19 May 2014

Spot the difference

Years of carrying out compulsions related to order and symmetry may have honed my eye for detail; alternatively, that eye for detail might be the very reason those particular compulsions developed, rather than a different set of behaviours. As with my tendency to inflexibility, it's impossible to know what came first.

Being aware that things are out of place is occasionally useful, sometimes entertaining, but mostly a curse.

Under the useful category is that I hardly ever lose anything: you're more likely to find an item again, if you quickly notice that it's missing from its usual spot.

As for the entertainment... When I was married, I could, with Sherlock-like skill, walk into the flat I shared with my husband and figure out exactly what he had done in my absence, simply from the objects he had moved.

The curse element frequently manifests itself when I'm watching television, in that I pick up even the tiniest continuity lapses.
Image courtesy of idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Beneath every film entry on IMDB, you'll find a log of continuity errors. Some are obvious to all but the most unobservant: Bruce Willis's vest changing colour from white to dark green in Die Hard springs to mind. The problem for me is that I spot everything, which can be hugely distracting.

The most frequent 'errors' occur when scenes are shot several times, or from different angles, then intercut. If someone's head tilts a little more in one take than another, the end result is like watching one of those nodding toy dogs that sit on car parcel shelves. Then there are the arms that fold, unfold and fold again. The glasses that fill, empty and re-fill. And so it goes on. Whatever the lapse, it catches my eye and drags me out of the story and the action.

The most glaring continuity errors I've spotted recently were both paper related.

Caught up in the tension and gloom of the film The Woman in Black, I was quickly brought back to real life when Daniel Radcliffe's character unfolded a bundle of paper from his pocket, which then didn't have a crease in it when we viewed it over his shoulder.

Likewise in the American crime drama series, Person of Interest, a sheet of paper screwed into a ball, and thrown into a bin, looked as if it had been ironed when it was shown to someone later.

Sometimes I don't immediately realise what's wrong, but just feel a visual jolt, which prompts me to rewind to check what's caused it, even if that means going back half an hour or more. It's a wonder I ever get to the end of anything I watch, given that I'm also compelled to ensure I catch every syllable of dialogue.

Perhaps I've missed my vocation, of continuity checker. Then again, my nit-picking would probably annoy everybody so much that I'd be fired faster than you can say 'Take Two'.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Helen, I can certainly see how this tendency to notice every detail/difference would sometimes be a gift and sometimes seem like a curse. I, too, wonder which came first--the OCD obsession/compulsion, or my nature. For example, teachers always noted my conscientiousness. Was I conscientious first, or did my OCD make me fear making a mistake so much that I checked everything multiple times?

Lindsay said...

Do you find the same thing with the written word. It's very easy in stories to get continuity wrong. I recently edited a story for someone where there was a jump in the setting of the action but I know I have missed less obvious ones.

Personally I think you could make a fortune being a film continuity person!

Anonymous said...

My first thought is what a great detective you would make! My next thought is that I'm totally impressed, as I am the most unobservant person I know. My husband got new glasses...really different looking ones......and I didn't notice a thing. Sigh. Oh well, I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses!

Helen Barbour said...

Tina, I have recently being tasked with an interesting project at work because, apparently, it needed someone who was 'finicky' - I decided to take that as a compliment... Being conscientiousness and having an eye for detail can certainly be useful on occasion, even if it is also sometimes irritating!

Helen Barbour said...

Lindsay, yes, I certainly find that with the written word, too, even in published novels, which have no doubt gone through a lengthy editing process. It can take the joy out of reading, if it occurs too often.

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtalk, thank you, another great career idea!

Letters to my Bipolar Mom said...

I'm jumping up and down because I'm not the only one!!
My husband hates it when we are watching something and I get thrown off my something being off and how it throws me so off that I can't just jump bak into the show or movie. Sometimes we make a game of it to see if him or my son can spot something first but it's very frustrating. We recently watched the last Fast n Furious movie and in one scene the Rock is in a truck driving someplace and he clean shaven but when they show him at the destination he has a full goatee!

I say the detail leans itself to MY OCD and in a way it feeds it.

Thanks for the post and putting it in words so nicely

Helen Barbour said...

No Doorknobs OCD, thanks for the great feedback. Your film example made me laugh - he must have a lot of testosterone flooding through him to grow a goatee that fast! I often wonder how the actors/directors etc don't realise the errors, never mind the continuity people.