is shot separately; out of sequence; and in a schedule suited to availability of actors, locations, equipment & crew.

The final result is the sequenced combination of each of those scenes, after shooting, special effects, and editing - into the integrated whole that tells a tale; entertains us; frightens us; makes us laugh or cry, think or angered. A sequence of small snippets building into a powerful whole.

In a well-made film every piece is contributing to the overall effect. Nothing is extraneous; nothing detracts.

One of the lesser-known roles in film-making - and TV, for that matter - has the job of making sure that everything flows smoothly from scene to scene. They ensure that a watch doesn't suddenly appear as an actor exits through one door and enters the next room because the scenes were shot days, weeks or even months apart. They ensure that a vase full of flowers don't change colour during a scene; or that a rower on a Viking long-boat in the 6th century AD isn't wearing spectacles!

This is the job of the continuity person. And their role is important, because they help to preserve the illusion on which the entire film or performance rests. We need to be immersed in a film; engaged in the story; not distracted by the flaws in the production. Any discontinuity causes us to step back out of the experience, and lose our engagement.

Such disruptions to the flow of a performance ruin our experience and irreparably harm our perception of its quality and value.

The same thing happens with our perception of an organization when one interaction is discontinuous or inconsistent with another. This may be the rude delivery guy juxtaposed with the friendly sales assistant; or the unexpected charges added to a transaction after a smooth online ordering process.

The question is: who's looking after continuity at your organization? Who's job is it to ensure that the spell is never broken? Who's making sure that all of the touch-points and all the separate interactions we design and deliver over time fit together seamlessly, without gaps or inconsistencies?

Who's your continuity person?

3 comments:

Patrick said...

Nice analogy, Steve.

It's interesting to note that the term 'continuity' is really only used in the US film industry, whereas in the UK and Europe the same role is referred to as a 'script supervisor'.

But again this translates well to customer experience, in that as a customer-centred organisation (note no Z!) you need to have a script or game plan, and there should be someone who supervises that script from a holistic 50-thousand foot view and ensure that all aspects of the experience come together seamlessly.

ruthellison said...

I like this analogy. It's something that my colleagues across different work environments have discussed - about the continuity of the experiences between different applications with the organisation and between different devices (mobile, kiosks, laptops etc).

Michael Leis said...

Fantastic post Steve. Interactive needs to be looking towards the broadcast model to start creating the kinds of experiences technology is affording us.

Continuity is a great analogy. They and script supervisors are important day-to-day enforcers of the story. Also the most under appreciated.